Packers' Keys to Win vs. Rams in 2021 NFL Playoff Matchup

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2021

Packers' Keys to Win vs. Rams in 2021 NFL Playoff Matchup

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers won at least one playoff game in their last four trips to the postseason. 

    To keep that streak alive on Saturday, the No. 1 seed in the NFC must have a plan to deal with Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

    Donald was a menace to the Seattle Seahawks offensive line in his side's wild-card round victory, and if he gets to Rodgers on a consistent basis, the No. 6 seed could spring an upset. 

    If the Rams get to Rodgers, the Packers are capable of winning an ugly, low-scoring game. Their defense has played well in the last five weeks against a handful of playoff qualifiers. 

    If the Packers continue to hold teams under 20 points and Rodgers solves Los Angeles' defensive pressure, they will become the first team to lock in a spot on conference championship weekend. 

Contain Aaron Donald

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    The Packers may not be able to keep Donald at bay for the entire game, but if they limit his impact, they will have a better chance of moving the ball down the field. 

    Donald totaled three quarterback hits and two tackles for loss against Seattle, and he was even more disruptive with the penetration he got from his pass-rush abilities. 

    If Donald surges through the Green Bay offensive line on Saturday, he could take Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams out of the game plan, at least in the ground game. 

    One way the Packers can counter Donald's pass-rush is throwing quick passes to the running backs, or to Davante Adams and others on short routes. 

    If Rodgers does not let Donald get to him before he releases the ball, the Rams will have to adjust their defensive strategy to deal with the short passes. 

    Even if the Most Valuable Player candidate is patient in the pocket, he should have plenty of time to throw if his offensive line holds up the way it did in the last few weeks. 

    Rodgers was sacked once by the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears. He was taken down more than two times in just two of the 16 regular-season contests. 

    If Green Bay takes Donald out of the contest, it should give Rodgers plenty of time to throw and pick apart a secondary that bothered Russell Wilson last weekend. 

Get the Secondary Passing Options Involved Early

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Everyone knows how fantastic the Rodgers-Adams connection was in the regular season.

    Adams finished with 115 receptions, 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 14 games. 

    Getting the ball to Adams on a constant basis may be more difficult on Saturday with Jalen Ramsey roaming the Rams secondary. 

    Los Angeles held Seattle to 142 passing yards and kept DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in check for most of the contest. Metcalf had 96 yards and two touchdowns, but he only caught five of his 11 targets. Lockett hauled in two of his four targets. 

    Rodgers is expected to challenge Ramsey often with an abundance of throws to Adams, but he should also work his secondary targets into the game early on, just in case Ramsey takes control of his individual battle. 

    Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard need to be more than just deep threats, and Robert Tonyan has to be more active away from the red zone for Green Bay to fully function through the air.

    When they get to the red zone, the Packers should be able to pound in touchdowns. Tonyan had 11 scoring catches, and the team totaled 16 rushing scores.

    But to get inside the 20-yard-line, Rodgers may have to rely more on Valdes-Scantling, Lazard and Tonyan, as well as Jones and Williams out of the backfield. 

    In Week 17, Rodgers had a more even distribution. Adams caught all six of his targets, and four other players had multiple receptions. 

    If Rodgers spreads the ball around in a similar fashion, it would take away some of Ramsey's impact and allow him to earn a plethora of red-zone trips against the Rams defense. 

Continue to Make Life Difficult for Opposing Running Backs

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    While Green Bay's offense captured most of the spotlight, its defense was more than deserving of recognition in the final few weeks of the regular season. 

    The Packers handled Derrick Henry and David Montgomery as well as any defense could with the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears fighting for playoff berths. 

    In Week 16, the Packers held Henry to 98 yards on 23 carries. That was the only instance in the final four regular-season games in which the Titans running back was held under triple digits in yards. 

    The 4.26 yards per carry earned by Henry at Lambeau Field was the player's second-lowest average between Weeks 10 and 17. 

    Montgomery ran for 69 yards and a touchdown, but he was forced to work for everything he earned off 22 carries. 

    Prior to Week 17, the Chicago running back averaged over four yards per carry in five straight games and had three 100-yard performances in a five-game span. 

    If the Packers take away the impact of the Los Angeles running backs, they will force a banged-up Jared Goff to beat them.

    If the Rams turn to the pass, the Packers can unleash more pressure on Goff and force him to make some awkward throws with his injured right thumb. 

    As long as the Packers hold the Rams running backs under four yards per carry, they should be able to send an abundance of pressure that could result in a third-straight multi-turnover game, or a fourth consecutive concession of fewer than 20 points. 

           

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference

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