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Breakdown: Week 5 – Rams @ Packers

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The Packers have done nothing but exorcise demons this year. They beat the Bears in Chicago, got a statement win against the Seahawks, who have dominated them for the past few years, beat the Chiefs in Lambeau for the first time ever, and last week, they beat the San Francisco 49ers, another team that has dominated them recently.

There are no real demons to exorcise this week though. Just a great Sunday afternoon matchup against the St. Louis Rams, who come in to Lambeau with a 2-2 record. Their two losses were hard to digest.

First, they lost to the Washington Redskins, a team that has struggled to find an identity and a quarterback. They also lost to the Steelers in one of the ugliest games of the season and a game where star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to leave early with a knee injury.

Their wins, though, have been impressive. On opening day, they beat the Seahawks in overtime, a game where they played well in every phase. And last week, they were able to beat the previously undefeated Cardinals in Arizona.

This will not be an easy game for the Packers, this Rams team has a tendency to play to the level of their opponents, so expect them to rise to the occasion again on Sunday.

Green Bay Offense vs. St. Louis Defense

This is the matchup everyone will tune in for. The Packers unstoppable offense meets the Rams impenetrable defense. The battle in the trenches will be huge.

The Rams have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is, outside of JJ Watt, probably the best defensive lineman in the game right now. The Rams are tied for second in the NFL with 17 sacks through 4 games.

Meanwhile, the Packers offensive line is struggling. Left tackle David Bahktiari and right tackle Don Barclay, filling in for the injured Bryan Bulaga, have allowed more QB pressures than any other tackle duo in the league.

Normally, these facts would lead one to assume that the Rams will tally an ungodly number of sacks on Sunday. However, sacking Aaron Rodgers isn’t easy, even with an underperforming line. The Packers will take advantage of Rodgers ability to escape pressure, and pair it with play calls designed to slow down a pass rush. Expect to see a lot of quick slants, screen plays and delayed handoffs to keep the Rams defense honest.

Green Bay Defense vs. St. Louis Offense

With all the talk being about Aaron Rodgers and the Rams pass rush, it’s easy to overlook the Packers defense, but that’s not fair. They’ve improved significantly at stopping the run, and have 17 sacks on the season, same number as the Rams.

The key for them will be stopping the Rams rushing attack. The Rams haven’t been able to get things going through the air, and likely won’t start doing so against the Packers, who boast a fantastic pass rush and very good secondary. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley had a great game against the Cardinals last week and will need to do so again if the Rams are going to win this game.

After allowing Matt Forte to run all over the field in week 1, the Packers have shut down Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and Carlos Hyde, some of the best running backs in the league. It’s hard not to expect more of the same this week against a rookie in hostile territory. The Packers will likely make stopping Gurley their top priority, and there’s no reason to think they’re not up to the challenge.

Special Teams

These two teams are pretty even when it comes to special teams. The Packers have a potentially explosive returner in Ty Montgomery, the Rams have the same in Tavon Austin. Both teams defend returns well also, so there’s no clear advantage on either side for this game.

The one concern for the Packers is the performance of punter Tim Masthay. The Rams defense will probably pin the Packers deep in their own territory a few times, so they’ll need Masthay at his best to make sure the Rams don’t start their drives with too good of field position.

Prediction

This game has me nervous. It could be a long day for Rodgers if they can’t find a way to negate that pass rush. However, the Packers have a great pass rush of their own, and they have an offense to go with it.

If this game were in St. Louis, or even in neutral territory, I might be picking the Rams here. But I just can’t bet against Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau right now.

Packers 24 – Rams 14

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By Brian Fonfara

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