How to exploit the Rams: Force an ailing Jared Goff to consistently throw downfield. Having been an NFL quarterback for more than a decade, I know how hard it is to throw the ball when your grip isn’t right, whether you’re dealing with a jammed finger or you’ve hit your hand on someone’s helmet. Imagine playing in a playoff game with three pins in your thumb that were placed just 13 days prior. No thanks! But that’s what Goff did on Saturday when he came off the bench to replace John Wolford, who was filling in as the starter for the post-surgery Goff (you still following?). In a 30-20 win over Seattle in the Wild Card Round, Goff was 9-of-19 for 155 yards, one TD and a 93.1 passer rating (the highest in a playoff game of his career). I’ve seen worse stat lines, to be sure, but Goff’s performance didn’t exactly instill confidence, laced as it was with inaccurate throws throughout.
Cam Akers was a bright spot with his 100-yard rushing performance, setting up play action and helping give Goff time in the pocket in the pass game. The Seahawks couldn’t limit the run game. But if Goff starts again and the Packers can — by playing a lot of single-high safety — Mike Pettine’s defense can really challenge Goff to execute from the pocket (with that newly repaired thumb) and force the Rams’ banged-up receiving corps (see: Cooper Kupp, who is dealing with a knee injury) to win one-on-one against the young secondary. This scenario would be tough for the Rams to overcome, especially on a frigid January day at Lambeau Field.
How to exploit the Packers: Make Aaron Rodgers drop back 50 times. Led by the MVP candidate, the Packers’ offense has been able to pick and choose how to attack any opponent over the second half of the season. The team suffered a major blow when Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari was lost to a season-ending injury ahead of the regular-season finale. His injury leaves a massive void along the offensive line that could potentially be filled by newly signed Jared Veldheer, but the unit no doubt won’t be as strong without Rodgers’ consistent blindside blocker. The best way to limit the Packers is to win at the line of scrimmage, stop the run and constantly pressure Rodgers.
The Buccaneers, one of just three teams to get the best of Green Bay this season, stymied the Packers’ offense in Week 6 by pressuring Rodgers. They hit him 13 times (tied for the second most in Rodgers’ career), sacked him four times and forced two turnovers, including a pick-six, and limited the passer to just 160 passing yards, a 45.7 completion percentage and zero TDs. The Rams’ defense must follow this blueprint and get to the quarterback. Believe it or not, the Packers are much more beatable with Rodgers dropping back 50 times than they are when Aaron Jones is running free to set up big plays in play-action. Plus, Matt LaFleur doesn’t have a lot of great dropback concepts, as his big plays are predicated off play-action schemes.