Not much is universally agreed upon in today’s world. But I think we can all agree on this: we’re thankful for the great matchups the NFL gave us over Thanksgiving weekend, the turkey day games themselves notwithstanding.
Sunday afternoon’s matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers might be the best matchup of them all. This game will go a long way in deciding NFC playoff seeding. But one team might be better situated to gain a seeding advantage over the other. So let’s break down this pivotal NFC showdown.
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- Opening line: Green Bay -3
- Current line: Los Angeles -1
- Total: 47.5
Packers injuries finally could catch up to them
I typically start with a breakdown of the road team in these articles. But this time, I’m switching it up because Green Bay’s injuries play a big role in this handicap.
To say the Packers are banged up would be an understatement. Key players like Robert Tonyan, Jaire Alexander, and Za’Darius Smith have been on injured reserve for weeks now. But then Aaron Jones went down with fortunately a minor knee sprain. Defensive lineman Rashan Gary is dealing with an elbow injury that kept him out last week. Tackle David Bakhtiari just underwent arthroscopic surgery on his already surgically repaired knee and won’t be back this week. Center Josh Myers is on injured reserve. And guard Elgton Jenkins, who was playing at an elite level, is now out with a torn ACL for the year.
Oh, and Aaron Rodgers is dealing with a mysterious toe injury that he described as more painful than turf toe.
So let’s get that all straight. Green Bay’s Hall of Fame quarterback is hobbled, its offensive line is without three starters, and it’s missing playmakers on both sides of the ball. If anyone needed to get to its bye week, Green Bay has a Super Bowl-caliber roster when healthy.
Green Bay’s rash of injuries along the offensive line could be highly problematic against a Rams defensive front led by Aaron Donald and Von Miller. And with Jalen Ramsey potentially shadowing Davante Adams all game, Green Bay’s best chance to win might be mimicking the formula Tennessee and San Francisco used in wins over the Rams. Green Bay ranks 13th in rushing DVOA and ninth in adjusted line yards offensively, while the Rams rank eighth in adjusted line yards defensively and ninth in rush defense DVOA.
Defensively, the Packers have found a way to get by despite losing so many important players. The Packers rank 11th in overall defensive DVOA and eighth in pass defense DVOA. However, Green Bay has struggled to stop the run, ranking 24th in rush defense DVOA and 30th in adjusted line yards defensively.
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The bye week comes at a good time for the Rams
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for Los Angeles after getting punched in the mouth and never recovering in its last two times out.
A big reason the Rams enter Lambeau Field losers of two straight has been early mistakes made by Matthew Stafford. In both losses, Stafford threw back-breaking interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. And part of Stafford’s struggles may have been injury-related, as he was dealing with both back and ankle injuries the last two weeks. It appears all Stafford needed was a week to rest, as he’s not currently listed on the injury report.
Remember back in the day when the Rams offensive line was its greatest weakness? Those days are long gone. The L.A. offensive line is now an elite unit, as the Rams rank fourth in adjusted line yards and have the fourth-best adjusted sack rate in the league.
I’m also curious to see how the Rams look with a whole week to adjust from the loss of Robert Woods, who tore his ACL during practice leading up to the 49ers game. Los Angeles looked out of sync throughout the night. Even Cooper Kupp was dropping pivotal passes. It’ll be interesting to see if Odell Beckham Jr. is more involved in this game with a week to learn the playbook. He better be because Tyler Higbee, Van Jefferson, and Ben Skowronek aren’t very reliable depth options.
Defensively, the Rams remain a stifling unit that ranks in the top 10 in both rush and pass defense DVOA. It all starts upfront for this unit, which could have a field day against Green Bay’s beleaguered offensive line.
While I have concerns about the Rams’ toughness against smash-mouth styles like San Francisco and Tennessee, I don’t think the Packers have the horses up front to bully them on either side of the ball.
While many think of the Rams as a team that prefers to sling the ball around, that’s not quite the case. Much of Sean McVay’s offense is built on establishing the run, and I suspect Los Angeles will have no problem doing that against a banged-up Packers defense that struggles to defend the ground game.
McVay has also been an excellent coach to back off the bye week, as he’s 4-1 ATS in his Rams tenure. He’s also 10-4-1 in his tenure when his team has a rest advantage.
This matchup just doesn’t bode well for a Green Bay team that might be content with getting to its bye week and healing up. I expect L.A. to dominate in the trenches, gashing big runs and giving Rodgers fits in the pocket. And given the state of Rodgers’ toe injury, I suspect he won’t be as mobile outside the pocket.
I’m taking the fresher, healthier road team in this one.
Pick: Rams -1, try to find Rams as an underdog.
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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.