For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Green Bay Packers have a reason to feel pretty good about themselves.
One, the chips are down at several positions, but the Packers record remains a perfect 5-0. Two, the Packers seem good at doing what every ‘great’ team is supposed to do – fight back when down by 14 points. And three, the Packers are the feared bunch of the NFL, even if Mike McCarthy is still unhappy with the offense.
Last Sunday, there were plenty of bad points to make about this team, though. It took an entire half for the offense to defrost, and the offensive line resembled that of the Packers 2008 team that allowed a boatload of sacks.
But when the St. Louis Rams fly to Lambeau Field this week, just about everyone expects a Green Bay beat down on the path to 6-0.
What We Learned Last Time
The Packers and Rams last squared off in 2009, but you’d be hard stretched to notice any glaring differences just two years on.
Last time they met the Packers were 2-1 while the Rams were 0-3. Kyle Boller threw for 163-yards and a touchdown after Marc Bulger left the game, but Aaron Rodgers stole the show passing for 269-yards and two scores.
The difference this time around should come from the Packers offense. Two years ago Green Bay’s offensive line was a wreck, leaving Rodgers to rely on the deep ball throughout all four quarters. Donald Driver demolished the Rams secondary, but it’s likely to be Greg Jennings’ name called on Sunday along with James Jones.
As was the case last week against Atlanta, third and short is the Packers bread and butter. In 2009 the Rams defense kept Green Bay to just two third down conversions all game, but the Packers offense is vastly different in comparison to two years ago.
Bringing Pressure Up the Middle
If the Rams are to have any chance against a Packers defense that ranks third in defending the run, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels needs to shelter Sam Bradford from the Packers pressures storm.
In 2009 Charles Woodson recorded perhaps one of the easiest interceptions of his career against Kyle Boller on a crucial third down play for the Rams. The Packers defense sent six men up the gut, and Woodson read Boller’s underthrown pass with ease.
Last week against the Falcons, the same story unfolded during Atlanta’s final chance to salvage a win. Sam Shields recorded the game sealing interception following Dom Capers’ heavy blitzing scheme, a package that we should see a lot of this weekend.
Eliminating Steven Jackson
The Rams may have been blown out 36-17 last time around, but Steven Jackson wasn’t. After rushing for 117-yards on the Packers defense in 2009, Jackson is set to go against Green Bay this weekend at Lambeau Field following a quadriceps injury sustained earlier in the season.
Of course, the Packers won’t sweat it, because this is the same defense that kept Matt Forte to a laughable two yards three weeks ago.
“I expect us to win,” Jackson told NFL.com. “I feel healthy. I think I can shoulder the load that I’m used to shouldering.”
The Packers run stop has been solid since the season began, despite still having troubles in the air. Separating Green Bay’s defensive line on Sunday will be the Rams first task if Jackson is set to explode again, but even so, a lot still falls on Bradford’s shoulders to produce the majority of points.
Pick on the Weak Spots
The Rams come into Sunday’s game with dark spots on the roster, and one of them pops up as a particular area of interest as far as the Packers are concerned.
At cornerback, former Green Bay favorite Al Harris is favored to step in as starter on Sunday. Harris has been practicing in the first string role earlier this week, and with the Rams lacking veteran presence on defense, St. Louis looks to rely on the 36-year old heavily.
There is also speculation surrounding the Rams receiving game after St. Louis signed wide receiver Nick Miller. Quarterback Sam Bradford is 3-0 when securing a passer rating of 100 or above, but whether or not Miller’s presence on Sunday changes anything remains to be seen.
Turnovers can easily kill either team’s chances this weekend, but last time they met, the Packers capitalized on the Rams sloppy play three consecutive times.
Aaron Rodgers has only thrown two interceptions this season, while Bradford surprisingly sits with just one to his name. If the Rams win the turnover battle on Sunday, this game could be closer than you think.
Follow @RyanCook13 on Twitter or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org