Rams @ Packers (-6.5, 45.5)
The Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers face off in a highly-anticipated playoff matchup and open up the divisional round on Saturday afternoon. There are a number of "micro" matchups within this game that will ultimately decide who comes out on top, whether it's between the Rams' Jalen Ramsey and the Packers' Davante Adams, or Aaron Donald vs. Aaron Rodgers. These battles within the battle will be key.
Let's start on the Rams side of the ball. Jared Goff is a quarterback that has been exposed by defenses that can apply pressure. Fortunately for Goff, the Packers rank in the bottom half of the league in pressure rate, and they will have to find a way to get to Goff in order to throw him off his game. Goff, on the other hand, might face the biggest pressure of the day not from the opposing defense but from the weather, and playing in near-freezing temperatures at Lambeau Field, away from the cozy confines of his warm natural climate of California. The weather could be especially important in this game, as it has been noted just about everywhere that Goff struggles mightily in the cold - he's 0-2 overall with 0 TDs and 5 INTs in his last two cold weather games. The Rams are going to need to run the ball a ton and give Cam Akers ample opportunity to control the clock and subsequently keep the ball away from Rodgers and Adams on the other side. Green Bay's run defense is its obvious weakness, as the Packers rank in the bottom half of the league in yards per attempt on the ground. If Rams are going to have a chance to keep this close, they are going to do it on the Ground with Goff managing the game, rather than taking his shots down the field.
The Packers offense is ranked number one in the NFL in offensive efficiency, while the Rams rank number four overall in defensive efficiency. Green Bay has played a relatively easy schedule of opposing defenses, however, so it will be interesting to see how this game plays out and which side wins out here. Rodgers historically has performed well in the cold, to say the least, with a record of 28-6 and an average passer rating of 108.3. During those games his team has also put up 30 points per game with an average victory margin of 15.5 points. Ultimately, push will come to shove for either the great offense or the great defense here, and with the lowest total on the slate, in addition to the Rams playing ball-control, run-happy offense, I expect Rodgers to do his best to manage the clock and limit turnovers against a star-studded Rams defense. This game more than likely falls below the total of 45.5, especially given the concerns of Green Bay missing stud left tackle David Bahtiari, as well as Goff dealing with his own thumb injury and the Rams passing game being limited in its own right. When you add Ramsey and Donald into the mix, we could see the Rams defense get the edge and the Packers offense still do enough to win and/or cover.
Lean: Under 45.5