STAR PREVIEW Sun: Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


Both sides are in with a shot at the No1 seed in the NFC although they both have a little work to do to catch the Cardinals but this contest has to be one of the marquee games of the weekend on a Week 12 slate which is one of the best of the season so far. The Rams enter the iconic Lambeau Field off the back of a bye having had two weeks to fix the problems that ailed them in their two prior games which resulted in defeats. Their previously high octane offence failing to fire and scoring just 26 points across those eight quarters.

It’s no secret that the Rams are “all-in” for a Super Bowl run this year having spent/traded heavily in free agency to have plenty of firepower and talent on both sides of the ball. This Rams team looks a fair bit different to the last time they visited the Packers for the NFC Divisional game last year which saw them defeated 32-18. The most notable difference for the Rams is at quarterback where ex-Lions signal caller Matt Stafford is now at the controls and he will have had plenty of experience of having played against the Packers.

In fact he has 37 passing TD’s against Green Bay but of course having been with a hapless Detroit team for many year’s he will have had plenty of punishing defeats also as this statistic will testify. Stafford prior to this season was 8-68 against teams with a winning record.

Stafford after starting off at MVP level this year has hit a sticky patch in the last couple of weeks in those two Rams defeats. He lost to the Titans on the back of a couple of interceptions and although he played better against the 49ers it was another uneven performance in a bad loss for the Rams. They have had two weeks to fix that though and this game will be a measure of how far they have come since that last visit to Lambeau 10 months ago.

This won’t be an easy game for the Rams but having had two week’s to plan for this they do have an advantage especially with the Packers having suffered some significant injuries this season. This will be just the fifth home game for the Packers and they have limited their opponents to just 11 points per game in the previous quartet of contests at home. However, they have not yet faced such a powerful offence as the Rams at home and they took some punishment from the Vikings on the road last week looking vulnerable on the ground and to deep shots into the secondary.

The Rams are one of the NFL’s pass-heaviest offences although they do have a ground game via Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel which could be used to bring some balance to their attacking prowess. You can’t talk about the Rams on offence without highlighting the merits of Copper Kupp who is having a stellar season from the slot and despite losing Robert Woods to an ACL tear Van Jefferson and the enigma that is Odell Beckham provide a dangerous set of receivers for Stafford to work with. Throw in reliable tight end Tyler Higbee and you have a potent Rams offence for the Packers to attempt to contain.

That’s not to say that the Rams won’t have to be on their mettle on defence despite the fact that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been unable to practice physically all week due to a toe injury. Rodgers was carrying that same injury last week yet still managed to harness his individual playmaking ability and offset injuries and changes on his offensive line by taking apart the Vikings defence for season highs in passing yards (385), QB Rating (148.4), and yards per attempt (11.7). Rodgers has produced multiple TD’s in eight of his last nine games.

In past week’s Green Bay had established an excellent 1-2 punch on the ground via Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon but an injury to Jones who may return this week in a limited capacity has meant that the majority of the run game goes through the pounding Dillion. The Packers receiving corps is led by the almost matchup proof Davante Adams who gave the Vikings a headache last week and if Rodgers can avoid a vaunted Rams pass rush will have a similar effect on the Rams. Speedy but erratic Marquez Valdes-Scantling is another danger for any deep balls whilst the safety blanket of the experienced Randall Cobb will be well used by Rodgers if Allen Lazard again misses out through injury.

Of late these two have hit slight roadblocks in their season and on paper their isn’t much between the two teams hence the tight handicap and it’s a hard game to call with both sides having pros and cons on their CV. Given the tempo of the game there is a case for looking at the Unders but I’m going to take the contrarian view and side with these two playing a slightly more open game than is expected with the Rams finding their way on offence again and the Packers responding in kind in a game that could well be another post-season rehearsal.

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