Green Bay are back after enjoying a bye last weekend against a confident Los Angeles following their crushing win over divisional rivals Seattle Seahawks
The Green Bay Packers have been in this position before.
For the second straight year, the Packers finished the regular season with a 13-3 record to take the NFC North crown – led by the impressive performances of MVP-elect Aaron Rodgers.
In 2019, Green Bay were just one win away from the Super Bowl as they stormed to the NFC Championship Game before being crushed by the San Francisco 49ers, who were the number one seed.
Now, the Packers have assumed the top spot in the conference after a dominant season: they lead the NFL in points scored and lie in fifth for yards per game. Last season, they were 15th and 18th in those same metrics.
Much of that comes down to Rodgers, the frontrunner to collect his third MVP award. He threw for 4,299 yards and a league-leading 48 touchdowns – 22 more than in 2019 – and the 37-year-old admitted that his 2020 offence is a more assured unit than before.
He said: “I feel like we have a lot of confidence and believe in ourselves.
“Offensively, we’re just a better, much more efficient team.”
On top of this, Lambeau Field is known to be one of the toughest stadiums to travel to in the postseason due to the freezing temperatures, and Saturday looks set to keep to that tradition with temperatures falling as low as –9 degrees.
It is difficult to bet against Rodgers when he plays at Lambeau. He is ice cold at the ‘Frozen Tundra’, winning 80 of his 101 matches at home – a win-rate of just over 79 per cent.
The Rams defence might just be the Packers’ match, though. The unit, led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, allowed the fewest points in the league at 18.5 per game.
Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to the No 1 seed in the NFC
The Packers offence still holds the advantage, as they are rested coming off a bye. The NFL season is unlike any other sport as football’s physicality leads to worn-down bodies come playoff time.
The key headline in the build-up to this clash is the health of two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who suffered a rib injury in the Wild Card win at Seattle.
Donald is perhaps the most disruptive interior defensive player of all-time, and he registered a pair of sacks against the Seahawks to go with his 13.5 in the regular season. Whether he is at full strength or not will absolutely impact the game, and could pave the way for Rodgers and the Packers to reach their second successive NFC Championship Game.
Both Green Bay receiver Davante Adams and Los Angeles cornerback Ramsey were named first-team All-Pros after their stellar campaigns, and the winner of this particular match-up could also turn the tide.
For the Rams, their quarterback situation is very much up in the air as Jared Goff struggled against the Seahawks coming off thumb surgery while John Wolford – the starter in Seattle – left the game following a neck injury.
Aaron Donald and the Rams defence have proven to be a daunting prospect for opponents this season
The Packers defence will be confident heading into the match as they ranked seventh at stopping the pass during the regular season – but running it on them was a different story.
Green Bay ranked 21st in yards per carry, so LA’s rookie running back Cam Akers could be the key after he tore the likes of Bobby Wagner apart for 131 yards and a touchdown. If Akers can get going at Lambeau, the Rams could land a knockout blow simply by controlling the clock and keeping Rodgers off the field.
The Packers defence is vulnerable and their offensive depth outside of Adams and running back Aaron Jones is concerning, but Green Bay should be considered favourites due to Rodgers’ tremendous campaign.
While Tom Brady’s Buccaneers proved that Rodgers isn’t exactly invincible this season, his recent outings suggest that Matt LaFleur’s Packers should be recognised as the team to beat in the NFC.
Watch Green Bay Packers vs Los Angeles Rams live on Sky Sports NFL from 9:35pm on Saturday