Rams, Packers hit prove-it mode in NFC showdown

Considered the class of the NFC at midseason, the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams have questions to answer heading into a key Week 12 matchup Sunday.

The Rams (7-3) will hit the road to face the Packers (8-3) with all eyes on the capabilities of each team’s elite quarterback.

Matthew Stafford started the season showing everything the Rams envisioned in their new signal caller. But consecutive defeats against the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers have revealed a stagnant offense that has struggled in the passing game.

Los Angeles had some extra time to work out its issues during its bye week and heads back on the road where the team is a solid 4-1 this season. Rams head coach Sean McVay said the team intends “to come back freakin’ swinging.”

“We’re a resilient group,” McVay said. “I know that the bye came at a good time for us. Obviously, you don’t want to go into the bye off a performance where we didn’t play like we were capable of. … You have to be mentally tough and we have to be where our feet are planted. Let’s see if we can get better today.”

Stafford averaged 309.6 passing yards per season over the Rams’ first eight games with 22 touchdowns to four interceptions as the team went 7-1. Against the Titans and 49ers, though, he averaged 268.5 yards with two TDs and four interceptions.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has matched a season high with 11 receptions in each of the last two games, but did not have a TD catch in either game. New receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was incorporated more into the offense during the bye week after limited use against the 49ers.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has remained productive despite missing a Week 9 defeat at Kansas City while in COVID protocols. Now, he is nursing a fractured toe on his right foot that he played with during Sunday’s 34-31 defeat at Minnesota, still throwing for 385 yards and four TDs.

Rodgers did not practice Wednesday but is expected to play Sunday, although he admitted to being in significant discomfort.

The Packers will finish the season with four of their last six games at home, where they are 4-0 so far this season and have outscored opponents 103-44. Home also was where the Packers defeated the Rams 32-18 in last year’s divisional round of the playoffs.

“We’re going to have a pretty good plan for the protection,” Rodgers said, noting that Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was dealing with a rib injury in the previous meeting. “Last year we ran the ball pretty well in the playoff game. … You have to run the ball against teams that want to play too high and that’s always going to be a part of what we’re trying to do.”

Packers offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins is out for the remainder of the season with a torn left ACL. Running back Aaron Jones (knee), who missed the Vikings game, returned to practice Wednesday. Jones had 99 yards rushing against the Rams last season and peeled off a 60-yard run immediately after halftime.

Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd came away from the 49ers game with a concussion and is expected to be limited in practice this week, but is expected to play Sunday.


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