Category Archives: Aaron Jones

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Breaking Down Five Keys for the Packers in Minnesota

The Green Bay Packers head to Minnesota to visit the Vikings in a Week 12 divisional showdown. These two rivals have met 115 times during the regular season in a series that started in 1961. The Packers hold a 59-52-3 advantage in this series with the two teams playing to a 29-29 tie in Week 2. Minnesota is 5-4-1 on the season while the Packers are 4-5-1. The loser of this game will be all but eliminated from the NFC playoff picture while the winner puts themselves in the thick of the hunt.
Here is a look at they key matchups and situations that will determine who wins this NFC North battle Sunday night.
1. Run the Football and Keep Running the Football
This remains a recurring problem for the Packers. Last Thursday, the Packers ran the ball enough in the first half and even got the ball to Aaron Jones through the air. In the second half, the Packers only gave Jones five touches and the offense faltered.
The Minnesota defense is a solid one and ranks a strong fifth in the league with only 94.8-yards rushing allowed per game.
But even if Jones isn’t consistently gaining five or six yards per carry, the Packers cannot afford to abandon the running game. They need to keep the Vikings defense honest and off-balance. In addition, if the running game is slowed down, they can also get Jones the ball via screens and swing passes. Jones is one of the offense’s most dangerous playmakers and they need to find ways to get him the ball.
2. Contain the Vikings Receivers
Green Bay’s secondary is hurting but the Packers cannot permit Minnesota’s talented duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to beat them. Thielen already has 85 catches and 1,013 yards on the season while Diggs isn’t too far behind with 71 receptions for 713 yards. The duo also has 12 touchdowns between them.
CB Kevin King has missed significant time with a hamstring injury and may not be ready for Sunday night. Safety Kentrell Brice missed the game in Seattle with an ankle injury but the Packers are hopeful he will return in Minnesota. Bashaud Breeland and Raven Greene were also hurt in the Seahawks game. Neither player has practiced this week. Breeland is listed as questionable while Greene is officially doubtful.
Regardless of who is available, the Packers secondary will need to step up and slow down the Minnesota wide receivers. Green Bay will need Jaire Alexander, Tramon Williams and reserves like Josh Jones, Tony Brown and Ibraheim Campbell to play well whenever they get on to the field. If they don’t, the game will become a track meet which wouldn’t bode well for the Packers.
3. Keep Danielle Hunter Off Rodgers
Minnesota has compiled 32 sacks this season, but DE Danielle Hunter has 11.5 of them including at least one sack in eight of Minnesota’s 10 games this season. The Packers must find a way to slow down Hunter and with it the Vikings pass rush.
Mike McCarthy prefers to allow his tackles to block edge rushers one-on-one which means that the job will fall primarily on Bryan Bulaga.
Hunter likes to line up wide and create advantageous angles for himself coming from the outside. His speed will provide a challenge for Bulaga who has been playing through nagging injuries all season.
If Bulaga struggles, the Packers will likely play more two TE formations and use one of them to chip Hunter and slow him down. Aaron Rodgers needs time to throw so this aspect of the game will be critical.
4. Davante Adams vs Xavier Rhodes
Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison are out while Jimmy Graham has a broken thumb but may try to play. That means Rodgers will be without two of his top three wide receivers and his first-string tight end will either be out or be compromised. So, the only experienced and reliable receiver Rodgers will have is Davante Adams.
Adams is by far the Packers most dangerous receiver and the one Rodgers feels most comfortable passing to. He needs just 47 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his NFL career.
How important is Adams to the Green Bay offense? The Fresno State alum has 72 catches in 10 games while no other Packers receiver has even half as many receptions.
The Vikings will almost certainly match up their best cover corner, Xavier Rhodes on Adams. Don’t be surprised if Minnesota’s defense also gives Rhodes safety help on many plays. If the Vikings can take away Adams, they can force Rodgers to throw to receivers he lacks confidence in. Adams will have to have a big day for the Pack to be successful and at least one other receiver needs to step up and provide Rodgers with a reliable alternative.
5. Get Aaron Rodgers and the Offense in Rhythm
All season we’ve seen the Packers offense struggle to gain any kind of rhythm. There are multiple reasons for this, but time is running out for the Packers to fix it.
Aaron Rodgers has been holding onto the football for too long. That’s in part because he doesn’t fully trust his younger receivers and in part because of a reluctance to find his check down receivers when longer passes aren’t available.
The Packers also aren’t getting plays off on time. They’ve wasted too many timeouts to prevent delay of game penalties and aren’t using the no-huddle offense enough that was so effective for the team in recent seasons. The Packers used to dictate the tempo of the game when they had the ball but they’ve struggle to do that this season.
Rodgers and the offense need to be more consistent and regain their rhythm which is a tall task against a Vikings defense ranked fifth overall in the league against the run and sixth against the pass.
Prediction:
The Packers are 0-5 on the road this season and that must end immediately if they hope to salvage their season.
The Pack should have won the first meeting between these two teams, but it will be tougher to win in Minnesota. The banged-up defense will mean Rodgers will have to have a great game for the Packers to win. He’s certainly capable, but he hasn’t put together a great all-around game all season.
Somehow, the Packers will find another way to fall just short.
Vikings 34, Packers 31


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Breaking Down Five Keys for the Packers vs the Los Angeles Rams

The Green Bay Packers return from the bye week and head to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. Los Angeles is the only unbeaten team in the league with a 7-0-0 record while the Packers are 3-2-1. The Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers 39-10 last week to end a three-game road trip with a perfect record.
These two teams first met in 1937 when the Rams played in Cleveland. The Packers and Rams are dead even in 92 regular-season meetings with each team winning 45 games and two contests ending in a tie. Green Bay has won each of the last five games between these two teams with the last meeting coming in 2015 when the Pack defeated the then St. Louis Rams 24-10 at Lambeau Field.
Here is a look at the key matchups and situations that will determine whether the Packers can end the Rams perfect season and improve Mike McCarthy’s 9-3 record after a bye week:
1. Slow Down Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley leads the NFL in rushing yards and is the biggest weapon in the Rams offensive arsenal. Los Angeles is one of the few teams in the league today that still uses the run to set up the pass rather than the other way around. They are first in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
If the Packers can’t contain or slow down Gurley, they cannot win this game. The 49ers ran the ball very well against the Pack two weeks ago for three quarters before the Green Bay defense clamped down on the rushing attack and made their late comeback.
Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark will be the keys to slow down Gurley. If they do their jobs well, Blake Martinez makes tackles at or near the line of scrimmage rather than 5-7 yards downfield. The Packers will need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and stay in their lanes to prevent Gurley and the other Rams runners from getting to the outside on rushing plays and jet sweeps. This will require discipline that the Green Bay defense hasn’t shown consistently this season.
Jared Goff is one of the best play action passers in the game. If the Packers neutralize the rushing attack or take a big lead, they can reduce the effectiveness of the play action pass.
2. Run the Football
One way to slow down the explosive Rams offense is to keep them off the field as much as possible. During the bye week, the Packers were self-scouting and one of the issues raised was that the team hasn’t run the ball as often as they could have.
The Rams defense is stronger against the pass than they are against the run. Their rushing defense is ranked 12th in the league in yards-per game but because most teams have been trailing the Rams this season, teams have not been running late in games against them. The Rams are 26th in the league in yards allowed per attempt with a 4.7-yard average.
The Packers will need the middle of their offensive line to move the ball on the Rams defensive tackle duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. They are one of the best defensive tackle duos in the league.
Aaron Jones should get more carries, but all three running backs should have their share of rushing attempts. Ty Montgomery’s speed and receiving ability should play a role in creating some mismatches on outside rushes and short passes that are an extension of the running game.
The Packers will need to hold on to the ball and keep the Rams offense off the field as much as possible. Running the ball more often will be a key component of this strategy.
3. Win the Turnover Battle
The Rams are fourth in the league with a plus-six turnover differential through seven games. The Packers are a plus-one through six contests. The Rams have an explosive offense and a very good defense. That doesn’t leave a large margin for error.
The Packers must win the turnover battle to have a chance to win this game. Give the Rams a short field and the game will be over quickly. Give their offense extra chances with the ball and the Green Bay offense will have to be almost perfect to stay even.
The momentum of a game often changes due to key turnovers. Green Bay will need some of these big plays to have a chance to pull off the upset.
4. Aaron Rodgers Must Shine Especially in the Red Zone
If you look at the statistics, the Packers have the second-best passing offense in the league. But while Green Bay moves the ball well, they don’t always convert the yards into touchdowns. The Packers score a touchdown only 50 percent of the time through their first six games when they get the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Against an explosive offense like the Rams, the Pack cannot afford to answer LA touchdowns with field goals.
This is the game where Jimmy Graham must become the red zone weapon the Packers expected him to be. Davante Adams is always a Rodgers favorite in the red zone. No matter how the Packers get the ball into the end zone, they need to find ways to do it or they will fall behind quickly against the Rams. If that happens, stopping Gurley and running the football, two of the first three keys to this game, will become extremely difficult for the Pack.
5. Don’t Give Up Big Plays
The Rams offense is very good at creating big plays and gaining big chunks of yardage quickly. Gurley leads the NFL in rushes of 10 yards or more with 19. Altogether, seven Los Angeles players have runs of 10 yards or more this season.
Jared Goff throws the ball downfield very well. The Packers safeties have been victimized too often this season due to poor reads, angles and decision making.
The Rams offense is designed to force DBs to make quick decisions deep downfield and the Packers must make the right read nearly all the time. Even without Cooper Kupp, the Rams have plenty of dangerous receivers. Long pass plays whether to Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks or Gurley, can deflate the Packers, change the momentum and be a big difference maker in this game.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine loves to confuse opposing quarterbacks with disguised blitzes from unexpected places. The matchup between Pettine and Rams head coach Sean McVay, one of the most innovative offensive coaches in the league, will be an interesting one to watch.
Prediction:
There is no doubt the Packers can win this game, but there is also no way they can do it without playing better football than they did in any of the first six games of the season.
The Rams offense has so many weapons and an innovative and aggressive system that is designed to exploit the weaknesses in the Packers secondary.
The Packers offense will need to not just gain yards but score lots of points and the defense will have to make just enough big plays to pull off the upset.
Right now, the Packers haven’t proven they have that kind of game in them. The feeling here is Rodgers plays well and keeps it close, but the Rams find a way to win at home.
Rams 38, Packers 28


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