In all likelihood, the Green Bay Packers are going to be the top seed in the NFC. With a game this week against the Titans and the finale against the Bears, the Packers look poised to win at least one of those games and secure the best record. Many people doubt the Packers as the best team and feel they can easily be eliminated by one of the other juggernauts in the NFC. While the Packers might be the best team in the NFC, there are some teams that match up very well with what they do.
To understand which teams match up well with the Packers, we have to look at what the Packers’ identity is. The Packers run a balanced offense with MVP-candidate Aaron Rodgers, a strong running game, a solid receiving corp with the best route runner in the league in Davante Adams. On defense, the Packers have a great pass-rush with both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith and the developing Rashan Gary and the secondary is surprisingly good with Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, and Darnell Savage leading the unit. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the NFC teams that can give them trouble come playoff time.
New Orleans Saints
It seems rather obvious that the Saints are going to be the Packers’ biggest test. Aside from being the second-best team in the NFC record-wise, the Saints have a roster built to give the Packers problems. Marshon Lattimore is likely to shadow Davante Adams for the entire game and limit Adams to 50 years or even fewer. Moreover, the Saints have displayed the ability to rush four and still get to the quarterback, as they did to Patrick Mahomes this past Sunday. In the run game, the Packers might be able to run effectively, but not for big plays with the backend of the Saints defense making the necessary tackles.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Saints don’t have an explosive offense but a potent one. If the Saints enter obvious passing downs, they will be in trouble. However, the Saints have a balanced attack that is built around the all-purpose ability of Alvin Kamara. Kamara is a matchup problem for the Packers who can be a threat in the run game but also an unguard-able target. The Packers will shadow Michael Thomas but the Saints’ second and third options are good enough to get open on designed routes. Needless to say, the Packers don’t want to play the Saints in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are coming off the most embarrassing loss of the season, losing to the formerly winless Jets. That being said, the Rams are one of the teams the Packers don’t want to play simply because of how they matchup. The first and obvious matchup nightmare the Packers will have to deal with is Aaron Donald, who is the toughest player to block in the NFL. Donald can give the Packers problems in all facets of the game. Aside from Donald, the Rams can place Jalen Ramsey on Davante Adams and essentially take Adams out of the game. The Packers will have to rely on Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and Robert Tonyan to find favorable matchups and the Rams don’t give many of them.
The Rams offensively have the ability to keep the Packers’ defense honest as long as they establish the play-action. Jared Goff isn’t a good quarterback, but off the bootleg and in a clean pocket he can make all the right throws. Meanwhile, the Rams running game is one of the more effective ones in the NFL, with a committee of good backs and the breakout play of Cam Akers. The Rams offense can keep the Packers on their heels and constantly score to give them problems.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have been an inconsistent team this year and are far from the best team in the NFC. They beat the Packers earlier in the year and despite not looking as good since that game, Tampa has the personnel to pull off the upset. The Buccaneers wouldn’t be able to shadow Adams or any of the receivers, but they can get to Aaron Rodgers with a great pass rush (Shaq Barrett is one of the best speed-rushers and Pierre-Paul and Suh are always capable of making a big play). Aside from the pass rush, the Bucs possess two of the best linebackers in the NFL in Devin White and Lavonte David, who can make game-changing plays in both the running and passing game.
The Buccaneers offense has seen its struggles. In some games, they can’t run the ball and some throws aren’t being made by Tom Brady. However, the Bucs offense has been improving in the last two games and if they can establish the run, they will be able to keep defenses honest. The matchup problems go without saying in the passing game. Granted, Tom Brady hasn’t been making all the throws, especially the passes beyond 20 yards but the receiving unit will give any defense problems.