NFL: Changing of the guard in NFC as Packers meet current juggernaut Rams
In 2011, the Green Bay Packers rolled through the season with a 15-1 record. With Aaron Rodgers winning his first MVP award, the Packers scored 560 points, third-most in NFL history.
In 2018, the Los Angeles Rams are emerging as a similar juggernaut. They are the NFL's lone undefeated team at 7-0. With 33.6 points per game, they are on pace to score 538 points this season.
Today in Los Angeles, powerhouses past and present collide when the Packers (3-2-1), despite having Rodgers as their quarterback and coming off their bye, are 10-point underdogs — the largest ever for Rodgers.
"Ten? Wow," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the oddsmakers' take on the matchup.
This game kicks off a key stretch for both teams. For Green Bay, it's coast-to-coast road trips to face the Rams and New England Patriots. It returns home to play Miami before hitting the road again to battle Seattle on a Thursday night and Minnesota. Those teams are a combined 23-10-1.
For Los Angeles, which is coming off a three-game road sweep of Seattle, Denver and San Francisco, it's this home game against Green Bay, a trek to New Orleans, and home games against Seattle and Kansas City before a Week 12 bye. Those teams are a combined 17-7-1.
"We're going to have to play a lot better than we have to win those games," Rodgers said. "This is an important stretch in our season. I'm not going to say it's going to define our season but it's definitely going to shake things out when we get on the other side of this and get back home in six weeks on where we're at in the race and what we're playing for."
The quarterbacks take center stage.
Rodgers, nearly recovered from a Week 1 injury to the point that he could go without a brace at the Coliseum, ranks third with 333 yards per game and has a glittering 12 touchdowns vs. one interception. Jared Goff ranks in the top six in yards, yards per attempt, completion percentage and passer rating.
Green Bay's primary worry, however, is Rams running back Todd Gurley, who leads the NFL in rushing and is on pace to score 32 touchdowns, which would break LaDainian Tomlinson's single-season record of 31. Gurley's excellence sets up the Rams' bread-and-butter play-action passing game.
"I think the play action is something that is part of our foundational identity and what we believe in philosophically as an offense," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "When you have a player like Todd, he certainly legitimizes those play-actions. We do things that are definitely a little bit different as a result of having such a special player like him.
"Yes, we do believe in the play-action game, without a doubt, but certainly having a player of his caliber and his magnitude at the running back spot legitimizes those run actions because of who it is and because of our offense's ability to run the ball pretty efficiently."
PACKERS (3-2-1) AT L.A. RAMS (7-0)
What: NFL Week 8 game
When: 3:25 p.m.
Where: Memorial Coliseum
TV: KQDS Ch. 21
Radio: WDSM-AM 710/WDSM-98.1/WNXR-FM 107.3