Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to pass in the first quarter during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Packers carve up Rams to reach NFC title game

In a matchup of the NFL’s top-ranked offense and defense, it was Green Bay’s offense that carried the day.

Rolling up 484 total yards and scoring on their first five possessions Saturday, the top-seeded Packers advanced to the NFC Championship Game with a 32-18 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Rams.

Green Bay will host either Tampa Bay or New Orleans, who play Sunday in New Orleans, on Jan. 24 with a spot in the Super Bowl at stake.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 36 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns, finding Allen Lazard for the game-sealing 58-yard score off play-action with 6:52 left in the game. Rodgers added a touchdown run as Green Bay controlled the ball for 36:12.

“It’s all about the offensive line,” he said. “I was barely touched all night. (The Rams) have some really good players on that side of the ball and they were non-factors. Guys made plays and we had some off-schedule stuff that worked, but the run game was key.”

The Packers collected 188 yards on the ground, getting 99 on 14 carries from Aaron Jones. It was Jones’ 60-yard gallop on the first play of the second half that set up his 1-yard plunge to make it a 25-10 game less than three minutes into the third quarter.

The sixth-seeded Rams drew within 25-18 at 1:41 of the third on Cam Akers’ powerful 7-yard run and a two-point conversion but couldn’t produce the equalizer. They gained just 244 total yards.

Jared Goff hit 21 of 27 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown for Los Angeles. Goff, playing with a thumb injury that kept him out of the starting lineup for last week’s wild card win in Seattle, absorbed four sacks.

“You could see why they’re the one seed,” said Rams coach Sean McVay. “When you reflect on the game, there was a lot of back and forth, great plays on both sides. We had opportunities to sustain drives and get momentum going and couldn’t do it. That stings.”

Mason Crosby’s 24-yard field goal with 8:39 left in the first quarter initiated scoring. After Matt Gay drilled a 37-yarder just over four minutes later for the Rams, the Packers chewed up nearly eight minutes on a drive that ended with Rodgers’ 1-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams.

Rodgers capped the next march with a 1-yard run, using a pump fake to get Leonard Floyd out of position for the tackle to make it 16-3 with 3:29 remaining in the half. Los Angeles pulled within 16-10 on Goff’s 4-yard scoring strike to Van Jefferson 29 seconds before halftime.

But Green Bay came up with the half’s last word, driving 54 yards to set up Crosby for a 39-yard field goal as time expired to give it a 19-10 advantage at intermission.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) catches a ball while under pressure by Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams (33)  during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Rams WR Cooper Kupp inactive vs. Packers

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been ruled inactive for Saturday’s NFC divisional-round playoff game against the host Green Bay Packers.

Kupp, 27, initially was listed as questionable to play after missing practice throughout the week for the sixth-seeded Rams.

Kupp caught four passes for 78 yards in Los Angeles’ 30-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks last Saturday before leaving in the fourth quarter with a knee contusion.

Kupp led the team in catches (92) and receiving yards (974) in 15 games this season. His three touchdown grabs trailed Robert Woods (six) for the team lead.

Josh Reynolds, who had 52 catches for 618 yards and two touchdowns this season, likely will see more snaps with Kupp sidelined.

The Rams also ruled the following players as inactive for Saturday’s game: starting left guard David Edwards and fellow offensive lineman Brian Allen, quarterback John Wolford, linebacker Terrell Lewis as well as wide receiver Trishton Jackson.

The top-seeded Packers’ inactives list is as follows: quarterback Jordan Love, cornerbacks Ka’dar Hollman and Josh Jackson, linebacker Jonathan Garvin, tight end Jace Sternberger and defensive lineman Kingsley Keke.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) celebrate after the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Rams QB Jared Goff to start, John Wolford ruled out

Quarterback Jared Goff is back in the starting lineup for the Los Angeles Rams when they visit the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional round Saturday afternoon.

Goff required surgery on a thumb injury in late December, giving undrafted rookie John Wolford the start for the Rams in Week 17 and last week at Seattle in the wild-card round. However, Wolford left that game with a neck injury and was transported to the hospital for tests, but returned to the stadium before the game was over.

Wolford was ruled out of Saturday’s game at Lambeau Field due to lingering effects of a neck stinger he suffered against the Seahawks.

Goff gets the ball in below-freezing temperatures with a questionable grip. Goff has started two games in sub-32-degree temps and is 0-2 with five turnovers.

Goff’s injury occurred in Week 16 and Wolford helped the Rams win the next week in his first NFL start over the Arizona Cardinals. That victory put the Rams in the postseason.

Green Bay is the NFC’s No. 1 seed and had a bye last week.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, formerly offensive coordinator of the Rams under McVay, said earlier this week he had a good idea which quarterback the team would see this week.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a touchdown pass against the Chicago Bears during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Bettors flocking to Packers, Bills for Saturday games

The Los Angeles Rams have two quarterbacks, a perennial All-Pro defensive tackle and their most consistent receiving target dealing with injuries as they prepare to visit the Green Bay Packers in Saturday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game.

That has bettors flocking to the Packers despite a 6.5-point spread. Ninety percent of the spread line handle and 83 percent of the total bets at DraftKings were backing Green Bay as of Thursday.

The Packers’ -315 moneyline is also being backed by 82 percent of the handle and 79 percent of the total bets. The 45.5-point Over/Under is seeing 75 percent of the bets placed on the Over.

The top-seeded Packers are being offered at +375 to win the NFC Championship. The Rams, coming off an upset at Seattle, are longshots at +2000.

In the game against the Seahawks, backup quarterback John Wolford was knocked out with a stinger and replaced by Jared Goff, who had undergone thumb surgery less than two weeks before. Wolford has been ruled out for Saturday and Goff is expected to start at Lambeau Field.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has vowed to play through a rib injury suffered last weekend, while wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s status remains uncertain after suffering a knee injury late against the Seahawks.

Meanwhile, the Packers are coming off a bye week following a six-game winning streak to close the regular season.

The Buffalo Bills are only 2.5-point favorites at home against the Baltimore Ravens, but the AFC East champions are being backed by 73 percent of the spread line bets and 63 percent of the handle.

The action is more split on the moneyline, with the Bills (-141) backed by 54 percent of the bets and 51 percent of the handle to beat the Ravens (+123). The 50-point Over/Under is seeing a whopping 75 percent of bets back the Over.

The Bills are the No. 2 seed in the AFC and being offered at +600 to reach the Super Bowl. The fifth-seeded Ravens are being offered at +800 after winning at Tennessee last weekend.

The Saturday forecast for Buffalo calls for a 40 percent chance of snow, which could greatly impact both offenses. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said he has never played football in the snow.

“That definitely would be my first time playing football in the snow — Saturday, if it does (snow),” said Jackson, a native of Pompano Beach, Fla. “Hopefully, it doesn’t.”

The Bills were able to lasso Jackson a few times in last season’s meeting at Buffalo. He managed just 40 yards on 11 rushes with a long of 16 yards, but Baltimore won the game 24-17 as Jackson threw for three touchdowns while accumulating 145 passing yards. Bills quarterback Josh Allen passed for 146 yards and a score.

While the Bills are slight favorites, the Ravens certainly don’t view themselves as underdogs. Last weekend, they shut down Tennessee 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry (40 yards on 18 carries) and they have a deeper recent history of playing in big games than Buffalo does.

“We’ve got a team full of tough players who are going to go to battle and who are going to scratch and claw for each other,” Baltimore cornerback Marcus Peters said. “It’s an organizational DNA built for January, which is exactly why the Ravens are the playoff team no one is excited to see.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to pass as Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) rushes during the first quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

‘Gloves off’ for Packers with Rams eyeing upset

Friends turn foe if only for a few hours Saturday when the Green Bay Packers welcome the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field.

Two years and five days after being hired as head coach of the Packers, Matt LaFleur led his team and MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers onto the practice field to accelerate preparation for an unexpected guest.

Due to Jared Goff’s thumb injury, the Rams started undrafted rookie John Wolford at Seattle last week, but they beat the NFC West champion Seahawks by battering quarterback Russell Wilson and avoiding mistakes.

The toll was steep for the Rams, who returned to Los Angeles with no obvious choice at quarterback for the Green Bay game. Perhaps of greater importance, defensive tackle Aaron Donald (ribs) and leading wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) were injured in the team’s first playoff triumph since losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

“This is a legit, real-deal defense,” LaFleur said Tuesday of the Rams, calling Donald a “once in a lifetime player.”

Packers All-Pro center Corey Linsley draws the Donald assignment as Green Bay attempts to prevent Rodgers from being trampled by a Rams defense that sacked Wilson five times last week. Donald left little doubt he will play through his injury. He tied for second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks in the regular season.

Kupp plans to play, too, but could be limited and more broadly impacted by who is throwing the ball for the Rams.

Wolford was not long for the wild-card win. He got hurt and was transported to the hospital for tests on his neck, leaving Goff to pilot the Rams in the second half. Coach Sean McVay said both players are trending in the right direction, but he won’t likely name a starter until later in the week.

Donald, Kupp and Wolford all sat out the team’s light workout Tuesday.

LaFleur likely has a good idea of what’s coming. He said Tuesday the Packers have to “prepare for both” Goff and Wolford and wouldn’t put a surprise or two past his good friend McVay.

The coaches assistants with the Washington Football Team from 2010-13, and when McVay became a head coach at age 30 in 2017, he hired LaFleur as offensive coordinator in Los Angeles.

“We still talk pretty regularly. I don’t know how much I’ll talk to him this week,” LaFleur said. “That’s one of my closest friends in life. He’s like a brother to me … but the gloves will be off on Saturday.”

McVay said, “He’s a great coach. He’s a great friend of mine. You’re so happy to see that success.

“It’s pretty crazy that we’re getting an opportunity to play against one another — really, our teams our getting to play each other in the divisional round. That’s going to be the most important thing, is the Rams versus the Packers and we’ll see if we can go and get after Matt a little bit. It’ll be fun.”

After Lambeau Field was mostly empty during the regular season, the Packers are allowing fans in the stadium — up to 6,000 — on Saturday afternoon.

Champions of the North division, the Packers were idle last week after securing the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record. Rodgers lost his previous meeting with Goff and the Rams in 2018 — 29-27 at Los Angeles — in a duel of Cal quarterback products. Rodgers was sacked twice by Donald in that contest.

Green Bay has won six consecutive games since a Nov. 22 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Rodgers was consistently great in 2020, leading the NFL with 48 touchdowns, a 70.7 percent completion rate, a 121.5 passer rating, a league-tying-low five interceptions and a loud and clear statement that he’s not done at age 37. He is 10-8 all-time in the playoffs with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Rodgers’ job has been easier this season with Davante Adams healthy. Adams will draw a lot of one-on-one coverage from Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, an aggressive and physical counterpart. LaFleur said the matchup should be entertaining but is confident in Adams, a player he called “one of the best route-runners of all-time.”

Adams is the first player in NFL history to have at least 100 receptions with 18 receiving touchdowns in a season, as he finished with 115 receptions and 18 touchdowns in just 14 games this fall.

During film study, the Packers have seen a lot of cover-2 looks from the Rams, and Rodgers said he might not see Ramsey over Adams as speculated.

That’s just another exhibit, Adams said, of how Rodgers makes his life easier on game day — a knack for simplifying everything with relentless focus.

“You can kind of see a weight off a guy’s shoulders in the huddle just hearing that from Aaron,” Adams said. “I think that’s how you wind up being MVP 16 seasons in, finding something in your game to get better.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) walks off the field after an injury against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Busy week for Rams trainers leading to Green Bay

Though their Tuesday light workout included merely an estimation of players’ progress heading into Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game in Green Bay, the Los Angeles Rams will spend the week dealing with significant injuries, making their preparation for the favored Packers all the more challenging.

Most notably, Rams coach Sean McVay had already indicated that he is optimistic that defensive end Aaron Donald (ribs) will be available for the game, but Donald was one of three regular starters who did not participate in Tuesday’s workout — along with wide receiver Cooper Kupp and guard David Edwards. Add outside linebacker Terrell Lewis and backup quarterback John Wolford (neck stinger), and it’s clear that the Rams’ training staff has plenty of work this week, particularly compared to that of the Packers.

Defensive lineman Kingsley Keke was Green Bay’s only nonparticipant Tuesday, though the Packers also listed six players as limited: cornerback Kevin King (Achilles), receiver Allen Lazard (core/wrist), tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee), linebacker Za’Darius Smith (ankle/thumb), receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (knee/ankle), and offensive tackle Rick Wagner (knee).

Donald and Kupp are the players who have the greatest impact for Los Angeles, although Wolford’s availability is also significant. Starting quarterback Jared Goff continues to deal with a surgically repaired thumb, even though he played in much of the victory over Seattle on Saturday and was a full participant Tuesday.

The Rams also listed wide receiver Nsimba Webster (hamstring) and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) as limited Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford (9) lays on the ground after being injured during the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

McVay: Rams QB John Wolford day-to-day with stinger

Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford is day-to-day with a neck stinger.

Head coach Sean McVay said he hasn’t determined the plan at quarterback this week, meaning Jared Goff or Wolford could be used as the starter at Green Bay on Saturday.

McVay said defensive lineman Aaron Donald (rib), offensive lineman David Edwards (Achilles tendonitis) and wide receiver Cooper Kupp (bursitis) are all considered day-to-day after injuries Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Wolford started the game and was relieved by Goff, who didn’t start because he’s less than two weeks removed from a thumb fracture.

“We’re going to take it a day at a time with both of those guys,” McVay said Sunday night. “I just want to be able to see their health. … That’s the first thing, and then we’ll just kind of go from there.”

McVay said swelling is the concern with Kupp’s knee.

“Hopefully, get that swelling and inflammation down, with the anticipation and the hope to have him ready to go,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) walks off the field after an injury against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Report: X-rays negative on Rams’ Aaron Donald (ribs)

Los Angeles Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald received some good news on Sunday.

Initial X-rays on Donald’s injured ribs came back negative for a break, NFL Network reported. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year was also expected to undergo an MRI on Sunday to determine the severity of the injury.

Donald was injured while tossing quarterback Russell Wilson to the turf early in the third quarter during the Rams’ 30-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday in an NFC wild-card game.

Donald, 29, joined Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in being unanimous selections to the 2020 Associated Press All-Pro team on Friday. It was the sixth consecutive selection for Donald, who registered 13.5 sacks for a Rams defense that finished No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense and total defense.

The sixth-seeded Rams will learn the identity of their next opponent following Sunday’s wild-card game pitting the second-seeded New Orleans Saints against the seventh-seeded Chicago Bears. Los Angeles will visit the top-seeded Green Bay Packers should the Saints win at home, or will travel to Tampa Bay to face the fifth-seeded Buccaneers should the Bears post an upset.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford (9) throws a pass during the froth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals  at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Rams’ Jared Goff enters contest for injured John Wolford

John Wolford started at quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday but departed with a neck injury just nine-plus minutes into the NFC wild-card game against the host Seattle Seahawks.

The injury led to typical starter Jared Goff taking over. Goff was the designated backup because he had surgery on his broken right thumb 12 days ago and wasn’t deemed ready to start.

Goff threw passes prior to the contest and didn’t appear to be limited.

Wolford was hurt on a keeper in which Seattle safely Jamal Adams used his shoulder on a tackle that smacked Wolford hard in the head. Wolford was down on the turf in pain and was assisted by trainers before he was able to walk off the field.

Wolford went to the locker room for further examination. The Rams said his return was questionable.

Wolford was making his second career NFL appearance. He started against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 and completed 22 of 38 passes for 231 yards and one interception in the Rams’s 18-7 victory. He also rushed for 56 yards on six attempts.

The 25-year-old Wolford played college football at Wake Forest.

Goff passed for 3,952 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 15 games during the regular season.

Veteran quarterback Blake Bortles, the third stringer, was one of the Rams’ inactives on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) prepares to take the snap against the New York Jets in the first quarterat SoFi Stadium. The Jets defeated the Rams 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rams’ Jared Goff is ‘questionable,’ but on track

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff remains apparently on track for Saturday’s NFC wild-card game in Seattle, although his status remained questionable Friday.

That status was an upgrade this week, after Goff had surgery to repair his broken and dislocated right thumb on Dec. 28 after it was injured as he was following through on a throw against the Seahawks. Goff went through a “normal practice” Wednesday, and said he felt “good” on Thursday.

And Rams coach Sean McVay has said he won’t be announcing a starter before kickoff: “We’ll see on Saturday.” If Goff can not play, backup John Wolford will get the start.

Two other Rams, offensive lineman David Edwards (ankle) and linebacker Micah Kiser (knee) are also listed as questionable.

The Seahawks on Friday updated their injury report to add that running back Rashaad Penny is questionable with a knee injury. Penny has had a limited role since returning from a torn ACL last season. He has only 11 carries for 34 yards but is considered the team’s best breakaway threat out of the backfield.

Also listed as questionable for Seattle are defensive tackle Jarran Reed (oblique) and cornerback Shaquill Griffin (hamstring). Reed was limited in practice on Thursday, while Griffin did not participate.

–Field Level Media