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Four things to watch for in Rams-Packers game on ‘Monday Night Football’

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Week 15’s Monday Night Football matchup pits two teams experiencing unprecedented struggles under their head coaches.

The 4-9 Rams already have their most losses in a season during the Sean McVay era and are guaranteed their first losing season since 2016.

The Packers, meanwhile, are two defeats away from their first season with double-digit losses since 2008 after amassing 39 regular-season wins in Matt LaFleur’s previous three seasons at the helm.

With that written, both squads are riding relative highs. The Rams snapped a six-game losing streak on Thursday Night Football against the Raiders thanks to a game-winning touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining, and the Packers overcame a 13-point deficit against the Bears ahead of a Week 14 bye to pass Chicago as the winningest team in NFL history.

Will the Rams be able to string together a couple victories and capture their first win at Lambeau since 2006, or will the Packers make it five straight against them in Green Bay?

Here are four things to watch for when the Packers host the Rams on Monday Night Football:

  1. Does Aaron Rodgers quiet calls to see Jordan Love for another week? The whispers of Green Bay needing to see what it has in its first-round backup have only grown louder during a stretch of seven losses in nine games. It’s a popular topic thanks to the Packers’ record and Rodgers’ injuries — the two-time reigning Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player has been playing with an avulsion fracture in his right thumb since Week 5 and was knocked out of a Nov. 27 loss to the Eagles with a rib injury. However, Rodgers has shown no interest in ceding playing time while the club remains mathematically alive in the playoff hunt. To stay alive, Green Bay needs to stay in the win column. The onus of doing so will likely fall on Rodgers, who has already thrown as many interceptions this season (nine) as he did the last two combined. The offense has made it a point of emphasis to operate through Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon this season, but the Rams’ fifth-ranked rushing defense has allowed the 21st-most passing yards in the league. That’s where Los Angeles is most exploitable. Rodgers could need to air it out in this one.
  2. Baker Mayfield’s encore. It’s hard to go more Hollywood than Mayfield did in his first game action as a Ram. Two days after Los Angeles claimed him off waivers, Mayfield didn’t just avoid looking overwhelmed. He led a 98-yard game-winning drive to give the Rams their first win since Oct. 16. Mayfield’s 22 completions in Week 14 tied a season-high and his 230 passing yards were his most since the season opener (235). With that miraculous drive, he also tied his win total from his six-start tenure in Carolina. In other words, blue and yellow seems to suit the former No. 1 overall pick. Mayfield has an opportunity in L.A.’s four remaining games to change the trajectory of his career after being discarded twice in the past six months. The next challenge comes against a Green Bay defense that seems imposing on the surface with the fifth-least total passing yards allowed, but also ranks 11th-worst in both completion percentage allowed (66.4) and passing yards allowed per attempt (6.9). There will be opportunities for Mayfield to make more magic, even with a depleted wide receiver room led by Ben Skowronek and Van Jefferson.
  3. Will the Christian Watson show continue? The 2022 NFL Draft’s No. 34 overall pick missed three games and registered 10 catches for 88 yards through the first nine weeks of the season. His biggest highlight was a dropped ball on a would-be 75-yard TD pass on Green Bay’s first offensive play of 2022. Then came Watson’s breakthrough. He scored three touchdowns on four touches in a Week 10 upset against the Cowboys, which he followed up with four more receiving touchdowns and a rushing score in the next three games. Even with last week’s bye, Watsons’ seven TD catches are the most in the league since Week 10, per NFL Research, and he’s done it all on just 15 receptions. His seven receiving touchdowns are also more than any Packers rookie in the Common Draft era, and Randy Moss is the only rookie in league history to have more in a four-game span. The rookie is developing into the definition of a home-run threat. What a difference a month makes. 
  4. It’s Frozen Tundra time. As of Sunday afternoon, Green Bay’s Monday night forecast was 15 degrees with a 70% chance of snow. Any time a temperature drops that low it’s going to affect teams no matter what kind of toughness the players preach during the week. That includes the Packers. While it’s true the Packers are 7-0 at home in December under LaFleur, their offense also pulled a cold-weather disappearing act against the 49ers in a snowy, blustery divisional-round loss last year to a “warm weather” team. And if Rodgers’ thumb hasn’t made significant progress during the bye week, freezing temperatures aren’t suddenly going to make gripping and ripping it any easier. Regardless, it’s the kind of weather the Packers love to preach as a mental advantage. This Rams team is nothing close to the 2021 49ers squad that conquered the frozen tundra, and L.A. did drop its own divisional-round matchup at Lambeau the season prior. This time around, the Rams will be leaving behind Inglewood temperatures in the mid-60s. What’s the weather version of culture shock? Climate shock?

Image & Story Credit: nfl.com

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