Packers-Rams: Game plans, key matchups

Grant vs. Witherspoon; Packers special teams vs. Rams special teams; Holt, Bruce vs. Harris, Woodson

GREEN BAY PACKERS
GAME PLAN:
In position to gain a first-round bye in the playoffs possibly Sunday, the heavily favored Packers don't figure to be taking it easy in the company of a three-win opponent. Aside from the setback at Dallas two games ago, Green Bay has been unflappable on the road. The offense is anticipating a lot of pressure from St. Louis' blitz-happy defense at the outset. To counteract and try to sustain drives to get the game in their favor early, the Packers figure to stick with the hot hand, er, feet of halfback Ryan Grant and mix in quick slants and shallow crosses for Brett Favre to get the ball out in time.

The uncertainty as to who makes the start at quarterback for the Rams isn't affecting the approach of Green Bay's defense. The unit went with more blitzing against Oakland on Sunday than it has for most of the season. Given the Rams' decimated line and the shaky status of both Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte at QB, coupled with not needing to have help over the top with the receivers, expect defensive coordinator Bob Sanders to cut his guys loose.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Packers RB Ryan Grant vs. Rams MLB Will Witherspoon

Grant is the hottest back going, piling up a league-high 717 yards in the last seven games. Put him on the fast track in the dome at St. Louis, and a fifth 100-yard performance seems attainable.

Witherspoon, though, is quick and tenacious in tracking the football and has been the Rams' defensive enforcer this season. So, the regularity with which Grant has been reaching the second level won't be automatic.

Packers return units vs. Rams coverage units
Like Grant, Green Bay's special teams have been clicking of late. Injury-riddled Will Blackmon had his coming-out party with a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown Sunday, never mind he stepped out of bounds before reaching the end zone. His explosiveness will be countered by Rams punter Donnie Jones, who's among the league's best for gross (47.3) and net (39.1) averages.

The Rams have been awfully generous in giving the opponent favorable field position on kickoffs, with a starting spot past the 30-yard line.

ST. LOUIS RAMS
GAME PLAN:
Somehow, the Rams have to figure out a way to run the ball on the Packers to open up the passing game and create manageable passing situations. The offensive line will have to find a way to keep pass rushers away from whomever the quarterback ends up being.

Defensively, pick your poison. Try and stop the hard-charging RB Ryan Grant or find a way to defend QB Brett Favre. Not an easy task for any defense.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Rams WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce vs. Packers CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson

Talk about strength against strength. The Rams' only chance in this matchup is if Marc Bulger or Gus Frerotte is able to play, and the line slows down the Green Bay pass rush.

Rams OTs Alex Barron and Brandon Gorin vs. Packers DEs Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Aaron Kampman
Gorin will have his hands full against Kampman. Gbaja-Biamila and Kampman have combined for 20.5 sacks (Kampman 11, KGB 9.5), and they usually make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, but both defensive ends have not had a sack in the last two games.


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