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Week 12 Preview: All eyes on Rams & Packers for huge NFC tilt in Week 12

We weren't privy to all the details. But as it was reported, Odell Beckham Jr.'s free agent decision came down to two NFC contenders: Green Bay and Los Angeles.

Similar systems; like-minded head coaches and play-callers; big arms at quarterback; elite No. 1 receivers.

OBJ chose the Rams in the end, and while he made his Rams debut in limited work at San Francisco in Week 10, he did so without the benefit of a full practice. Now, off the bye, he'll be as close to fully incorporated as can reasonably be expected. And the Rams desperately need him, having lost Robert Woods for the season, and having scored only 16 points, combined, while the game was in the balance in their past two losses.

Newly 29-years old, Beckham chose to chase a ring with the Rams. Now, together, their pursuit of that goal continues against the "other team" – the Green Bay Packers.

Not As Bad As It Looks

Because the Rams haven't won in a month, and because they haven't defeated a team with a winning record since Week 3, it's understandable how uncomfortable that bye week was for everyone involved.

However, the Rams are still a very efficient football team with elite talent at essential positions.

On offense, they rank second in Football Outsider's DVOA metric, including top-10 marks in passing and rushing. On defense, they rank seventh overall, including top-10 marks against the pass and run.

That's complete. That's elite. And that puts the Rams right where we all hoped they'd be – in contention.

We're not turning a blind eye to the deficiencies highlighted by two November losses. But also, let's not fall victim to recency bias.

It's All Right There For The Taking

…Or is it?

While the Rams are only one game back in the NFC in the loss column, and while they have head-to-head opportunities still to come against the Packers and Cardinals, and while they have a win over the Bucs already in their pocket, it's going to be very difficult to overcome NFC West-leading Arizona.

As it stands, the tiebreaking formula doesn't look good for the Rams, even if they're able to go on a stretch run.

The Cardinals (9-2) are on their bye, undefeated within the division. Their remaining schedule includes road trips to Chicago, Detroit, and Dallas, with home games against Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Seattle. Having already won two division road games with Colt McCoy at the controls, it feels like 12-5 is their floor (happy to be wrong, here!).

Figure the Rams (7-3) have one more loss to spare, and it can't come against an NFC West opponent.

Snap the Streaks

The Packers have won nine straight games at Lambeau Field, the longest active home winning streak in the NFL.

Since LaFleur was hired three years ago, they are the only team without consecutive losses. In fact, per ESPN, this weekend the Packers head coach could become the second-fastest in the Super Bowl Era to reach 35 career wins (44 games), trailing only Chuck Knox (43rd career game).

Sure would be nice to throw up a road block, protect a Rams corner of the record book, and snap those Packers streaks, wouldn't it?

Signature Service

The enduring image from last January's playoff loss in Green Bay was an emotional Aaron Donald acknowledging the season's end on the sideline. At far less than 100 percent physically, we all wondered how that game might have played out differently if the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year had been right – and if Cooper Kupp had been available.

Well less than a calendar year removed from that disappointment, here's a chance to run it back with Donald and Kupp. While the receiver has broken out with a career season, Donald's 2021 has been kept on simmer so far.

He's still Pro Football Focus' top-graded defensive player. He's on track for another double-digit sack season. But we're still waiting for the signature performance, a total takeover, that only he can author.

With Von Miller added to the pass rush, Donald should only get more favorable opportunities from this point forward.

Earn the Right

That being said, the loss to the 49ers was once again a blueprint for neutralizing Donald: play with the lead, run it until you're blue in the face, shorten your quarterback's time-to-throw to career levels (in fact, don't even bother throwing outside the numbers or beyond the sticks).

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers enjoyed similar road-grading last January, hammering away with 36 rush attempts for 188 yards, chewing up 36 minutes of possession, then surgically striking what had been the best defense in the NFL all season. So Green Bay knows first-hand what works against L.A.

In all three phases, the Rams need to create more and better game circumstances where Donald can feast. Longer fields created by the kicking game. Eliminate turnovers and finish drives with touchdowns on offense. Stuff the early-down running game on defense. All with the goal of earning the right to rush the quarterback in some known passing situations.

Check out photos of Los Angeles Rams players on the practice field ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

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