PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the fifth of five key matchups this week in advance of the Packers' Week Six game this Sunday against the Rams at Lambeau Field.
Rams RBs Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams vs. Packers LB corps
For the Rams to have any shot at all on Sunday, they will need a successful ball-control attack that keeps the Packers' potent offense off the field as much as possible. Translation: A heavy dosage of Jackson, the Rams' career rushing leader who is still a major load when healthy. A relentless sledgehammer that just keeps pounding away, Jackson has a rare blend of speed, size and power. Coming off his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, the longest active streak in the NFL, Jackson started off the season like a house on fire with a 47-yard TD romp against the Eagles. But he limped off the field with a quadriceps injury after his next carry and has been less than 100 percent since then.
Jackson sat out Week Two, had only four carries in Week Three vs. Baltimore and had close to a full workload (21 touches) against Washington in the Rams' last game, but was still laboring. Well-rested coming off the Rams' bye week, Jackson says he's back to 100 percent. Behind Jackson, Williams (50-202-0) has done a nice job and poses a legitimate threat both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.
Green Bay's run defense has been up to most challenges this season, ranking third in league entering this game (75.8 yards yards per game; only 3.8 ypc). MLB Desmond Bishop, the team's leading tackler by a wide margin with 43, is coming off an excellent prime time performance in Atlanta (seven tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss, including one of minus-2 of Falcons RB Michael Turner). A.J. Hawk had a lot less success against Turner than Bishop, getting run over by the Falcons' featured back on a one-yard TD plunge.
Interestingly, Green Bay's other three starting LBs besides Bishop — Hawk, ROLB Erik Walden and LOLB Clay Matthews — have remarkably similar tackle numbers through five games. Hawk 19, Walden 18 and Matthews has 15. Filling gaps, which both Walden and Matthews did well last week, will be a key to stopping Jackson.