Aaron gets to take on Aaron
4:35 p.m.: Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (FOX)
8:15 p.m.: Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (CBS)
3:05 p.m.: Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (CBS)
6:40 p.m.: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (FOX)
The Associated Press
No NFL team scored more points during the regular season than the Green Bay Packers. Nobody has played better defense than the Los Angeles Rams.
That sets up an intriguing showdown of strength vs. strength when MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) host All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the Rams (11-6) in an NFC divisional playoff game Saturday.
“This is what you love,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “These are the type of matchups and opportunities that as a competitor, you can’t wait for.”
Both of these units are at the top of their game.
The Packers have won six straight games and have been held below 22 points just once all season. Los Angeles got to this point by sacking Russell Wilson five times in a 30-20 victory at Seattle last week.
“They went to Seattle, played a familiar opponent and played really, really well, and they’re coming in with the confidence that they should have,” Rodgers said. “And we’re coming in with confidence as well, the season that we’ve had and what we believe we’re capable of.”
Rodgers has set franchise single-season records for touchdown passes (48) and completion percentage (.707) this year while throwing just five interceptions for an offense scoring 31.8 points per game. Donald calls Rodgers a “great quarterback that’s playing lights out this year.”
Donald leads a defense that allowed the fewest points and yards of any team during the regular season.
“At any time, at any quarter of the game, a different guy could make a big-time play for us,” Donald said. “It’s not just one or two guys. When you’ve got a group of guys – all 11 out there – who are pretty much playmakers who can make that game-changing play at any time, you’ve got a great group.”
This will be the first time the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense and scoring defense have faced off in the postseason since the New England-Atlanta Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017. The Patriots had the top-ranked defense and the Falcons had the No. 1 offense that year.
This also will be the Rams’ first playoff game at Lambeau Field. These two franchises have met in the postseason just twice before, with the Packers winning 28-7 in Milwaukee on Dec. 23, 1967, and the Rams winning 45-17 in St. Louis on Jan. 20, 2002.
GAME NOTES: Wolford started at quarterback for the Rams against Seattle, but left early in the game with a neck stinger that will prevent him from playing Saturday. That means the Rams will turn to Jared Goff, who is less than three weeks removed from thumb surgery. The backup will be Blake Bortles. …. The Rams’ most important offensive players right now might be rookie running back Cam Akers and left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Although both are recovering from recent injuries, they’re the keys to a revitalized ground game that racked up 164 yards rushing last week. … The Rams are 37-0 in games they’ve led at halftime during McVay’s four-year tenure. … The Packers won’t have All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice on Dec. 31. … Donald left the Seahawks game last week with injured ribs, but the Rams have expressed confidence the six-time All-Pro will play Saturday. McVay said that “unless something unforeseen happens, the Terminator will be ready.”
Brees vs. Brady
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees periodically discusses his long, extraordinary NFL journey in terms of fate and destiny.
The Saints quarterback says, for example, that his career-threatening throwing shoulder injury at the end of the 2005 season was meant to be. It precipitated his departure from the Chargers and move to New Orleans, where he shattered passing records and won a Super Bowl — all while helping rebuild a beloved American city that was reeling from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
So when six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady decided to leave New England and begin a new chapter with Tampa Bay, in the NFC South, Brees couldn’t escape the sense that he’d see Brady in a high-stakes game in January.
This rare postseason matchup of record-setting quarterbacks older than 41 is set for Sunday night, when the Saints (13-4) host the Buccaneers (12-5) in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
“Listen, when Tom Brady signed with the Bucs and I knew that he was coming to our division, I envisioned this game,” Brees asserted this week. “I envisioned this game happening because I knew our aspirations as a team, to be in the playoffs and beyond. And I certainly knew what he was bringing to the Bucs and that talented roster.”
Similarly, Brady figured that success in Tampa Bay would hinge on how he and Buccaneers handled their encounters with the Saints.
“They’ve been one of the top teams in the league for a long time and they’ve had some tough playoff losses (on) some really fluke plays,” Brady said, referring to a last-second loss to Minnesota on a long passing play two seasons ago, and an admitted officiating blunder that helped the Rams beat the Saints in the NFC title game two seasons ago.
“Other than that, there’s not a lot of bad about” the Saints, Brady said. “They’re pretty spectacular.”
Brees and Brady have been doing “spectacular” for two decades now. No wonder there’s so much buildup for this game.
“That’s 85 years and a lot of football experience that’s going to be on the field on Sunday,” said Brees,who turned 42 on Friday.
GAME NOTES: The Saints won both regular-season meetings by double digits en route to their franchise-record fourth straight division title. … NFL history also favors the Saints. There have been 22 previous playoff games featuring a team that had been swept by its opponent during the regular season. In 14 of those games, the team that had won the first two games won the third as well. … Brady and his All-Star cast of playmakers have been one of the hottest offenses in the league during what is now a five-game winning streak. He has completed 116 of 176 passes for 1,714 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception during the surge. … Since Sean Payton became Saints coach in 2006, New Orleans has not rushed for as many yards in one season as this one. They gained 2,265 yards rushing during the regular season. … Tampa Bay’s defense led the NFL in stopping the run, allowing 80.6 yards per game.