Packers vs. Rams: Expect a far greater challenge than playoff win

The Green Bay Packers outclassed the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field on January 16, advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

Three hundred sixteen days on, the two teams meet again in Green Bay.

Don’t expect a similar performance from either side. Much has changed since then.

Rams have improved

For starters, the Rams upgraded at quarterback in the offseason, trading Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford.

Stafford is having a strong season, throwing for 3,014 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions while the Rams enter Week 12 with a 7-3 record. Stafford is in the MVP race.

They’ve also recently added two former All-Pros — edge rusher Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Like last year, the Rams are Super Bowl contenders. But they return to Lambeau Field a stronger team than January.

Big difference with injuries for Packers and Rams

In January, injury luck was on the Packers’ side.

Rams star wide receiver Cooper Kupp missed the game through injury. All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald was noticeably limited with a ribs injury. Jared Goff was playing with a thumb injury.

Packers offensive linemen Elgton Jenkins and Corey Linsley dominated Donald in that game. Jenkins is out of this game due to a torn ACL while Linsley now plays for the Los Angeles Chargers. David Bakhtiari missed that game, and he’s still out this time.

Kupp, meanwhile, leads the NFL with 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns. He presents a huge challenge for the Packers’ defense this week.

Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith were both key in the divisional-round win. Both will be out this week. Aaron Jones and Allen Lazard were stars of the show in January — they are both doubts to play on Sunday.

The Packers were relatively healthy in the divisional-round win last year. The same wasn’t true for the Rams. The Packers were also coming off a first-round playoff bye. Now it’s the Rams’ turn to come off their bye and take on an injury-hit Packers team.

Green Bay can absolutely win this game, but expect a far greater challenge this time around.