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NFL Preview - Green Bay (3-3) at St. Louis (3-3)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - It took six touchdown passes, but Aaron Rodgers may have finally calmed the fears that the Green Bay Packers' offense was in trouble.
The reigning MVP will look to lift his club to consecutive wins for the first time this season on Sunday when the Packers wrap a three-game road trip against the St. Louis Rams.
Green Bay had one of the more dangerous offenses a season ago, leading the league with 560 points while ranking third in the NFL in total offense (405.1 YPG) and passing offense (307.8 YPG).
However, the Packers went into last weekend's meeting with the Houston Texans averaging just 22.4 points and 338.0 yards per game, and more importantly, under .500 at just 2-3 on the season.
Rodgers did his best to get his unit on track, matching a franchise record with six touchdown passes in a 42-24 rout of the Texans. Three of those scoring strikes went to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, while fellow wideout James Jones hauled in two touchdown throws.
"This was an important game for us. We've had a couple not go our way, games we should have won," Rodgers said. "Two and four would have been very difficult. We've got a tough stretch still to play."
Green Bay rebounded from a loss to the Indianapolis Colts that opened its three-game swing, the club's first trip of that length since 1998 as Rodgers matched Matt Flynn's single-game club record for touchdown passes set in last season's regular-season finale versus the Detroit Lions.
Scoring has been an issue for the Rams over the past few weeks, with the club averaging a mere 14 points a game over the last four outings.
St. Louis has managed to go 2-2 in that time, but couldn't post a third straight victory last weekend due to a 17-14 defeat at the Miami Dolphins.
The Rams were held to just a pair of field goals through the first three quarters before quarterback Sam Bradford finally found the end zone on the ground with 8:30 to play. He then hit running back Steven Jackson with a pass for a successful two-point conversion, but Miami was able to eat up some clock and then come up with a big sack late in the game to set up a 66-yard field goal try by St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein.
Zuerlein's attempt was no good, his third miss of the game and the Rams came up short despite logging season highs of 462 total yards and 162 on the ground.
"Any time you are able to move the ball like we did and accumulate that many yards and only score six points, it's probably one of the most frustrating things there is," Bradford said.
St. Louis also fell to 0-3 on the road this season and will try to rebound Sunday and keep its perfect mark at home intact.
However, the Rams have lost three straight and six of their last eight in the regular season to the Packers.
Green Bay has won three of four in St. Louis during the regular season since the franchise relocated from Los Angeles.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Packers didn't miss a beat through the air despite No. 1 wideout Greg Jennings missing his second game in a row due to a groin issue, with Nelson and Jones stepping up in the veteran's place.
Nelson matched a career high with his three touchdown grabs, while Jones became the second player in franchise history to haul in two scoring catches in three straight games. He joined Don Hutson (Nov. 14-Dec. 5, 1943) and his seven TDs on the season led the NFL and already match a career high set through 16 games last season.
"I think we're pretty deep, first of all, in that group," Rodgers said of his wide receivers. "When you can have Jennings and Nelson and James Jones and Randall Cobb as your top guys there and Donald (Driver) with his experience, when you lose a guy, the expectation is the next guy up is going to play well. And they have, in this case."
St. Louis' secondary faces a tough task, but does come into this game ranked fifth in passing defense. The Rams are yielding 210.7 yards per game through the air and also rank fifth in the NFL with 18.5 points allowed per game.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan leads the team with three interceptions, one returned for a score, and defensive end Chris Long logged his fourth sack of the season in last week's loss. Fellow end Robert Quinn will also try to pressure Rodgers this weekend and add to his team-leading six sacks this year.
"Well, they're talented. I think they do a very good job with attacking the line of scrimmage from alignments and even their personnel," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy noted of the Rams defense. "So, it really starts up front with them. I really like their corners. Cortland Finnegan's been a good player in this league for a long time and (CB Janoris) Jenkins, he's off to an excellent start as a rookie, too. So, it's a group that's definitely going to be a challenge."
Injuries are continuing to mount for the Packers, who went into last game minus running back Cedric Benson and nose tackle B.J. Raji. Benson is on the injured reserve/designated for return list.
Middle linebacker D.J. Smith was lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered versus the Texans, with Brad Jones, Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore candidates to replace him in the starting lineup.
Outside linebacker Nick Perry is also likely to miss some time due to a knee injury sustained versus the Texans and Jennings was unable to practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Sam Shields may miss this game as well.
Green Bay's issues at linebacker could open up some holes for Rams running backs Jackson and Daryl Richardson. The duo combined for 128 rushing yards on 23 carries, including 76 by Richardson.
Though Jackson is a former Pro Bowl back and can also make plays in the receiving game, Richardson could continue to see plenty of work. He owns the two longest runs by a Rams player this year at 53 and 44 yards, the latter coming versus the Dolphins.
"I think he's getting more and more comfortable," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told the Rams' official website of Richardson. "You see less mental errors in practice. He's playing faster. You see all the little detail things that you want him doing, with little calls and stuff that he's making. That's exciting to see.
"Daryl is a great change of pace. We're going to try to keep people off balance."
The Rams have yielded 16 points over their last two home games, but those wins came against lackluster offenses belonging to the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals.
St. Louis struggled in containing Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in a Week 2 win at home, so the defensive unit could be in for a long day against a confident star like Rodgers.
Rodgers has thrown for 585 yards and five touchdowns to just one interception in two previous meetings with the Rams. That includes a trio of scoring strikes, including one each to Nelson (93 yards) and Jones, in a 24-3 win last season.
If the Rams can control the clock with a solid run game they may stand a chance, but the Packers are riding a big wave from last week and once again look like one of the NFC's best.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 27, Rams 13
10/18 12:27:15 ET