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Packers open Week 8 as 8.5-point underdogs to Rams

All the pressure is off Mike McCarthy’s team coming off its bye week.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have never seen a point spread like this since Aaron Rodgers took over as the team’s starting quarterback. With Green Bay sitting at 3-2-1 and facing a road game at the 7-0 Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon, Las Vegas sportsbooks have set the opening line at 8.5 points for the upcoming game.

Although it’s a bit shocking to see such a line with Rodgers healthy (at least relatively speaking), it’s understandable. Los Angeles has been held under 33 points just once all season — in a 23-20 victory at Denver in week six. They also have an average margin of victory of 15 points and sit in the top four in the NFL in both points scored and allowed. To make matters worse, they have been held under 400 yards of offense just twice all season.

Adding to the danger for the Packers is running back Todd Gurley, one of the early candidates for league MVP. Gurley leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 956, and he has 14 touchdowns — five more than the next-closest player in the league. He’s also doing that while averaging 4.8 yards per rush and 10.8 yards per reception, a dangerous combination given the Packers’ 28th-place ranking against the run in DVOA after six weeks. They do rank 12th against running backs in the passing game, but if Gurley can get moving on the ground there would be little need for him to contribute heavily as a receiver.

Interestingly, the Rams’ defense can also be taken advantage of on the ground, as they ranked just 26th in DVOA against the run following week six. That ranking seems unlikely to change much after allowing just over 100 yards rushing to the 49ers on Sunday afternoon in a 39-10 victory. Look for a heavy dose of the ground game early for the Packers to try to keep some pressure off Aaron Rodgers, particularly from defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who leads the team with eight sacks.

For now, the Packers can simply try to keep their heads down and prepare for the game with little expectations. This is a game that practically everyone across the league has assumed would be a Rams victory anyway, so maybe playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder will be what the Packers need on Sunday.