Packers vs. Rams WR/CB Matchups: Davante Adams vs. Jalen Ramsey in NFL Playoffs
Pictured: Davante Adams (left) and Jalen Ramsey.
Wide receiver-cornerback showdowns might be the most important individual matchups in football.
In this piece, I leverage snap data from Pro Football Focus (PFF) to project Divisional Round WR/CB matchups for the Packers-Rams game.
For more, see the FantasyLabs Matchups page, where we provide basic and advanced data — including fantasy and red-zone performance — for each offensive skill-position player based on his matchup.
As we get more clarity during the week on the injury status of receivers and corners, I will update my WR/CB projections.
Packers (-7.5) vs. Rams (46.5 Over/Under)
Kickoff: 4:35 p.m. ET on Saturday | TV: FOX
Packers Wide Receivers
We might as well call this the “Davante Adams & Others Section.”
Even though this is his first season as an All-Pro, Adams has been the NFL’s best wide receiver for the past few years.
In the post-Jordy Nelson era, Adams has been exceptional. Since 2018, he has been the NFL’s most reliably productive wide receiver on a per-game basis as a fantasy and football producer (including postseason).
- Fantasy Production: 22.3 PPR points (1st) | 14.7 STD points (1st)
- Football Production: 7.6 receptions (2nd) | 94.3 yards (2nd) | 0.88 touchdowns (1st)
Over the past three seasons, Adams is No. 1 with 10.9 targets per game.
On a per-snap basis, he has been a top-five fantasy producer (per Pro Football Focus).
- 2020 (13 games): 0.47 PPR points (1st) | 0.32 standard points (1st)
- 2019 (14 games): 0.34 PPR points (2nd) | 0.21 standard points (5th)
- 2018 (15 games): 0.34 PPR points (3rd) | 0.23 standard points (4th)
This year, he is No. 1 with 2.96 yards per route. Last year, he was No. 2 with 2.61.
Even though Adams played just half of Week 2, leaving the game early with a hamstring injury that sidelined him through the Week 5 bye, he still finished the regular season No. 4 with 136.3 air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC) per game.
AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy production and can be found in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary.
He’s No. 1 in the league with a 0.78 WOPR.
Even with just 14 games, Adams had the best year of his career with 115-1,374-18 receiving on 149 targets. For the year, Adams was No. 1 in Hayden Winks’ usage model, which is hardly surprising given that he had a league-high 34% market share of team targets.
Marquez-Valdes Scantling on the perimeter and Allen Lazard in the slot are both fine. They’re probably above-average receivers. Both have flashed playmaking upside.
But their usage and production are modest.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling (16 games): 13% target share | 33-691-6 receiving, 63 targets
- Allen Lazard (10 games): 15% target share | 33-451-3 receiving, 46 targets
For the Packers, it’s Adams and then everyone else.
The Rams are Nos. 1 & 4 with an 89.8 PFF coverage grade and -12.0% pass-defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders). Led by No. 1 cornerback Jalen Ramsey, they are incredibly tough on opposing pass offenses.
Against the Cowboys in Week 1, Ramsey had a tough matchup and allowed 8-81-0 receiving on nine targets. On top of that, he was beat deep for a long reception toward the end of the game that was called back by a questionable pass interference.
By the eyes and the numbers, it was a bad performance.
After that, however, Ramsey was as perfect as possible in the regular season, allowing just 4.4 yards per target on a 44.6% catch rate and four targets per game while shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers almost every week.
Right now, it would be hard to say that Ramsey is not the league’s best corner.
On Wild Card Weekend, Ramsey was the primary defender responsible for second-year star D.K. Metcalf, who went off with 5-96-2 receiving on 11 targets — but a lot of that production was not directly against Ramsey.
On Metcalf’s first touchdown, he lined up against perimeter corner Darious Williams, not Ramsey, and got lost in coverage deep on a broken play that quarterback Russell Wilson extended.
On Metcalf’s second touchdown, he lined up against Ramsey, but the Rams were in zone, and Metcalf found a soft spot in a flatfooted linebacker’s coverage.
But against Ramsey specifically, Metcalf was just 3-33-0 receiving on six targets.
Bottom line: It’s possible for a great receiver to have a good game against the Rams, even with Ramsey shadowing him for most of the contest, but he must have a little luck to get there.
In the regular season, the Rams held wide receivers to a league-low 2,075 receiving yards, and last week Wilson passed for just 174 yards.
It’s not as if Adams will have an easy matchup in Ramsey’s shadow.
And the Rams’ pass defense isn’t just Ramsey.
The aforementioned Williams has emerged as a strong player opposite Ramsey. This season, he has allowed a catch rate of just 50%.
Slot corner Troy Hill has inside/outside coverage versatility, and since last year he has allowed just 6.2 yards per target.
Williams and Hill represent tough matchups for Valdes-Scantling and Lazard.
One more note on this matchup of Packers receivers vs. Rams corners: Even though I expect Adams & Co. to be challenged, I think their median outcomes are largely intact. Their ceiling and floor outcomes are significantly lower because they will likely be less efficient than usual. But their median outcomes should be about the same because even with the matchup, they’re still going to get their targets.
Rams Wide Receivers
The Rams’ passing game remains in flux.
Starting quarterback Jared Goff (thumb) and backup John Wolford (neck) are both dealing with injuries, and it seems that right now head coach Sean McVay might genuinely prefer Wolford, who got the start last week but was forced from the game.
In relief of Wolford, Goff was a mediocre 155-1-0 on 9 of 19 passing as the Rams relied on their running game and defense.
Regardless of whoever starts at quarterback this weekend, the entire passing offense could struggle once again.
Additionally, slot receiver Cooper Kupp’s status is uncertain. Kupp missed Week 17 with a positive COVID-19 test, but he returned last week and was his typically productive self with 4-78-0 receiving on nine targets.
Even with some regression in 2020, Kupp now has back-to-back seasons with 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
But Kupp (knee) now is dealing with bursitis.
I expect Kupp to play this week, but he’s far from certain.
If Kupp is active, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds will line up at their usual respective spots out wide to the right and left.
Since the 2018 season, Woods has been a reliable producer from scrimmage.
- 2018 (16 games): 1,376 yards, seven touchdowns
- 2019 (15 games): 1,249 yards, three touchdowns
- 2020 (16 games): 1,091 yards, eight touchdowns
In the second half of the season he had a strong a 26% target share, and last week he was 4-48-1 receiving on eight targets.
Woods isn’t an earth-shaking alpha receiver, but he’s about as good as any non-elite pass catcher can be. He might be the best receiver currently in the league never to be voted to a Pro Bowl.
As for Josh Reynolds … yeah, nah. Last week, he had zero targets on 43 snaps. The week before that, he was just 4-29-0 receiving on six targets even though Kupp was out. Reynolds is merely a warm body.
If Kupp is out, Woods will shift into the slot, Reynolds will move to the right side and rookie Van Jefferson will play wide to the left. In Kupp’s absence, Jefferson was 4-50-0 on eight targets in Week 17. That’s respectable — but last week he didn’t play a snap.
If Reynolds is a warm body, then Jefferson is probably a cold body.
For portions of his first two seasons and for the first half of this year, the Packers strategically used No. 1 corner Jaire Alexander in shadow coverage, but he has played exclusively at left corner since Week 9, where he will match up most with Woods this week.
Alexander has always been a good corner. He entered the NFL as a first-round pick with 4.38-second 40-yard speed, and he had PFF coverage grades of 73.0 and 75.8 in his first two seasons.
But this year, as an established veteran, Alexander has catapulted himself into the top tier of cornerbacks, ranking No. 1 among all starters at the position with a 90.6 PFF coverage grade.
This year, Alexander has allowed just 4.9 yards per target with a 50.7% catch rate on 4.6 targets per game. He is the primary reason the Packers are No. 3 overall with an 80.4 PFF coverage grade.
Woods moves around the formation, so he will run no more than 60% of his routes against Alexander (unless the Packers opt for shadow coverage), but in his coverage Woods will have a very tough matchup.
Opposite Alexander on the perimeter is Kevin King, who has allowed a horrid 10.0 yards per target over the past two years. Whenever he is matched up with Woods or Kupp, he will be a glaring liability.
But most of the game he will likely face Reynolds, who is maybe the No. 6 option in the Rams pass offense. So the King vs. Reynolds matchup probably won’t matter.
In the slot, Chandon Sullivan will face Kupp and Woods for maybe 90% of his snaps, primarily Kupp.
A rotational corner last year, Sullivan struggled in the first half of 2020 as a full-time starter, but since Week 10 he has been a rock-solid cover man, allowing just 6.6 yards per target on 4.75 targets per game.
This year, the Packers are No. 3 in fewest yards allowed to opposing wide receivers with 2,307. Overall, this is a tough matchup for the Rams receivers.
Wide Receiver Upgrades & Downgrades
- Davante Adams: Large downgrade
- Allen Lazard: Moderate downgrade
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Moderate downgrade
- Robert Woods: Large downgrade
- Cooper Kupp: No change
- Josh Reynolds: Moderate upgrade
Packers & Rams WR/CB Injuries
- Rams WR Cooper Kupp (knee) is projected IN.
Packers-Rams WR/CB Matrix
Pos = left, right or slot WR or CB
Projected shadow matchups are CAPITALIZED
WR Exp = Wide Receiver Expectation: I rank from 3 to -3 how much I think we should adjust expectations for wide receivers based on matchups. 3: Large upgrade. 2: Medium upgrade. 1: Small upgrade. 0: No change. -1: Small downgrade. -2: Medium downgrade. -3: Large downgrade.
Thanks to Scott Barrett for providing me with some of PFF’s historical data.
Matthew Freedman is 982-775-37 (55.9%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.