Report: Rams QB Matt Stafford ‘unlikely’ to play vs. Packers

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 28: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Los Angeles Rams throws a pass against the Green Bay Packers in the first half at Lambeau Field on November 28, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 28: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Los Angeles Rams throws a pass against the Green Bay Packers in the first half at Lambeau Field on November 28, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Matthew Stafford, who was listed as questionable on Friday’s final injury report, is not expected to play against the Green Bay Packers, according to Adam Schefter.

Stafford suffered the thumb injury last week against Dallas. Schefter added that it would have been “unthinkable” for Stafford to play against Green Bay, but he made some progress throughout the week that kept the door open. Stafford is not officially ruled out yet and will be given up until game time, but as of now, with the Rams’ bye week following their matchup with the Packers, Brett Rypien is the expected starter.

Rypien was an undrafted rookie in 2019 and has thrown 140 career passes, completing 61 percent of those throws at 5.9 yards per catch, with four touchdowns to eight interceptions. Against the Cowboys last week, Rypien was 5-for-10 for 42 yards.

"”Thankfully we did get a little bit of film on him,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “At least current film when he had to go in and play, the last quarter and a half of the Dallas game. He’s a four year guy, he’s been in the league, he’s been around.”"

Not knowing whether it was going to be Stafford under center or Rypien didn’t affect the Packers’ approach to the week. As Matt LaFleur said on Friday, they would be doing their team a disservice if they didn’t prepare for a high-caliber quarterback like Stafford. With Rypien at quarterback, some adjustments may be needed, but in general, the Rams offense is expected to remain the same.

"“In situations like this,” added Barry, “we are taking the approach that No. 9 (Stafford) is going to play. If he doesn’t, and we get No. 11 (Rypien), I don’t think they are going to change what they do all of a sudden. They’re not all of a sudden going to put a Rypien offense in, they’re going to run their offense. So we are taking the mindset that Matthew is going to play, and if all of a sudden he’s inactive and doesn’t, no matter who plays quarterback, they’re going to run their offense.”"

Regardless of who is at quarterback for the Rams, they have a dynamic trio of receivers that will test what has become a shorthanded Packers’ secondary. Puka Nacua ranks third among all receivers in receiving yards, just shy of 800. Over the last four games, him and Cooper Kupp have formed quite the one-two punch, with both ranking in the top 15 in total yards and YAC during that span and both being in the top 20 in yards per route run—an efficiency metric.

Head coach Sean McVay does a very good job moving both these players around to give the defense different looks and to exploit matchups. Nacua and Kupp are very good at creating separation and winning after the catch. Both are most often targeted over the middle on short to intermediate routes where they can get the ball in space.

Tutu Atwell, meanwhile, has been one of the most productive downfield targets in football this season, while tight end Tyler Higbee has provided a steady presence in the passing game.

"“They’ve got an explosive offense,” said LaFleur, “and it’s a challenge because they’ve got a lot of pieces that they can throw the ball to, and I think they’re doing a good job with their ground game as well.”"

With Rasul Douglas in Buffalo, the Packers will rely heavily on rookie seventh round pick Carrington Valentine as the second boundary cornerback option. While Jaire Alexander will play, it’s unknown if he is at 100 percent after being limited in practice all week. At safety, with Darnell Savage on IR, Rudy Ford is questionable, which could mean Jonathan Owens and Anthony Johnson are the two starters.

Pressuring the quarterback is always important, but against an inexperienced starter in Rypien, that chaos can lead to mistakes. I’m also guessing the Rams are going to rely on a lot of quick and relatively easy throws to Kupp and Nacua to help simplify things for Rypien, so getting home quickly will be a must. Outside of Rashan Gary, the Packers pass rush has been very inconsistent this season. The Rams’ offensive line ranks 27th in ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric.

The Packers have been unable to take advantage of a favorable schedule up to this point and currently sit at 2-5, riding a four game losing streak. Failing to come away with a win at home against the Rypien-led Rams could lead to things spiraling out of control.