In a rematch of a thrilling game in week 5 on Thursday Night Football, this week we get the sequel we’ve been waiting for. Seahawks-Rams part two on Sunday Night Football, all under the bright lights of tinsel-town, and if we’re lucky, we might even get a Hollywood ending.
In what could be viewed as a turning point for both teams, the 3-1 Seahawks took down the 3-1 Rams in a wild 30-29 shootout, with the game officially decided by a missed 44-yard field goal attempt by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, who has a career 89% conversion rate inside of 49 yards. “Legatron” had to watch as his kick sailed wide of the uprights with just seconds remaining and his team trailing by one point. Seattle QB Russell Wilson led the offense onto the field and took the victory formation to end the contest.
The Rams have gone 4-3 since, while the Seahawks have gone 6-1 and taken control of the NFC West. Two extra wins or two extra losses might not sound like much, but in a very competitive NFC, those two games could be the difference between who goes to the playoffs and who watches them from their living room. Right now, the 7-5 Rams have an uphill battle to get back in the hunt for a playoff seed, currently trailing 8-4 Minnesota and 10-2 San Francisco for a wild card spot. Both the Rams and Seahawks have three of their final four games in the division, and a road game next week against a weak conference opponent to round things out.
The Seahawks are a perfect 6-0 on the road, while the Rams are an average 3-3 at home. Seattle averages 26.3 points per game on the road, the Rams score 20.2 points at home and allow 24.3 to their opponents, adding to the narrative that they do not have a competitive home-field advantage in a borrowed college stadium nearly full of fair weather celebrity fans. What’s strange is the Rams’ attendance is up versus last year’s numbers, when they were a Super Bowl contender and consistently one of the most entertaining teams to watch.
Seattle and LA enter this game on opposite ends of the statistical rankings in a variety of ways. See the table below. Seattle is a top-5 offense in maybe the first time in Wilson’s career, scoring and racking up yards like an elite team. The Rams are a top-10 offense and top-5 in passing, but they struggle in the running game, which could be due to Todd Gurley’s knee issues.
|Seattle||3rd||5th – 27.4||10th||3rd|
|Los Angeles||10th||12th – 23.6||5th||25th|
On defense, the Rams should be shutting down opponents on paper, but the truth is they aren’t, not on a week to week basis anyway. They are a top-10 unit nearly across the board, but they don’t create many turnovers even though they are an elite team when it comes to pressuring the QB and keeping their opponents off the field. Seattle is essentially the polar opposite, struggling to contain their opponents and rarely pressuring the QB, but they do get a high amount of turnovers.
|Seattle||24th||23rd – 24.4||29th||8th||7th||29th|
|Los Angeles||12th||13th – 20.8||10th||13th||18th||6th|
What is most telling is the tale between the two QBs. Wilson continues to impress despite a seesaw supporting cast and seems to never be out of a game despite the level of competition. He just raises the talent of those around him and makes plays that probably shouldn’t be possible. Jared Goff, on the other hand, looks more like he did as a struggling rookie than he did in his first two years under Sean McVay. Part of that could also be the struggles of Gurley, as the Rams used play action at one of the highest rates in the last two years, using the run to open the pass.
Without an all-pro runner taking pressure off his QB, McVay seems to be on the same level as the rest of the mere mortals in the NFL. With just 13 TDs and 12 INTs, Goff might be a top-5 passer in terms of yards, but he has a long way to go to prove he can command an offense at an elite level for an extended period in this league. It’s rare to see an elite passer regress in his 4th year, but that is exactly what we are seeing. Despite an above-average supporting cast in the passing game, Goff is struggling without a legitimate rushing attack to keep defenses honest. Poor offensive line play can also be a factor, but the greats in this game find ways to win regardless, and Goff isn’t doing much winning these days.
|Player||Yards||TDs||INTs||Completion %||Passer Rating|
|Russell Wilson||3177 – 7th||26 – 1st||4 – 5th||67.4 – 7th||111.1 – 3rd|
|Jared Goff||3419 – 4th||13 – 23rd||12 – 23rd||62.5 – 20th||84.1 – 22nd|
Seattle’s primary back Chris Carson is just 19 yards away from his second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign, and reserve Rashaad Penny has been blowing up the stat sheet in the last two games. Carson still only has 5 TDs to 6 fumbles, but as the weather gets colder and defenses get fatigued quicker, his explosive running plays should get more frequent. Gurley has under 700 yards this season, but 8 TDs to just 3 fumbles, so even with the team rotating him out he’s found ways to put his elite talent to use.
Receiving is another head-scratcher; see the table below. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp will exceed 1000 yards this season, but Woods has 0 TDs and Kupp has 6, which is a strange contrast between two guys racking up the yards. For Seattle, Tyler Lockett remains a top-20 receiver in this league, even with virtually no action the last two weeks. DK “Decaf” Metcalf continues to be a force in the passing game and seems to get more comfortable every week. His untimely fumbles (not that there is ever a good time) need to improve, or Wilson might need to start looking elsewhere (Josh Gordon anyone?) when it’s crunch time.
|Player||Yards||TDs||Receptions||Per Catch||20+ yards|
|Tyler Lockett||831 – 20th||6||63 – 15th||13.2||13|
|DK Metcalf||705 – 27th||5||44 – 33rd||16||11|
|Robert Woods||835 – 19th||0||64 – 12th||13||9|
|Cooper Kupp||945 – 8th||6||73 – 7th||12.9||17|
One major change since their first meeting – the Rams traded away cornerback Marcus Peters (who has flourished in Baltimore) and traded for Jacksonville all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who many believe is the top cover corner in the league. Ramsey has done his part since arriving in LA, but the offense just isn’t converting enough drives into points, and the defense has been subject to giving up chunk gains, which is not something Ramsey is used to seeing in his short NFL career.
This game is expected to be played in strange LA weather, with low-60s and rain in the forecast at kickoff. Since older California sports stadiums are not set up to drain water efficiently, this could become very interesting if the rain picks up and turns in to standing water on the field. Seattle is used to slick footballs and rainy conditions and might feel right at home on a slick field.
Even though the Rams are the home team and currently an even “pick-em” against Seattle, I think Seattle will win this one by a touchdown or more. They have been beating up elite NFC teams lately, and if they can finally figure out how to stop letting their opponent back in the game, most of their victories could resemble their most recent win over Minnesota, that was not as close as the score indicated.
The game will be broadcast in beautiful HD on NBC, with coverage beginning at 5pm this Sunday evening.