The Los Angeles Rams are poised to take over NFC West
This is the game. There is no larger match up looming on the 8–5 Seattle Seahawks’ season. Sunday, Dec. 17 at 1:05 p.m. (CenturyLink Field), the Seahawks will host the 9–4 NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams.
The Seahawks, division winners of four of the last seven seasons, find themselves one game behind the Sean McVay-led Rams in the NFC West standings for the first time in, well, forever*. The Seahawks have never been looking up at the Rams in mid-December in the entire Pete Carroll era. So this is new. The edge of tomorrow.
Too dramatic? Hardly. In fact, the Seahawks defensively passed the torch already this season — exactly where and when can be debated — but what cannot be debated is that they came up short compared to their defensive counterparts in the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday as they got pushed around by the upstart Jags. And lost their poise in the process. To wit:
- SB Nation Big Cat Country: The Jaguars bullied the bullies on Sunday
- USA Today: Jaguars beat Seahawks 30-24, take outright lead in AFC South—”We really should have (blown) them out if we’re being real about it,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.
- Louis Post-Dispatch: NFL roundup: Jaguars roll by Seahawks …
- Washington Post: Seahawks melt down in final seconds of 30-24 loss at Jaguars
- (File this one away for next week): Ezekiel Elliott says he’ll rush for 200 yards against the Seahawks (Don’t remember hearing opposing players salivating over the chance to play the Seahawks in recent memory.)
Defensive bullies no more, the Seahawks are now forced to rely upon the fourth-quarter magic of Russell Wilson and the offense. And yes, Wilson was called upon and delivered again in the fourth quarter last Sunday, with 14 points via two bombs to Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett in the last stanza, to losing effect.
The Seahawks could merely slow the second-half Jaguars, when they needed a stop. A disastrous, 21-points-allowed third quarter was the blue birds’ undoing.
Where are they?
The latest practice reports are more grim news, on top of the already well-known defensive personnel shortages: Linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion) did not practice Thursday and are uncertain for Sunday’s game against the Rams. To compensate, the Seahawks added practice squadder Paul Dawson to the linebackers group.
Should Wagner’s and Wright’s absences linger, the defensive talent lost this season (Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Dion Jordan, Nazair Jones, among others) coulda woulda shoulda been a stout defense. A Seahawkian defense.
As of now, it’s a patchwork affair making the Seahawks’ offensive line a model of continuity by comparison.
This is not the look you want when the division leaders come to town with a score to settle. To contrast, the Rams are getting some key players healthy just in time for meeting the Seahawks at the Clink. McVay said that wide receiver Robert Woods and outside linebacker Connor Barwin are expected back in the lineup after missing time recently, and tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein are expected to return after they had to leave last Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
This Sunday, it’s not “just a game.” Might as well call this one the crown game, here in week 15. This one is for the NFC West — and given the defensive turnover the Seahawks will endure in the offseason — maybe for the next few seasons to come.
But the Seahawks can win
Indeed, they can. The outlook could be quite rosy: Complete season sweep of Rams on Sunday, and they reclaim first place in NFC West with prospect of entering playoffs with the NFC’s best healthy quarterback. Lose, and the division is all-but lost and the Seahawks’ Wild Card prospects more grim than ever with tiebreaker disadvantages from several opponents.
This is the game.
* (Actually, the Seahawks were behind the Rams in the 2010 season up until the final game, when the Seahawks tied the Rams at 7–9 with a week 17 victory and took the NFL’s lamest division with a losing record.)