Overview: This isn’t quite a “must-win” for the Rams 2020 season, but if they lose, it will be challenging to win the NFC West division title. We still don’t know how good the Los Angeles Rams are in 2020. They have one win over a team with a winning record (Chicago), in addition to sweeping the awful NFC East. So, we know they can beat bad to mediocre teams. At some point, you have to defeat a legitimate contender to become a contender. Sunday will give them that probability.
Seattle, meanwhile, is a team with multiple personalities. Their offense is as good as any in the league, ranked third overall and first in passing offense. Quarterback Russell Wilson is still a leading contender for league MVP, although he was coming off a sub-par performance against the Buffalo Bills in a road loss last Sunday.
The Seahawk defense, however, is another story. Even with stellar performers as linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Jamal Adams, the results have not been immeasurable. The Seahawks are dead last in team defense, giving up a mind-blowing 455 yards per game. Seattle is 6-2 with that sort of defensive statistics reveals to you how good is their offense.
Coaching: It’s youth versus experience when the Seahawks Pete Carroll matches wits with the Rams Sean McVay. At 69, Carroll was the league’s oldest head coach until the Texans named Romeo Crennel as their interim head coach earlier this season. Meanwhile, McVay remains the league’s youngest head coach at 34 (in fact, he’s the only NFL head man under the age of 40).
There has been some grumbling over the past year-and-a-half about McVay as a play-caller. Former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner said following the Rams loss to the Dolphins that he didn’t understand why McVay didn’t do a better job adjusting to the Dolphins blitz packages. And more than a few observers feel that McVay tends to get pass-happy at times, neglecting the running game. It does seem like the Rams usually lose when they become one-dimensional on offense.
Even so, McVay is 4-2 vs. Carroll and the Seahawks, and he’s had two weeks to get ready for this matchup. We’re going to check this box for the Rams.
Rams Defense vs. Seahawks Offense: This is the marquee matchup of the day, matching two of the league's better units, with the number one scoring offense (Seattle) taking on the league's second-ranked scoring defense (the Rams).
When Seattle takes to the air, it's strength vs. strength matchup, with the league's number one passing offense going against the defense that allows the fewest net yards per passing attempt in the league. Ram's significant "weakness" on defense so far this season has been rushing defense, although it's not like they have been awful at fifth in the league in that category.
They did get gashed pretty badly by San Francisco a couple of weeks back. But the Seahawks may or may not have two of their top backs (Carlos Hyde and Chris Carson), and the Seahawks so far are a pedestrian 14th in rushing offense, unusually low for a Pete Carrol-coached team.
But the big fireworks for Seattle have been through the air, and the battle against the stingy Los Angeles Rams pass-defense may very well decide this game.
The defensive line will have an added element this week as defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson will see his first season's action. The Rams signed Robinson this offseason to help in the middle to allow Donald with less double and triple teams.
The Rams placed Robinson on the I.R. before the start of the season play in part due to a heart irregularity discovery. Robinson, drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, played as a disruptive run-stopper while at the University of Alabama, and the Rams are expecting him to produce that talent moving forward.
The marquee matchup pits Seahawks wideout D.K. Metcalf against Rams shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey, a battle that could be the best matchup of the NFL regular season in raw talent versus raw talent. Metcalf is a physical monster whose natural athletic ability is being compared by some former Lions great Calvin Johnson. Ramsey, meanwhile, is one of the truly elite cornerbacks in the NFL, although he doesn't always put up great stats because teams avoid throwing his way. The Ramsey vs. Metcalf battle makes this game a "must-see" event for diehard NFL fans all by itself.
One surprising thing about the Seahawks, given their overall offensive output, is that their O-line hasn't been all that great. Despite his mobility, Russell Wilson has been sacked 24 times in the Seahawks eight games, a number that is even more surprising when you consider how good Wilson is at avoiding the pass rush. Rams D-lineman Aaron Donald, meanwhile, comes into this game with nine sacks despite seeing double and even triple teams regularly. He'll mostly see action against Seattle guard Jordan Simmons, a relative bright spot up from for the Seahawks who has only allowed one sack. Aaron Donald has a history of coming up big against the Seahawks. If it happens again on Sunday, it will be awful news for the Seahawks.
The Rams will have one key player back on Sunday in rookie safety Jordan Fuller, sidelined the last few weeks. Despite only a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Fuller has named himself a guy who makes big plays in crucial situations. Getting him back is good news for a Rams defense that will need all of the help it can muster in the secondary.
The key to this game may be whether Donald can wreak havoc upfront. If he can't, containing Russell at the level he is playing right now is asking a lot, even for a defense as good as the Rams.
Rams Offense vs. Seahawks Defense: Neither of these units has been excellent overall this season, but the Seahawks defense has been historically bad, especially for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Last week they become the first team this century to rack up seven sacks and still give up 44 points.
How does that even happen?
With abysmal play in the secondary, that's how. And that is despite the addition this season of Safety Jamal Adams, widely considered one of the league's best at his position. It doesn't help that Seattle starting corners Shaquille Griffin and Quinton Dunbar both are rule out due to injury. Rams wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods could have big days if the Seahawks didn't pressure Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Now speaking on the Seahawks pass rush, one of the big question marks in this game. Before last week's outburst versus the Bills, the Seahawks pass rush had been a virtual non-factor. Getting Adams back helps, as blitzing the quarterback is one of his specialties. They also traded for Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who had one sack last week against the Bills and did a relatively good job of pressuring Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Seattle needs to keep the heat on Goff, who is coming off a frankly awful performance two weeks ago against the Dolphins. Goff had been pretty to very good before the Dolphins debacle. He needs to bounce back against the Seahawks, and especially, take better care of the football.
Despite the Seahawk's overall poor defensive play, they still boast probably the best middle linebacker in the game in Bobby Wagner. If he can slow down running back Darrell Henderson, who has emerged as "the guy" in the Rams backfield, it will help the Seahawks chances. Henderson missed practice Wednesday with a quad injury. If he can't go, we can probably expect to see more rookie Cam Akers running back along with the reliable Malcolm Brown.
Typically, we would comment about the Rams keeping a balanced offense and not becoming too "pass-happy" in terms of play calling. That may still apply because the Rams offense functions typically best when running the ball a lot, opening up the play-action passing game. But Seattle's pass defense is so bad that the standard wisdom of that thinking may not apply here. On the other hand, If Los Angeles can get a lead, running the ball and eating up the clock is an excellent way to keep Russell Wilson from doing what Russell Wilson often does, especially this season.
Special Teams: This remains a problematic area for the Rams and a big concern in this game. The Rams had anticipated they had found a solution to their season-long issues at placekicker when they signed veteran Kai Forbath to replace rookie Sam Sloman. But Forbath looked unsteady in his debut against the Dolphins and missed a field goal attempt. The Rams also allowed a touchdown on a kick return against the Dolphins and generally kept up a season-long pattern of special teams issues.
The exception, of course, is punter Johnny Hekker, who is the best in the business. But the Rams need some other players to step up on special teams. So far, it hasn't happened.
That could be a big dilemma in this game because the Seahawks excels in special teams play. Placekicker Jason Myers and punter Micheal Dixon are both excellent. Return man Tyler Lockett is a threat to "take it to the house" anytime he touches a ball.
Prediction: Oddsmakers at last report were making the Rams slight favorites in this game at home. The truth is that we don't know for sure how good either of these teams is, and that is especially true of the Rams. Will the Seahawks problems on the defense surface again? How about the Rams special teams? Was Jared Goff's dreadful performance against Miami just a bad game or a sign of things to come?
All legitimate questions. But we are going to play hunch here and pick the Rams.
Rams 31 Seahawks 30