OVERVIEW: Once again, the Los Angeles Rams face a "must-win" game, as they all are at this point if the Rams are to make the playoffs this season. Once again, the Rams face a run-oriented offense featuring a highly mobile quarterback. Russell Wilson is a legit MVP candidate and is the driving force behind a Seattle Seahawks offense that is relatively average in overall talent aside from him. The odds of this game have taken an unusual path this week. The Seahawks opened as a 2.5 point favorite; however, oddsmakers have it dead even. Perhaps the Rams as 1.5 point favorites, depending on whom we listen from on this line making. Do they know something?
Rams Defense vs. Seattle Offense: One of the big battles upfront will feature Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald against Seahawks guard Mike Iupati. The last thing Seattle wants is Aaron Donald renewing his up close and personal relationship with Russell Wilson, not to mention disrupting the Seattle running game. While Wilson is one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the game, Donald has had big days against him in the past. The Rams need that to continue on Sunday night.
Another crucial battle will feature Rams outside linebacker Dante Fowler against Seattle left-tackle Duane Brown. Fowler had emerged this season as the player people thought he was a few years ago when he was drafted high in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Brown is among the best left tackles in the game, and the outcome of this battle could be huge, especially if the Rams can get a lead and force Seattle to throw the ball.
Seattle features a run-first offense, and running backs Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson present a formidable two-headed monster. Penny, selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft from San Diego State University, is surprisingly fast for a big man (224 pounds). In recent weeks, Penny rushed for 129 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles a couple of weeks ago, and he is also a viable receiver out of the backfield. Carson, meanwhile, is the sort of physical, downhill runner that Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll loves. When Carson is at his best, he breaks tackles and runs over defenders for extra yardage after contact. The Rams need to tackle and wrap him upon initial contact, or it could be a long night for the home team.
When Seattle does go to the air, Rams corners Jalen Ramsey and Troy Hill need to at least control Seattle wideouts Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Trying to defend the Seahawks offense can be especially challenging because Wilson can buy extra time with his feet. When it comes to eluding the pass rush and giving his receivers extra time, Russell Wilson is the best in the game,
Trying to say which team has the edge in this battle is hard because the Rams defense is so erratic, and we do not know what to expect. If we throw out meltdowns against the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this is one of the league's better units. Both of those were terrible outings that occurred at home, which is a concern, and the Seahawks offense is similar in some ways to that of Baltimore, although Wilson is probably not the pure runner such as Raven's Lamar Jackson. Nevertheless, the Rams have their backs to the wall and know Seattle's offense very well, so we will hope for the best.
Rams Offense vs. Seahawk Defense: Which Todd Gurley will we see on Sunday night? Maybe a better question is which Sean McVay, play-caller, we will see. The one who calls 10 or 12 running plays and 40 or so passes, or the one who oversees a balanced offense and gives TGII lots of touches? We hope we see the second one because when we do, the Rams usually win.
McVay himself says the lack of action seen by Gurley in some games is due to his [McVay's] ''being an idiot."
At last report, Ram's right tackle Rob Havenstein listed as doubtful for this game with a knee injury. Even if he were healthy, it is not sure he would start in this game, as rookie Bobby Evans has outplayed Havenstein so far in 2019. Evans is a bright spot in what has been a somewhat disappointing season. It is not like he has been facing off against a bunch of weaklings either, as he has battled Khalil Mack and Chandler Jones. Evans faces another challenge this week in Seahawks defensive end Jadaveon Clowney. While Clowney is officially listed as "questionable'' for this game, it would be a big surprise if he does not play. Clowney only has three sacks, but that is deceptive. Much Like Aaron Donald, he can wreak havoc even when he does not get credit for a sack. He is easily Seattle's best pass rusher and can blow up running plays as well. Asking a rookie tackle to contain him is asking a lot.
The Rams got a big game last week from wide receiver Robert Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee, while wide receiver Cooper Kupp has a chance to crack 1,000 yards receiving in this game. They probably need at least decent production from two of those three in this game. Meanwhile, Seattle features middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, one of the top two (along with the Panthers Luke Kuechly) at his position in the NFL. Furthermore, while the ''Legion of Boom" is no more, the Seahawks secondary is still outstanding, especially corner Tre Flowers and safety Bradley McDougald.
Special Teams: The Rams special teams have not been very special for much of this season, and kick returner JoJo Natson is out. Darrell Henderson probably replaces him or Nsimba Webster, who was excellent in the pre-season. Which team has the edge here? Who knows?
Prediction: The schizophrenic nature of the Rams and the fact that these two teams almost always have tough, physical games makes this game a tough call. The Rams need to control the Seattle running game and at least break even in the turnover battle. If they can do those things...easier said than done..they can win. They better if they have any playoff hopes at all.
Rams 31 Seattle 30