First of all, the Rams should win this game. They are the better team, they are playing at home, and they are relatively injury free. There is also an old betting adage (presented here for entertainment purposes only, of course) that you should never go against a good team coming off a bad game. There are reasons to be concerned about this game. First and foremost is the fact that division games are always tough. Throw in the fact that Seattle almost won the first meeting between these two teams and the fact that the Rams practice schedule was disrupted on Friday by nearby forest fires, and you can't take this game for granted if you are a Rams fan.
The oddsmakers are picking the Rams to win by 10 in this game. Not everyone agrees with that, of course. NFL Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis (for one) on Friday on ''NFL Game Day Pick Em" tabbed this game as a potential upset
Rams Defense vs. Seattle Offense
The Seahawks in recent weeks have returned to their ''ground and pound" offensive identity and can be expected feature a heavy dose of the running game again on Sunday. In the first meeting between these two teams in Seattle, the Seahawks racked up 190 rushing in a near-upset of the Rams, and their chances of winning Sunday probably hinge on their ability to run the ball and control the clock. The bad news for Seattle is that running back Chris Carson, who rushed for over 100 yards against the Rams in Seattle earlier this season, missed practice this week and whether he will play is being called a game-time decision at this point. Guard D.J. Fluker is also injured and may not play on Sunday.
Then again, Fluker might be safer on the sidelines after implying the Rams defensive line seemed overrated in an interview after the first game and adding he and the rest of the Seattle O-line ''weren't scared" of the Rams. Rams all-world defensive lineman Aaron Donald responded by saying he would let his play do the talking. The last thing Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson needs to see is the NFL's best defensive player even more fired up than usual. However, he may have gotten exactly that, courtesy of D.J. Fluker.
That's called ''poking the bear," and it isn't brilliant on Fluker's part.
While I think the success or lack thereof of the Seattle running game may determine this game, I would expect the Seahawks to take a few shots in the direction of Rams corner Marcus Peters, who has been suffering through a tough season and was frankly embarrassed last week by Saints wideout Micheal Thomas in a 45-35 loss to New Orleans. It looks like the Seahawks will have both starting receivers, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett on the field Sunday, and there probably isn't a better quarterback than Russell Wilson when it comes to extending plays with his feet. Peters and fellow Rams corner Troy Hill have to play better than they did last week. The good news for the Rams is that they aren't facing the high octane Saints passing offense this week. The bad news is that the Rams defense is being described in the sports media with adjectives like "wobbly" and ''overrated," and they need to step up if the Rams are serious about a 2018 Super Bowl run. I think they will take this week.
Rams Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
Lost in all of the criticism of the Los Angeles defense concerning the Saints game was the fact the Rams offense played very well and did so with somewhat less production from MVP candidate Todd Gurley than we have usually seen. Not that Gurley was terrible--he still totaled 79 yards from scrimmage--but it wasn't a typical 2018 Todd Gurley performance. Quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams receivers, meanwhile, racked up almost 400 yards, coming back from a three-touchdown deficit to tie things up at 35-35 before eventually losing. While Goff did throw a critical interception just before halftime, he was otherwise brilliant, throwing for three touchdowns and having one of his better games statistically. He did a great job of spreading the ball around, with Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and even tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee contributing with critical receptions.
Having said all of that, I expect to see a more typical Todd Gurley game this week. Seattle rushing defense is 21st in the league, and while anything is possible, I don't think the Rams offense will be forced to go into passing mode because of a three-touchdown deficit. One of the marquee matchups of this game will be Gurley against Seattle linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. As good as Wagner and Wright are, I expect a big game from Todd Gurley.
The Seattle special teams are pretty good, and while I think the Rams still have the edge here, the difference is not as enormous in favor of Los Angeles as we see most weeks. Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski still has a big leg, and while I think the Rams Johnny Hekker is the best punter on the planet, the Seahawks Micheal Dickson is not far behind. Thrown in Seattle return man Tyler Lockett, and what you have in this game is a matchup of elite special teams units. Will Rams linebacker and special teams ace Corey Littleton block another punt? He has two already this season.
You don't hear enough about special teams, but they decide many games. They could determine this one if the game is close.
Edge: Rams (but not by a lot)
The Rams are the better team even if both were healthy, and Seattle comes into this game with injury concerns. These division games are never easy, and I expect a tight, physical contest. If the Rams come out flat or play a sloppy game, they could certainly lose. I don't think they will.