Another meeting between rivals Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams has something on the line for the winner that has not been the case since 2004; an NFC West division title possibly and a trip to the 2017-2018 NFL playoffs on the line. Seattle has been to the playoffs each of the past five seasons, including three NFC West titles and winning one of their two Super Bowl appearances. The Rams have not made the playoffs since 2004, which is the second longest playoff drought in the NFL and when they were still known as the St. Louis Rams. Each team has an MVP candidate on their team, with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Rams quarterback Jared Goff, and Rams running back Todd Gurley all being in contention for the end of the season award. The first meeting took place in Los Angeles, where Seattle earned their first road victory 16-10 against the Rams since moved back to L.A. in a defensive slug fest. A lot of things have changed since that week five match-up.
Seattle has really had the injury-bug hit their organization this season. The Seahawks have already lost defensive stars cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor, and defensive end Cliff Avril for the rest of the season due to various injuries. To add to that, Seattle lost linebackers Bobby Wagner to a hamstring injury and K.J. Wright to a concussion in last week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Back-up defensive linemen Nazair Jones and Dion Jordan are banged up as well. Also, Seattle finally figured out their running back situation a couple of games ago by giving the carries to Mike Davis who has provided an offensive spark for the Seahawks, only to see him go down last week with a rib issue. It is uncertain if we will see Wagner or Wright this weekend, but head coach Pete Carroll saying he expects Davis to be back in the line-up. This is so unfortunate situation with the biggest match-up of the season on the line, Seattle’s spectacular linebacker duo may leave the star-studded defense more depleted than we have seen in the Pete Carroll era.
The Seahawks have relied on their “next man up” mentality to keep them in contention all season, but this is a challenge they have never faced before. The offense must be able to take the pressure off of the defense. Wilson must be able to provide success through the air to keep Seattle in this game, even though the Rams pass defense has been good this season only giving up 218 passing yards a game, but has given up 18 passing touchdowns. Wilson must be able to find his targets in the end-zone as Seattle has had too many drives this season close to the goal line end up in field goal attempts. Tight end Jimmy Graham will be a huge key in this game as he and Wilson have connected for nine touchdown passes in the past nine games. Being able to finish drives is what has held the Seahawks back from having one of the best records in all of football this season.
However, Seattle does has some down field threats in team-leading wide receiver Doug Baldwin, big-play man Paul Richardson, and the always speedy Tyler Lockett. Wilson has done a great job at escaping pressure or broken pockets and being able to find his guys on big plays. Wilson averages 256 passing yards a game and has 3,527 yards total on the season with 29 touchdown passes. Wilson is having a career-year so far and is getting help from an improved offensive line since left tackle Duane Brown‘s addition via trade mid-season. When Wilson is able to throw from the pocket, he’s been great, but even better when making throws on the run escaping pass rushers.
Also, the Seahawks have to be able to establish some type of run game outside of Wilson’s scrambling ability. Davis has provided Seattle with good production since he took over the starting job, rushing for over 60 yards a game the past two starts and making some noise in the receiving game with 77 total receiving yards. Davis and back-up J.D. McKissic will be relied on to keep the Rams defense honest with a balance between run and pass games along with keeping the clock moving. This will slow the game down and make it low scoring, something that favors Seattle, especially at home. It will also keep the Rams explosive offense off the field to provide the defense some much needed rest and pressure taken off of them.
The Seahawks may have a hard time slowing down Goff and Gurley, especially if they are without Wagner and Wright. Gurley’s physical running style wears down defenders to the point down field opens up where Goff is able to distribute the ball to his playmakers in wide receivers Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. Seattle has a great front seven though if Wagner and Wright find a way to play through their injuries, only giving up 102 rushing yards a game and being known for taking Gurley out of his rhythm in past match-ups. Safety Earl Thomas along with defensive linemen Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Frank Clark must bring their “A” game efforts with them to make up for so many injuries on that side of the ball.
This will be a bit more high-scoring than usual in match-ups between these two squads, with both teams getting over 20 points. The Rams will be able to jump out to an early lead behind Gurley since I believe the Seahawks will have Wright active but will not have Wagner. Seattle will get back into the game on a turnover forced by Earl Thomas, who saves some of his best performances for the Rams. Wilson takes advantage with a long touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin to get the Seahawks back into the game before half-time tied at 10. The early second half will be defensive-minded, with both teams getting a couple of field goal attempts. The Rams will get an early fourth quarter touchdown from Kupp to take the lead again. Late in the fourth, Bennett will strip sack Goff forcing another big turnover. Wilson will then find Graham for a game-tying touchdown to take the game into overtime. Seattle will get the ball first in the overtime, save their best drive of the game for this moment and Graham hauling in a game-winning touchdown to give the Seahawks the advantage in the division. Always trust Seattle at home behind the 12th man in big games no matter how injury-depleted.
Seahawks 26, Rams 20 OT
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