Written By: Peter Vandeventer | @PeteVandeventer
Sunday night, the Seattle Seahawks will travel to the defending NFC Champions, LA Rams, in a matchup that could clinch a playoff spot for Seattle.
In the first matchup between these divisional foes, the Seahawks squeaked by after a missed game-winning FG by Greg Zuerlein. Throughout the game, the offense was driven by a lethal and effective Russ and series of punishing runs by Chris Carson.
But here we are, week 14, where the Rams are trying to fight for a playoff spot as they host the NFC West-leading Seahawks, on Sunday Night Football. The Rams and Seahawks always play each other well no matter where both sides sit in the standings so any advantage you can take will be the difference-maker.
Mychal Kendricks (Doubtful)
Kendricks, the Seahawks starting SAM linebacker will likely not suit up for Sunday. In place for Kendricks, expect Shaquem to step in (according to official depth chart), but Seattle might choose to play either Barton or BBK at Kendricks’ role. Neither of the rookie LBs have the desired speed but they likely know the position most on the roster. A more (un)likely role is Seattle runs nickel most of the game instead of their base 4-3 defense. If they run nickel, they can play Diggs-McDougald-Blair/Amadi on the defense is terrifying for any and all defenses. They have speed and are playmakers which could help stop a *somewhat* lethal offense.
Jadeveon Clowney (Questionable)
Seattle has to try and give Clowney rest as often as they can and save him for the playoffs. As many know, Clowney has a sports hernia related injury which won't require attention (possibly surgery) until the offseason. This injury will limit his snaps until we get closer to the playoffs, but until then, expect a lot of rotating along the DL. Whether or not Clowney plays, expect players like Braden Jackson and Rasheem Green taking snaps at 5-tech for Seattle.
Ziggy Ansah (Questionable)
This Ziggy Ansah series of injuries seem to be underplayed by a lot of people, but don’t be surprised if he misses a game or two by the end of the regular season. Ansah is dealing with a stinger and an ailing shoulder that doesn’t seem to be getting better as the year progresses. This is where Shaquem Griffin will come into play, at LEO. Shaquem has a unique set of quickness on the edge that Seattle will likely want to utilize if Ansah doesn’t suit up. Quem looks to just be getting comfortable and has been so close to his first career sack over the past couple of weeks.
Rob Havenstein (Doubtful)
Havenstein is the starting RT for a Rams offensive line that has been disappointing this year, to say the least. The continuation of rotation along the Rams OL can be an early Christmas for the Seahawks pass rush who have exploded the past few weeks in action.
Gerald Everett (Out)
Everett is technically the backup TE for the Rams but he accounted for 136 yards the last time the Rams and Seahawks played. But the Rams run 11 personnel (one RB and TE) 85% of the time and 12 personnel 8% (38 total snaps). I don’t think that Everett would’ve had a huge part of the offense for the Rams as he has yet to put together a performance that totaled over 50 yards receiving in any other games.
Seahawks Front 7 vs Rams Run Game
Todd Gurley has had a pretty disappointing season thus far, but so has the offensive line and the playcalling hasn’t helped. In the matchup earlier in the year, Gurley got going early on but quickly went silent when the Rams almost completely abandoned the balanced attack.
It’s no secret that Gurley is dealing with his degenerative knee injury related to arthritis. His workload this year has been shared with Malcolm Brown but in recent weeks, has seen an increase in snaps which looks good for the reeling Rams offense. The Seahawks defense that held Dalvin Cook to under 30-yards rushing (before leaving with an injury), has looked like one of the league’s best units so it won’t be that easy of a task for the Rams to try and get any of their backs going.
Russ vs Rams Pass Rush
The Seahawks OL has been a shaky group when it comes to pass protection. They still rank bottom 5 in the league even after a stellar performance that only allowed 6 total pressures vs the Vikings.
The Rams pass rush which includes Aaron Donald, Clay Matthews, Dante Fowler Jr., and Michael Brocker has to be effective if they want to slow the Seahawks offense. Donald will be feasting on the interior of the Seahawks line and will force Russ into difficult situations.
Thankfully, Wilson is one of the smartest QBs in the league and won’t put the team in that many bad situations. But the issue is when he does, the Seahawks have given up 5 total defensive touchdowns which leads the league. Russ has an issue with staying with plays too long and you will see that when he takes 10-yard sacks where he tries to navigate around defenders but simply ending in negative plays.
As long as Russ limits the mistakes vs the pass rush then Seattle can neutralize the rams by going with a lot of short pass plays that give their playmakers the ball in space.
Seahawks DBs vs Rams WRs
Lead by Shaquill Griffin, the Seahawks secondary will have a tough matchup against a Rams receiving corp led by Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. The Rams have a lethal set of receivers that, when healthy, can take over games and make life a lot easier on Goff.
Sean McVay is considered one of the most interesting offensive minds in the league and will look to exploit Seattle’s secondary by attacking the middle of the field and take what Seattle gives them underneath.
For Ken Norton’s secondary, it will be key to limit the big play ability that Kupp, Woods, and Cooks all can make. As long as the secondary just keeps the rams in front of them, the pass rush will be able to make some plays and cause a bind on the offensive minds of LA.
It always feels like special teams are what determines games between these two teams. Whether its a late missed FG, special team TDs, or fake punts that sway moment, each meeting adds to legacy. Zuerlein hasn’t been bearly as automatic this year than his historical season last year and Seattle finally feels some comfort in their kicker as Myers has yet to miss a kick from under 40 this season *knocks on wood*.
In the return game, Seattle recently made the move to relieve Lockett of his returning duties and put David Moore at the returner. Since then, Moore has shown the explosive ability that Lockett hasn’t been able to produce in several years. Sadly for the Rams, return specialist --Jojo Natson-- went down to injury against the Cardinals and will be out at least 4 weeks. In his place, the Rams will be filling in with Webster and Henderson for the time being.
Expect yet another great primetime game come Sunday and it will allow the Seahawks to distance themselves from the wildcard race and a step closer to clinching the divisional title. The Rams will be given a shot to prove themselves and try to claw back into the wildcard race.
The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot if they win against the Rams this week, and for now, that is all we can control.
Score prediction: Seahawks win, 41-38