The easy analysis for this game is to simply point to the previous meeting against the Rams – at home, in primetime – and note the fact that we probably should’ve lost that game, if one of the best long-distance kickers in all of football didn’t miss a last-second field goal by a couple of feet. This game’s in L.A., ergo a lucky 1-point victory at home turns into a heartbreaking 2-point defeat on the road. Case closed.
The most important argument AGAINST that line of thinking is that we’re not talking about the same Seahawks team that played the Rams in Week 5. Sure, it’s a very SIMILAR team, but there are key differences to Week 14 Seahawks.
Like, for instance, the receiving corps have improved with the addition of Josh Gordon. He hasn’t made a HUGE impact yet, but he’s definitely shown – in his limited snaps – to be a trusted target on third down slant passes. I don’t know how many of his catches have moved the chains, but I think it’s an unsustainably high percentage. I’d also argue that David Moore is finally coming around, and assuming Lockett is finally healthy and feeling well again, it’s a no-brainer that this passing game is even scarier than it already was when Russell Wilson was still an MVP candidate.
You can also point to the emergence of Rashaad Penny – providing invaluable depth to our rushing attack – and Jacob Hollister – helping us not miss the loss of Will Dissly one iota – as further proof that this offense is better than it was, and should continue to grow in exciting ways as we head into the playoffs.
But, the biggest difference is obviously on the defense. Jarran Reed is back and wreaking havoc. Ziggy Ansah has finally shown up and was starting to make an impact, until his offseason injury was aggravated last week (fingers crossed he’ll be good to go). Then, there’s the addition of Shaquem Griffin to our pass rushing unit, which hasn’t overwhelmed in the sack department, but he’s certainly making an impact to our pass rush as a whole with his speed off the edge. Ever since the 49ers game, our front seven has taken it up another few notches, which is exactly what the doctor ordered.
And last but certainly not least, we have the addition of Quandre Diggs in the secondary, who has REALLY solidified our pass defense, bringing an element we haven’t had back there since the Kam & Earl heyday. Diggs paired with McDougald doesn’t only bring back that veteran presence we’d sorely been lacking, but the talent disparity between them and T2 or Lano Hill or any of the other guys we’ve trotted out there the last couple seasons is truly remarkable.
The defense isn’t perfect, but it’s a far cry better than it was the last time we saw the Rams. We’re on a 5-game winning streak, we’ve beaten at least 2 (if not 3, if the Eagles figure it out) serious playoff contenders in that span, and we JUST recaptured the lead in the NFC West. Finally, this game is in primetime, and you KNOW how good we are at night. Just about EVERYTHING is pointing to a Seahawks victory over the Rams this Sunday.
So, why is my gut going against everything I hold dear?
If I wanted to pile on even more, I’d talk about the Rams. For starters, this is NOT the same team that plowed through the NFL last year and made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Call it a hangover all you want, but a lot of people feel that the rest of the league has finally started to figure this team out. The Rams are 7-5, and haven’t looked particularly good at all. They’ve looked especially poor on offense, and that’s supposed to be this team’s strength!
The Rams are 2-2 in their last 4 games, with wins over the lowly Cardinals and Bears. Even against the Bears, they could only muster 17 points; meanwhile they were absolutely ROUTED by the Ravens, and lost to a VERY banged up Steelers team. The Rams also looked pretty inept against the 49ers, and their defense might as well have not shown up at all against the Bucs in giving up 55 points.
It’s just been an up-and-down year for this team, and nothing has gone right since that Bucs loss at home. After a 3-0 start, they’ve gone 4-5, exclusively beating up on the dregs of the NFL. Do I REALLY need to go on?
All right, I will. Jared Goff has been ATROCIOUS! Their defense is clearly overrated (especially in stopping the run). And they’re pretty banged up across the board on offense as well, especially on the O-Line (which speaks volumes towards Goff’s struggles).
So, I mean, am I REALLY that impressed by a 27-point victory over the failing Arizona Cardinals that my gut would go out on this limb?
What can I say? The gut wants what the gut wants.
I’ll say this: the Rams always play us tough. I’m less concerned about their defense; I think we won’t have too much trouble scoring points in this one (though, I am worried – and rightfully so – about our fumble-itis). I’m VERY concerned about the Rams’ offense, as I think they can look pedestrian and beatable against a lot of quality teams, but for whatever reason they know how to move the ball at will against our defense.
Also, not for nothing, but I kinda think we’re just due for a loss. It’s been a while! I can’t really see us losing to the Panthers or Cardinals (though, if squint hard enough, I could see that Arizona game being wild at the end), and for whatever reason I just can’t see us being undefeated through that 49ers game. Something’s gonna give between now and then, and I think this week is it.
The Rams are one of the six best teams in the NFC. My hunch is: the Rams eventually overtake the Vikings for that final wild card spot. They’ve got a long, hard road to get there, but if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen for them this Sunday.
Conversely, the Seahawks could effectively dash their hopes and dreams in our toughest game remaining before the big Week 17 showdown. I pray we’re able to make that happen, but as usual I have my doubts. So much so that I’ve selected the Rams to win in my weekly pick ’em game this weekend. If I’m wrong, then great!
If I’m right, then God help us all …