Heading into week five, the 3-1 Los Angeles Rams will face the 3-1 Seattle Seahawks in Century Link Field on Thursday Night Football. The two divisional rivals are currently tied for second place in the NFC West, trailing the undefeated San Francisco 49ers. The importance of this game can’t be understated, with both teams looking to potentially jockey into the divisional lead.
Let’s get into the matchups to watch:
RT Rob Havenstein versus EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
The entirety of the Rams’ offensive line has struggled, though right tackle Rob Havenstein is specifically being singled out as he’ll draw the tough assignment in edge Jadeveon Clowney. Havenstein won’t be the only offensive lineman tasked with blocking Clowney though, as Clowney does move around the formation, even as a stand-up linebacker. Havenstein has struggled tremendously through four games, and Clowney comes into this contest with a sack, an interception, a touchdown, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hit, which could be considered as underwhelming for a player of his caliber. Havenstein — and the entirety of the offensive line — simply need to do a much better job of protecting quarterback Jared Goff.
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman versus WR Tyler Lockett
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett will likely get a piece of every Rams’ cornerback in coverage, though Lockett often does his most damage from the slot, and specifically when quarterback Russell Wilson goes into “scramble mode” and out of the structure of a play. When Lockett is lined up in the slot, he’ll be guarded by nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Robey-Coleman has struggled the past two weeks, with another incredibly tough matchup this week against the diminutive and explosive Lockett.
RB Todd Gurley versus Seattle’s Front-7
Todd Gurley received only five rushing attempts last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Regardless of the score, that just isn’t acceptable for a player of his caliber. Dating back to 2018, Gurley had two successful contests against the Seahawks, combining for 197 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, seven receptions, and 76 receiving yards. The Seahawks’ front-seven is lead by superstar middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, among others. A pissed off Gurley is not the Gurley you want to see on a short week. Head Coach Sean McVay has to do a better job of getting Gurley involved early and often in this contest.
WR Brandin Cooks versus CB Tre’ Flowers
Pegging which Rams’ receiver will have the best game is incredibly tough as all three are capable of exploding at any moments notice, though I’ll side with Brandin Cooks in this one. Why? Well, just last week you began to see life in the Rams’ offense, specifically on a play where the Rams ran a split zone play action pass that had Cooks wide open on a post-corner route for a walk-in 50-yard touchdown. Quarterback Jared Goff overthrew Cooks as the pocket was muddied, though I expect the Rams to get back to what they know best in this contest. Allow Goff to get under center, establish some semblance of a rushing attack, and then hit the Seahawks with a deep shot in play action. Cornerback Tre’ Flowers will probably get the most amount of snaps against Cooks, leaving him as the ascending player to watch in this contest.
Rams’ Defensive Line versus Seattles’ Offensive Line
The Rams’ defense as a whole was terrible in week four, though no unit was less productive than the defensive line. Outside of a handful of reps, they did almost nothing to bring discomfort to Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston. It starts with defensive tackle Aaron Donald — who had the quietest game he’s had in a long time — and trickles down to the remainder of the defensive line, specifically edge rushers Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews. The two need to apply more pressure in one-on-one situations, because the lack of the ability from them to get home has Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips running all kinds of elaborate stunts, which are often times even less effective. The Seahawks are not known for their offensive line play, specifically at left guard (Ethan Pocic), right guard (D.J. Fluker), and right tackle (Germain Ifedi), giving the Rams’ defensive line a prime chance to redeem themselves.