The Los Angeles Rams shouldn’t be too upset with the matchup they drew in the wild card round. The Seattle Seahawks went 12-4, but didn’t have any wins over playoff teams except for the default Washington Football Team (barely) and the Rams at home 10 days ago. In their only other games against playoff teams, Seattle had four turnovers and gave up 44 points to the Buffalo Bills, and then they lost to the Rams one week later.
You can only play the schedule you are dealt, but even against one of the softer-looking schedules, the Seahawks were merely “okay” overall.
Seattle’s defense is probably its greatest strength at this point, and may have been overlooked for its part in the Seahawks’ early-season scoring surge: Seattle forced 14 turnovers over their first seven games and had nine touchdown drives of under 50 yards in that period of time. Even though the Seahawks defense also clearly cost them a couple of games, I’d say that it saved Seattle’s offense more often than not.
A storyline that the Rams can relate to.
The Seahawks led the NFL in scoring through nine games, but they were 15th in scoring and 23rd in yards per play over the final seven. Despite going 6-1 in that stretch, it seemed Seattle had to do more to uplift Russell Wilson than the other way around. The Seahawks finished 12-4 and two games ahead of LA in the standings but the differences in how the two teams performed this season seem rather small and little would have had to change for the records to be reversed.
With or without Jared Goff.
Here are three potential advantages for the LA Rams this Saturday in Seattle.
Russell Wilson’s struggles
First, Wilson has struggled this season. Despite being a frontrunner for MVP at the midway point, Wilson is no longer a consideration. Not only because Aaron Rogers and Patrick Mahomes and Derrick Henry pulled away, but Wilson’s in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his career. If not the worst.
The statistics show part of the story: over his last nine games, 66% completions, only 14 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 6.8 yards per attempt, six fumbles, 28 sacks taken.
The other part is that Wilson has not appeared to be making the right decisions, he’s poorly executed some others, and except for a 40-3 blowout over the Jets, Seattle’s offense can barely eclipse 20 points.
Second, Wilsons struggles against the Rams. the Seahawks are 5-9 against Los Angeles since they drafted Aaron Donald in 2014 and 3-5 since Sean McVay arrived in 2017. Wilson put up numbers against the Rams in 2018, but lost both games. In his last three starts against LA, Wilson is completing 61% of his passes with one touchdown, three interceptions, 16 sacks taken, two fumbles and 6.9 yards per attempt.
The Rams won two of those games.
Jalen Ramsey on DK Metcalf
We get Round 3 of Jalen Ramsey vs. DK Metcalf on Saturday afternoon.— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) January 6, 2021
Here’s a reel of every catch by Metcalf against Ramsey from their first two meetings this season. pic.twitter.com/38p79O4s85
One reason that Wilson could be contained on Saturday is that Jalen Ramsey is on the Rams. Ramsey deserves to be a first team all-pro for his performance in 2020, as he consistently shutdown opposing number one receivers, including DK Metcalf and DeAndre Hopkins in four total opportunities.
Similar to Wilson, Metcalf has not performed as well as of late as compared to his full season stats. He’s been held to under 65 yards in six of his last eight games — and only once went over 80. He’s caught only two touchdowns in the second half of the year ... as compared to five drops. He caught eight passes for 87 yards in two games against Los Angeles.
Seattle went to Tyler Lockett a lot in Week 17 and he came through for first downs, but also needed 14 targets to gain 90 yards. The Seahawks do not have a consistent third weapon in the passing game. It might be painstaking for either offense to string together long touchdown drives.
In the single most prolific passing season in NFL history, Jalen Ramsey only allowed 20 yards per game in his coverage— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) January 5, 2021
Jamal Adams is questionable
It’s possible that Adams will play, but he’s been held out of practice with a shoulder injury and he might not get a full one in at all before gameday.
Similar to how much different the Rams offense has to be with John Wolford filling in for Jared Goff, the Seahawks’ defense and its success has been heavily predicated on the role that Adams plays as strong safety-blitzer. And like LA, Seattle traded two first round picks for a defensive back for a reason and that reason was not to have him miss playoff games or not be at 100%.
Adams had 9.5 sacks in 12 games, blitzing even more times (98) than he did with the New York Jets (90) over 14 games in 2019. Adams has not only been the Seahawks best pass rusher (though at this point, it could be Carlos Dunlap since he was acquired in trade), he plays a key role in run defense and against tight ends in the middle of the field and we know how important Cam Akers and Tyler Higbee will be to McVay’s offense this weekend.
If Adams can’t go or if he’s not operating at full capacity, that could be what unlocks the extra opportunities needed for the Rams’ offense to move the chains.