There is nothing better than to have a short week coming off of a disappointing game. Last week’s 37-20 loss to the Cardinals is but a distant memory as the Los Angeles Rams prepare to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.
Seattle is coming off a win in which they took care of the 49ers in a close one, but one could speculate an unfortunate injury to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was the defining event in that game. Los Angeles is looking for a bounce-back game against a common foe that they took care of easily in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last season.
With a win the Rams could be back on track to be Super Bowl favorites.
A loss could bring up some questions.
According to DraftKings, the Rams are -2 point favorites over the Seattle Seahawks. We’ll see how that plays out ... in the meantime, here are my bold predictions for Thursday’s divisional matchup.
The series starts over this week
The Rams vs Seahawks have been one of the best rivalries in the NFL, but this Thursday begins a new generation to the classic matchup. After five years of watching Jared Goff lineup across the line against Seattle it will be Matthew Stafford this weekend taking the reps. Though it will be the same old Russell Wilson taking snaps for the Seahawks a new offensive coordinator is calling the shots—new to the Seahawks but familiar to the Rams. This Thursday might be a classic matchup, but it feels like a fresh start to the rivalry.
(19:16) “I could feel it from afar when I wasn’t here.” Stafford responded to a question about the rivalry during a press conference on Tuesday, “You just know that they’re two teams that have a bunch of pride, they both play at a high level. Really well coached teams with a bunch of recent success. I’m excited to be a part of it, excited to get my first taste of it on Thursday.”
It is much more than just a change at quarterback for the Rams. Los Angeles has filled key roles with new players, such as the free agent signing of DeSean Jackson and the emergence of Van Jefferson at receiver position. On defense they lost Troy Hill and John Johnson to the Browns, traded Michael Brockers to the Lions, and added young talent to fill their gaps. The team that we will see on the field Thursday is much changed since the Wild Card game against Seattle last season.
The Seahawks have gone through change as well. One of the biggest was the addition of Shane Waldron who is yet another branch of the McVay coaching tree. Waldron replaces Brian Schottenheimer who served four years as the offensive coordinator for Seattle which is just one year less than McVay’s tenure with the Rams. Thursday will be the first time McVay will matchup against Waldron and we are bound to see similarities between the offenses.
(11:42) “Shane’s great,” McVay explained during a virtual press conference on Monday, “Shane and I have a great relationship, love to work with Shane. Shane was an instrumental foundational piece of everything that has gone on since I got here and since we got here as a new staff back in 2017. We were together in Washington. I’m pulling for him every time, [want] him to do well except for when we play these guys. I’ve kept up with them, familiar what they’ve done... Really happy for the success he’s had.”
The Seahawks also are not the same defense as they used to be. The nickname ‘Legion of Boom’ is but a distant memory. Gone is their defense that helped vault them to the biggest stage in the NFL. In its place is a defense struggling to find an identity and ranking mediocre in almost every defensive category this year.
Yet regardless of the struggles that both teams have had to fight through as their rosters changed in previous years, its still the Seahawks-Rams rivalry that we all love to hate. When the two play on the field together it is guaranteed every player is giving all they got every single down. With what feels like a fresh start, we will see who comes out victorious on Thursday night.
The game will come down to a field goal
One game that has been forever cemented in the minds of the Rams faithful took place two years ago in Week 5 in 2019 against the Seahawks. In a game that was back and forth all night, LA was driving down the field with less than three minutes left in a effort to take back the lead. Jared Goff through a pass to tight end Gerald Everett on third and 10 that bounced off his chest and was miraculously intercepted by Tedric Thompson. The interception was originally called an incomplete pass, but a closer look showed otherwise.
How did Tedric Thompson pick this?!— NFL (@NFL) October 4, 2019
Candidate for interception of the year! #Seahawks @nuevexted
: #LARvsSEA on FOX
Learn how to watch: https://t.co/I6INVckndX pic.twitter.com/NsC2pDMRYM
With just two minutes to play LA’s defense stopped the Seahawks from advancing and forced a three and out in less than a minute, giving the ball back to Jared Goff for one last drive. Goff dissected the Seahawks defense and led his team down the field in one of his best series in his career. His last throw was to Everett, who stepped out of bounds at the 27 yard line with 15 seconds left on the clock in a one-point game.
Greg Zuerlein stepped back and focused his gaze upon the uprights as he prepared himself for a 44 yard field goal. The ball exploded off of his right foot but his kick was not true and missed by mere inches... sending the Seattle bench into a frenzy as victory was there’s.
Greg Zuerlein misses 44 yard field goal and turns it over to Seahawks with 11 seconds left— Hunter W (@HW_Report46) October 4, 2019
Rams: 10 plays, 67 yards, 1:27 seconds to win the game#TNFonESPN #ThursdayNightFootball #TNFonPrime #TNF #TNFonFOX #NFL #NFL100 #GoHawks #LARams @RamsNFL #LARvsSEA #Seahawks @Seahawks pic.twitter.com/HAFh3V8DxV
Since McVay took over in 2017 the Rams and Seahawks have played in close matches quite often—out of the eight games five of them have been settled by a score or less.
The aforementioned game took place on a Thursday night and much will be the same this Thursday. I predict that once again the matchup between the two teams will be close and the winner will be determined by a single, breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat kind of field goal.
Stafford will post a passer rating over 120
Stafford has not played against the Seattle Seahawks since Week 8 of the 2018 season. In that game the Lions fell to the Seahawks 28-14 and Stafford threw for 310 yards on 40 attempts with an interception and two touchdown passes, good for a 96.9 passer rating. Russell Wilson exploited the Lions poor defense, throwing only 17 times but posting a 158.3 passer rating and 3 touchdowns while Chris Carson ran free for 105 yards on the ground.
(1:50) “I think its a factor,” McVay answered in regards to if Stafford’s lack of experience against the Seahawks in his career, “but he was in here studying got four good representative games that they’ve played this year to be able to utilize—playing them three times last year. There’s a lot of film but they’ve done a nice job mixing it up and like anything else each game takes on its own identity but I think that the experiences that he can draw on, [he’s] seen a lot of defensive structures throughout course of his career, [it] will be beneficial... he will do his part. He’s a pro’s pro.”
This time around Stafford has the luxury of playing with a defense that has given the Seahawks difficulties in the past and should be able to get the ball back to the offense often. This is also not the same Seahawks defense of old that Stafford had to throw against in 2018. The Legion of Boom is no more and Seattle’s success has been predicated on the arm and legs of Russell Wilson.
A sequence that will make Over 48 bettors sick to their stomach:— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) October 28, 2018
28-14 Seahawks, 2:30 remaining
Stafford throws INT on 3 yard line
Seahawks try to take safety and end up faking a punt for a 1st downpic.twitter.com/31hX8XroxD
Currently Seattle ranks 22nd against the pass. They gave up 347 yards to Tannehill in Week 2 in a loss against the Tennessee Titans, and then in a Week 3 loss gave Kirk Cousins 327 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cousins posted a 128.4 passer rating in that game. The Seahawks have also been lacking in their run defense as they rank 31st in the league, which could open play action wide open for Stafford. Overall, the home team this weekend has allowed their opponents the most yards per game in the NFL.
It might be a good matchup to have a bounce-back game after Stafford put up mediocre stats and a 89.5 QBR last week. Against the Arizona Cardinals Stafford was streaky, making possibly his best throw of the season in traffic to Cooper Kupp, but also missing open receivers on third downs and had a couple of balls which he probably wished he had back in the red zone.
Matthew Stafford ripping a 40 yard Bender throw to Cooper Kupp on 3rd & 16. pic.twitter.com/2v97Vv14SJ— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 4, 2021
Stafford has a great chance to elevate himself over his performance against Arizona against a poor pass defense on Thursday. If I were you, I’d start him in your fantasy leagues, because my prediction is that Stafford has a huge game and crosses the 120 QBR mark.
Rams will have four sacks, two turnovers
After four games into the season the Rams have yet to have their defining game on defense ... until Thursday.
“That’s what we wanted. That’s exactly what we wanted,” - Aaron Donald on facing the Seahawks in the wild-card round of the playoffs next week. pic.twitter.com/1dSbewmGcI— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) January 4, 2021
LA’s defense could get back to their elite status against a very well known foe. In the Wild Card game of the playoff just last season it did not matter who played quarterback as Aaron Donald and company went on a terror against the Seahawks offense. Wilson only completed 11 passes on 27 attempts, was intercepted once and sacked five times. Donald and Leonard Floyd both accounted for two of those sacks, the fifth coming from Morgan Fox. Darious Williams had the lone interception that game and he took it 42 yards to the house.
On Thursday night the Rams are looking back to their dominant ways on defense and as is the usual case it will have to be Donald leading the charge. In the 14 times that Donald has matched up against Wilson in seven seasons, he has sacked the elusive quarterback 13 times. The future Hall of Famer will especially be motivated on Thursday after failing to get his hands on Kyler Murray last weekend to secure the all-time franchise sack leader for LA.
Russell Wilson has been sacked a 11 times this year already, but what he has not done is turn the ball over. In four games Wilson has yet to throw the ball to anyone but his own teammates, leading to an average QBR of 127 thus far. In Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts he was nearly perfect with a 152.3 QBR and a 78.26 completion percentage.
He also has not had to face Donald this year. With Jalen Ramsey prowling the field in Raheem Morris’ defensive scheme, Leonard Floyd to rush from the edge, and a group of young speedy defenders, Donald and company have a great chance to have their breakout game of the season. My prediction- four total sacks and two turnovers.
What are your bold predictions? Let me know in the comments below!
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.