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Bold predictions: Tyler Higbee, Matthew Stafford, and NFL policy changes

Tyler Higbee has his best game of the year and four more things you may not expect

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE:
The NFL has postponed the Rams-Seahawks game until Tuesday at 4 p.m. PT for COVID-19 reasons.

PREVIOUSLY:
The Los Angeles Rams have been absolutely hammered by a sudden spread of COVID-19 in their facilities this week, the total coming to 25 players on Thursday. After taking care of the Arizona Cardinals in a 30-23 victory, LA turns its attention to the Seattle Seahawks in a much worst state.

According to Draftkings Sportsbook, the Rams are still 5.5 point favorites over their NFC rival.

LA will test how deep their roster is against a team that is just starting to get hot. With the NFC West not yet set in stone, they will attempt to dethrone the Cardinals as king of the division. Los Angeles will be missing some of they biggest contributors as they look for a victory, but crazier things have happened in the NFL—here are my bold predictions for Week 15.

Tyler Higbee has his best game of the season

Higbee was not able to make the trip with the Rams to the desert last week after appearing on the COVID-19/reserve list late into the weekend. Kendall Blanton played admirably in his stead, cashing in his two receptions for 29 yards through the air, one of which was good for a 23 yard gain.

Blanton will go back to reserve duties as Higbee has officially been upgraded to active for the game against Seattle—and boy, will they need him. With the number of positive cases steadily raising by the day, Los Angeles will need their talent to step up in a big way. I predict that Higbee will do just that and be a huge part of the LA’s offense on Sunday.

The fifth-year veteran tight end has put up a quiet year after lofty expectations at the beginning of the season. His best game was in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears where he had five receptions that went for 68 yards and averaged 13.6 yards per reception. Since then, he has only one game where he put up more than 50 yards receiving and has only scored three times so far. His low production comes somewhat of a surprise after Stafford found success with tight end TJ Hockenson while playing for the Detroit Lions.

The storyline seems to all line up perfectly for a big game from Higbee. With what seems half the team on the COVID-19/reserve list that includes some of LA’s biggest stars, the Rams starting tight end will be the one that shines brightest for them.

My prediction: 100+ yards and two touchdowns out of the veteran.

Aaron Donald cements himself as a leader in the DPOY race

What Aaron Donald is able to do on a football is just short of miraculous. On a Monday night showdown, Donald put on a clinic for all to see—he finished the game with three sacks, a pass defended that turned into an interception, and forced holding calls that derailed multiple Cardinal drives. His 10 sacks through 14 Weeks may seem pedestrian for the star lineman, but the amount of attention he draws every single down creates countless opportunities for others—the “Donald” effect, if you will.

The future Hall of Famer took over the game against one of the best teams in the NFL when LA needed him the most. This week, with a COVID-19 outbreak the likes of which has not been seen in the league before, they will need him to do it for a second time in as many games. The job has been made even more difficult with the recent news of Von Miller being added to the growing list of players sitting out of Sunday’s contest. It could get even harder as the next few days progress.

Donald will be shouldering the workload of a team squandering for answers, and I predict that he will handle the pressure just fine with performance that cements him as a favorite for the defensive player of the year award.

With another three sack game, paired with a forced fumble, Donald will continue to do what he has always done against the Seahawks—wreak havoc on Russell Wilson.

Russell Wilson throws for his most yards of the season

The Rams may have gotten the win against the Cardinals last week, but that did not mean they were able to limit Kyler Murray. The speedy quarterback finished the game with 383 yards through the air, along with 61 yards on the ground, and if it had not been for some opportunistic turnovers made by Los Angeles, the outcome of the game could have been far different. Luckily, no one will need to live in that reality.

Without Jalen Ramsey on the field and other key players on the secondary, such as Dont’e Deayon, the Rams backfield could not handle the skillset of the Cardinals pass catchers—fast forward to Week 15, and the Rams could be without even more starters.

LA’s misfortunes could be turned into an opportunity to allow head coach Pete Carroll to let “Russ cook” against a team hurting at key positions. Wilsons best game, from a yardage standpoint, came in a Week 2 defeat against the Tennessee Titans. Wilson finished the game with 343 yards passing—his only game this season over 300 passing yards.

I predict that not only will he surpass the 300 yard threshold for just the second time this season, but I believe he will put up 350+ yards against a Rams defense depleted by COVID-19.

The game turns into a shootout

With Wilson exploiting the Rams defense, it will be up to Stafford and company to keep up with the onslaught of points coming from the Seahawks offense. Stafford looked like himself the past two weeks, posting a quarterback rating of 117.8 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13, then following it up with a rating of 139.2 against the Cardinals. Head coach Sean McVay has recently gone back to the roots of his offense that lit the league on fire in 2018; using the run game early to allow for a heavy dose of play-action later in the match. That plan came to fruition when Stafford found Van Jefferson for a 52 yard house call against Arizona.

As long as LA does not lose anymore of their key contributors on offense (who will remain nameless to forgo any chance of a jinx) Stafford should be able to piece together another spectacle. McVay will need to get creative to keep his quarterback clean behind a makeshift offensive line that has been ripped to pieces in sudden events. Luckily for him, his recent implementation of play-action may just be able to get the job done.

The last time the Rams and the Seahawks saw each other was in Week 5, and ended in a 26-17 victory for LA. This time around, I predict that score will be much different, as both teams battle it out in a NFC West duel. My prediction: The game ends with a combined score over 60 points.

The League changes its policy and the Rams get all their players back for Sunday.

Though unlikely, there have been several reports that potential policy changes could get some players off of the COVID-19/reserve list. I mean, a man can dream, can’t he?

What are your predictions this Week? Let me know in the comments below!

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.