A rare Thursday game day in Seattle dawned cold but precipation free. It is forecast to be mostly clear with temperatures getting down into the upper 20s after the 5:25 p.m. kickoff of Seahawks and Rams at CenturyLink Field.
In Thursday’s News Tribune I detailed how Los Angeles is a perfect foe for the Seahawks to bounce back from last weekend’s mess at Green Bay, even on this shortest game week. A new coach two full days on the job. A team in upheaval. A rookie quarterback making his fifth career start. But it’s the Rams, whose defensive line has mostly dominated the last three meetings in this series -- all of which the Rams have won.
Pete Carroll said Wednesday this is a “championship opportunity” for Seattle. He says that every week. But this time, it’s accurate. A win by the Seahawks (8-4-1) clinches the NFC West with still two regular-season games remaining after this one. My story today details why odds favor Seattle reclaiming the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs, which grants the holder a first-round bye and second-round game at home. For a team as see-sawing on the road versus home this season, that’s huge.
TNT columnist Dave Boling writes this is a prime opportunity for the Seahawks to get on a mini roll into the postseason, these games against the down Rams, Cardinals and 49ers. And, he says, if they don’t win them all they will get what they deserve in the postseason: road games.
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The Seahawks got good injury news Wednesday -- from the Rams. Los Angeles defensive end Robert Quinn missed practice and was listed as doubtful to play because of a concussion. Quinn has 11 sacks against Seattle, his most against any opponent. He and defensive tackle Aaron Donald have been large reasons why the Rams have beaten the Seahawks three consecutive times, including 9-3 on Sept. 18 in L.A.
Here is more of what Carroll said Wednesday:
And here are my breakdown of the keys, the key players and my pick -- of a Seahawks whitewash of Los Angeles:
LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-9) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-4-1)
Thursday 5:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: KING Channel 5 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Rams have won three in a row and four of the last five meetings. That includes a 9-3 win Sept. 18 at Los Angeles. The Seahawks lead the regular-season series 21-14. The Rams won the last meeting in Seattle, 23-17 last Dec. 27. This is the first time the Seahawks have hosted the Los Angeles version of the Rams since Dec. 22, 1991. Seattle won that day in the Kingdome. .
Line: Seahawks by 15.
Give him the rookie treatment: First-overall pick Jared Goff makes his fifth career start. He’s lost his first four. As Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner says, Goff has never been in a stadium as loud as CenturyLink Field will be for this one. It’s been just three days since the Rams got smacked by Atlanta at home 42-14, when Goff had two of Los Angeles’ five turnovers. That, Goff’s inexperience, a new head coach in his first days on the job and the crowd factor will undoubtedly result in a simplified game plan for a Rams offense that is last in the league in points and yards. Expect the Seahawks to blitz Wagner more than he did (meaning didn’t) last weekend at Green Bay. Expect ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on stunts inside and out. And expect a long night for the California kid.
Gang up on Gurley: Everyone else has this season. Todd Gurley, the 2015 NFL rookie of the year, may not even reach 1,000 yards rushing this season. He has 740 through 13 games. He hasn’t had a 100-yard day this season; his high is 85 from way back in September at Tampa Bay. He has half as many touchdowns as last season, five. Wagner pointed out defenses now have film on Gurley and know where and how he likes to run. If the Rams’ game plan is as simplistic as expected, that likely means leaning on Gurley. If the Seahawks respond, the league’s last-ranked offense is in trouble. Again.
Prove themselves: Last weekend’s face-plant at Green Bay suggested these Seahawks aren’t as good as they think they are. Yet just four days later, every factor imaginable is in the Seahawks’ favor against the Rams. They are back home, where they are undefeated and a relative scoring machine. But the Rams’ defense has given Seattle, especially its offensive line, problems for years. No team has sacked Russell Wilson more. Overdue time for a roll -- not as extensive as they’d hoped, but a mini one – in the final three games against down division rivals for Seattle to ramp into the postseason.
The pick: If the Seahawks mess this one up, they are nearly what they or anyone thought they were. They won’t. The Rams are a mess, particularly on offense. A Seattle shutout. Seahawks 21, Rams 0.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
3 Russell Wilson QB 5-11 215 fifth
He’s now 16-4 in December. But that fourth loss, wow. All eyes on how he rebounds here
50 K.J. Wright LB 6-4 246 sixth
Everywhere on every down, deserves Pro Bowl consideration. National-TV chance to show why
34 Germain Ifedi RG 6-5 325 rookie
First-round pick had had up-and-down debut year. Now he gets the NFL’s best DT, Aaron Donald
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
99 Aaron Donald DT 6-1 285 third
27 sacks in less than 3 full seasons. Has run over SEA’s O-line last 3 meetings, all Rams wins
30 Todd Gurley RB 6-1 227 second
Expect simple LA game plan: Hand it to No. 30. But last season’s rookie of the year has struggled
16 Jared Goff QB 6-4 215 rookie
0-4 so far in career, 55% completion rate. This will either be a breakout, or a breakdown, in SEA