The most exciting playoff atmosphere for a fan is when the specific team, presumably in the playoffs, is good enough to be there but flawed enough to keep every game a mystery. Ask Giants fan in 2011 if they REALLY thought their team would make it to the Super Bowl and beat the Patriots yet again. Barely winning the NFC East on a 9-7 record and due to face Aaron Rodgers, peak Jim Harbaugh (as a coach obviously), and Tom Brady, made every sensible Giants fan cross their fingers before each playoff game. Rams fans are in a similar position this year after watching a 10-6 record and fight for a wild card spot. The silver lining in this scenario is that they ultimately played well enough to earn it. But man, does this team have flaws and storylines in the works.
Playing the Seattle Seahawks for the third and final matchup of the season (1-1), the Rams aren’t the same trending team leading up to their first matchup but may be a better squad than the team that saw defeat in Week 16.
Seattle equally comes in a different team compared to the two previous matchups. Predictions going into this game are largely predicated on the least flawed team winning the matchup, a rhetorical bullet point yet accurate indicator of both teams’ lackluster play of late.
Here are the three matchups to look for in the Rams vs. Seahawks playoff game.
Three Matchups To Look For In Rams vs Seahawks
Running Backs vs. Seahawks Run Defense
The backfield’s assignment is poised for a great outing because of all of the limitations the offense may see under an injured Jared Goff or backup John Wolford. The QB1 is coming into the game with a barely passable bill of health, and with the return of rookie Cam Akers, LA’s running game will have to be the necessary spark for this offense if the QBs limitations are on display early.
A threat both through the ground and a point for relief in the short yard game, McVay and the offense will have to make a Swiss Army knife out of the backfield if this turns into a high-scoring game. The Rams will still be without Darrell Henderson and are facing a stout Seahawks run defense that is limiting opposing rushing attacks under 100 yards per contest. Needless to say that if this unit shows up for LA against Seattle, with a larger role in mind for Akers after 15+ rushes in his final four games played, it would be the most significant boost for the offense as they find ways to get the QB down the field.
In a mirrored way, the Rams saw what could go wrong for them through the Cardinals’ performance last week if they fail to establish the run. This unit will be the key to preventing a similar situation mishandled by Arizona where they relied on Kyler Murray to play at a hindered condition rather than establishing the run game. The decision led to less than 100 yards passing from Murray and a lost spot in the playoffs.
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Jared Goff, Andrew Whitworth vs. Seahawks D-Line
Sunday will mark Andrew Whitworth’s first game since tearing his PCL/MCL in Week 10.
Whitworth’s absence has contributed to the poor play from the Rams offensive line, paramount by the lack of production from replacement Joe Noteboom. The 39-year-old impact on the offensive line will help stave off Seattle’s meddling pass rush and hopefully keep Goff in a groove to throw down the field. After Whitworth’s injury, Goff threw for 300+ yards once. Prior to the injury, Goff saw five performances of 300+ yards.
The questions surrounding Jared Goff’s viability after his return from hand surgery is credible speculation as to whether the Rams should play backup John Wolford ahead of the franchise quarterback. The best-case scenario to starting Wolford is keeping Seattle on their toes with a new quarterback/offense at play rather than seeing a lesser version of the same quarterback they faced twice (winning the latest contest).
Seattle will be much keener to stop the familiar gameplay of Jared Goff rather than a dual-threat offense led by The Wolf. Rams fans are hoping Goff may pull tricks out of his arsenal, but that held breath of anticipation may see more groans than sighs of relief this Saturday if the turnover-prone QB starts to feel the soreness of a recently broken throwing hand.
Seattle’s Offense vs. Rams League-Leading Defense
Russell Wilson, the early season favorite to win MVP, has seen a dip in production lately culminating into a highly inconsistent Seattle offense that is on the forefront of Pete Carroll’s gameplan. Throwing for less than 300 passing yards in each of the last eight contests, opposing defenses found a way to stop Wilson and his thriving connection with D.K. Metcalf, giving Seattle some obstacles ahead of their matchup against the formidable Rams defense. No team against Seattle this year has pressured Wilson into more incompletions and turnovers than the Rams.
For the majority of the Rams fanbase, the expected outcome of this game will largely be on the performances of Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and the complete Staley defensive unit that is producing the highest-scoring defense in the league, as well as a brick wall for opposing running backs. Seattle’s inability to kickstart Chris Carson’s rushing attack and finding fewer ways to get the ball in Tyler Lockett’s hands has been a detriment even in Metcalf’s rise to an All-Pro nod.
There isn’t an element of surprise that Seattle’s offense has yet to display against the Rams defense, which leads us to believe that the potential for a high-scoring match may be out the window and a defensive showdown will decide the score. No predictions are on the horizon here, but we’ll see you again next week.