The first quarter of the season is over, and the Rams are 3-1 and sit alone atop the NFC West. Many were optimistic about the direction Sean McVay was taking his young team but just about nobody would’ve predicted this amount of success this fast. The Rams had a prove-it game last week and rose to the occasion, defeating the Cowboys on the road. They’ll face another stiff challenge this week as they return home to face the Seahawks. Here’s what they’ll be seeing on both sides of the ball:
The Seahawks offense struggled mightily the first two weeks before appearing to right the ship in the last two. In their first game in Green Bay, they scored just nice points and gained only 225 yards of total offense. Their second effort wasn’t much better, scoring 12 points at home against the highly shreddable 49ers defense. Their offense finally exploded the last two weeks, scoring a combined 73 points in a loss to the Titans and win against the Colts.
The story of the Seahawks offense so far has once again been their lack of a quality offensive line. The line was a disaster against the Packers and 49ers, allowing the defensive front’s of both teams to live in the backfield, regularly landing hits on Russell Wilson. They’ve been a bit better the past two weeks, but still not very good. Their left tackle, Rees Odhiambo, is Pro Football Focus’ lowest rated tackle out of all qualifiers and the whole line presents an appetizing matchup for the entire Rams defensive line and Aaron Donald, who is finally getting back to full strength.
On the injury front, the Seahawks offense is pretty banged up. Odhiambo has a chest injury and will be a game-time decision, although offensive line coach Tom Cable expects him to start. C.J. Prosise, the dynamic passing downs running back, will miss the game with an ankle injury. They will be playing their first game without emerging star rookie Chris Carson, who was placed on injured reserve and will likely miss the rest of the season with a broken leg. Star receiver Doug Baldwin will be active on Sunday but has a groin injury that has been limiting him, this will be something to keep an eye on.
As far as the running game is concerned, nothing has gone right for the Seahawks. Free agent acquisition Eddie Lacy and incumbent starter Thomas Rawls both looked wholly unimpressive early in the year. Just when they thought they found their new feature back in Carson, he went down with a season ending injury. They will now turn back to Lacy and Rawls, and if the Rams can bottle them up without having to stack the box, it will make things much harder for Wilson. The air attack has been working very well for Seattle the past two weeks so expect them to be abandon the ground game early if it isn’t working.
If they don’t get the ground game working early, expect to see Wilson throw the ball a ton. When they abandoned the run against Tennessee, Wilson ended up throwing the ball a whopping 49 times. Wilson loves to extend plays with his legs to allow him to find receivers open downfield, so it will be up to the Rams front seven to get consistent pressure and force him to get rid of the ball quickly.
Overall it’s mostly the same offense that the Rams defense performed well against twice last year, with the only real notable difference being Seattle featuring receiver Paul Richardson more and the presence of Lacy. If they can copy the things they did right last year, it could be a long day for Wilson and the Rams could repeat their performance from the home opener last season in which they held the Seahawks to just three points.
While this years defense hasn’t looked quite as dominant as it has in years past, it’s still one of the league’s best, and easily the toughest the Rams have faced all season. While the Rams’ offense (highest scoring in the NFL) has been exciting to watch and they’re clearly leaps and bounds better than last year, they haven’t exactly been tested much. They’ve played three poor defenses (Colts, 49ers, Cowboys) and one decent one, the Redskins, against who they had by far their worst game as a unit.
Because of the soft slate of defenses they’ve faced so far, this Sunday’s game will be the new look Rams’ first real opportunity to prove their high powered offense is legit. McVay will have his hands full scheming against a Seahawks defense that is still very much elite. Seattle has given up the fourth fewest yards through the air this season, averaging just 185 per game. If Jared Goff can put up a good game against this secondary, he will prove once and for all he’s not the same quarterback that many were quick to write off last year.
Seattle’s run defense on the other hand has been less than stellar, allowing opponents to run for over five yards per carry. As such, expect to see McVay try and get the ground game going early with a heavy dose of Todd Gurley. I’d expect to see McVay try and make things as easy as possible for Goff against a tough opponent by limiting the number of throws he has to make, calling for a lot of first down runs.
Working in Goff and the offense’s favor are a couple of injuries to key players on the Seahawks’ defense. Starting cornerback Jeremy Lane will miss the game with a groin injury, greatly improving Cooper Kupp’s matchup in the slot. Star defensive end Cliff Avril will also miss the game with a neck injury, making life a bit easier for the Rams’ offensive line.
Overall it’s a decent matchup on paper for the Rams offense. Seattle’s defensive coordinator Kris Richard has been implementing more and more man to man coverage schemes whereas McVay has installed a lot of routes designed to beat man coverage, making heavy use of pick plays.
If they can get Gurley going early to open things up for Goff, the Rams should be in a position to score a lot more than the 12 combined points they managed in the two games against Seattle last season.
The bottom line is, it’s clearly the toughest challenge the Rams have faced all year. Although last week’s win against the Cowboys went a long way, this Sunday is the real opportunity to prove there’s a new team to reckon with in the NFC West. Seattle is only 2-2 and will be going all out to avoid falling to 2-3 and losing to their division rivals, so the Rams will certainly have their hands full.