It’s time to put up or shut up for the Los Angeles Rams (9-4) and Seattle Seahawks (8-5) on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field. These two teams come into this game looking to take control of the NFC West race with two weeks to go after this rematch from early October. The Seahawks won the first matchup against the Rams down at the Los Angeles Coliseum by a score of 16-10.
Seattle had a very eventful trip to Jacksonville last Sunday, falling to the Jaguars 30-24. Offensively, there were plenty of explosive plays in the passing game as Russell Wilson found a way to keep his team in the game despite throwing three interceptions. Mike Davis carried the ball 15 times for 66 yards on the ground as the Seahawks did a nice job against an outstanding Jacksonville rush defense. Defensively, the injury monster once again struck as linebacker K.J. Wright left the game with a concussion and Bobby Wagner’s hamstring has become a bigger issue. Also, there was a clear lack of discipline at the end of the game as the Seahawks’ defense got into a pretty extended melee with the Jaguars’ offense. Michael Bennett ignited the fight as he rolled into the leg of a Jacksonville offensive lineman and then all heck broke loose.
Los Angeles had the spotlight against Philadelphia, but fell short despite knocking out Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz with a knee injury in a 43-35 loss. Jared Goff completed 16 of 26 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Todd Gurley ran for 96 yards on 13 carries while scoring twice. The defense let the Rams down, as it was torched for 316 passing yards and 455 total yards. Time of possession was another problem as Los Angeles only held on to the ball for a little more than 20 minutes on 45 plays.
Los Angeles at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 17 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seattle -2.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Seattle passing attack against the Rams’ defense
If the Seahawks are going to complete the season sweep, they must be able to create more explosive plays in the passing game like they did in Jacksonville. Look for Russell Wilson to take some early deep shots to stretch the Los Angeles defense to keep it honest. Even if some of these deep shots are not successful right away, Wilson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will need to stay patient with the deep passing game. Panicking against the Rams is not the answer, as this defense will make you pay by causing turnovers to set up their own explosive offense.
2. Rams’ offensive balance
Los Angeles can’t afford to be one-dimensional offensively if it wants to pick up a 10th win and create a little more distance in the NFC West standings. Todd Gurley needs to get more than the 14 carries he had against the Seahawks back in October. Jared Goff can’t be asked to throw the ball 47 times against a ferocious Seattle pass rush. If the Rams can end up with around a 55/45 pass/run split when it comes to percentage of plays, then they will be in great shape. Protecting Goff is going to be another key for Los Angeles as he has posted as passer rating of just 68 when under pressure this season. Thus, this game could very well be won or lost because of the battle between the Rams’ offensive line and the Seahawks’ defensive line.
3. Seattle’s defensive discipline
This game will be another test of mental toughness for the Seahawks’ defense. Last week was a reality check for Seattle and its fans. The Jaguars had their way with the Seahawks, especially in the second half when they went off for 27 points. Which is why getting off to a fast start and creating an early turnover along with forcing the Rams to put together long drives is very important on Sunday. Penalties also need to be avoided as field position will be critical between these two evenly matched teams. A good target for Seattle defensively would be to limit the penalty yardage to no more than 30 yards and especially avoid the unnecessary, and usually costly, personal fouls.
The Seahawks have their season on the line in this game as a loss on Sunday would be a third at home and put them two games back of Los Angeles in the NFC West standings with two games to play. On the other hand, the Rams have a slightly larger margin for error as Seattle is not a lock to sweep its last two games. If Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright play, then the Seahawks have a chance to do what they did to Philadelphia two weeks ago on “Sunday Night Football.” Bottom line, this should be a back-and-forth battle that goes down to the wire as there is a not a ton of separation between these two teams. Look for Russell Wilson to enhance his case for MVP as he will pull out another late victory to keep Seattle’s division title hopes alive.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Rams 23
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.