Two teams staring down the barrel of a must-win situation will meet at SoFi Stadium on Sunday as the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams renew their heated rivalry. These two teams split their meetings in 2019, with the Seahawks winning 30-29 in Seattle and the Rams defending their home turf with a 28-12 win.
Everything that could go wrong unfolded for Seattle (6-2) as they lost 44-34 at Buffalo in a game that should not have even been that close. Russell Wilson was a turnover machine with a pair of interceptions and fumbles. This is the second time in the last three games that Wilson has committed at least three turnovers, so the brakes have to be pumped on the MVP conversation.
As for the defense, head coach Pete Carroll said it best in his post-game comments: "I don't recognize us." The Seahawks made Josh Allen look like a combination of Patrick Mahomes, Joe Montana, and John Elway on Sunday. The Seahawks allowed Allen to complete 31 of 38 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns, and the evidence continues to mount that the defense is a broken one. Carroll also needs to strongly think about demoting defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and inserting a new voice to lead the defense moving forward.
Los Angeles (5-3) is coming off of a bye week and will be looking to bounce back from a 28-17 loss against the surging Miami Dolphins. Jared Goff was not good enough, as he completed 35 of 61 passes for 355 yards, one touchdown, and two costly interceptions. The defense did its job against Miami by limiting the Dolphins to 145 total yards and kept Tua Tagovailoa in check — 12-of-22 passing for 93 yards and a touchdown — in his first NFL start as. Aaron Donald (9.0 sacks) collected the one lone sack for the defensive line against Miami, and that is one area that will need to pick back up this week since getting pressure on Wilson will be crucial to winning.
Seattle at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 15 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. How will Mr. Unlimited respond against the Rams defense?
Russell Wilson has his back against the wall in the MVP race. The Rams have tended to give him problems, too, as they are 7-3 in the last 10 matchups with the Seahawks, and his career 97.5 passer rating against them is five points below his overall mark. Wilson was not very good in the last meeting against the Rams in 2019 when Seattle only managed 12 points and 245 passing yards. And it's a stone-cold lock that Wilson will get nonstop heat from the defensive front of Los Angeles, which sitting fifth in the NFL with 3.1 sacks per game.
That means Wilson will have to be at his best with his decision making; hesitation throwing the football will not be an option on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can help Wilson by getting him going early with some quick, aggressive passes to get the Rams on their heels. This will be easier said than done for Wilson since the Rams have only allowed 16 explosive pass plays on 301 attempts, which is the best in the NFL according to Sharp Football Stats.
2. Jared Goff and Sean McVay
These two guys' success this week will go hand in hand if they execute the game plan properly. Goff needs to attack the Seahawks' horrendous secondary and force them to play above what they are capable of this week. Making the right decision with the football will be a great place to start since the Seattle defense's one strong area has been creating turnovers.
As for McVay, he needs to be disciplined with his play-calling and attack by throwing the football. Running the football is really not that necessary against the Seahawks defense; teams might as well dare them to blitz so they can torch the secondary with explosive pass plays. Robert Woods should be a prime candidate to go well over 100 receiving yards this week. Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee also will be factors in the passing game since there will be plenty of space in the middle of the field to make plays against the Seahawks linebackers.
3. Can the Seahawks' defense step up?
Football fans nationwide are going to see what Carroll and the defensive staff are made of mentally this week. Carroll was quoted this week as saying that the defense missed a bunch of basic things last week against the Bills. That's an indictment of the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball. Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams are going to have their leadership abilities this week since they know the Rams offense will empty the tank in the passing game, and it's up to them to get their teammates in the right place mentally to play loose and attack.
Another area for this defense to improve will be up front if letting Carlos Dunlap II, Jarran Reed, and Alton Robinson can attack the quarterback with pressure. You have nothing to lose at this point by playing aggressively because opposing offenses will not have any reason to run the football against them until the secondary can step up their play against the pass.
In spite of the Seahawks' issues on defense, you can expect them to be in position for a chance to win the game in the second half. The Seahawks lead the NFL in scoring offense at 34.3 points per game, so they will find a way to move the football enough to score around 30 points once again this week. Los Angeles will get just enough discipline from Jared Goff to keep the turnover margin manageable. Look for the Rams to pick up a very important win this week as they will find a way to get to 38 points for win No. 6 on the year.
Prediction: Rams 38, Seahawks 31
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Parler @Scottwhittum