Two NFC West rivals will finally renew their rivalry for the first time this season as the Seattle Seahawks travel back down to SoFi Stadium to battle the reeling Los Angeles Rams. Seattle is 1-0 at SoFi Stadium this season, thanks to a 37-23 win over the Chargers in Week 7. The Seahawks have a chance to snap a three-game losing streak to the Rams. This also will represent a reunion of sorts with former teammate Bobby Wagner, who was a stalwart at linebacker for 10 seasons in Seattle and will be added to the Seahawks' Ring of Honor at minimum once his career is over.
Last Sunday was a humbling afternoon for Seattle (6-5), which lost to Las Vegas 40-34 in overtime. The defense had less than zero answers for the Raiders' offense, which racked up 576 total yards. Josh Jacobs was unstoppable, capping off his 303 yards from scrimmage (229 rushing) with a walk-off, 86-yard touchdown run in overtime. Geno Smith finished with 328 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, but the numbers are a little misleading since he never seemed comfortable in the pocket. Smith was under duress from Maxx Crosby and the rest of the Raiders' defense, which totaled three sacks and 10 quarterback hits.
Unfortunately, it was more of the same story for the Rams (3-8), who dropped their fifth in a row, this time losing 26-10 at Kansas City. Los Angeles' defense did what it could to keep the Rams in the game, limiting Patrick Mahomes and Co. to one touchdown on six trips inside the red zone, but the offense lagged behind yet again. Bryce Perkins got the start at quarterback for an injured Matthew Stafford (who is out again this week), and he threw for 100 yards with a touchdown and two picks. The running game also was stifled by the Chiefs, who had the luxury of not worrying about trying to slow down Cooper Kupp or Allen Robinson II. Instead, Van Jefferson led the way with three catches for 29 yards and a touchdown while Perkins was the leading ground gainer (44 yards on nine carries).
Seattle (6-5) at Los Angeles (3-8)
Three Things to Watch
1. How will the Seahawks' defense respond after last week's loss?
Head coach Pete Carroll seemed to believe that much of what has ailed the defense in the past two games is fixable. For his sake, Seahawks fans hope Carroll is correct in his assessment, as what took place last Sunday is something that he can't afford to have repeat itself. It starts by playing fundamentally sound football, having the right run fits, and simply making tackles. In addition, Seattle defenders can't allow Perkins to get loose on the edge and make plays with his legs should he leave the pocket. The last thing you want to see happen if you are the Seahawks is for this beaten-down Rams team to gain any confidence. They have lost five in a row and put up less than 200 yards of total offense last week. After getting absolutely gashed last week by Jacobs and the Raiders, to the tune of 283 rushing yards and 7.1 yards per carry, the first order of business for Seattle is to make sure Los Angeles' pitiful running game (79.7 ypg, 31st in the NFL) does not get going. Getting off the field on third down is important too. The Rams are in the middle of the pack, converting 40.4 percent of their third-down opportunities, but Las Vegas went 8-for-14 in that situation against the Seahawks last week. That must improve if Seattle wants to hang around in the playoff hunt.
2. Los Angeles' offensive approach
Head coach Sean McVay is dealing with a depleted depth chart and relying on an inexperienced quarterback as the Rams' offensive struggles continue to spiral. McVay knows he needs to tailor the offense to Perkins' skill set, and this could be a great matchup for him to utilize his running ability. Perkins was the team's most effective rusher last week against Kansas City, and some designed runs could help loosen up a Seattle defense that is 29th in the league against the run (153.8 ypg). That could then make it easier for Cam Akers and Kyren Williams to find some room to run as well. Perkins is still figuring things out as a passer (13-for-23 last week), so McVay needs to dial up some easy reads and hope an effective running game early could open up some opportunities for play-action. Jefferson (team-high six targets vs. Chiefs) figures to be Perkins' favorite target, but he needs to get others involved, including tight end Tyler Higbee (no targets). There also will probably be a lot of screens and short passes to the backs as well.
3. Seahawks' ability to get back to a more balanced attack on offense
The biggest key to success in the first nine games for Smith and the offense was an ability to be multi-dimensional to keep opposing defensive lines at bay for the most part. Last week's performance by the offensive line was less than stellar, as Las Vegas put the clamps on Kenneth Walker III and the Seattle running game. Walker scored twice but finished with just 26 rushing yards on 14 carries. The inability to run the ball consistently allowed Crosby and the rest of the Raiders' defense to come after Smith, who was under duress all game. Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron would be wise to establish Walker early to loosen up a Rams' defense that despite the team's record, is still pretty solid. Seattle does catch a huge break by not having to face perennial All-Pro and game-wrecker Aaron Donald, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Thus, in theory, it should be easier to run the football. When he does drop back to throw, Smith must get the ball out quickly in the passing game because he still must deal with Leonard Floyd off the edge, Wagner sticking his nose into everything, and Jalen Ramsey roaming in the secondary. It's also important that Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf get separation quickly so Smith can get them the football before he's taken down or has to scramble.
The Seahawks have an opportunity right in front of them to take advantage of the issues that the downtrodden Rams are dealing with across the board. Look for a better start from Seattle this week, which should help take the crowd out of the game (which also could be pro-Seattle given SoFi Stadium's track record and the Rams' current record). Los Angeles will play hard since it's a divisional contest and the pride factor. However, it won't be enough, as the Seahawks get a bounce-back performance from the running game to provide that necessary offensive balance and propel them to a much-needed road win.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Rams 17
– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.
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