A good old fashioned hate-fest is on tap this week as the Seattle Seahawks (2-2)l head down to the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sunday afternoon to battle the Los Angeles Rams (3-1). These two NFC West rivals don’t like each other and usually play some of the most physical games in the NFL on an annual basis.
Seattle had a roller-coaster ride of a game last Sunday night against Indianapolis as they trailed the Colts 15-10 at halftime. Then, a switch was flipped for the Seahawks and they outscored Indianapolis 36-3 in the second half to get back to .500 with a 46-18 win. Russell Wilson completed 21 of 26 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns. This was huge for the Seattle offense, which lost running back Chris Carson to a season-ending ankle injury. Turnovers were a difference-maker as well as Justin Coleman and Bobby Wagner scored defensive touchdowns.
Los Angeles is off to an excellent start under the direction of first-year head coach Sean McVay. The Rams picked up their third win of the season as they went down to AT&T Stadium and knocked off the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 35-30. Jared Goff completed 21 of 36 passes for 255 yards and two TDs. Todd Gurley ran for 121 yards on 23 carries and caught seven passes for 94 yards and a score. Goff and Gurley are evolving into a potentially dangerous duo for Los Angeles, which has been a much different team on offense in the early going.
These teams split their two meetings last season with each winning at home.
Seattle at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 8 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Los Angeles -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing game vs. Rams’ defense
This will be a fun chess match to watch between Wilson and Los Angeles defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. With the unknown quantity that is the Seattle running game, it is going to be up to Wilson to make big plays throwing the football. Whether it’s a couple of early deep balls to stretch the Rams’ secondary to loosen them up or going with a hurry-up or no-huddle approach, Wilson must dictate the tempo of the game early and often to give his offensive line a chance to succeed.
And for all of Los Angeles’ early success, the defense has given up its share of yards (367.8 ypg, 27th in NFL) and points (26.3 ppg, 28th). So the Seahawks should be able to move the ball, it’s just a matter of extending drives long enough to get points out of them and not making any major mistakes.
2. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley
Look for a heavy dose of Gurley running the ball in the opening few series for the Rams. This will begin the process of wearing down the Seahawks’ defense and set up Goff (right) in the passing game. Showing signs of improvement in his second year, Goff must stay patient and take what Seattle gives him to avoid any unnecessary early turnovers that can swing the momentum of the game. It will be fascinating to see how Goff responds if Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard comes after him with more blitzes to try and rattle the young QB and force him to get rid of the ball prematurely.
3. Battle of the underachieving defenses
Defense has been a definite problem for both teams in the early portion of the season. For the Seahawks, it has been their inability to stop the run consistently as they currently rank 27th at 134 rushing yards per game allowed. Injuries another concern with defensive end Cliff Avril (neck) out and cornerback Jeremy Lane (groin) questionable. It will be up to the rest of the defensive line, guys like Sheldon Richardson and Michael Bennett, to elevate their level of play to compensate for the loss of Avril.
As has already been referenced, it’s been a big of bumpy ride for the Rams’ defense as well, although this unit did get the job done in the second half of last week’s win in Dallas. It will be interesting to see if the Rams can build off of that momentum at home against Seattle given the Seahawks’ early issues on offense. Aaron Donald’s ability to dominate along the interior of the Los Angeles defensive line will be crucial as he’s the unit’s All-Pro leader and Seattle’s offensive line has struggled in both run blocking and pass protection through the first four games.
This game could go many different directions for Seattle as last year’s trip to the Coliseum resulted in a 9-3 loss in a game that set offensive football back years. However, with both defenses battling through their issues it will be a major upset if a touchdown is not scored by either team. Look for Russell Wilson and Jared Goff to wage an entertaining back-and-forth aerial show for four quarters. The difference is going to be turnovers as the Seahawks will do just enough to win that key statistic and escape with a come-from-behind win over the Rams.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Rams 20
— 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.