Rams host division-leading Seahawks looking to keep pace in the chase for the second wild-card spot
"Sunday Night Football" will bring football fans a fun rematch between the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. These two teams met back in Week 5 when Seattle beat the Los Angeles 30-29 in an epic back-and-forth battle between the NFC West rivals.
Monday night was a wild one for the Seahawks (10-2), as they knocked off the Vikings 37-30 to pull into first place in the NFC West with their November win over the 49ers serving as the tiebreaker. The physicality of Seattle came to the forefront, rushing for 218 yards on 43 carries as they imposed their will at the point of attack. Chris Carson was responsible for 102 of those yards, doing his damage on 23 carries and getting into the end zone once. Rashaad Penny had a strong all-purpose game with 74 rushing yards, 33 receiving yards, one rushing touchdown, and another touchdown on a screen pass. The Seahawks' clean play was encouraging with just one penalty for 30 yards.
The Rams (7-5) got back on track last Sunday by blowing out the Cardinals 34-7 on the road. Jared Goff completed 32 of 43 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns. Todd Gurley II racked up 95 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, as he responded well to an increased workload over the past couple of weeks. Robert Woods had a huge day with 13 receptions for 172 yards. Taylor Rapp had a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the defense limited the Cardinals to only 198 yards of total offense.
Seattle at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: Seattle -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' rushing attack
Seattle rushed for 167 yards on 43 attempts against the Rams in Week 5. Chris Carson was the bell cow with 27 carries for 118 yards, and he and allowed the Seahawks to wear down the Los Angeles defense. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to establish the run once again since the Rams had issues slowing down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' multi-faceted rushing attack a few weeks ago to the tune of 285 yards on 48 attempts. If the Seahawks can establish Carson and Rashaad Penny on the ground, it will set up Russell Wilson to go to work in the play-action passing game to wide receivers Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Josh Gordon, and tight end Jacob Hollister.
2. Stick to the basics
Head coach Sean McVay will face his biggest test of the year as far as his ability to stay disciplined with his play-calling. In Week 5, the Rams were way too reliant on Goff with 49 passes to just 18 rushing attempts in the 30-29 loss. Los Angeles will have its best chance to win on Sunday night by feeding Todd Gurley II the ball at least 25 times and staying aggressive with the ground attack. Remaining patient will keep a relentless Seattle defensive line at bay, as the Seahawks have racked up at least two sacks in four of the last five games. The ideal scenario for McVay would be to run the ball about 40 times and limit Goff to about 20-25 passes in a similar fashion to the 17-7 win over the Bears back on Nov. 18. In that game, Los Angeles ran the ball 34 times â — Gurley had 25 carries for 97 yards â — and threw it just 18 times. That style is not going to appeal to the glitzy Hollywood type of Rams fan, but it will appeal to those fans that love winning, which is what matters the most.
3. Special teams
Michael Dickson rose to the occasion on Monday night, and he has done an excellent job of flipping the field against Seattle's opponents all season long. Dickson has placed eight of his last nine punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, going two games. Also, there was the execution of a fake punt with 11:18 left to play on a 4th-and-3 from their own 32-yard line. Travis Homer broke off a 29-yard run on that play to keep the Seahawks in business offensively. It was the willingness of head coach Pete Carroll to take such a giant risk and believe in his guys that really illustrates why they have won ten games already.
On the other side, Johnny Hekker is one of the best punters in the business with a 47.4-yard average. He always seems to find a way to get in a zone when he punts against the Seahawks too. Hekker will need to go off for one of those games where he averages over 50 yards per punt and completely dominate the field position battle for the Rams. The ability of Hekker to keep the Seattle offense pinned back and force Wilson to have to go 80 yards or more on a regular basis will play an underrated role for Los Angeles in this game. Greg Zuerlein will also have plenty of motivation to atone for his missed 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the first meeting that would have given the Rams a victory. There is going to be a key situation in the second half that will require him to make a big kick, and this time he will come through.
It's very difficult for any team to get through an entire regular season undefeated on the road. The Seahawks are coming off an emotional win over the Vikings, and with a short week, they are ripe to be knocked off by Los Angeles. This game won't feature quite as many points as the previous meeting in Week 5, as both defenses have the ability to play at a higher level in this matchup. In the end, Los Angeles will do a good enough job of playing keep away from the Seattle offense. Look for the Rams to hold serve at home and pick up their eighth win of the year and stay in the NFC Wild Card race for another week.
Prediction: Rams 24, Seahawks 20
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.