For the third time this season, the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams are set to square off. This time, the winner moves on while the loser goes home. Seattle walked away as the NFC West champions following their week 16 matchup against the Rams. The Seahawks finished the season with a victory over the San Francisco 49ers, sealing the third seed in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Rams fought their way into the playoffs following a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, solidifying the sixth seed. Today we take a look at what to expect from the third meeting between the division rivals during the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Goff or Wolford?
The Rams lost more than a game the last time these two teams faced off. Los Angeles also incurred an injury to quarterback Jared Goff, who suffered a broken thumb on his throwing (right) hand. Admirably filling in for Goff in the season finale was John Wolford, making his first career start. Following an interception on his first NFL pass, Wolford settled down and did well to keep the Los Angeles offense moving. Head coach Sean McVay did not coddle his inexperienced quarterback. Instead, he ran the usual offense and showed faith in Wolford. The young quarterback rewarded that faith with a solid game against a desperate Cardinals team.
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Goff is now just over a week removed from surgery on his broken thumb. He is believed to be healing properly and could be available for the Rams this weekend. As of Wednesday afternoon, McVay has been coy and refused to make a statement on who will be the starting quarterback come Saturday. If Goff is healthy, there is no reason to keep him on the sidelines. Goff is the best quarterback on the roster and knows the offense the best. This is the same quarterback who led the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance and would have finished with over 4,000 passing yards if he had not missed the season finale. It would not surprise anyone if the final word comes on game day.
Ramsey v. Metcalf
It’s a heavyweight matchup when cornerback Jalen Ramsey squares off against wide receiver D.K. Metcalf. Saturday is the third round of this fight and could be the determining factor in the result. For as talented a receiver that Metcalf has proven to be, he has not fared well against Ramsey and the Rams. Through four career games, Metcalf has averaged 52 receiving yards and four receptions per game. The physical receiver has accounted for just a single touchdown against the Rams. However, over the last two seasons, a noticeable trend has occurred when Metcalf has faced off against Ramsey and the Rams. While the first meetings tend to result in extremely low output (36 yards/game, 2 rec/game), the second meetings have resulted in increased production (68 yards/game, 6 rec/game).
Could the third meeting of this season be the breakout game for Metcalf against the Rams? Jalen Ramsey was brought to the Rams to be the shutdown corner of the franchise. Each week he is tasked with following the best receiver on the opposing roster and expected to do this with minimal help. Ramsey’s ability to slow down Metcalf allows the rest of the secondary to focus on Seattle’s other receiving threat, Tyler Lockett. The winner of this third round puts his team in a stellar position to come out on top and move on in the playoffs.
As Russell Wilson goes, so do the Seahawks. Wilson turned in an MVP worthy performance this season, seemingly willing the Seahawks to the playoffs. While his play tapered off towards the end of the regular season, Wilson managed to guide the offense through a dangerous portion of the schedule. However, Wilson had his share of struggles this season against the Rams. Through the first two contests, Wilson threw one touchdown against two interceptions, while completing just 60% of his passes. Regardless of recent history, Wilson has the ability to lead his team deep into the playoffs.
Expect Los Angeles to bring the pressure. They’ve done well over the past few seasons with getting pressure on Wilson and bringing the elusive quarterback down. The last three meetings between the teams have resulted in at least five sacks a game for the Los Angeles defense. Two of those three meetings also ended in a Rams victory. Against a below-average offensive line, the Rams will look to generate pressure using their front four. This allows defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, the ability to scheme coverage against a dangerous passing attack for Seattle.
Anyone Can Win
The NFC West was one of the toughest in 2020. From top to bottom, the division featured four teams who were capable of winning the division. Seattle may have ultimately come out with the NFC West crown but it earns them nothing more than an empty stadium on Saturday against the Rams. In any other season, the home-field advantage would be significant. Instead, it feels like a formality at this point. That said, the game will come down to whether or not the Rams have a quality performance at the quarterback position. A healthy Goff would go a long way toward that goal. The hope is that this is a competitive game and one that comes down to the game’s final possession.
Prediction: Seattle grinds out another postseason victory at home, 23-14.
– Ryan Adverderada is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Cardinals and covers the San Francisco 49ers for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Follow @ryanadverderada