The Seattle Seahawks have defied expectations and detractors all season long. The latest chapter in Seattle’s defiant story was last Monday night hosting the Vikings. The two teams traded blows, and the Seahawks spotted the Vikings 7-points on a gift pick-six. But ultimately Seattle cruised to a 7-point victory, covering the 3-point spread.
The Los Angeles Rams have their share of detractors as well. After a 2018 season that saw them go all the way to the Super Bowl, the Rams 13-3 loss to the Patriots in that game provided a lasting hangover effect in 2019. However, a week ago at Arizona, the Rams got their groove back. Jared Goff threw for 424 yards, completing 32-43 passes with 2 touchdowns and Todd Gurley went off for 95 yards and a TD on 19 carries. The caveat is that they were playing against a bad Cardinals defense. Can the Rams stay hot hosting Seattle?
Rams Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
Jared Goff is coming off his best performance of the year with a QBR of 85.5 and a passer rating of 120.7. He pulled this off by zeroing in on Robert Woods to the tune of 13 receptions for 172 yards on 18 targets. The next most targeted player was tight end Tyler Higbee, which is no surprise given how bad Arizona is against opposing tight ends. Higbee will not repeat his 7 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown against a competent Seattle secondary.
The Seahawks rank 13th in DVOA defending the pass and will present a much more difficult test than Goff saw a week ago. Overall on the season, Goff has thrown 12 interceptions to go along with his 13 touchdowns. The two touchdowns he had in Week 13 were the only two touchdowns he’s thrown in his last four games. The other three opponents were Baltimore, Chicago, and Pittsburgh and Goff threw a combined 5 interceptions in those games.
A lack of confidence in Goff is understandable, and it’s part of the reason why Sean McVay has increased Todd Gurley’s carries in recent games. Asked for the reason why Gurley has seen an increase in workload, McVay responded it’s due to “me not being an idiot.” Seattle is most susceptible to the run, ranking 18th overall. However, the Seahawks did just bottle up Dalvin Cook a week ago, allowing 29 yards on 9 carries.
While Gurley ran the ball only six times against Baltimore, the plan for this game will likely look more like Gurley’s game against the Bears. That night Gurley looked to be back in vintage form, running 25 times for 97 yards and a touchdown. However, with Seattle's potent offense the Rams are likely going to have to rely on Goff at some point to come away with a win.
Seahawks Offense vs. Rams Defense
The Seattle offense ranks 4th overall per DVOA and their success comes from the potent combination of Russell Wilson and a punishing running game. On Monday night, Seattle split carries with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny trading off possessions. This kept the two powerful running backs fresh and allowed Seattle to run the ball 43 times for 218 yards. Keep in mind that the Seahawks also pulled that performance off against the Vikings, a top 10 rushing defense.
The Rams, however, will counter Seattle’s rushing attack with the #3 overall rushing defense. Seattle is 3rd in the league in carries per game at 31.3 and they’re also 3rd in the league in rushing yards per game at 143.7. If Seattle can run the ball effectively on Sunday night, it’s likely game over for Goff and the Rams.
However, if Seattle has trouble running the ball, unlike the Rams they can turn to an MVP candidate at quarterback. Russell Wilson doesn’t have the quality of weapons to throw to like Goff does, but rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf has steadily improved throughout the season and led the team in receiving yards last week with 75.
The mystery on the Seahawks offense has been wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett has three games this year with 100+ yards receiving, yet was targeted just three times last week and did not have a catch. Lockett’s unpredictability likely makes it harder for the opposition to prepare for the Seahawks passing game. What also makes the Seahawks unpredictable is the addition of receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon caught his only target a week ago and has just four catches on five targets in his three games with the Seahawks.
The Rams rank 12th overall defending the pass and allow the ninth fewest passing yards per game at 222.8. Also, keep in mind that many of these numbers came before the Rams added shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey. On defense, it appears that LA is capable of shutting down what the Seahawks do well. But that also seemed to be the case last week against the Vikings, and all Seattle did was drop 37 points.
If this game is tight, and the spread certainly suggests that will be the case, special teams may be the deciding factor. Surprisingly, DVOA has these two teams right next to each other when it comes to special teams, with the Rams ranking #21 and Seahawks ranking #22. This is surprising because the Rams may have the best kicker/punter combination in the NFL with Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein at kicker and Johnny Hecker at punter.
The difference between the two teams is that the Rams do not possess a threat returning kicks or punts, while the Seahawks have one of the best in the game with Tyler Lockett taking on both duties.
The Spread and Total
The look-ahead line on this game was Seattle as a road favorite of 2.5 points. Despite the Rams drubbing of Arizona, that number actually went up and opened at Seattle -3. It’s no surprise that those 3’s were quickly gobbled up and the line has been driven down all the way to pick’em. Overall though, the Seahawks are currently getting 64% of the bets and 65% of the dollars wagered.
The Rams do not have much of a home-field advantage, but I still find it surprising that the market is valuing Seattle this much higher than LA. The perception of sharp bettors has been that Seattle’s luck is bound to run out at some point. They have just one double-digit win all year, and multiple one-point or overtime wins, including a one-point win hosting the Rams on Thursday night back in October.
It’s hard to trust Goff, and it’s fun to bet on Wilson, but these two teams appear to be closer than the line suggests. To be fair though, DVOA has the Seahawks #6 and the Rams #12, so favoring the Seahawks by 2 points (given a lower than average home-field advantage) is probably correct.
The total opened at 46.5. It's ticked up to 47 at some shops and hasn’t budged at others. With 47 being a key number in the NFL, make sure to shop around for the best price depending on what side you like.
By Kyle Johansen