NFC Wild Card Matchup:
#6 Rams (10-6) at #3 Seahawks (12-4)
Saturday, January 9, 1:40 PM PST (Fox)
The Rams and Seahawks are set to square off for the third time this season in the NFC Wild Card Round. The NFC West hoped to send all four teams to the playoffs this year, but the 49ers and Cardinals failed to hold up their part of the deal. Instead, we will have just one NFC West team in the Divisional Round. The home team won each of the two previous matchups this season, but how could each team win this one?
How the Los Angeles Rams Win
Important Player: John Wolford
The most recent reports indicate that it will be “challenging” for Jared Goff to make his way back to the football field for the L.A. Rams in the NFC Wild Card round. That means the signal-caller for the Los Angeles Rams will once again be John Wolford. Wolford has exactly one career start in the NFL, throwing the ball 38 times in an 18-7 victory last week against the Arizona Cardinals. He managed just 231 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick with those pass attempts. Though it wasn’t for a lack of trying:
Wolford also ran the ball six times for 56 yards, five-of-six carries going for at least nine yards. Should the Seahawks crush the Rams’ rookie in his second-ever start, the rushing game (fifth-lowest yards after contact per rush attempt in the league) doesn’t have enough to it to make up for that mess against a strong Seattle offense.
Important Statistic: Yards after the Catch
Between Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, the Los Angeles Rams lead the NFC in yards after catch. I would expect that to continue this week, given that John Wolford likely isn’t going to effectively air it out against this Seattle defense. In their last two matchups, Woods and Kupp combined for 154 yards after the catch on 24 receptions (6.4 yards per catch).
Important Position Group: Defensive Backs
The Rams went all-in on Jalen Ramsey to top their defensive backfield, and it seems to have worked out. They’ve allowed the lowest yards per attempt and touchdown rate to quarterbacks on the season. They tied for twelfth with fourteen interceptions on the year. They’ll be going up against the post-Let Russ Cook Russell Wilson Era of this Seattle Seahawks passing game. Should they shut down the ‘Hawks, the Rams might just make it to the next round of the playoffs. That’s easier said than done, with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the other side of the field.
How the Seattle Seahawks Win
Important Player: Jamal Adams
In weeks one through eight, newcomer Jamal Adams played in just three games. The Seahawks, in those eight games, averaged 28.4 points per game allowed to opponents. After Jamal Adams came back and solidified this defense, they allowed just 19.1 points per game to opponents on the year. Six-of-seven teams to start the year passed for at least 299 passing yards. After that return, Adams led the defense to eight-straight games of sub-300 passing yard games to opposing QBs to end the season. This completed a defense that allowed over 100 rushing yards just six times all year.
Important Statistic: Russell Wilson Sacks
Russell Wilson ranked third in the league with 47 sacks, or just under three sacks per game. The Rams didn’t get a lot of pressure (22.5% pressure rate, #17 in the league), but notched the second-most sacks in the league and the most sacks in the NFC. The Seahawks offensive line will have their hands full with Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd, who had 13.5 and 10.5 sacks, respectively. They join Stephon Tuitt and J.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers as teammates to get 10+ sacks each in 2020.
Important Position Group: Offensive Line
This is how important the Rams DL vs. Seahawks OL will be in the outcome of this game; I get to use the same basic matchup twice. The Seahawks have an extra wrinkle, however. The offensive line for the Seahawks has been a rotating door of injuries all year. When they were together, they have been good. When they haven’t been together, the Seahawks haven’t been all that great. The Seahawks OL will need to be at full strength against the Aaron Donald-Malcolm Floyd Double Stack. Why am I bringing this up now?