8:25 PM EST, NBC – Line: Seahawks -16, Over/Under: 38.5
An NFC West battle is on hand tonight at Century Link Field where the Seattle Seahawks host the Los Angeles Rams in a matchup of teams preparing for respectively very different immediate futures. As their opponent tonight prepares for yet another postseason run, the Rams (4-9, 3rd in NFC West) have set themselves on a strikingly contrasting path, as Head Coach Jeff Fisher was handed his walking papers after five unremarkable years with the organization. Plenty has been made of the oft-maligned leading man over the past few months, ranging from his reluctance to start No. One Overall Pick Jared Goff (whom they moved mountains to acquire), to his disparaging public comments in regards to the Personnel Department, to his bizarre feud with Rams’ legend Eric Dickerson, but what ultimately doomed the veteran skipper was a consistent inability to get positive results on the field. After being fired thirteen games into 2016, Fisher was spared the dubious honor of owning sole possession of the title of the all-time LOSINGEST Head Coach in NFL History (173-165-1, .512), instead sharing that distinction with Dan Reeves. In his tenure with the Rams, Fisher never posted a winning record (35-45-1, .409), despite enjoying the luxury of a number of resources, including that fateful potentially franchise-altering Draft Day haul of picks acquired via the RG3 Trade back in 2012. Moving to Los Angeles coupled with the presence of the aforementioned Goff (55.1% 148.8 Y/G, 4 TD, 5 INT) apparently earned him a longer leash, but then again, he’s been hard-pressed to really develop much of anything, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, where Sophomore Tailback Todd Gurley recently described the Playbook as “Middle School”. Los Angeles has been dreadful offensively, averaging a league-worst 14.9 points per game (32nd Overall) on just 305.2 Total Yards (32nd Overall), including 224.1 yards through the air (29th Overall) on 5.5 Net Yards per Attempt (29th Overall), and another 81.1 yards on the ground (30th Overall) on 3.4 Yards per Carry (30th Overall). Look, we get Goff’s struggles. He’s a Rookie Quarterback who didn’t see the field through the first eight weeks of the term. If Fisher was hesitant to pull Case Keenum (of all people) in favor of the Rook, then that’s a telltale sign that he wasn’t ready yet. With that said, Gurley’s decline is unforgivable, as the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year has been surprisingly invisible throughout the first thirteen games; after running wild for 1,106 yards (4.8 Y/C) and ten touchdowns in as many games in 2015, and racking up five 100-yard games in the process, Gurley has been unrecognizable thus far, rushing for just 749 yards (3.3 Y/C) and five scores, having been relegated to fifty yards or less on five occasions in 2016. So what the hell happened to this kid, you ask? As usual, it’s a combination of many things, including predictably archaic play-calling, and a dearth of talent surrounding him to keep opponents from loading the box, but none more glaring than an abysmal Offensive Line. Simply put, this unit makes their beleaguered group of counterparts in Seattle look like a well-oiled machine. Left Tackle Greg Robinson (a former No. Two Overall Pick) has been a bonafide bust, while Right Tackle Rob Havenstein has been one of the most penalized Lineman in the league, with Left Guard Roger Saffold repaying the team’s hefty investment with habitually underwhelming performances. Though we doubt Interim Head Coach John Fassel will be Management’s choice moving forward, whomever accepts this job must make it their utmost top priority to fix this particular position group, which has completely neutered one the most promising young Tailbacks the league has seen in years, and will only keep Goff from reaching his potential (whatever that may be) at a moderate rate. There is a cold wind blowing these days in the City of Angels, and that wind is bringing CHANGE…
Meanwhile, the Seahawks (8-4-1, 1st in NFC West) may be prepping for another (hopefully) prolonged Playoff Run, but they should be thankful that their opponent tonight is in such disarray, for this team is certainly not without it’s issues that they need to figure out. Losers of two out of their last three outings, Seattle is coming off one of their worst losses of the Pete Carroll Era, a 38-10 hammering courtesy of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Quarterback Russell Wilson had quite possibly the worst game of his professional career, throwing a career-high FIVE interceptions in the blowout defeat. 2016 has not been kind to Wilson (64.6%, 260.2 Y/G, 13 TD, 10 INT) thus far, who despite keeping the Offense somewhat afloat has played through a litany of injuries including a High Ankle Sprain, a Sprained MCL, and a Strained Pectoral Muscle, all the while running for his life behind a woefully dysfunctional Offensive Line. We highlighted the issues of their counterparts earlier, but these guys have been arguably the most notorious group in the league. It may sound unconscionable in terms of building a roster, but due to the expenditures this team has allocated on Defense and at Quarterback, this particular unit is by far and away the cheapest in the NFL, and the only one to start not one, but TWO Undrafted Free Agents at Tackle. In essence, Carroll and Co. are getting exactly what they paid for, and that lack of investment has been (unsurprisingly) detrimental to the Offense as a whole. Through thirteen games, the Seahawks have averaged 21.1 points (22nd Overall) on 376.7 Total Yards (13th Overall), and up until a month ago, were dreadfully one-dimensional; prior to the healthy return of Thomas Rawls (293 yards, 2 TD), and the emergence of Rookie Tailback C.J. Prosise (who is out for a minimum of eight weeks with a shoulder injury), these guys could only muster 77.7 rushing yards through the first nine games of the campaign, but over the past four contests have done a complete about-face, running wild for 163.8 yards on the ground. In fact, Seattle had rushed for 100 or more yards on just two occasions through the first two months of the season, only to rack up nearly as many yards in November alone as they did in the previous two months altogether. At first glance, the struggling Rams may appear to be just what the doctor ordered, but in the words of Lee Corso, “Not So Fast…”; Wilson in particular has found their division foes a tough nut to crack, going 4-5 in nine career meetings (his most losses against any team in the league), throwing nine touchdowns to six interceptions. When these teams met all the way back in Week Two, he looked powerless, completing 22-of-35 passes for 254 yards, while sustaining a pair of sacks in the a 9-3 loss. However, though it’s highly unlikely that they will be tested in the same manner in which they were a week ago, the Seahawks’ vaunted Defense must find a way to seal the back end of the Legion of Boom, which was heavily exposed in the absence of All-Pro Free Safety Earl Thomas (46 TKl, 2 INT, 10 PD, 1 FR, 1 TD), who suffered a broken leg two weeks ago diving for an interception against the Panthers. Cornerback Richard Sherman (49 TKL, 4 INT, 10 PD, 1 FR) and Strong Safety Kam Chancellor (61 TKL, 2 INT, 9 PD, 1 FF) are as good as it gets at their respective positions, but the deep middle of the field is now a huge question mark without Thomas patrolling it. Aaron Rodgers torched them on 18-of-26 passing for 246 yards and three touchdowns in a little over three quarters of action, making this situation definitely worth monitoring moving forward.
Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 23, Rams 9