NFL 2019 (Week 5): Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
By Jesse Pierson
Special to Pro Football Guru
The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks have combined to win five of the last six NFC West championships. They have been the class of the division for several years, and they enter this Thursday night matchup with identical 3-1 records. In addition to winning games, these teams are putting up statistics to beat the band. Through four games, Seattle's Russell Wilson leads the NFL in completion percentage (72.9), teammate Bobby Wagner is third in tackles (45), Rams receiver Cooper Kupp is second in receiving yards (388), and longtime Packer Clay Matthews is fourth in sacks (5.0). On paper, the only negative aspect of this game is that it starts at 5:20 pm for local fans in the Pacific Time Zone. Otherwise, this should be a fun one.
Rams: Despite their 3-1 record, there is some concern that Los Angeles' dynamic offense has been “figured out.” The 2018 Rams averaged just under 35 points in their first 12 games until Chicago's then-defensive coordinator Vic Fangio held them to a measly six points with his 6-1 front (6 down linemen and 1 linebacker), which effectively shut down the running game and provided pressure on Jared Goff at the same time. The New England Patriots mimicked this approach in their Super Bowl victory, and the Rams have only scored above 34.9 points (their pre-Bears average) once this season: Their 55-40 home loss to Tampa Bay last week. Fortunately for Sean McVay, not every team features the Bears' and Patriots' talent on defense. However, they need to show that they have solved the 6-1 puzzle, or it will continue to plague them. With Wagner, K.J. Wright, Jadeveon Clowney, and Poona Ford in the mix, Seattle's front seven is every bit as formidable as Chicago or New England. L.A will need to get Todd Gurley going against the Seahawks' sixth-ranked run defense if they hope to come out on top.
Seahawks: Brian Schottenheimer is in his second year as the offensive coordinator in Seattle, and he has been charged with relieving pressure off of do-everything quarterback Russell Wilson. Since Marshawn Lynch left town after the 2015 season, Wilson has lacked a complementary superstar that opposing defenses have to account for. Running back Chris Carson emerged as a workhorse last season, and he has vastly outplayed 2018 first round pick, Rashaad Penny. There is optimism that rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf will become the passing game's primary target, though he is still learning the ropes. Tight end Will Dissly has also proven to be Wilson's favorite red zone weapon, hauling in four touchdown receptions so far. One potential wrench in the offensive machine is the health of left tackle Duane Brown, who is listed as questionable. Wilson has lacked adequate protection for the majority of his career so keeping him upright is the top priority for Schottenheimer and the offensive staff.
Prediction: This plays out as one of the most competitive, exciting, back-and-forth affairs of the young season. McVay and Goff utilize a multitude of screens in lieu of direct runs with Gurley, which forces the Seahawks defense to expend energy chasing plays down. Wilson answers nearly every challenge, but Aaron Donald finally has his breakout game to win a close one for the visitors.
Los Angeles Rams 31, Seattle Seahawks 28
Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.