The Los Angeles Rams have clinched the NFC West. It’s been in the bag for two weeks now. They’re going to the playoffs.
But which version of them will show up in the postseason — the battering... ram of a team we saw early on, or the squad that’s run a minus-4 point differential since Halloween? Yes, they’ve been outscored in all of November and December combined.
For fun, since the Seahawks are playing not-terrible football right now and the Rams are playing maybe-terrible football at some key positions, I decided to compare the rivals’ statistical performance, all quick-like. Just for the month. Since the playoffs are right around the corner and all.
Examining some flawed stat like yards per carry and coming to a conclusion one way or another is the worst kind of cherry picking. We need much more data than a single point. A look across at 13 statistical measures (not 12) will show what any spectator had to notice, after watching the Rams lose in Chicago and then at home on Sunday Night Football: they’re not the juggernaut they were in the sunny days of September and October.
There are phases where the Seahawks are clearly outplaying the Rams; can we vault into a hope-raft of those trends perpetuating themselves into the postseason, where the teams could well meet?
- Seahawks 2-1 / Rams 1-2
Advantage: Seattle? Not so quick. LA has faced teams with a combined 18-18 record at the time; Seattle’s foes were 11-24-1, having met the Niners twice. Also, the Rams had two road games to the Seahawks’ one.
Still, if it can be helped, you’d rather not be on a two-game losing streak in December, as the Rams are.
- Seahawks +38 / Rams -2
Advantage: Seattle, definitively.
Los Angeles’ losses in Chicago and to Philadelphia offset a 14-point win in Detroit during Week 13. Interestingly, the Seahawks also lost in Chicago by single digits and won by 14 in Detroit. Difference is, Seattle took care of its NFC East opponent (Dallas) handily at home in September.
VARIOUS TEAM OFFENSIVE STUFF
- Seahawks 9 TD / Rams 5 TD
LA isn’t getting scores through the air anymore; four of its five touchdowns in the last three weeks have come through Gurley on the ground. Seattle’s moving the ball every which way, with a defensive touchdown to boot. The Bobby Wagner naptime TD.
- Seahawks 58 first downs / Rams 61 first downs
- Seahawks 5.4 yards per play / Rams 4.9 yards per play
Half a yard per play is a fairly sizeable advantage.
- Seahawks 990 total yards / Rams 971 total yards.
Total yardage isn’t a great stat on its own. But when two offenses are generating relatively the same amount of yardage and first downs, over three games, it’s fair to call their performance somewhat even. Depending on touchdowns and giveaways of course, which both favor Seattle. Speaking of:
- Seahawks 1, differential +4 / Rams 9, differential -3
LA has a problem with ball security this month. It’s a big problem. It’s why they lost their games. Single-handedly, Jared Goff has — well, let’s get to that guy.
- Seahawks 44-68-494-6-1 / Rams 72-132-726-1-7
Russell Wilson has the edge in completion percentage (64.7 to 54.5) and yards per attempt (7.3 to 5.5). In TDs and INTs, it’s not close. Goff has been terrible. In his defense, it was cold that one week, sort of.
Possibly the most amusing INT of the season pic.twitter.com/wrHw5w57KP— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) December 17, 2018
Seriously, one TD and seven picks in December for Goff? Wison has six picks — all season.
Clear Disadvantage: Rams
RB PERFORMANCE (TOTAL)
- Seahawks 86-442-5.1-3 / Rams 52-239-4.6-4
I’d prefer to use success rate but that’s a lot of research. What the composite rushing numbers for the Rams can tell me, is, they’re not having any more success overall than the Seahawks. Todd Gurley’s MVP case is about to be dismissed. Or maybe it’s Chris Carson who should be getting more recognition.
VARIOUS TEAM DEFENSIVE STUFF
- Seahawks allowing 8.2 Y/A and 3.4 Y/C / Rams allowing 6.6 Y/A and 4.5 Y/C
The pass defense for Seattle has been opportunistic at best and swiss cheesy at worst. But the run D has shown up. The reverse is somewhat true for LA, which liminted Matt Stafford, Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles through the air but was not stout on the ground.
- Seahawks allowing 16.3 ppg / Rams allowing 20.7 ppg
You’d prefer to face Mullens-Cousins-Mullens over any three-game stretch, but remember that 14 points came in garbage time against Seattle and seven more on a kickoff return, so the more accurate discrepancy here is 9.3 to 20.7 ppg.
- Seahawks with 8 sacks / Rams with 5 sacks
Thought the storied LA defensive line might make a better showing here, but.
By the way, we’re still looking for a category where the Rams are outdoing the Seahawks. Besides pass defense.
- Seahawks with 2.74 expected points / Rams with -0.52 expected points
Playoff games turn on plays like a big kick return, a missed field goal, a muffed punt. Both teams can and have produces all three of those outcomes. Seattle just happens to limit the bad plays better than LA.
Sean McVay didn’t know his team could lose two games in a row when it counted. Now he does. There’s no need to be surprised, Coach. You’re struggling. It happens to everyone.
I mean, even the Super Bowl XLVIII champs lost three times. But to add a final disclaimer: Arbitrary endpoints are shit. Originally I’d planned on this post being a two-game comparison. The results were so tilted to ward the Seahawks that I expanded the sample to all of December. To help the Rams look better. It’s called compassion. Look it up.
Seriously, though, if you go back another few weeks, both teams are 4-2 in their last six games. The Rams are still getting outscored, Goff is still sloppier than Wilson, both defenses are still flawed, and all that separates them is a play or two in the game they faced off.
Bodes well for a playoff matchup that could come down to the wire, again.