The Seattle Seahawks haven’t won a season series against the Los Angeles Rams since the 2013 season, when the Rams were still in St. Louis and the Seahawks were on their way to a Super Bowl victory. This season they’ve split the regular season head-to-head but for the first time since 2004, they’ll meet one more time in the playoffs.
Seattle’s only home playoff defeat at Lumen Field came against the Rams, so a little payback for that cursed drop-heavy year would be nice. While both teams are pretty healthy entering Saturday’s wild card showdown, there’s no word on whether we’ll see Jared Goff back from his broken thumb or if John Wolford gets another start.
For the third and last time this season, here’s 5 Qs and 5 As with Turf Show Times managing editor Kenneth Arthur. Here are his thoughts on John Wolford vs. Jared Goff, the Rams’ vaunted defense, and more.
1.) John Wolford didn’t lead the Rams to a touchdown but he didn’t seem out of place and he was quite mobile. Do you see him as a better option for the Rams than Jared Goff given Goff’s broken thumb?
A: No. As poorly as Goff has played for the majority of this season, I believe the players around him have been picked to suit his strengths and to hide his weaknesses, as best as possible. Wolford had an interesting debut but it didn’t seem like he was as good as a fit for this personnel. He’s a much different player than Goff, so I think that’s a big reason that the offensive line and Cam Akers played much worse than usual. There is a different Week 17 result (Rams 18, Cardinals 7) if we’re talking about a healthy Kyler Murray. I’ve been critical of Goff for the majority of his career but I don’t believe that asking a veteran offense to shift what they’ve been working on for months, and in some cases years, at the turn of the playoffs is the right way to go. People say that the Seahawks might have a harder time to gameplan by not knowing who the Rams starter will be, but I expect they expect it to be Wolford. And I suspect that they have some ideas on how to stop a college-style spread offense that couldn’t effectively run the ball last week. However, the return of Andrew Whitworth and Cooper Kupp to the offense could have an impact that I’ve overlooked. I think that if there’s a chance that Goff can make the majority of his throws, extraordinary pain or not, Sean McVay will put him out there. Sharing the position this weekend would not be surprising.
2.) Given the potential seeding possibilities entering Week 17, do you think the Seahawks are the most favorable matchup for the Rams (compared to playing the Packers or Saints if other results had broken differently)?
A: Yes, 100%. I respect Seattle as a contender to win the Super Bowl because I think their defense is one of the three best in the NFC playoffs (with Rams, Saints) and Russell Wilson is as capable to win a big game as any other quarterback in the NFL. What I’m skeptical of is whether or not they can go 3-0 against their toughest division rival and the top two teams in the division, with the latter two being on the road. Of course, there’s a chance that the Seahawks don’t have to play all three of those teams and maybe they even host a playoff game, but I’m making that point as an answer to your question. Essentially, I don’t think that the Rams and Seahawks are as different as pecan pie and a Starship Troopers laserdisc. They’re more like a Denny’s gift card and a Groupon; two fish in the same lake. They may have different reasons and philosophies and excuses for it, but both teams have great defenses and sputtering offenses and hella good punters.
There are plenty of reasons to expect Seattle to win this game because they do have an advantage at quarterback, they’re at home, they have a great run defense and I could see LA missing their dunks and airballing some threes. But then I also know what kind of defense the Rams are flying up there and I could see the Sonics (Editor’s note from an increasingly dissatisfied Blazers fan: Bring back the Sonics!) missing their dunks and airballing their threes and getting blocked at the rim. Aaron Donald has won this matchup more times than not. Sean McVay has won this matchup more times than not. I expect it to be low scoring and close. The Packers and Saints both had games this season where they asserted how much more dominant they were than lesser teams. Seattle doesn’t do that like they used to, so I think the Rams should prefer this matchup over those other two. The issue for either the Seahawks or Rams after this weekend is, “Will they be able to win the next one?”
3.) Andrew Whitworth is expected to return this weekend after injuring his knee in the first Seahawks game. Will he have a bigger impact in the running game or in pass protection?
A: The bigger impact in the run game and pass protection will be the situation at quarterback with Goff and Wolford. If Goff starts, I believe that LA will have an easier time running the ball and protecting the quarterback. Think about how much harder it has been for the Seahawks offensive lines in the past to block for a mobile quarterback like Wilson, who extends plays and sometimes runs into linemen and constantly moves the pocket. Well, that’s something Seattle is trained to do and by now, they’ve learned better how to do that. The Rams offensive linemen are not trained to block for a quarterback like Wilson or Wolford. Not with 10 days of practice. You could tell the line was out of rhythm and having issues with false starts and protection.
Wolford created some plays out of the fray, but it would be better to not have a fray at all. Cam Akers ran into a stacked box on 57% of his carries, most in the NFL in Week 17. That aligns with the issues that LA has had running out of the shotgun (Wolford’s main area of comfort) since 2018, when they ranked dead last in YPC out of shotgun. That was with Todd Gurley. So I think that Whitworth’s return will definitely be beneficial for everyone if Wolford starts, because at least they’ll have a fringe Hall of Famer out there calling some shots and directing some of the play. But I’m not even sure Whitworth is fully comfortable blocking in the necessary scheme for Wolford. I can’t say for sure how he’d play or what he’d help with because this isn’t the usual situation for him.
4.) This Rams defense pretty much looks impossible to style on and they’ve only gotten better as the season has progressed. Are there any weaknesses on that side of the ball? (Player or play they’re susceptible to, etc.)
A: I can’t think of any players who are weaknesses, only games where players definitely struggled. But that can and does happen to any player. In the wrong type of matchups, cornerback Troy Hill’s had some rough games. Then he’s also had some games where he may have been the difference in the outcome. Leonard Floyd disappears a lot, but has five sacks in two games against Seattle so I’ll let him be. Inside linebackers Troy Reeder, Micah Kiser (might return after missing a lot of time) and Kenny Young have their ups and downs. The Rams didn’t have Michael Brockers last week but will be returning him this week and he’s had a strong season. I guess that’s not a weakness. More of a strength. There are probably some vulnerabilities with the linebackers and the middle of the field, there’ve been a lot of injuries there, but it’s also proven to be less consequential because the secondary and Donald are so fantastic. I think Donald and Jalen Ramsey are playing the best football of their careers because they’re able to play off of each other and everyone else is more comfortable getting to play in between them and free safety John Johnson.
5.) I won’t put you on the spot for a prediction so instead tell me what’s the one way you see the Rams winning this game, and the one way you see the Seahawks winning?
A: I’ve seen Wilson panic a few more times than usual this season and the Rams defense is strong enough to induce a little terror. They’ve never feared Wilson, they seem to live for the matchup. As you know, Seattle hasn’t done well with multiple turnovers. This is Rams-Seahawks, so seeing something unusual is never unusual. Rams forcing a couple of errors is one way they could win. And I believe that if the Rams can’t run the ball effectively, they’ll settle for field goals instead of touchdowns and that won’t be enough.
Thanks again to Kenneth for answering these questions! You can read my answers over at TST when the article is posted. I’ll be joining Kenneth for a post-game reaction to Seahawks vs. Rams that you can watch on Saturday night.