It is Week 18 and the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams will face off Sunday afternoon in a game that may or may not mean anything in the grand scheme of things for the 2023 NFL season. Obviously, the Hawks would love to crush a hated division rival who has had their number for the past six seasons since the hiring of Sean McVay. However, even a win and a 9-8 record during a rebuilding year won’t guarantee the team a postseason spot since it’s the Green Bay Packers who control their own destiny during Sunday Night Football, which won’t even kickoff until after the Seahawks have finished their game.
In any case, joining Field Gulls from Turf Show Times to preview the regular season finale against the five-win Rams is Evan Craig. The last two times these teams faced off, it was a thriller that went down to the wire, with the Hawks coming away victorious. That victory has set things up for the Seahawks to potentially sweep the season series against Los Angeles for the first time since 2013. Looking forward to that is getting ahead of things, though, so without wasting any further time, here are the answers to the questions posed of Evan this week.
1. It has certainly been a much more disappointing season for the Rams than most fans imagined. What have been the positive takeaways for the team this year heading into the offseason?
This has been the year from hell but some teams have had it worse. That perspective has been the only thing keeping me sane during such a bad year. Something positive that has stood out to me has been the fight in this team each and every week. They could have rolled over and died like the Broncos on Christmas day but they didn’t. (I realize I made fun of Denver a lot the last time around but it’s just too easy.) Most of Rams faithful have been frustrated with Sean McVay’s play calling in 2022 which is fair. He hasn’t coached like a super genius like he’s been touted to be and that is exactly what this team needed. LA needed to be humbled to show that this year wasn’t going to be a cakewalk they were expecting it to be. I’ll admit I was on that Super Bowl high myself for a while there but who could blame me? You 12s have been there before so you get it. That fat ass slice of humble pie should hopefully make the Rams realize their flaws and actually do something to correct them instead of slapping a band-aid over the issue. McVay has kept the locker room together despite all the injuries and poor play. That will matter in the long run if he doesn’t step away.
Another positive stemming from the injury bug has been evaluating young players. Cam Akers has been an incredibly frustrating player to figure out. One week he’d look promising and the next you’d figure he was blind with the way he was choosing his running lanes. Fans were hoping he would be cut or traded around midseason and instead he’s winning them fantasy championships. It’s hard to stay mad at a player like that. What he’s shown is the ability to be a workhorse back with renewed confidence that we haven’t seen since his rookie year. I think the 12s remember a little something about a rookie Cam in a certain Wild Card matchup. We’ve also seen that Tutu Atwell has potential if utilized properly. McVay is still figuring out where to put him but his big play abilities speak for themselves. I remember the days when fans where labeling him a bust after his rookie year. Those chants have calmed down considerably and I’m excited to see what might be in store for him next season.
2. Lot of talk from Seahawks fan that Bobby Wagner could be a cap casualty for a second straight offseason. What’s the feeling among Rams fans regarding how Wagner played this season, and would they rather release him and move on, or do you think it’s possible they restructure his contract and push some of his 2023 cap hit into the future?
Bobby Wagner has probably been the most consistent player on the team besides Cooper Kupp when he was healthy. He hasn’t been perfect of course but he’s brought leadership and stability to a position that has been a weak spot since McVay was hired. Wagner has mentored second-year linebacker Ernest Jones which again is a sign of the leadership he has given the team all throughout his brief tenure with the Rams. You just don’t let a player like that walk. LA saw what a mistake it was for Seattle to let him go and you’d better believe they wouldn’t do it themselves. My bet is that they restructure his contract to give him another chance at a playoff run. At this point in his career, he likely won’t get another major contract offer even if he’s proven age hasn’t slowed him down just yet. I have a hard time seeing the Rams let Wagner go off on a sour note.
3. As the Rams get set to enter the offseason, they are, once again, looking at a tight cap picture for 2023. Who are some of the bigger names on the roster who might be let go or restructured in order to give the Rams the operational cap space they need in 2023?
If they’re smart, the Rams have to drop Allen Robinson. Just admit defeat on that signing and move on. He’s been one of the worst free agent signings this offseason and simply didn’t seem all that comfortable in the offense. McVay had a difficult time scheming targets for him along with the fact that Robinson appears washed. The sooner LA can make this happen, the better off they’ll be. I could also see Matthew Stafford’s contract being restructured as well. He signed a big extension this past offseason yet he’s been injured for a good chunk of this season. Stafford wants to win and he appears to be the kind of player to do what he can to make that happen. He’ll take a Tom Brady discount if you will. I just hope Stafford’s comes with less bitching and quality tablet insurance.
4. What are the areas of biggest need for the Rams to return to competitiveness in 2023? Or did they go all in one time too many, and it’s now time to start tearing it down and rebuilding?
While this season has been a massive letdown, there’s still too much talent on this team to even consider tearing it all down and starting over. Aaron Donald would not like that very much and you won’t like him when he’s angry. I wouldn’t be surprised if LA makes another blockbuster move this offseason just to get back to respectability. It would be out of character if they didn’t. What the Rams need is to reload rather than rebuild. They must address the offensive line first and foremost or nothing else they do will matter. Matthew Stafford plays a whole heck of a lot better when he’s standing upright. How else will he be able to throw the most gorgeously boneheaded interceptions you’ve ever seen while he’s planted on the turf? A complete overhaul of that unit similar to what the Chiefs did after getting destroyed by the Bucs in the Super Bowl is a move they have to make. I originally felt running back would also be a need but I’m believing more and more in Cam Akers by the week. Get him a halfway decent line and he might become the stud LA felt they were getting when they drafted him. Defensively, edge rusher aside from Donald is also an area of need. Leonard Floyd has come on as of late but the position lacks the punch that it did a year ago. Teams have been keying in on AD and had reasonable success as there was no one consistent enough to be the Robin to his Batman.
5. What’s your prediction for the game? The Seahawks are solid favorites, but it was just weeks ago that they needed a last minute touchdown to defeat this same Rams team. Will the Hawks be able to cover, or will the Rams keep it close again?
Much as the Rams have played all season long regardless of injuries, they will play tough as they attempt to end a disappointing year on a high note. What better way to end the season than with a win over a Seahawks team seeking to make the playoffs? Since it appears I won’t be getting a Rams repeat for Christmas I guess that would have to do. Seattle won’t be an easy road trip for LA but I expect no matter the venue this will be a close battle throughout. The young Seahawks will be all hyped up with a playoff trip on the line and I believe the Rams will capitalize on miscues when the opportunities present themselves. Sorry LA if I jinxed you here but give me the Rams 20-17.
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