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Seahawks vs Rams Preview: Highlighting 4 key matchups in the regular season finale

Los Angeles Rams v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks saw their 3-game losing streak come to an end on Sunday against the New York Jets in a game that Seattle had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Seattle largely dominated the game and the 23-6 scoreline showed it. They scored less than two minutes into the first quarter and never looked back from there, maintaining at least a 7-point lead throughout the affair. Seattle hopes that kind of dominance can carry over into this week as they take on the lowly Los Angeles Rams, who are 5-11 on the season. Despite Seattle’s relatively shaky play over the last month and a half, DraftKings Sportsbook still has Seattle as a 6.5-point favorite. This is encouraging to hear for Seahawks fans as Seattle enters a game, they have to win to have a shot at making the playoffs. If Seattle handles their business as DraftKings predicts and the Detroit Lions can beat the Green Bay Packers Sunday night, they’ll be able to sneak into the playoffs.

Baker Mayfield vs the Seattle secondary

Baker Mayfield is not lighting it up with the Rams or anything close to that. However, he is looking far better and more poised than he did early in the season with the Carolina Panthers. In his four games with LA he is averaging 175.8 yards a game to go along with a 66.99% completion percentage, 4 passing touchdowns, 1 interception and a 95.2 passer rating. In Carolina he averaged 187.6 passing yards a game, a 57.77% completion percentage, 6 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions and a 74.4 passer rating. It remains to be seen if the former Oklahoma Sooner will ever become a franchise quarterback, but at the minimum his time in Los Angeles has proven that he is capable of leading an offense.

The tweet above, which shows his entire two-minute drive against the Las Vegas Raiders in his first game with the Rams displays that. He led the Rams down the field with comfort despite being a member of the team for only a few days at that point, a feat not many quarterbacks in the league would be able to accomplish. Baker was able to pull that off because of how intelligent he is as a quarterback, so Seattle is going to have to get creative with how they disguise their coverages in order to try and throw the former first overall pick off.

The edge - The Seattle secondary

I do not think Mayfield is going to make any game altering mistakes in this one because I do not think Sean McVay is going to put him in that position. However, I also do not believe he is going to pick apart the Seattle secondary because he is not that level of quarterback, giving Seattle’s secondary the edge.

Cam Akers vs the front 7

After it appeared as if his career with the Rams was done earlier in the season when he had a falling out with the team, Cam Akers has become one of the team's best players. Over the past three weeks the Florida State alum has rushed for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns on 54 attempts. In addition to that he’s picked up an additional 74 receiving yards on six catches. The first video highlights something Akers lacked for the majority of the season, which was the ability to beat defenders to the edge for big gains. It is easy to forget that Akers is still only about a year and a half removed from tearing his Achilles, which is known to zap a players burst when they first return. The return of that burst has shown up on the stat sheet as wel,l as over his last three games he has five runs of 15 or more yards. In his previous 11 games he had one such run, and that run only went for 15 yards.

In addition to Akers finally getting his acceleration back he has also become a fantastic pass blocker. He missed a pass blocking assignment in the regular season opener against the Buffalo Bills which led to him being benched for the majority of the game. Although, he has since flipped that script which can be seen in the second video that showcases an amazing blitz pickup by Akers. He takes the oncoming rusher head on, and he directs them away from Mayfield without getting pushed back allowing Baker to keep his eyes downfield. Akers is routinely being tasked to take on additional blitzers in the passing game which is something he has very rarely been assigned in the past.

The edge - Akers

The loss of Jordyn Brooks is monumental for what was already a poor Seahawks run defense. Seattle was able to hold the Jets running game in check but with how poor New York’s rushing attack has been over their last three games it’s not a major achievement. The loss of Brooks, Akers’ significant improvement as a runner and pass blocker as well as head coach Sean McVay’s ability to scheme up the run game gives Akers the clear-cut advantage.

Rams' tight ends vs the Seahawks linebackers

Baker Mayfield is targeting his tight ends frequently. Since Baker’s arrival in week 14, Tyler Higbee leads the team in targets with 23 whilst backup tight end Brycen Hopkins has been targeted five times. Despite a drop-off in production from last season Higbee is still a top 10-12 tight end in the NFL, meaning Seattle is going to have to focus in on him especially in the red zone. The Western Kentucky alum has scored three times in his last four games and Mayfield has routinely looked for him when the Rams get inside their opponents’ 20. Higbee’s biggest impact as a receiver comes in the short and play-action passing game where he is tasked with running quick routes, which is highlighted by his 3.3-yard average depth of target this season.

The first video shows us this as the seven-year vet runs a flat route, makes the grab 2 yards down the field and is tasked with doing the rest after the catch. Higbee is capable of running routes down the field, although that is something we won’t be seeing with too much frequency. When we do see him targeted more than five yards past the line of scrimmage it will likely be similar to the second tweet. He’s lined up at the bottom of the screen as the “X” receiver and he runs a slant route with the target being seven yards down the field. In addition to his abilities as a pass catcher, Higbee is also a great run blocker and is crucial to the success of the Rams run game. McVay has no problem with assigning him to pick up an edge defender or having him take on a linebacker in space.

The edge - Rams tight ends

I do not think Higbee is going to post a major stat line in terms of yardage. But I think he is going to make a few key catches over the course of the game as well as making some big blocks to open up holes in the running game. I also would not rule out Brycen Hopkins making a 20+ yard catch in this one, which is something he has done in back-to-back games. The impact of Higbee and the potential of Hopkins gives the Rams tight ends the edge here.

Rams defensive line vs the Seattle offensive line

The injury bug has seen the Rams lose twp of their three opening night starters on the defensive line in A’Shawn Robinson and the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald. Their one remaining healthy starter, Greg Gaines, is one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the league. He does not post eye popping numbers, having registered only four sacks this season to go along with six tackles for loss and six QB hits. However, his impact is still noticeable throughout the course of a game. In the first tweet the former Washington Husky shows off a simple cross chop move that allows him to beat Damien Lewis with ease and get the QB hit on a certain former Seahawks quarterback.

In the second tweet we see Gaines rush up field but stay sound in keeping his eyes on Tyler Huntley. Once Huntley steps up to scramble, Gaines works inside to seal off the hole, preventing the quarterback from making a big play happen with his legs.

The edge - Seattle offensive line

Despite having Gaines who is a disruptive player, the Rams defensive line is simply too banged up to expect them to make a significant impact in this one. The Seahawks offensive line is not an elite unit by any means, but they are good enough to hold Gaines and co. in check this week giving them the edge.

Score prediction

Seahawks 24 - Rams 14

Last week recap

Quinnen Williams vs the IOL

Predicted edge - Williams - Actual edge - Williams

Williams did not dominate the stat line, nor did he take over the game in the manner in which he is capable. However, despite not registering a sack, the former third overall pick picked up 4 QB hits during the contest giving him the edge.

Jets linebackers vs the Seahawks running game

Predicted edge - Jets linebackers - Actual edge - running game

This one is a little more difficult than it seems on the surface. Seattle rushed for a strong 198 yards on 38 carries. However, Kenneth Walker lll had rushes of 60 yards and 11 yards early in the game. Besides those two totes he went for 63 yards on 21 carries, which isn’t great. DeeJay Dallas did contribute significantly with 43 yards on 7 carries. I give the edge to the running game, which rushed for more yards than any other Jets opponent this season.

Jets secondary vs the Seahawks wide receivers

Predicted edge - secondary - Actual edge - Jets secondary

Seattle’s three leaders in receiving yards on Sunday were tight ends or running backs. Tyler Lockett and Laquon Treadwell lead the receiver's room in yards with 15 apiece, giving the Jets secondary the clear edge.

Seahawks secondary vs the Jets receivers

Predicted edge - secondary - Actual edge - secondary

Tight end Tyler Conklin led the Jets in receiving yards with 80 on the day. Corey Davis led all receivers with 45 yards, with Braxton Berrios second with 24. The lack of receiver production combined with two interceptions gives the Seattle secondary the edge.

Score prediction

Jets 17 - Seahawks 13

Wrong score all around.

(All advanced stats cited provided by Pro Football Reference)