It’s the Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving, and that means two things. The first is that the traffic is likely to be horrific this evening, and the second is that the Seattle Seahawks are set to play two games against division rivals in five days next week. The first of those games will be Sunday at SoFi Stadium, where the Hawks will take on the Los Angeles Rams with a chance to avenge the season opening 30-13 defeat.
As always, Field Gulls has partnered up with Turf Show Times to preview the game, with Evan Craig sharing his answers to the five questions presented to him. Thus, without wasting any further time, here are the questions and the answers.
1. The Rams looked unstoppable in Week 1 as they were destroying the Seahawks. What has happened since that things have gone so far off the rails?
Well after the opener I decided to get a “Rams 2024 Super Bowl Champions” tattoo. Turns out that decision didn’t exactly age very well. Guess that’s what I deserve for having any hope at all.
As for on the field action, the Rams were very competitive through the first seven weeks. LA was in every single game which was no surprise to me as I was expecting them to give every opponent their all despite their young roster. Then, the Rams lost to the Steelers and I felt that sucked the air out of what appeared to be a somewhat promising campaign. It was such a winnable matchup and the team really had no excuse for letting a painfully mediocre Steelers squad slip by them at home. Whatever progress the Rams made as they got to 3-3 entering that game evaporated in the second half and they haven’t recovered.
Their missed opportunity snowballed into LA’s current three-game losing streak. The rollercoaster ride of the 2023 Rams officially went off the tracks in back-to-back blowouts to the Cowboys and Packers. Dallas imposed their will on what was a decent defense at the time. The secondary was gashed and that loss felt like all their recent defeats to the 49ers. LA proved they don’t have the physicality to match top teams in the NFC just yet and it likely isn’t coming anytime soon.
2. In the season opener the running backs for the Rams were Cam Akers and Kyren Williams, but in the last game before the bye the Rams were down to Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson due to injuries. What should Seahawks fans expect to see at the running back position for Los Angeles Sunday?
Seahawks fans should expect Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson to carry the load for another week as Kyren Williams recovers from an ankle injury. Williams is on pace to return in Week 12 against the Cardinals so Seattle fans should breathe a sigh of relief not to see the explosive second-year playmaker take the field. Freeman and Henderson have steadied the ship well in Williams’ absence. I feel confident in both players getting double-digit carries to help take the pressure off Matthew Stafford as he works his way back from an injury of his own.
I’ve also been anxious to see rookie Zach Evans take the field. Given the injuries to Williams and RB2 Ronnie Rivers, this would’ve been the perfect time for McVay to give him a shot to see what he brings to the offense. Evans only has four carries on the season and didn’t get any opportunities until injuries started piling up. It really says something about how Evans has failed to impress the coaching staff if he’s not seeing playing time despite all the injuries. He likely won’t be active again this week but it’s worth monitoring to see if he sees the field at all before Williams returns.
3. In Week 1 you mentioned Puka Nacua as someone you were excited about in the passing game, and, well, the box score certainly shows your excitement was well placed. What should the Seahawks expect from the Rams aerial attack with both Nacua and Kupp healthy, but Stafford coming back from a thumb injury?
Hopefully the Rams will actually see a quality game from both players at the same time, a rarity since Cooper Kupp made his season debut against the Eagles. Kupp has struggled in his last three games which might have contributed to the offense turning stagnant in recent weeks. For Kupp to regain his All-Pro form, Stafford has to rely on his security blanket and continue feeding him. Eventually, Kupp will make enough plays to put his funk behind him. Puka Nacua has been held under 50 receiving yards in three of his last four games. Of course that crappy Green Bay game didn’t help him there. Thanks for absolutely nothing Brett Rypien! I will say the same thing about Puka that I said about Kupp: Stafford needs to feed his top pass catchers as they give LA the best chance to win. The Rams were able to push the ball downfield with ease in Week 1 and despite Stafford’s thumb, that approach shouldn’t change this time around.
4. Fans recognize the big names on the roster for this division matchup, but who is someone on either offense or defense that Seattle fans may not be familiar with who could have an impact on the outcome of the game?
Rookie linebacker Byron Young out of Tennessee has been very underrated all season and he’s about to become a household name in Los Angeles. Young is second on the team in sacks behind Aaron Donald and leads LA with 14 QB hits, just one ahead of Donald. He has insane closing speed and has blasted any realistic expectations of him as a Round 3 rookie out of the water. The Tennessee product is currently on pace for 74 tackles and 9.5 sacks. It’s a shame Young doesn’t receive the same attention as Jalen Carter or Will Anderson Jr. and it makes zero sense. Young has been the best first-year pass rusher from the 2023 NFL Draft and the fact he isn’t mentioned in DROY honors is flat-out disrespectful. Anyone who has watched him play this season can tell he’s a star in the making.
5. What’s your prediction for the outcome of the game, and will it be high scoring enough that fans should bet the over (currently at 46)?
This is a tough game to predict as I don’t know which Rams team will show up in this game. LA is coming out of their bye week which should have given them enough time to rest up, especially Stafford and his thumb. Truthfully if Stafford is able to go with relatively few limitations, I expect the Rams to hang around in this one. McVay should have his team ready to go and put together a strong effort as they try to end their three-game losing streak.
If I was betting on this matchup, I would bet the over. In their last two games, LA has shown lapses on defense that they’ve avoided for the most part early in the season. Seattle’s defense has been carved up by the Ravens and Commanders in back-to-back weeks so I like the Rams’ chances of pushing the ball downfield early and often. McVay’s offense was successful with that approach in the opener and I’m not expecting a change this week.
Give me the Rams 27-24 in a game that’ll save their faint playoff hopes for another week at the very least.