The start of the NFL season is finally almost here after a long, long off-season. The Seattle Seahawks are set to kick off their season versus the Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field. Thanks to a strong off-season by the Seahawks and a shaky few months for the Rams, Geno Smith and company are currently 5.5 point favorites on DraftKings Sportsbook. Because of a true lack of depth for the Rams, if they are to stand a chance, they will have to win four key battles, all of which we will review down below.
Cam Akers vs Seattle’s front 7
Cam Akers with probably the best blitz pickup block I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/jPaPGGTo7X— Brian Shacochis (aka Shack, aka Shacknado) (@DynastyTools) January 1, 2023
It will be interesting to see how Cam Akers gets valued in the offseason for Dynasty— Jeremy (@PopesFFH) January 6, 2023
WK1-12 (9g): RB67 35.2 PPR points (3.9 p/g)
WK13-17: RB5 90.3 PPR points (18.1 p/g)
Very drastic splits#FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/hHCyk9henT
Cam Akers tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the 2021 season and thanks to that injury and some problems with Sean McVay and the organization, he got off to a dreadful start. However, from Week 13 through the end of the season, he looked like the Cam Akers of old, averaging 4.92 yards per carry in addition to 11 receptions for 99 yards. As a runner Cam Akers finally showed the explosion to beat defenders to the outside as highlighted in the final two plays, an ability he had shown prior to his injury. The Rams are an outside zone running scheme heavy team so having that capability to get the outside is imperative to be used in their offense.
The area that Akers improved the most though over the course of the season was his pass blocking. In the early part of the season he was simply unusable on passing downs because of his shortcomings as a blocker. He missed a multitude of assignments and couldn’t stand up to backers, which caused him to be benched by McVay. After he came back, it was a completely different story which we can see on the first video. There are not many backs in the league that would be able to come off of a play-action pass and redirect a blitzer who is coming in that hot, but Akers is able to. If he is able to continue that success in that passing game, look for Akers to be on the field even more on Sunday.
The edge - Cam Akers - If, and it’s a big if, this game can stay close I think Cam Akers is going to have a massive day. In his 38 carries against the Seahawks last season he averaged 4.3 yards per carry, which is a relatively pedestrian number. However, he averaged 5 YPC and went over 100 yards in their second meeting, which was the final game of last season. Seattle had their fair share of problems stopping the run last season and I think that continues into the early part of this season.
Aaron Donald vs Seattle’s interior offensive line
Is there much that needs to be said about Aaron Donald? Arguably the greatest defensive player since Lawrence Taylor, the 32-year-old has tormented Seattle in his 17 career games against them, totaling 15 sacks. Donald did show cracks in the armor last year though totaling just five sacks in his 11 games played, before shutting down for the season with injury. It’s still Aaron Donald though and his presence alone changes how teams attack the Rams. We can see in both videos just how impactful he can be as a pass rusher as he has a tool chest full of moves. On the first play, Donald hits the Buffalo Bills right guard with a rapid push-and-pull move and is able to get to Josh Allen before he even knows what happened. Then on the second play he attacks the Cincinnati Bengals left guard with a quick swipe move before coming up with the Super Bowl clinching pressure. If the likes of Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes are not on top of their game come Sunday, Donald is going to feast.
The edge - Aaron Donald - It is plausible that Donald starts a bit slow Sunday coming off last season’s injury. Although, there are a handful of offensive linemen who would have the edge on Donald at even 75%. I don’t think Donald gets a sack but I do think he picks up two tackles for a loss and a few pressures.
DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett vs the Rams secondary
DK Metcalf x Jeff Okudah pic.twitter.com/vgRmgZaRBR— Rapinas do Mar (Cortes) (@cortesrapinas) October 2, 2022
The Metcalf/Lockett duo is coming off of dual 1,000-yard seasons for the second time in the last three years. They’re going up against a Rams secondary that was 21st in yards allowed per game last season and traded Jalen Ramsey in addition to losing starting safety Taylor Rapp in free agency. The combination of Metcalf and Lockett put up a combined 349 yards on a combined 21 catches in their two games against that LA secondary. Metcalf had his struggles against Ramsey who’s now playing for the Miami Dolphins, but he dominated their new starter Derion Kendrick which we see on the first play. Kendrick got caught flat footed and Metcalf was able to blow right by him, creating multiple yards of separation. Both plays are vertical routes by Metcalf because I believe Seattle is going to take multiple deep shots to Metcalf in an attempt to take advantage of a suspect Rams secondary.
The edge - DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett - Metcalf was up and down against the Rams last season posting totals of 126 and 40 yards, but Jalen Ramsey played in both games. Against a secondary led by Derion Kendrick, Metcalf had the upper hand, Lockett is just icing on the cake.
Seahawks run game vs the Rams front 7
Outside of two explosive 30 yard runs by Kenneth Walker lll and DeeJay Dallas the Seahawks really struggled to move the ball on the ground against the Rams last season. If you eliminate those two runs, Seattle running backs averaged just 3.46 yards a carry in their two meetings last season. Walker lll was one of the better backs in football last year averaging 4.6 yards per carry which was 11th in the NFL despite not being a Week 1 starter and running behind an OL that struggled to consistently create rush lanes. He made his money on patient inside zone running plays like the two posted above, which is how the Seattle rushing game will attack the questionable Rams interior front. Zach Charbonnet’s Week 1 role is unclear, but he should be able to make some impact for the Seahawks on Sunday.
The edge - Seahawks run game - Kenneth Walker’s efficiency is a massive question mark and will likely be prevalent throughout the course of his career. However, the Rams front 7 leaves a lot to be desired after the loss of Bobby Wagner and others in the off-season. The only way I can see the Seahawks run game struggling is if they get in their own way.
Prediction - Seahawks 27, Rams 20