We get to preview the NFL playoff matchup between the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Los Angeles Rams, again? Did the NFC run out of better ideas (Checks standings and playoff seedings)? Yep, the NFC DID run out of better ideas. So Russell Wilson gets another crack at a Rams defense that did a fine job shutting him down in their regular-season meetings. Particularly the first one, in which Wilson threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble in a 23-16 loss.
Meanwhile, Rams head coach Sean McVay will decide whether to rush Jared Goff back from thumb surgery or hope for another lightning-in-a-bottle performance from scramblin’ rando John Wolford. The Rams quarterback intrigue has NFL Recap leaning towards Seattle in this NFL playoff preview. The Seahawks, however, won’t last long in the playoffs if they expect Wilson to perform as a one-man-band.
So, how will it all go down? Our preview is below and you can catch this Wild Card game on Saturday, January 9th at 4:40 PM ET on FOX.
Rams/Seahawks Playoff Preview: Russell Wilson will need some help
Seattle Seahawks’ season in a nutshell
Russell Wilson cooked early in the year but ran out of mesquite wood pellets for his smoker by midseason. The Seahawks defense started out awful but climbed toward adequacy when safety Jamal Adams returned from an early injury and edge rusher Carlos Dunlap arrived via trade.
The 2020 Seahawks look a lot like the 2017-19 Seahawks. They’re too reliant on Wilson to be the John Wick on offense and coast a little too much on fading Legion of Boom fumes on defense. Seattle is good enough to reach the playoffs, but not complete enough to do much once they arrive.
Los Angeles Rams’ season in a nutshell
Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win.
That’s Morse Code for “We’re also-rans with an unbelievably top-heavy payroll who reached the playoffs by sweeping the NFC East.”
Playoff Preview: Los Angeles Rams’ greatest strength
All-Pro Jalen Ramsey and rising star Darious Williams give the Rams the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. As a result, the Rams defense entered Week 17 ranked first in the NFL at stopping deep passes, per Football Outsiders. The Rams allowed just 723 yards and a 66.2 efficiency rating entering Week 17 on passes of 15-plus air yards per Sports Info Solution, both top-ranked figures.
Playoff Preview: Seattle Seahawks’ greatest strength
Wilson remains one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks under pressure. The Seahawks’ passer efficiency rating under pressure entering Week 17 was 89.7, the third-best in the NFL (“Under pressure” stats are always much weaker than stats when the quarterback has time to throw). As you have probably figured out over the past decade, there is no predicament that Wilson cannot Batman his way out of.
Seattle Seahawks’ biggest weakness
The Seahawks pass defense ranked 31st in the NFL at stopping passes over the middle and 27th at stopping short passes entering the final week of the season, per Football Outsiders. The Seahawks are among the most reluctant teams in the NFL to deploy a nickel/dime defense, and Adams blitzes far more often than most safeties.
As a result, Seahawks linebackers — most noticeably rookie Jordyn Brooks — are often saddled with difficult coverage assignments. That can be a big problem against McVay’s offense, which is designed to keep opponents in their base defense and force unfavorable coverage matchups.
Los Angeles Rams’ greatest weakness
Setting Goff’s status aside for the moment, the Rams special teams have been dreadful all season. They have gone through three kickers (current kicker Matt Gay is adequate at best), gave up a punt return touchdown, surrendered a blocked punt, and gotten little from their return game.
Per Jordan Rodrigue of The Athletic, McVay sounded like he was leaning toward giving Wolford another start after the former AAF standout caught the Arizona Cardinals off guard in Week 17. Maybe McVay just wants the Seahawks to waste time preparing for a scrambler. Maybe Goff has suffered a minor setback. Or maybe McVay has gone galactic megamind on us and thinks he has found his own Taysom Hill.
In any case, it’s hard to pick against Wilson when the opponent isn’t even sure who will start at quarterback. Look for a game more like Seattle’s 20-9 win over the Rams in Week 16 than Wilson’s Week 10 mini-slump. And remember, the goofier the game gets, the better Wilson gets.
Early Pick: Seattle Seahawks
(All stats via Sports Info Solutions unless otherwise cited)