2020 NFL wild card preview: Rams vs. Seahawks

NFC West foes will clash Saturday afternoon in a wild card matchup that sees two teams reeling with injuries and poor performance.

The Los Angeles Rams return to the playoffs for a third time in four years after failing to reach the postseason last year. Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks reached the postseason for the ninth time in 11 years and won the division for the first time since 2016 and the fifth time since 2010. This is the third time these two teams will square off this season as the Rams beat the Seahawks 23-16 in Week 10 and two weeks ago, Seattle won at home 20-9 to clinch the NFC West title.

Offense:

Through the first half of the season, Seattle’s offense clicked on all cylinders. The fewest points they scored in the first eight games was 27 in a close win against the Minnesota Vikings. Even when the defense struggled, the offense, thanks to future Hall of Fame quarterback Russell Wilson, did enough to carry Seattle to a 6-2 record.

However, a loss to the Buffalo Bills seemed to have taken a lot of the offensive efforts away from Seattle. The defense allowed 44 points after the team scored 34 and the Seahawks’ offense began to fade. The Seahawks scored more than 30 points only once over their final eight games and only once during that stretch did a receiver gain over 100 yards in a game. Last year, the Seahawks came into the postseason with their top three running backs all out due to injury. This year, they will have the services of running back Chirs Carson, who returned from injury to play the final six games, and Carlos Hyde.

The Rams’ biggest question mark is who will be the starting quarterback against the Seahawks on Saturday? Jared Goff suffered a broken thumb in the loss two weeks ago, forcing former AAF quarterback John Wolford to start in last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. Whoever the starter is will have wide receiver Cooper Kupp return after missing last week’s game due to a positive COVID-19. Rookie running back Cam Akers will look to provide the Rams a legit running game after missing the game at Seattle two weeks ago. The Rams’ offense was inconsistent this season, lighting up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one week and losing to the New York Jets another week, so time will tell which offense shows up on Saturday.

Defense

The defensive side of the ball is where these two teams shine. The Rams, who bolster two NFL superstars in cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, are the NFL’s top-ranked total and pass defense. Linebacker Leonard Floyd has been a gem for the defense this season, achieving 10.5 sacks this season after signing a one-year contract with the Rams this offseason. Cornerback Darious Williams has established himself as the number-two corner with four interceptions this season and 14 pass deflections. Williams had a touchdown-saving deflection and two interceptions in the Rams’ Week 10 win over the Seahawks.

The difference between the Seahawks’ defensive performance during the first and second half of the season was night and day. In their first eight games, the Seahawks allowed 25 points or more in seven of their first eight games while during their final eight games, the Seahawks allowed more than 20 points only twice. Trade deadline acquisition Carlos Dunlap elevated the pass rush with five sacks and safety Jamal Adams, who the Seahawks acquired this past offseason, broke the all-time NFL record for most sacks by a secondary member with 9.5 sacks.

Prediction

This will be a defensive battle and the lowest-scoring game during wild-card weekend. Points will come at a premium and with this, the game will come down to whichever quarterback can make the biggest plays to lead their team to a victory. Regardless if it’s Goff or Wolford starting for the Rams, Wilson is the better quarterback and will make several huge plays to lead the Seahawks to the victory.

Score: Rams 10-Seahawks 13

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