The Los Angeles Rams head north this week to battle the Seattle Seahawks in Wild Card weekend, representing perhaps the best game of the week. It will be the third time this season that these two NFC West division rivals have squared off. Don’t be surprised if this particular clash is not only the best of the three, but the best of the postseason.
NFL Wild Card Weekend Best Game: Rams-Seahawks Game 3
The Skinny on Games One and Two
Game 1: Week 10, November 15th, at Rams (5-3, 3-0 home), Seahawks (6-2, 2-2 road). Seahawks heads their division prior to the game with Rams in third. The Rams, fresh off a bye, were healthy defensively and mostly dominated in every major category except rushing and turnovers. The Seahawks restrained Aaron Donald by design but several teammates stepped up. Defensive end/outside linebacker Leonard Floyd led the way with three sacks and recovered a fumble. Cornerback Darius Williams snatched two interceptions while Micah Kiser topped both teams with 12 tackles (10 solo). Quarterback Jared Goff went 27/37 for 302 yards with no touchdowns but lost a fumble.
Summary: The Rams strong defensive performance overall allowed only three second-half points. A three-back ground game shared 99 yards as Malcolm Brown punched in two of three running touchdowns. On the whole, Los Angeles was able to mix things up and take what Seattle gave them. Rams 23, Seahawks 16.
Game 2: Week 15, December 27th, at Seahawks (10-4, 6-1 home), Rams (9-5, 4-3 road). Seahawks still atop the NFC West, Rams now in second. Stud rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks and 2020 in-season addition, safety Jamal Adams set the tone defensively throughout with eight total tackles each. The return of running back Chris Carson added punch to the previously-lacking ground attack. Unlike in Game 1, receiver D.K. Metcalf was able to improve and produce (6 receptions, 59 yards, 8 targets) against lockdown corner Jalen Ramsey (2 receptions, 28 yards, 4 targets). Russell Wilson was sacked five times (two more by Leonard Floyd) but was his usual effective self.
Summary: The Seahawks defense improved noticeably since the first match-up. They entered the game having won four of five while allowing higher than 20 points only once in that span. The Rams looked unprepared and overwhelmed and appeared to abandon the original game plan or any plans to take creative risks. Seahawks 20, Rams 9.
The Best Team in the NFC Could Emerge
Lately, a lot of power rankings have been predictable. The Green Bay Packers or the New Orleans Saints hold firm at the top of the NFC mountain in most. The Seahawks, Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are bouncing about inconsistently within the next tier down. But buyer beware. It’s the post-season now and while defense alone no longer wins championships, it’s widely agreed, it certainly stirs the pot so the best rises to the top.
This writer’s going out on the limb to suggest — predict even — that the best team in the NFC (at the least, to represent one half of the conference championship game) can and will exit this showdown. Here are three reasons why:
Reason One: Both teams are very capable of beating either of those top-ranked playoff teams on any given Sunday. Try and say that about the Bucs, Bears or that team with no real name (or business in the post-season).
Reason Two: As it’s said, ‘iron sharpens iron.’ The Seahawks and Rams are facing each other for a third time in one season. Both in a division that’s arguably the best in the NFL, but certainly in their own conference. In fact, the 8-8 Arizona Cardinals (now eliminated) might conceivably be better than two teams that made the playoffs.
Reason Three: Ask yourself if teams playing in lesser-competitive divisions make for more consistent play. I offer this alternative notion that harder work makes for more vacation time needed to heal mind and body. Sure, this is speaking from experience in another sphere, but still. It’s not crazy to think that the Packers and Saints are better at appearing consistent than appearing dominant. Is it?
Predicting the Best Wild Card Weekend Game
So on one hand (Game 1), you have the Rams looking like the better overall and more complete team with few glaring weaknesses. On the other hand Game 2), you have a talented Seahawks team with all the usual but lesser weaknesses on the offensive side while the defense morphs from one of the league’s worst to one of the best. The coaching of both winning teams at their given moments is stellar. Now the playoffs begin and both teams and staffs mostly know all there is to know. Or do they?
Is there a quarterback controversy brewing? #Rams have a (not-so) tough decision to make going forward 'cause no matter who starts, these numbers won't cut it in post-season… pic.twitter.com/6srURZRyay
— Mob Times (@GridDawgs247) January 4, 2021
Enter John Wolford, the Rams back-up quarterback (still, at the time of publishing).
Wolford got the start in the season finale for the Rams after Jared Goff had surgery on his throwing hand. He looked mildly impressive after his initial pass landed in the arms of the opposition. The Rams went on to beat Arizona mostly threw the play of the defense yet again. However, the defensive unit didn’t appear to be nearly as exhausted late in the game as in the previous week’s fourth quarter. This was at least partly because the inserted quarterback had considerably more talent ad-libbing to extend plays than Goff. He also appeared more decisive passing the ball in his first NFL start.
Look for improvement in his next outing because with a game under his belt he has so much more information (mainly on himself) to learn from. Whether this translates to getting Seattle off their game is unknown.
The fact the Rams may get Cooper Kupp, Micah Kiser and Andrew Whitworth (and his leadership) back is reason enough to be optimistic, Wolford or no Wolford. Still, the Seahawks — the entire league, if we’re being honest — know Goff too well for him to survive attempts to throw curve balls at this point. They should know Wolford well enough also as they practice with a quarterback he resembles more than his own predecessor. With that said, the Rams succeed in beating out a team that’s as good as they’ll get this season. Rams win, 27-24, quite possibly in OT.
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