The Hit Job football writers Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath preview the week 16 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks (9–5) and the St. Louis Rams (6–8).
When: 1:25 p.m. PT Sunday, Dec. 27
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Rogers: After scoring 39, 38 and 35 points in their previous three games, the Seahawks put up a “mere” 30 at home against the overmatched Cleveland Browns. Jess, is this the beginning of the Seahawks’ offense’s decline back to a more typical state, or were they just playing with their food?
Ridpath: This is not happening. I’ve got holiday merry-making to, uh, make. I’m not in the mood to talk about the Seahawks and the Rams.
Rogers: Speaking of the Rams … they helped the Seahawks start the season off with a loss, as you recall, no doubt. They will bring to Seattle rookie running back Todd Gurley (1,023 yards, 9 TDs, 4.9 YPC), who missed the first go-round between these two NFC West foes. It’s not been a banner year for the Rams’ passing offense, as they currently rank last in the NFL in passing yards. If you were Jeff Fisher, do you have any other choice but to rely on Gurley to play ball-control and keep the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands?
Ridpath: My mouf if full of Chwifmas cookieth. Thtop bothewing me. I’m on vacaythun.
Rogers: Right you are, Jess. Gurley, who just got appointed to the Pro Bowl, is not only the Rams’ best offensive threat, but the missing piece from the first meeting between these teams in week one. Just like last week, the Seahawks enter into this game with a decided running game deficit compared to the Rams. Turns out, it didn’t matter as the blue birds bandaged up a triple-headed running attack that ended up seeing a career day (84 yards from 16 rush attempts) from erstwhile and once-again Seahawks running back Christine Michael.
Though Michael started out as the third-stringer, having just been re-plucked off the Washington Redskins-by-way-of-the-Dallas Cowboys’ scrap heap, he finished the day as the Seahawks’ most effective back. Jess, do you expect to see the enigmatic Michael continuing as the team’s lead running back?
Ridpath: Vay. Kay. Thun. What donthyou get?
Rogers: Totally. The Seahawks, have made one of the more remarkable in-season comebacks in recent memory. Last seasons’ sluggish 3–3 start was en fuego compared to the way the Seahawks started off this season.
Most assessments about the Seahawks’ turnaround rightly point to the ascendance of Russell Wilson’s passing numbers. He is hotter than hot. While true, the real turnaround started with the better-late-than-never development of the offensive line. What may have been the NFL’s greatest front-five liability through the first third of the season, has now coalesced into a competent unit.
While stumbling out to a 2–2 record, the Seahawks average 128 rushing yards a game. Over the past five games, when the Seahawks offense started to really take off, Seahawks rushers have averaged 166.6 yards per game. Despite losing team leader Thomas Rawls to injury, the Seahawks managed an impressive team average of 5.05 YPC last week, split among three primary runners: Michael, Bryce Brown and Derrick Coleman. You have to give credit to the front five of Russell Okung, Justin Britt, Patrick Lewis, J.R. Sweezy and Garry Gilliam for powering the NFL’s (currently, overall) second-best rushing attack — despite a dizzying revolving door of runners. It seems the early-season faults and offensive line roster churn have paid off.
Jess, do you think the improved offensive line can effect a better outcome against the Rams’ Aaron Donald, who notched two sacks and five tackles in week one?
Ridpath: Mewwy Chwifmas, football bwain. I hope you get a life fwom Santa.
Rogers: You’re right. The blue birds’ ability to shut out Donald will dictate the flow of the game. I expect the Seahawks to be able to maintain an effective passing game against the Rams’ 21st-ranked pass defense. It will be interesting to see if the Seahawks can keep the duct tape-and-baling-wire running game going at the same torrid pace as the past five weeks.
The Seahawks go into this game with the intention of taking away the Rams’ best offensive trait. Said linebacker Bobby Wagner (via Seahawks.com) “When we finally go up against a good running back, we kind of lick our chops ... We always try to focus on making a team one-dimensional, and when they come in wanting to run the ball, this team’s going to run the ball whether they get yards or don’t get yards. I feel like they are really committed on the run game, and I feel like that’s a game that we kind of look forward to.”
That puts the onus on the Rams 32nd-ranked passing offense. Against the maybe-not-quite-what-they-were-but-still-ranked-fourth-against-the-pass Legion of Boom, this is the very definition of a mismatch. Prediction: Seahawks 27, Rams 16.
Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.
What he got right: The game winner. I’m 10–4 on the season. The Browns began the game with an impressive and diverse opening drive but had little else from then on.
What he got wrong: I said the Seahawks were gonna miss Rawls. For one game, at least, they didn’t need him.
What she got right: The game winner. I’m 10–4 on the theathon.
What she got wrong: Thut up.
© Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath
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