You probably rarely agree with much of anything I write or say about the Seahawks, but I think we’re on the same page with this:
The Seahawks will more than likely win the NFC West and host a first-round playoff game as the No. 4 seed if they beat the Rams on Sunday. And they won’t make the playoffs if they lose.
If the Seahawks win, both teams will be 9-5, and Pete Carroll’s team will hold the tie-breaker. Seattle has games remaining against Dallas and Arizona. Los Angeles has games remaining with Tennessee and San Francisco. In this scenario, I’d guess that both teams finish 11-5 or 10-6; either way, I don’t see the Rams finishing with a better record to avoid the tie-breaker.
Then again, if the Seahawks lose they’ll be 8-6, which brings too many other teams into the wild-card race – 7-6 teams such as the Lions, Cowboys and Packers, who are especially dangerous with the return of Aaron Rodgers. And that’s not even factoring in one of the 9-4 NFC South teams, Carolina and New Orleans, one of which will likely get the first wild-card spot. Then there’s Atlanta, which is 8-5 and holds the head-to-head tie-breaker over Seattle.
At CenturyLink Field, it will be a classic matchup between the up-and-coming team against the veteran team that’s trying to defend its NFC West title. Because of the Seahawks’ injuries on defense, I’d contend that the Rams are more talented and am mildly surprised they’re two-point underdogs.
If the Rams win, they will be considered the new sheriff in town after knocking off the once-formidable Seahawks. But even if that happens, I don’t think it indicates a full-on shift of power in the division. For me, it will be written off as a temporary shift because of the absence of injured starters Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. It looks as if Bobby Wagner (hamstring) won’t play, and K.J. Wright (concussion) might join him on the sideline too.
Against Philadelphia, the Seahawks were able to overcome the losses of Avril, Sherman and Chancellor. Can they do it with two more Pro Bowl players on the sideline? We’ve all seen it in sports before – in short-term cases, backup players fill in for injured stars and bond together for surprising upsets, such as the one we saw against the Eagles. I just don’t think it holds true long-term because the drop in talent catches up to the team at some point.
And when you lose too many high-caliber players, it’s hard to make up for it in the short-term too. I like what the Seahawks have to say about the next man up, but typically that next man isn’t as good as the man he’s replacing because if he was he’d have been a starter in the first place. Bradley McDougald, Chancellor’s replacement, might even be better than Kam in pass coverage, but he’s still not the same player – for Mariners fans, it’s like asking Taylor Motter to replace Jean Segura.
I guess that’s a roundabout way of getting to the point of this post – I just don’t think the Seahawks have enough horses to beat a Rams’ team that features a high-powered offense and a defense that should be good enough to slow down Russell Wilson. The best chance the Seahawks have to win is on the ground, believe it or not. I know that hasn’t been a strong suit; in fact, it’s been a really weak suit. But Mike Davis has given life to the running game the past two weeks, and the Rams have the 28th-ranked rushing defense in the league, allowing 124 yards a game.
So if I’m offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, I’m calling a lot of running plays in this game in an attempt to take advantage of that Rams’ rush D and, maybe just as importantly, to keep the clock moving so it will limit time on the field for the depleted Seahawks’ defense. That sounds like a winning formula to me, but as I’ve proven in the past, if something seems like a winning formula to me, it will probably backfire and cause even more criticism for the Seahawks’ play-caller.
As long as Wilson is the quarterback, the Seahawks will be a Super Bowl contender every year. But even he isn’t good enough to overcome the rash of injuries to his marquee teammates on the other side of the ball.
Seahawks (-2) vs. Rams: Rams 34, Seahawks 20.