Clayton’s keys as Seahawks try to rebound, clinch division vs Rams

Dec 15, 2016, 11:01 AM | Updated: 11:14 am
Seattle can win the NFC West with either one win or one Arizona loss over the final three weeks. (A...
Seattle can win the NFC West with either one win or one Arizona loss over the final three weeks. (AP)

Thursday night football might be a “poopfest” to Richard Sherman, but this is an important game for the Seahawks.

Their matchup against the Rams is one to start their Super Bowl push, which has slowed down a bit by some poor offensive showings. Seattle’s loss in Green Bay was bad, but the players and coaches had a short week of prep that forced them to forget about that game quickly.

As panicked as fans might be about the up-and-down nature of Seattle’s offense, looking at the big picture should offer some comfort. The Seahawks are one win or one Arizona loss away from winning the NFC West. At the very least, they get a home game in the playoffs and two possible road games to get to the Super Bowl.

They still are in great shape to get the second seed and in a position other teams would envy. To fix their issues, the Seahawks could treat the final three games almost like exhibition games, knowing they need only one win to get into the playoffs.

Here is what to look for against the Rams:

Home field is huge for the the Seahawks’ offense. The Seahawks are 2-4-1 on the road, and some of their issues away from home are explainable. They couldn’t score points early in the season because of offensive line problems and Russell Wilson’s leg injuries. They struggled in Tampa Bay because of so many injuries from their win over Philadelphia the previous week. For the season, the Seahawks average 14.6 points a game on the road. They average 28.6 points at home. Wilson will welcome playing at home more than anyone. He completes 66.8 percent of his passes at home and averages 267 passing yards. His yards-per-attempt average is 8.17 at home and 7.2 on the road. He has six touchdowns and two interceptions at home compared to seven touchdowns and eight interceptions on the road. As an offense, the Seahawks average a yard per play more at home than on the road.

Turnover differential. The Seahawks entered last week’s game with a plus-six turnover differential. Pete Carroll believes that number is one of the most defining in football. Win the turnover battle and you usually win the game. The Seahawks’ six turnovers against the Packers dropped their differential to zero. You figure Wilson shouldn’t have many turnovers in the final three games because he’s going to be so focused. On the flip side, the Rams come to town with a minus-11 differential and a rookie quarterback who could be harassed by the Seahawks’ defense. In four starts, Jared Goff has thrown five interceptions and four touchdown passes. He’s been sacked 11 times and has completed only 55.1 percent of his passes. Even worse are his scoring numbers. The Rams have averaged only 14 points in the four games he’s been on the field.

An important game for the Seahawks’ pass rush. The Seahawks have produced one sack over the past three games, but they figure to get a few against Los Angeles. Rams tackles Rob Havenstein and Greg Robinson have combined to give up 12.5 sacks. They will be challenged by Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark.

Stuffing the line of scrimmage. Todd Gurley was great as a rookie, but he’s averaging 3.3 yards per carry and only 1.5 yards per carry when the box is stacked with eight defenders. The Seahawks’ defense is only allowing 3.5 yards per carry, but teams have been able to average 28 carries against Seattle, inflating the rushing numbers against to 98.8 yards per game. They need to limit Gurley to under 60 yards.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on

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