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Jim Moore Predicts: New-look Rams can challenge Seahawks for NFC West supremacy

Since 2010, the Seahawks are 8-6 against the Rams. (AP)

Everyone knows how important Sunday’s game is for the Seahawks. Beat the Rams and both teams are 3-2 with the Seahawks holding the tiebreaker; lose to the Rams, and you’re probably not going to win the NFC West. The Rams would be 4-1, the Seahawks 2-3, and Pete Carroll’s team would basically be three games behind Sean McVay’s team if you consider the tiebreaker.

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I know things can change after the bye week next week, and the Seahawks’ history suggests that it will. They almost always play better in the second half of the season than the first, just like they do in games themselves. Against Indianapolis, the offense did next to nothing in the first half and scored more points (36) than any other team in franchise history in the second half.

But, I don’t see it turning around this year like it has in the past. The Seahawks look like a 9-7 team, maybe even an 8-8 team to me. Let me ask you something: if you can put subjectivity aside, given a choice between 8-8 and 11-5, which record do you truly think they’ll end up with? Don’t say 10-6 or 9-7, because I’m not offering those as options here. If you had to pick 8-8 or 11-5, which would it be?

That’s an easy answer for me based on what we’ve seen so far. For starters, at 2-2, they’re on a pace for 8-8. Their only two wins came over the 49ers and Colts, teams that have a combined 1-7 record. The only win by the Colts was over a Browns team that has lost 29 of its last 31 games.

I can see the offensive line and running game improving, but not dramatically. The O-line will continue to hold this team back, and I’m not as sold on the defense as I used to be, particularly with Cliff Avril out for what might be the rest of the season. The run defense has been surprisingly subpar.

Sunday’s matchup is one that features the old dog trying to retain its status in the NFC West against the new pup with a new coach that sits on Gatorade buckets and is 35 years younger than Carroll. McVay is 31-years-old and has inspired something into Jared Goff and the Rams’ offense, which was last in the NFL last year and first this year, averaging 35 points a game.

If I’m going to keep using my canine analogy, Sunday afternoon I think the pup is going to keep bothering the old dog, and the old dog will put up with him awhile and might even nip back to show the new pup who’s the boss, but in the second half, I’m pretty sure the old dog is going to head to another room to try and get away from the new pup because he can’t take it anymore.

There are two best hopes for the Seahawks, and the Groz offered one of them on the Show of Record. The Rams were a so-so team under Jeff Fisher — but whatever Fisher didn’t have against other teams, his Rams could beat the Seahawks. The formula of a bad offense, terrific defense and gimmick plays was enough to get it done against Carroll’s team.

But this new-look Rams’ team, even though it has mostly the same personnel on defense, is giving up 26 points a game under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is supposed to be one of the best DC’s in the game. I suspect he still is, but the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 will take some adjustment time. I’m merely guessing that to be the case, but when you give up 39 points to the 49ers, something’s amiss.

So Groz’s point — or at least, what I think his point is — is that the Rams have a different team and might be more susceptible to losing to the Seahawks than they were before. Certainly the Seahawks should be able to move the ball against this version of the Rams.

The other hope is that the Seahawks, who have no doubt heard Rams this and Rams that this week, could rightfully ask: “What about us?” They are still one of the Super Bowl favorites, and if I’m them, I’m thinking the road to the NFC West championship still goes through Seattle, even if this game is being played in L.A. I expect a great overall effort from the offense in particular; plus, Goff won’t put up the numbers like he did against the Colts, Niners and Cowboys.

A bonus reason for hope? The Redskins beat the Rams in L.A. If the Redskins can win there, certainly the Seahawks can too.

But for every reason why the Seahawks could win, I’ll call you and raise you several other reasons why the Rams will. Right now, at least, they have a better team based on the results thus far. Their offense is clearly better, and Goff has been sacked only four times to Wilson’s 10. Goff’s receivers are better, and so is his offensive line. With Todd Gurley, the Rams have a better running back, too. On special teams, I’d take Greg Zeurlien and Johnny Hekker over Blair Walsh and Jon Ryan.

Defensively you’d have to give the edge to the Seahawks, but it’s not big enough to turn the game in their favor. The Seahawks were slight underdogs to Green Bay and Tennessee and lost both games. It’s the same scenario here, and nothing’s changed as far as I can tell. In fact, it’s gotten slightly worse with the losses of Chris Carson and Avril and Jeremy Lane for this game, which is why I like the Rams in decisive fashion.

Seahawks (+1) at Rams: Rams 30, Seahawks 17

Cal (+27) at Washington: I admit to now holding a grudge against the Golden Bears since they fell as my Smokin’ Lock of the Week last Saturday in Eugene. But I’ve held things against the Huskies for more than 40 years. You’re constantly reminded to never bet with your heart, and bet with your head, but whoever said that doesn’t know me very well. Cal can hold its head high when it leaves Husky Stadium knowing that it at least made its betting backers in Las Vegas happy. Dawgs 38, Bears 21

WSU (-2 1/2) at Oregon: I took a lot of heat for picking USC to beat Washington State last week, and it turned out I was wrong about that as the Cougs posted a memorable 30-27 victory over the fifth-ranked Trojans. As a reminder, I try to pick these games based on what I think will happen, not what I hope will happen. With that in mind, this is the first road game for the Cougs, and they’re coming off an emotional game, one of the biggest victories in school history. Even without quarterback Justin Herbert, the Ducks still have a formidable running game, and their defense shut down one of the finest quarterbacks in the country, Josh Allen, a few weeks ago in Laramie. I’m not saying Luke Falk will experience the same fate, but I don’t expect him to be gangbusters either. Ducks 38, Cougs 28

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