Week 15 will start off with a solid match-up in the west, with the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks facing off on Thursday night. The big news will be, not just what the teams are up to but the firing of Rams coach Jeff Fisher and how they’ll play without him in their first game post-firing.
Fisher was let go after a five year tenure as the coach of the Rams, and it’s no mystery why since he was one of the worst coaches, in terms of career losses, in NFL history. That’s not a record to boast about despite half a decade behind the bench. The Rams probably would have lost against the Seahawks tonight, and Fisher would have earned the most losses in league history, ever with 166. He’ll remain tied with Dan Reeves for the most losses now at 165.
The 8-4-1 Seahawks will try to make it 9 wins when they host the 4-9 Rams. It will be a key NFC West clash, as Seattle tries to wrap up the NFC West and get concentrated on getting healthy for the postseason. The Seahawks are probably looking forward from a visit from the struggling and chaotic Rams, and should put on an offensive show at CenturyLink Field.
The Rams should show up with a new man in charge and because of the uncertainty, it’s no wonder the Seahawks are heavy favorites this week, even after being beaten by the Green Bay Packers in Week 14. They are actually favored by 13 points, with the over/under set at 40.5.
The under is probably a good bet since these two teams got only 12 points combined when they last met, a slow 9-3 win for the Rams in L.A. was way back in Week 2, and it’s unlikely the Rams will be able to repeat that after Fisher’s departure. They’ll try to open up their offense a bit, but it might not be enough with so little time to practice under new instruction.
Fisher has been replaced by special teams coordinator John Fassel on an interim basis. His first job will be to get their anaemic offense back on track and producing again.
Their star running back, Todd Gurley had wilted under Fisher, just as rookie quarterback Jared Goff’s development faltered under him also. Organizing a balanced attack will be the key to helping Goff cut down on his rookie mistakes and start making some connections.
That won’t be an easy task, since they will face a stringent Seattle defense with a point to prove after getting dominated by the Packers. Green Bay’s QB Aaron Rodgers was able to complete 18 of 23 passes last week, which included getting three touchdowns. Rodgers was given all the time in the world to throw against a defense that just didn’t generate any pressure.
Seahawks head coach, Pete Carroll, will plan of getting rookie D-tackle Jarran Reed to make a strong push inside and occupy double teams so that their linebackers, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright can jump on Gurley.
Carroll will want to get creative about bringing the heat to force Goff into costly errors from the get go. Carroll has always been a very aggressive play-caller, and knows how to get linebackers and safeties free on the blitz to score.
Most importantly the coach needs to be less concerned with getting to Goff than about protecting Russel Wilson which will pay off if the can succeed. Seattle’s QB, Wilson threw five interceptions in Green Bay and it cost them. It’s not ideal prep for a Rams defense that’s caused Wilson grief in the past.
Wilson got sacked twice in Week 2, and has lost three-straight games against the Rams. He hasn’t been able to escape the hold this season, but he’ll need to apply all his mobility and make some shifty moves if he wants to stay clear of dominant defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
He’ll be the focal point of the Rams’ front seven, and Aaron Donald has been a game-wrecker this season. Keeping Donald at bay will be the focus of a Seahawks O-line who has allowed 32 sacks and 85 QB hits this year, and that’s just unacceptable.
Wilson and the line will have a better time if the Seahawks can establish a fast running game. Luckily, Thomas Rawls has been really impressive since coming back from injury. The speed of his attack could prove decisive for them. The only area where Rawls doesn’t excel is as a receiver out of the backfield, so coordinator Darrell Bevell will have to get rookie Alex Collins and Tyler Lockett heavily involved in the passing game.
Wilson will need a lot of help to beat the Rams’ pressure but if Wilson gets the time in the pocket and makes quick throws, the Seahawks will have a lot of power on both sides of the ball, and should overcome the rebuilding Rams.