Seahawks-Rams preview: Everything to know about a Super Bowl hangover in overdrive
11/29/2022: A familiar matchup with a lot of new names involved
Aaron Donald has faced Russell Wilson 17 times in their careers and the Rams have gone 12-5 in those contests, including a 2020 wild card game that should have had the Seahawks as heavy favorites.
Now it’s Week 13 of the 2022 season and neither Wilson nor Donald will play in this meeting between the two NFC West rivals. Welcome to “Greg Gaines vs. Geno Smith” in its place! Will Geno out-play Russ in this head-to-head series, just as he has for the entire 2022 season?
The two NFL teams that I am most well-versed in are the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams. Never has that been more important than in previewing them this week, especially given just how different the two franchises are as compared to nine months ago. At the end of the 2021 season, the Rams won the Super Bowl and the Seahawks finished with their most losses since before Pete Carroll’s arrival.
Now L.A. is in last place and Geno Smith is leading the NFC in Pro Bowl votes.
Here is what to expect from a Rams team not expected to have Donald, Cooper Kupp, or Allen Robinson this week, with a recently-concussed Matthew Stafford an iffy-time decision.
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Rams 2022 season: 3-8
It’s not just that L.A. has a losing record and is situated with the number three pick in the 2023 draft (going to the Lions for Stafford), but it’s how the Rams have gotten here that is interesting. We’ll get to the injuries soon, but for the most part this is the roster that general manager Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay wanted to have in their quest to “run it back” for another Super Bowl win.
The Rams rank 29th in total yards, 31st in points scored, 28th in points per drive, 31st in scoring percentage per drive, 29th in net yards per pass attempt, and 31st in yards per carry.
There is no worse team in the NFL other than the Houston Texans, a team that had literally the OPPOSITE intentions of the Rams going into the season.
Now let’s check on how L.A. lost eight games:
A 21-point loss to the Bills in Week 1; a 15-point loss to the 49ers in Week 4; a 12-point loss to the Cowboys in Week 5; a 17-point loss to the 49ers in Week 8; a 3-point loss to the Bucs in Week 9; a 10-point loss to the Cardinals in Week 10; a 7-point loss to the Saints in Week 11; and a 16-point loss to the Chiefs on Sunday.
Six of their eight losses were by more than a touchdown. This is not a team that was on the edge of a winning record. The Rams have been out-classed not only by Josh Allen’s Bills, but also by Andy Dalton’s Saints and Colt McCoy’s Cardinals. You could argue that Seattle had similar recent frustrations with Dalton and McCoy, but the Seahawks aren’t the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Now let’s check on L.A.’s three wins:
A 4-point win over the Falcons, an 8-point win over the Cardinals, and a 14-point win over the Panthers.
Three bad teams, one near-loss, zero complete efforts and these games featured Kupp, Stafford, Donald, and most of the cast that McVay wanted to have this season.
The Rams are not bad “for a Super Bowl team.” They’re just bad. Bad, bad, really bad. The Rams are 27th in DVOA, including 27th on offense, 16th on defense, and 29th on special teams. Even if the Rams had the number one defense in the NFL, as they did with Brandon Staley in 2020, L.A. would still have a losing record and probably not close to the playoffs. The offense is just that inept and unbalanced.
Featured Players - Prior to all the injuries
It’s been a next-level failure for Stafford, the recipient of a new four-year, $160 million extension this year that doesn’t even begin until 2023. Stafford has missed two games this season. He has thrown 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions over his nine starts, averaging just 6.9 yards per attempt.
Whether Stafford starts this week, or again this year, remains to be seen. I believe that it is in the Rams best interest to play Stafford if he’s healthy, he’s the only quarterback who gives the offense a chance to score and if Bryce Perkins is out there, then it’s wasting the snaps of every other player on offense. But behind a terrible offensive line, the Rams have to consider the long-term implications of putting their $160 million quarterback on the field behind seventh round rookie left tackle A.J. Arcuri and street free agents like Matt Skura and Jeremiah Kolone.
Not even McVay is safe around these practice squad players.
Cooper Kupp was en route to another All-Pro season (812 yards in nine games) but is likely out for the season with an ankle injury. Allen Robinson is the worst free agent signing of 2022, but is not as apparent of an issue for McVay anymore because he just went on injured reserve. Running back Cam Akers was put on the trading block, very publicly, only to return because L.A. could not get an offer for him and they don’t have any other options.
Jalen Ramsey is not having a “bad” season per se, but he’s not the best cornerback in the NFL and the last time he was on a team like this, he faked a back injury so that the Jaguars would trade him. Leonard Floyd is one of the most overpaid players in the entire league. Bobby Wagner is one of the only bright spots on the team, but unlike Von Miller, he can’t have the impact that L.A. really needs next to Donald; conversely, Donald is probably having his least valuable season ever… And now he’s injured too.
Or do the Rams just want to avoid having to subject their best players to the rest of this season?
The injury replacements
QB Bryce Perkins - He played college football at Arizona State, Arizona Western, and Virginia, finally going undrafted in 2020 and signing with the Rams. He didn’t get a preseason that year, nobody did, but Perkins stayed on the practice squad and returned last season. This time, he got a preseason and made the final 53-man roster, where he stayed all year as a healthy scratch.
Presumably so McVay could “protect him” but based on his preseason play, I don’t know who was coming after Bryce Perkins. Same story for 2022, as the Rams needed depth at other positions and still decided to keep both Perkins and John Wolford as backups to Stafford. It was one of the single worst decisions of McVay’s career, which is quietly riddled with a lot of confusing roster moves that have been glossed over because of wins. Not the case anymore.
If Perkins starts on Sunday, it’s not so much that the Seahawks should be “guaranteed” thing. Nothing is guaranteed. It does mean that if Seattle loses or the defense fails to rebound against Perkins, it’s the worst thing that has happened to the Seahawks all year. Because neither Perkins nor Wolford are of Sunday quality. This is all setting aside how bad the REST of the Rams are right now.
Offensive Line Mashups - The Rams have started 11 different offensive line combinations over 11 games, but they’ve had even more combinations than that because of all the mid-game replacements. Re-signing left tackle Joe Noteboom was a bad decision and Noteboom went on IR after a few games. Backups behind him kept falling off too, including A.J. Jackson and Ty Nsekhe, and now L.A. is down to their fourth or fifth option in rookie A.J. Arcuri. They have cycled through players at every position except veteran right tackle Rob Havenstein, unsurprisingly having a bad season himself.
Perkins is a third-string quarterback behind the worst offensive line in football. The Rams rank 32nd in adjusted line yards over at FootballOutsiders and the margin to 31 isn’t even close.
The worst WR/TE room in the NFL - Perkins is a third-string QB, behind the worst OL in the NFL, throwing to the worst supporting cast in the NFL. Without Kupp and Robinson, L.A. is down to Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, Brandon Powell, Jacob Harris, and undrafted free agent rookie Lance McCutcheon.
I’ve seen them all a lot and McCutcheon has the highest ceiling, probably. He’s an undrafted free agent rookie who made his NFL debut last week and it did not go well.
Tyler Higbee is probably the best target now and Higbee’s career-long issues with drops and poor decisions is no different these days. Only his targets have gone up and that’s because of injuries. The only tight end behind him, Brycen Hopkins, is one of the Les Snead’s worst draft picks of late and the Rams have made A LOT of bad draft picks.
The worst rushing team in the NFL - Oh, did I forget to mention that Perkins, third-string, OL injuries, terrible receivers, bad tight ends, all of that offense is in front of the worst running backs room in the league? Akers isn’t a starter and rookie Kyren Williams wasn’t that highly sought after in the draft. The Rams are 27th in rushing DVOA.
Now Aaron Donald is out too - Donald has always CRUSHED the Seahawks and never could that be more of an issue than facing his old teammate Austin Blythe, one of the worst centers in the NFL.
Seattle could catch a break if Donald (ankle, nobody knows when or how though, interesting timing here…) doesn’t play. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has caught a lot of flak this year for his “soft zone” pass defense but the Rams simply lack the secondary talent and speed to keep up up with offenses.
Safety Taylor Rapp, edge rushers Terrell Lewis/Justin Hollins, cornerbacks David Long/Derion Kendrick, defensive lineman Marquise Copeland, these players are considered among the worst starters in the league, I think. With A’Shawn Robinson also going to IR, the depth will be tested and so far, it hasn’t been good. Outside of Wagner and Ramsey, there’s not much for Rams fans to get their hopes up about, and both of those players seem to be on the bad side of their primes.
There are no guarantees though!
No matter what has happened to the Rams, no matter how surprising players like Geno and Tariq Woolen have been, no matter who starts at quarterback this week, there’s no ‘counting wins ahead of time’ for the Seahawks. Not now, not ever. Seattle has lost to
worst quarterbacks than Perkins quarterbacks as bad as Perkins and we don’t even know yet if he’s starting.
Who could forget the 2016 Seahawks facing the hapless Rams in Week 2 and Russell Wilson leading the charge in a 9-3 loss to Case Keenum? Seattle could be one win away from being back in first place in the NFC West or one ugly day away from fans arguing for and against firing Pete Carroll and John Schneider following a three-game losing streak that solely consisted of bad teams?
The Seahawks have not had this golden of an opportunity to beat McVay since… Well, they’ve never had an opportunity this good! Prepare for the worst so that you can play your best.
No more of giving your worst when you’re not facing the best.