The Seahawks head south to take on the Rams in their third divisional game of the season. It will be Seattle's first time playing in SoFi Stadium, the new home of the Rams and Chargers that opened in September. To learn more about the 5-3 Rams ahead of this NFC West matchup, we reached out to Rams reporter Stuart Jackson, who answered five questions about this week's opponent:
Teams always look to the bye to self-scout and try to improve, what are the Rams hoping to clean up coming out of their bye?
Jackson: The story of the first half of the Rams' season was inconsistent performances and a lack of explosive plays by the offense. Head coach Sean McVay said Monday he felt like those performances did not come close to reflecting the level at which the offense can do both, so he's looking for more consistency and more explosive plays out of that unit as the second half approaches.
Los Angeles also likely took a look at its special teams during the bye week. McVay said last week he felt that phase took "a step in the wrong direction" against Miami in Week 8 after showing signs of steady improvement in the weeks prior, especially against the Chicago Bears in Week 7.
*This might be related to the last question, but what's the level of concern about Jared Goff and the offense after subpar outings in two recent losses? *
Jackson: Goff said after the Dolphins can that he knows he has to be better and will be, and McVay echoed that same confidence entering the bye week, saying he trusts that Goff will grow and learn from performances like the one he had against Miami. At the same time, there should still be an urgency to fix those mistakes, especially with games against the Buccaneers, 49ers, and Cardinals following this week's matchup with the Seahawks.
Week 8 surely won't be the last time Goff sees Cover 0 pressure thrown his way. The Seahawks used it on 11.8 percent of their defensive snaps against the Bills, and while that's probably more a product of their gameplan specific to Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, it wouldn't be surprising if they tried to incorporate that look against the Rams this week.
McVay's confidence likely stems from his postgame comments after the Dolphins game, when he said the Rams had answers to that pressure in some instances, but in others they were "not good enough." So while there doesn't seem to be any concern right now, looking back on what worked against Miami and sharpening what didn't will be critical moving forward.
People associate the Rams with Sean McVay's offense, but L.A. is currently ranked second in both total defense and scoring defense. What has allowed that unit to improve to that level this year?
Jackson: Being multiple – as in, using multiple schemes and packages. Los Angeles primarily used a 3-4 scheme for its base defense last year, and while the 3-4 is still utilized, it is mixing up its defensive front looks more often and using a greater variety of packages this year. That flexibility has allowed different players to play to their strengths. Young cornerbacks like Darious Williams and Troy Hill gaining valuable experience last year due to injuries in the secondary has helped them play with more confidence this year. Having safety John Johnson III (season-ending shoulder injury in Week 6 last year) healthy has also been huge. He's the team's defensive signal-caller this year and someone defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has a lot of confidence in.
And speaking of that defense, the Rams have been very good against the pass, how do you see them matching up with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing game?
Jackson: Having Williams, Hill and Jalen Ramsey in the secondary should allow the Rams to match up well. The 6-foot-1 Ramsey's length should help with defending 6-foot-4 wide receiver DK Metcalf, while Williams or Hill could cover wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Of course, as has been the case in recent weeks, successfully defending both receivers has been easier said than done.
Aside from the epic punter showdown between a pair of All-Pros, what are a couple of the matchups you're most looking forward to watching on Sunday?
Jackson: Metcalf vs. Ramsey has to be near, if not at, the top of the list. Ramsey has lined up in different spots in the secondary, but I would be shocked if the Rams don't have him shadow the Seahawks' most dynamic receiver for the majority of the game because of how he matches up with Metcalf size-wise. As seen against the Cardinals, though, Lockett is also a capable playmaker who deserves attention. The pass-rush ability of Aaron Donald versus the mobility of Wilson is always a fun one to watch as well. It will also be interesting to see how the Rams offense attacks the Seahawks defense. Seattle ranks last in pass defense but has the No. 4 run defense in the NFL, so that will be a test for a Los Angeles offense that tends to operate with greater effectiveness and efficiency when it can establish the run and, in turn, a balanced attack, rather than relying solely on its passing game.
The Seahawks and the Rams will meet at Lumen Field for the Wild Card round of the 2020 playoffs on Saturday, January 9 at 1:40 p.m. PT. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.