Yes, there is always plenty of chatter about our perennial Super Bowl hopefuls. But I also find that there is always some angle to Seahawks coverage that just doesn’t seem to get enough airplay. This column is dedicated to that “elephant in the locker room.”
Tonight’s Thursday Night Football marquee matchup features the two leading candidates for NFC West divisional champs… and the Rams and Seahawks both sit at 3-1 after L.A.’s blowout loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Oddly enough, the Rams are 1-point underdogs in Seattle despite handily beating Carolina, New Orleans (with Drew Brees), and Cleveland for their three wins. Seattle’s defeated opponents this season, by contrast, have won exactly one game… because somebody had to win the Steelers-Bengals matchup Monday night.
On paper, the Rams should be favored… but the game is being played in Seattle, in prime time with a national audience, on Thursday night. And Pete Carroll’s teams shine in that kind of spotlight. I can see why the oddsmakers are nervous.
Sports wags are also pointing out that Tampa Bay provided a clear roadmap for rattling Rams QB Jared Goff, and exploiting holes in the aging L.A. D. Should that help Seattle? Perhaps. But lighting doesn’t usually strike twice in the NFL, particularly not twice in five days. I don’t expect Sean McVay’s staff to stand idly by and shrug their shoulders with “What, me worry?” coaching. I reckon they’ll wrap some athletic tape around a few things and tighten up loose ends.
Likewise, Seattle is showing signs of tweaking their weak spots. Most notable, starting corners Griffin and Flowers have yet to give up a deep ball, and the Ansah/Clowney combo is showing signs of being Bennett/Avril 2.0 as hoped. With Wilson throwing lights-out turnover-free ball and the run game hitting a groove, Seattle will play tight, too.
But does any of this mean that we’ll be watching the eventual NFC West champion tonight?
Hold those precious horses. Four weeks into the season is awfully early to be making that kind of prediction… especially when there’s another stallion in the stable.
This game isn’t important merely because the Rams are a key rival; it’s also crucial because any team that wants the NFC West crown is going to have to keep up with…
The San Francisco 49ers. Flying under the radar with super-low expectations, the rehabbed Jimmy Garappolo has led his team to a 3-0 record, and Richard Sherman has more interceptions than all of Seattle’s CBs combined. (Granted, 1 is always greater than zero… but that’s kind of my point.) And by virtue of their awful record last year, the 49ers are facing an easier remaining schedule than is Seattle.
The Rams are not the Joneses with which the Hawks need to keep pace; Seattle needs to reach the season’s first matchup with S.F. on November 11–yes, over a month away!–with a chance of taking the division lead.
So… the big NFC West showdown is not this game with the Rams. But this matchup is nearly a must-win at this point, nonetheless. The stakes are very, very high.