The Los Angeles Rams made the decision to part company with head coach Jeff Fisher ahead of their clash against the Seattle Seahawks. The NFC West outfit were humiliated by the Atlanta Falcons in their last outing leading to his dismissal, with the club failing to make any substantial progress during his five-year tenure.
Seattle might be the only team in the NFL to be relieved to see him leave the post given his strong record against Pete Carroll’s men. The Seahawks find themselves in a desperate scrap to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs and can ill afford any slip ups against the Rams following their heavy defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
With just three games remaining in the campaign, teams bound for the playoffs are usually beginning to display their best form. However, it has been a curious year in the NFL with few standout sides, meaning that it might be just as important to be healthy going in to the playoffs rather than on a roll. Carroll may have to keep that in mind against a physical Rams outfit.
The Rams have been well below-par in recent weeks and when faced with high-quality opposition have blown out. Their start against the Falcons epitomised their season as Mike Thomas fumbled the opening kick-off and allowed Dan Quinn’s men to gather on the two-yard line. Matt Ryan delivered a strike on the second play on the match, and it was all downhill from there, culminating in Fisher’s departure on Monday. A similar performance against the Seahawks could see them give up another abundance of points.
Seattle will be hungry to avenge their loss earlier in the season to Los Angeles, along with their defeat to Green Bay last week. An experienced defense will be relishing the opportunity to face off against rookie quarterback Jared Goff and his struggling offense, which could make it a very long day for the 22-year-old and his side at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks’ own quarterback Russell Wilson will also be desperate to bounce back following his awful performance against the Packers, which is why it would not be a surprise to see the home side cover the -15 spread with TopBet sportsbook.
As for the result itself, Carroll’s men are the overwhelming favourites, with Bookmaker EU backing them at -1600 . Unless the Rams do something very special, Seattle are almost certainties to win this contest.
Now that Fisher is gone, the organisation has made the commitment to look ahead to the 2017 season and beyond with a new head coach in place. That will likely result in a filter-down effect with replacements on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball in terms of staff. Although the current occupants may now be working to prove a point in order to remain with the club for next term.
The same goes for the players, but Los Angeles are a young side already and have plenty of potential in key positions. Goff, who was selected with the first-overall pick in the 2016 Draft, is a fine example of the hope the club could have looking into the future. However, he has struggled immensely since coming into the side and was not ready to start the campaign unlike the man who was taken one pick behind him – Carson Wentz at the Philadelphia Eagles.
Goff will have to make significant strides in his development over the final three games to prove he can be a quality starter – no matter what system he is placed in by the Rams’ new coaching staff when they arrive next year.
Another player that will need to rise to the occasion, not only against the Seahawks, but in the coming seasons is running back Todd Gurley. Many pundits tipped the 22-year-old for a breakout campaign following his impressive rookie season, only for him to take a huge step back in his development, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry this term. Gurley will have to use the remaining three matches to get back into a rhythm ahead of an important off-season.
Defensively, Los Angeles have been up and down over the course of the campaign, producing excellent performances in the club’s win over the Seahawks, the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets, but have also endured recent implosions against the Falcons and the New Orleans Saints.
Should the good Rams defense appear at CenturyLink Field then they have a glimmer of hope of emerging with a victory due to the struggles of Seattle’s offense at the moment, while their recent record against Carroll’s men suggests that they might just hold the psychological edge.
The Seahawks’ push to secure a first-round bye has been derailed somewhat by their inconsistent form on the road, which does bear well for their Super Bowl aspirations. Carroll’s men have lost back-to-back matches on their travels, with their offense struggling immensely to put up points away from ‘The Link’.
Wilson and company have scored just 15 points combined in their defeats to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers, which suggests that there is a problem somewhere, although they were electric putting 40 points on the Carolina Panthers in their last home match. The club’s coaching staff will have to address their issues and may have the perfect opportunity to capitalise on the turmoil at the Rams to get their offense back into gear.
On the other side of the ball, Seattle were exposed by the arm of Aaron Rodgers in their defeat to the Packers. The 33-year-old carved them apart with relative ease, picking on the weak points in the defense, which were highlighted in the absence of All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. The 27-year-old’s loss for the remainder of the season is huge for Carroll’s men due to the holes that he covers in the secondary.
Without him Rodgers was able to find plenty of space for his receivers not only to catch the ball, but also breakaway for further yardage, causing huge damage for the Seahawks on the scoreboard. As a result, Carroll and his defensive coordinator Kris Richard have to discover a way to cope with his absence, and the return of pass-rusher Michael Bennett may alleviate the strain on the secondary.
Seattle have lost their last three matches to the Rams, and face a test of their mettle on Thursday. How they cope playing against a team with nothing to lose could dictate their fortunes for the rest of the season, and if they are forced to play in the opening weekend of the playoffs.
For one reason or another the Rams are one of the few sides in the NFL to give the Seahawks trouble, despite Los Angeles’ poor form when not faced with one of their rivals. However, due to the change in coaching staff along with playing on a short week, the advantage has to lie with the home side, who are desperately attempting to clinch the number two seed in the NFC Conference.
Expect a reaction from Carroll’s men to respond to their underwhelming performance against the Packers last time out.
Seattle Seahawks to beat Los Angeles Rams
Thursday 15th December, 20:30 ET (Friday 16th December 01:30 GMT)