Last week’s matchup on Thursday night between the Packers and Eagles gave me hope that not every island game – especially TNF - would be miserably boring. The Eagles upset the Packers at Lambeau and bounced back in a big way after losing to the Lions and Falcons in consecutive weeks. This week’s game on Thursday night could be similarly as exciting with the Seahawks hosting the Rams. Before I break down this game, be sure to check out Ian Hartitz’ WR/CB Matchups.
Thursday Night Football
The Seahawks host the Rams on a short week as 1.5-point favorites with a total of 49.5. There has been a ton of movement on the spread since opening with the Rams as two-point road favorites. The total has also made a 1.5-point move towards the over after opening at 48 points. Looking at implied team totals, Sportsbooks are currently projecting the Seahawks for 25.5 points and the Rams for 24. The Rams have scored more than 24 points in 3-of-4 games this season with point totals of 30 > 27 > 20 > 40. They were thought to be fairly stout on defense after allowing just 13 points to the Browns in Week 3, but were eviscerated by the Bucs at home in Week 4 for 55 points. The Seahawks have been a bit more consistent, scoring 21 > 28 > 27 > 27 through four weeks. Their defense still has the reputation of being a strong unit but has given up 20 > 26 > 33 > 10 so far. The crazy part is, they have yet to even play a good offense. Week 1 was against the disappointing Bengals, Ben Roethlisberger got injured against them in Week 2, the Saints were without Drew Brees in Week 3, and they played against the underwhelming Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. This will be far and away their toughest test on defense so far.
The Rams offense has been good, but not quite to the level we’ve seen in years past. They rank just 14th in rushing success rate and 13th in passing success rate so far. They’ve also lacked explosiveness, ranking 16th in explosive run rate and 20th in explosive pass rate. With arthritis in his knee, Todd Gurley hasn’t been used as a workhorse and saw exactly the same amount of carries as Malcolm Brown last week (5). He saw a lot more usage in the passing game though and was able to add to his fantasy point total with a 7-54-0 stat line on 11 targets. Cooper Kupp has settled in as the Rams No. 1 wide receiver with a 27 percent target share. He has seen nine or more targets in every game so far this season and eclipsed 100 receiving yards in 3-of-4 games. Using the WR/CB matchup tool at TheQuantEdge.com, Kupp has played 77 percent of his snaps in the slot this season and will mostly match up against Seahawks CB Jamar Taylor who has played 96 percent of his snaps in the slot. On paper, Taylor looks like a tough test as he’s allowed just 1-of-5 targets thrown his way to be caught this season. Brandin Cooks has a much better matchup and will run the majority of his routes against Tre Flowers on the outside. Flowers has allowed 9.4 yards per target and 14-of-21 targets (66.6%) to be caught this season.
The Seahawks will try to establish the run in every game, but sometimes game flow hasn’t allowed them to. When the game is within one score, the Seahawks have run the ball 48 percent of the time, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. Interestingly enough, they only have a 41 percent success rate and average 4.1 yards per carry when running the ball in one-score games compared to a 49 percent passing success rate and averaging 8.9 yards per attempt when throwing. Pete Carroll won’t read this, but even if their glaring inefficiencies hit him right in the face it wouldn’t matter too much. The Seahawks will stick to what they know which is a run-first game plan. They stuck with their word and continued to trust Chris Carson as their bell-cow back and gave him 22 carries last week. Even with Rashaad Penny healthy, Carson should see the majority of carries in this one against a Rams defense that made Ronald Jones look good last week. Tyler Lockett’s stat lines are highly dependent on game script with just five receptions for 95 yards in the two games they were leading or in neutral game script. In the two games the Seahawks played catch-up in (weeks two and three), he combined for 21 receptions and 233 yards on 26 targets. The Rams secondary was just rinsed by both Chris Godwin (12-172-2) and Mike Evans (4-89-1) last week which sets up nicely for both Tyler Lockett and rookie WR DK Metcalf.
Prediction: 28-27 Rams
(3-1 on TNF predictions so far)
Saquon Barkley (ankle) was in full uniform and jogging off to the side of Wednesday's practice. Head Coach Pat Shurmur refused to rule him out for Week 5 but that’s likely a smokescreen. High-ankle sprains generally take 6-8 weeks to recover from and Barkley is just a week in. With a short turnaround in Week 6, my bet would be a Week 7 return against the Cardinals at the minimum.
Tyrell Williams didn’t practice Wednesday. He’s been struggling with injuries for the past few weeks and will be a low-end WR3 against the Bears if he’s able to suit up.
Sam Darnold (mono) practiced on Wednesday. This is a great sign for his potential availability in Week 5 against the Eagles. He has yet to be cleared for contact but still could be active in Week 5. The Jets are 14-point underdogs heading into this one but play against a porous Eagles pass defense that Darnold and the Jets will have the chance to take advantage of.
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Michael Gallup (knee) returned to practice Wednesday, getting in a limited session. Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken added that Gallup is expected to play in Week 5 against the Packers. A limited practice puts him on pace to do so and he draws a solid matchup with Amari Cooper being covered by breakout corner Jaire Alexander.
Bengals placed WR John Ross (clavicle) on injured reserve. He was in the midst of a breakout campaign with 328 yards and three touchdowns through three and a half games. He’ll now miss at least eight games before returning from injured reserve. Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate will be the Bengals Nos. 1 and 2 option until A.J. Green returns.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Christian Kirk (ankle) is unlikely to play Week 5 against the Bengals. Kirk was limited on Wednesday’s practice but Kingsbury’s comments don’t provide much optimism. Trent Sherfield and Andy Isabella figure to see more playing time in his absence.
Damien Williams (knee) is practicing Wednesday. With Damien likely to return, Darrel Williams probably sees the biggest dip in playing time. Damien and LeSean McCoy figure to split carries going forward with both players as viable flex plays in fantasy.
Tyreek Hill (clavicle) returned to practice Wednesday. It’s no guarantee Hill suits up in Week 5, but this is a good sign after some pessimistic reports around his shoulder surfaced last week. He’ll likely be a game time decision but would re-assume the No. 1 role in the offense when he returns.
Marlon Mack (ankle) is not practicing Wednesday. Mack didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday before Week 3 and played in that game so there is still some hope. He sat out for chunks of their Week 4 game against the Raiders and with this organization, it’s tough to know what to expect when it comes to accuracy of injury reporting.
Patriots placed K Stephen Gostkowski (hip) on injured reserve, ending his 2019 season. The Patriots have now placed four players on injured reserve this season. Gostkowski will be ready to return for the 2020 season but will be missed this year. The Patriots brought in a number of veteran kickers to tryout and replace him.
Jamaal Williams (concussion) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. He’ll have to clear concussion protocol to have a chance at suiting up on Sunday. If Williams is to miss the game, Aaron Jones should receive the majority of snaps and touches in the Green Bay backfield against the Cowboys.
Devin Singletary (hamstring) was limited in Wednesday's practice. This is a good sign for his return in Week 5 against the Titans. He’ll split work with Frank Gore if he plays. … When asked what the Redskins' plan is at quarterback for Week 5 against the Patriots, coach Jay Gruden replied, "We don't have one." Does Jay Gruden really even care at this point? He’s going to get fired anyways, so having a “plan” doesn’t really move the needle for him either way. For what it’s worth, Case Keenum was seen in a walking boot on Wednesday and likely won’t be available this week. … T.Y. Hilton (quad) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. Hilton probably won’t return until after the Colts Week 6 bye. … Mike Williams (back) was limited in practice on Wednesday. This means he’ll likely return in Week 5 against the Broncos after missing Week 4. … Rashaad Penny (hamstring) was removed from Seattle's injury report in Week 5 against the Rams. This could muddy the Seahawks split between Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise, and Penny. They’ll likely keep riding Carson who has looked very good outside of his fumbling issues the first few weeks. … Stefon Diggs (undisclosed) didn't practice Wednesday. With trade rumors to New England, some are trying to connect the dots here. It could also be an injury after he looked banged up last Sunday.