It’s playoff time in the Pacific Northwest as the Seahawks will host the Rams on Saturday afternoon at Lumen Field. Here are the five storylines I’ll be following during what should be a defensive struggle that is likely to come down to the wire.
In all likelihood, the winner will advance to play the No. 2 seed Saints in the Divisional Round.
1. What will the Seahawks get out of Jamal Adams?
Adams was unequivocal in his vow to play on Saturday despite a second shoulder injury. He’ll be playing through two injured shoulders and a pair of broken fingers. Adrenaline should help him play through that pain and discomfort, and he may get through the game without showing visible signs of being held back.
The Seahawks desperately need Adams to leave his mark on Saturday, of course. Los Angeles’ offense is just as much horizontal as it is vertical with all of the sweeps, motions and play-action movement that is incorporated into Sean McVay’s scheme. Adams had multiple touchdown-saving tackles in the Seahawks Week 16 win over the Rams.
The biggest worry regarding Adams is likely whether or not he reinjures his shoulder and is forced out of the game prematurely. Adams surely wants to be himself, but he’ll need to be calculated, at least to some degree, with how he throws his body around.
2. How much production will DK Metcalf have? Against Jalen Ramsey or otherwise?
Nobody has really been talking about how quiet Metcalf has been. Maybe that’s because the blame is more easily put onto Russell Wilson’s shoulders given the QB’s regression in the second half of the season. But the fact remains that Metcalf only topped 80 yards once over Seattle’s final eight games of the regular season.
That includes two matchups against Ramsey. Metcalf posted just 28 and 59 yards, respectively, in the two games against Los Angeles. And according to NextGen Stats, only one reception (on four targets) for 11 yards came with Ramsey as the closest defender.
Seattle did well to move Metcalf around a bit more with pre-snap motions. The Seahawks will likely get creative on Saturday again, but there will be times where it’s on Metcalf to beat Ramsey. It’s also on Wilson to give Metcalf a chance, even if there’s just a sliver of space. Ramsey is the best corner in the game for a reason, which means Round 3 against Metcalf is sure to be another entertaining bout.
3. Will the offense show up in the first half?
The Seahawks have scored just 6 points in the first half in each of their last two games. It took them until the fourth quarter to find the end zone against the 49ers in Week 17. Don’t be surprised to see that same script play itself out on Saturday. The Rams have the best defense in the NFL, and Pete Carroll is just fine with the “patience” that goes into cracking a standout defense so long as Seattle’s offense doesn’t turn the ball over.
As I’ve written before, the Seahawks will need to find some explosive plays in the passing game or convert on third down at a clip of 50% or better. Seattle went 5-7 on third down in the second half against the Rams in Week 17. Unsurprisingly, the Seahawks also scored a pair of touchdowns over those 30 minutes, including a game-sealing 13-yard touchdown reception from Jacob Hollister.
4. Who will start at QB for the Rams?
Will it be Jared Goff or John Wolford? We might not find out until the Rams offense takes the field for the first time.
5. Who has the more productive day, Cam Akers or Chris Carson?
Both teams are likely to ride their top running backs in this game. Seattle didn’t see Akers in Week 16 due to injury. Carson was used like a workhorse in that game, though, with 16 carries compared to the five combined for Rashaad Penny and Carlos Hyde.
Prediction: 17-13, Seahawks
I’m just picturing the Rams facing 4th-and-goal from the Seahawks 3-yard line with :02 left in the fourth quarter. I think it’s going to be that close, which will make for a miserable Saturday afternoon for Seahawks fans until the game finally concludes. It’ll be 60 minutes of pure anxiety.