Once Upon A Time In Las Vegas
After one of the most tumultuous weeks in NFL history, it is time to return to football this weekend with several playoff implications on the line. The Los Angeles Rams, already removed from the playoff picture, will travel to Seattle to take on a Seahawks team that needs a win and a Green Bay loss to earn a playoff berth. The opening kick is scheduled for 4:25pm EST.
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An End to a Rough Season
The Los Angeles Rams have had one of the more difficult seasons ever from a team that had just won the Super Bowl. The team has been bogged down by injuries, a poor offensive line and a schedule of teams shooting for the champs. The results have been a 5-11 season going into their season finale, which will be the worst record ever the year following a Super Bowl title. Despite losing starting quarterback Matt Stafford, leading receiver Cooper Kupp and superstar defensive lineman Aaron Donald, the Rams have played better since losing six straight games in the middle of the season. Since then, the Rams have gone 2-2 featuring a run-heavy offense and steady play at quarterback from free-agent pickup Baker Mayfield. Last Sunday, the Rams were run over by the Chargers in a matchup of the two residents of SoFi Stadium. The Rams allowed 192 yards rushing for 6.2 yards per carry against a team that usually favors the pass.
“We came in and knew they were going to pass the ball, but they were able to run the ball, and we’ve just got to do better,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “(Austin) Ekeler was pretty much the back we anticipated. They put it in his hands, got him to the perimeter, and he made plays.”
Season finale 🔜 pic.twitter.com/7ecFAxreKx
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 5, 2023
The Rams come into this game looking to wrap up the season and prepare for an offseason that will likely result in a lot of turnovers. In the meantime, they have to close out this disappointing season. The Rams are just 26th in scoring offense in the NFL with so many weapons missing. They are ranked 29th in rushing but have averaged 132 yards per game over their last three games. Through the air, the Rams are just 27th in passing offense which is not surprising without all their weapons. In a nod to head coach Sean McVay’s play calling, the Rams are still an impressive 11th in the NFL in the red zone offense. The Rams have the 21st-ranked scoring defense this season. They are ranked 10th in rushing defense and just 22nd in passing defense. The Rams are 20th in the league in turnover differential but are one of the best in the league defensively in the red zone, ranking third overall.
Key Injuries: DT Aaron Donald is listed as doubtful but don’t expect him to suit up. WR Ben Skowrownek is out, further preventing the WR group. C Brian Allen is out while S Nick Scott and DT Greg Gaines are both listed as questionable.
still in the hunt
The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season. After trading away All-Pro quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver this past offseason, the Seahawks find themselves with a legitimate shot at the playoffs while Wilson’s Broncos were eliminated weeks ago. Seattle is 8-8 and will need a win and then a Green Bay loss on Sunday night to get back to the playoffs. Seattle has been led by this year’s potential Comeback Player of the Year in quarterback Geno Smith. Smith has set career-highs in touchdowns and yardage among other things and brought stability to a Seattle offense that many thought would plummet without Wilson. Last week, the Seahawks bounced back from three straight losses with a critical 23-6 win over the Jets at home. Smith threw two touchdowns against the team that originally drafted him which completed a three-game sweep of all his former teams this season, including wins over the Chargers and Giants.
“Honestly it doesn’t mean anything outside of the fact we gave ourselves another chance to go to the playoffs,” Smith said. “I’m actually grateful for being drafted into the NFL by the Jets and although things weren’t perfect there , there were some good times.”
A little late this week, but how ’bout a #Seahawks mailbag. You know the drill: tweet me your brilliant and profound (who am I kidding, mediocre is fine too) #Seahawks/random questions; I’ll answer tomorrow on https://t.co/ridiAtHWkx. pic.twitter.com/W6wkInFr5y
— John Boyle (@johnpboyle) January 6, 2023
Seattle has thrived with a surprising offensive outburst this season and is in position for a possible postseason run. The Seahawks are ranked 9th in the NFL in scoring offense this season. They are ranked 18th on the ground which is impressive given the number of injuries they’ve gone through in the backfield. The passing attack is ranked 12th in the NFL. The Seahawks have had difficulty in the red zone, ranked just 26th. Seattle has been passable in the turnover department, ranked 11th in the NFL. On the defensive side of the ball, Seattle is ranked 24th in scoring defense. The Seahawks have struggled against the run, ranking just 30th in the NFL while their pass defense is ranked 17th. The team’s red zone defense hasn’t been great, ranking 24th in the NFL.
Key Injuries: Several players are listed as questionable including WR Tyler Lockett and RB Kenneth Walker III but expect all to be available in this critical game.
Best bets for this game
Full game side bet
Looking quickly at the records and motivations, one would think I would jump on the Seahawks in this matchup. However, I think motivation may be fairly equal on both sides. Although the Rams don’t have the motivation of defending their Super Bowl title in the postseason, they do have several players that will be playing for their NFL future in this game. Front and foremost is quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield, while not playing at a Pro Bowl level, has been far more efficient in McVay’s offense. He has a legitimate ground game that has averaged 132 yards per game in the last three games and an offense that has allowed him the ability to check down and make simpler plays. Rams running back Cam Akers has come alive as the lead back, just weeks after he was rumored to ask out of the Rams organization. He will certainly be motivated to finish the season with another big game.
Seattle also comes in with just the 24th-ranked run defense, which should suit LA just fine. Seattle will face a Rams’ defense that has been fairly stout against the run, ranked 10th in the NFL, so they will likely have to win this one through the air. While Smith has had a stellar season, his numbers have lagged a bit over the latter part of the season. He is completing 63.8% of his passes in his last four games, down from his 70% completion percentage this season. One more thing to keep in mind, the Rams are far more efficient in the red zone on both offense and defense than Seattle is. I think Seattle ultimately pulls out a field goal game, the Rams will keep this one tight.
Take the Rams +6.
Prediction: LA Rams +6
Full game total pick
The Rams will play ball control football in this matchup. They have shown the ability to run the ball very well in the last part of the season and have gone to a more controlled passing attack that has primarily featured tight end Tyler Higbee. Expect that trend to continue here and expect what is forecast to be rainy conditions in Seattle to also play a role in the game total. Look for a grinder in Seattle that will be a field goal game that stays under this total.
Take the under, 41.5 points.
Prediction: Under 42
Mark Ruelle, “Mark Ruelle”
Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.