Since Sunday, there has been a lot of gloom and doom in St. Louis, following the loss of the Rams offensive leader and signal caller, Sam Bradford. The announcement of Kellen Clemens are the starter for Monday Night Football didn’t help bring excitement, nor did the signing of Austin Davis and Brady Quinn. However, in the darkness, there shines a slight glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, the Seattle Seahawks. To premise this next piece, the Seattle Seahawks could certainly make a case for being the top team in the NFC, and the NFC West crown should be theirs to lose, even this early in the season. However, we at Ramblin’ Fan are about to break down why this Prime Time matchup might not be as one-sided as you may be led to believe…
Why the St. Louis Rams won’t win: With Sam Bradford down, the St. Louis Rams will be leaning on a “player-coach” backup to try and ignite the offense against one of the more potent defenses in the NFL. Bradford was well on his way to the best statistical season of his career, and with his ACL tear, opposing defenses can now stack the box and simply feed off of Kellen Clemens’ mistakes.
Why the St. Louis Rams will win: The St. Louis Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks at home around this time last season with, essentially, Sam Bradford and the Rams’ offense being non-existent. In fact, Bradford completed only 53% of this passing attempts, converted only five total first downs, and tossed one interception without throwing any touchdowns. The Rams only ventured 20+ yards on 3 out of 10 offensive series, and their lone touchdown was scored on a fake field goal, from Johnny Hekker to Danny Amendola hiding at the pylon.
Why the St. Louis Rams won’t win: The Rams defense cannot stop the run, and, thus, Marshawn Lynch will have a field day plowing through the St. Louis secondary for big chucks of yards and touchdowns.
Why the St. Louis Rams will win: …and that is different from last year, how? In Week 4 of 2012, Marshawn Lynch took 20 carries for 118 yards, averaging a dominating 5.9 yards per carry, and did manage an 18-yard busting touchdown. Heck, even Robert Turbin tacked on 45 yards, on an impressive 7.5 yards per attempt. Still, who won the game in St. Louis?
Why the St. Louis Rams won’t win: The Seattle Seahawks’ roster has gotten significantly better since last season, whereas the St. Louis Rams’ roster appears to have taken a step back.
Why the St. Louis Rams will win: Well, that one just isn’t true. In fact, at least offensively, the Seattle Seahawks roster is nearly identical, with the exception of a few notable starters missing due to injury. That includes both starting left tackle, Russell Okung, and starting right tackle, Breno Giacomini, who aren’t expected to return any time in the next two to three weeks. Every other position, from quarterback to wide receivers, are the exact same personnel.
Defensively, the roster is substantially different, but not necessarily an “upgrade” over last season. On the back end, you have the same cornerbacks and safeties, and essentially the same linebackers corps, with the exception of losing Leroy Hill, who has one of the top rated run stuffing outside linebackers in the NFL last season. The defensive end rotation of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemens, and Red Bryant has been phenomenal this season. However, by the numbers, they are no more effective than they were at this point in the year last season: 20 sacks through Week 7 in 2012 by the defensive line vs. 21 sacks through Week 7 in 2013 by the defensive line. Moreover, only three ‘Hawks defensive linemen have graded out positively against the run this season.
Alternatively, the St. Louis Rams’ roster has been upgraded, nearly, across the board. At the skill positions (Jared Cook, Tavon Austin), on the offensive line (Jake Long over Rodger Saffold, Scott Wells over Rob Turner, Joe Barksdale over Barry Richardson), on the defensive line (Michael Brockers, who was injured at this point last season), and at linebacker (Alec Ogletree). One could even make the argument that the safeties, even with the injury to T.J. McDonald, are better than the grouping from last season, considering one those players was the infamous Craig Dahl.
Why the St. Louis Rams won’t win: Russell Wilson is playing much better than he was at this point last season, and will not have another three interception game against the St. Louis Rams.
Why the St. Louis Rams will win: One could certainly make that argument, out of context, but diving into the individual performances, that is not necessarily the case. Wilson has managed three games with a 100+ passer rating this season, nearly on-par with his performance at this point last year. However, aside from last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks offense has continued to struggle on the road. Russell Wilson did manage 300+ passing yards against the Carolina Panthers to open the season, but the teams still only managed 12 total points in the game, narrowly trumping Cam Newton in a low-scoring bout. Against Houston, Wilson completed only 52.2% of this attempts, and registered a mere 123 passing yards without a touchdown. In their lone loss of the season, to the Indianapolis Colts, Wilson completed under 50% of his attempts and barely eclipsed 200 passing yards despite throwing 31 passes. Not surprisingly, Wilson tends to perform worse when he is on the road, especially against defenses that generate a strong pass rush. So, again, it is not that surprising that his worst three games of this season came against the 5th- (San Francisco 49ers), 7th- (Indianapolis Colts), and 8th-best (Houston Texans) pass rushing defenses this year.
Seattle will be on the road, and will be playing against the 12th-ranked St. Louis Rams pass rush. Worse, they will have their backup blindside tackle facing off against Robert Quinn, currently graded as the highest pass rushing defensive player in the NFL (according to Pro Football Focus), who is averaging 1 sack, 1.5 hits on the quarterback, 2.8 hurries, and 2.8 defensive stops per game this season.
Do we really think it is likely that the Seattle Seahawks will lose on Monday Night Football to the ailing St. Louis Rams? No. Do we think that is it possible that the Rams could stun the NFL-world with a massive upset victory? Absolutely. We’ll have to wait until Prime Time to find out…