There are so many reasons to love this Week 10 matchup with Seattle.
First place is at stake; the Rams always play thrilling games against the Seahawks; if the season were to end today, Los Angeles would be heading to the Pacific Northwest as the seven-seed to play Seattle.
But mostly, you just couldn't construct a better opponent for this juncture of the season.
Coming off a disastrous offensive performance in Miami, the collective feeling was, "Why didn't the Rams run it 60 times against that Dolphins defense?" Well, that's not the blueprint against the Seahawks, who are historically bad defensively — if their statistics are to be believed – and spectacularly inept against opposing passing attacks.
That makes this simultaneously a get-right opportunity for Jared Goff and the ultimate temptation for play-caller Sean McVay.
Will the Rams follow the Buffalo Bills down the pass-happy path to picking Seattle apart? Or will they ground and pound with the best rushing attack the NFL has to offer, perhaps limiting Russell Wilson's opportunities in the process?
Which leads us to the prolific passing game of the Seahawks and an opportunity for the Rams defense to prove just how elite they really are. What's not to love about the matchup between the top scoring offense in football and Brandon Staley's group, surrendering a paltry 16.4 offensive points per outing? This is the best challenge the L.A. defense will face all season.
Intimidating Daniel Jones and Kyle Allen and Tua Tagovailoa is one thing. Continuing to wreak havoc on an MVP candidate with his arsenal is something else entirely.
This game will be worth the 14-day wait.
Reasons to Like the Rams
The open weekend was great for perspective.
Turns out, it's permissible to be disappointed the Rams are 5-3, not 6-2 or 7-1, while also being enthusiastic about where they stand.
First, and most importantly, they're the healthiest roster in the league. To get Jordan Fuller back this week and add A'Shawn Robinson to the mix meant no need for a move at the trade deadline.
Secondly, this roster is supremely talented and lacking in very few areas.
And thirdly, there aren't many – if any – coaching staffs you'd prefer to take you through this second-half gauntlet.
Is the schedule challenging? Extremely.
But if the Rams finally play at a level at-or-above the sum of their parts, can they win the division and a whole lot more? Absolutely.
How The West Could Be Won This Week
As optimistic a chord as that was, the inverse is perilously possible, too.
The Rams can play well these next two weeks and be 5-5 come Thanksgiving.
More specifically, they could be playing for a Wild Card spot as early as Thursday night.
If the Seahawks get Week 10 at SoFi Stadium, ESPN's FPI gives them a 77% chance to claim the NFC West crown.
Four days later, if they were to take down the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field? The Seahawks would be two games clear of the field and play one of the softest remaining schedules the rest of the way with the Eagles, Giants, Jets and Football Team ahead.
Seattle fans should be thinking they're two wins in five days away from coasting to a division title.
Sleepless Against Seattle?
I made the mistake of gently pointing out to Sean McVay that the Rams' performances coming out of the last couple of bye weeks have, well, left something to be desired.
They were clocked by the Steelers last November, a performance which lacked an offensive touchdown. They also were guilty of sleepwalking (my words) through a division-clinching win in Detroit in 2018, a result that was very much in doubt until deep in the fourth quarter.
"Yeah, it was sleepy to get to 11-1 that year," McVay chided me, while acknowledging the larger point.
Touché, Sean. Touché.
Thirsty for Thirty
No matter how tumultuous the first half has been on offense, I think McVay believes this group should be putting up 30 points per game. At least.
The numbers back that up. Despite that meltdown in Miami, L.A. is still one of the five most efficient offenses in the game. Their peers – Kansas City, Green Bay, Tennessee, Seattle – came into the week averaging 31.7, collectively.
The Rams are the severe outlier here at 24 per outing. Why?
A few culprits:
Not finishing drives. They rank 17th in red zone touchdown percentage.
Turnovers. You shouldn't be 5-3 with a negative-two margin on the year, and you can't run up the score by giving away 1.5 possessions per game.
And of course, kicking. Four missed field goals and three missed extra points translate to 15 points – almost two additional points per game.
I believe the Rams are due and will experience some "progression" to the mean in the second half of the season. 30 points per game will translate to a lot of wins paired with this L.A. defense.
Turning Over a New Leaf
To underscore the turnover point, you cannot give Wilson extra opportunities, particularly on short fields.
This Seahawks defense may be deficient, but they're extraordinarily opportunistic.
Through eight games, they have 14 takeaways and 76 points off those turnovers.
The only instances of the Seahawks failing to score following a takeaway have been victory formation kneel-downs to end games and the viral Budda Baker interception return thwarted by D.K. Metcalf.
About that moment.
On this week’s Rams Revealed podcast, I asked Justin Hollins which teammate he'd trust to outrun Metcalf, should his defense intercept Wilson on Sunday.
He had a clever response.
"Honestly, anybody could get it because we're going to block him," the Rams outside linebacker said. "As soon as the ball is caught on our side, we intercept it and we're running, everybody better be looking for D.K. Metcalf. Because we're not letting it happen to us. We need them seven points."
Smart man. Good plan.
Check out the top photos from Thursday's LA Rams practice as they prepare for the Week 10 divisional matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
One other note about that interception: seldom do Wilson and the Seahawks fail in the red zone.
They are converting better than 86 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns. That's an historic clip. By comparison, the Rams are at 61 percent for the year.
However, when Wilson has come up empty in the red zone, it's because of interceptions. Three of his eight picks have come in that compressed area of the field.
In letting Russ cook, the Seahawks are mostly flambéing their competition. But occasionally they do burn an entrée or two.
As dominant as Wilson's been on early downs, he's peculiarly ineffective on third down. With six turnovers against three touchdowns, his third down passer rating is only better than Sam Darnold among qualifying quarterbacks.
How many unfavorable third down situations can the Rams defense force Seattle into in Week 10?
Time for Rookies to Arrive
On the one hand, the Rams have been very fortunate that the top of their depth chart has been healthy and productive at the skill positions. They haven't needed their top two draft picks, Cam Akers and Van Jefferson, to deliver to win games.
On the other hand, it's tough to see the Rams getting to where they want to go without some rookies making their presence felt. At the midway point, those two talents have a combined stat line of 47 touches, 291 scrimmage yards, and zero touchdowns. Underwhelming, to say the least.
As discussed, Fuller returns this weekend – and he's been the standout of the class so far, despite only playing three full games. L.A. needs Akers, Jefferson, and fellow-rookie Terrell Lewis to impact the second half of this season in a much more meaningful way than they have so far, even if it's in limited opportunities.
Lastly, here's the unstoppable force versus the immovable object of Week 10.
The Seahawks go deep and they do it as well as any offense in the NFL. Wilson has seven touchdown passes measuring 20-plus air yards this season, almost one per game.
However, per ESPN, the Rams have allowed the fewest completions on throws 20-plus yards downfield this season (opposing quarterbacks are 5-of-23 against them) and are the only defense that has yet to allow a touchdown pass of that distance.
Whether or not the Seattle line can fend off Aaron Donald, and whether Wilson is able to extend plays long enough to give Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore that chance to get vertical, could factor heavily into the outcome of Week 10.
Sunday can't get here soon enough.