Thursday Night Preview: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Here’s a preview of Thursday night’s matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, courtesy of STAT Stack:

Los Angeles Rams (3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

Line: Rams -2.5, Total: 54.5 


The Iron Chef 

As chants of “Let Russ Cook” continue to flow on social media, we should take a moment to reflect on an attribute of the Seahawks’ quarterback that might be his most important ability: his durability. Russell Wilson has started 148 consecutive regular season games, and including playoffs that number jumps to 164. That’s the longest active streak in the NFL by 70 games (Tom Brady, 94). He’s still a long way from the all-time record held by Brett Favre (321 straight, including playoffs), as he will finally pass the halfway mark of Favre’s incredible streak (297 regular season) in Thursday’s game. To catch Favre, Wilson would need to start every game for the next eight seasons, helped by the NFL’s new 17-game schedule and would take him through his 18th NFL season (2029, his age-41 season). 

The incredible stability that Wilson has given the Seahawks since entering the league in 2012 is underscored by how much of a beating he has taken during that time. Starting with his second season in 2013, the 7-time Pro Bowler has been sacked at least 40 times in eight straight seasons. With 11 sacks taken so far this year, he’s on pace to extend that streak to nine seasons. In his 164 career starts (including playoffs), Wilson has been sacked 454 times, which is fourth-most among active quarterbacks. The three players ahead of him — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers — have all started at least 50 more games than Wilson, whose 8.4 career sack percentage is considerably higher than Brady (4.7%), Roethlisberger (6.2%) and Rodgers (6.6%). Rams starting QB Matthew Stafford has been sacked only 3 times all season, or nearly four times less than the amount of touchdowns he has thrown (11). Stafford’s minuscule 2.2% sack rate currently leads the league, but is a long ways away from the NFL single-season record of 0.98% set by Dan Marino in 1988 when he threw 606 passes and was sacked just 6 times.


Rare Occurrence

Since the year 2000, the Rams have played at Seattle in the regular season 20 times. In just three of those game, the Rams have been the favorite (2000, 2011 & 2018) and they did not cover the number in any of those matchups. It’s not just the Rams, either; Seattle being a home underdog is extremely rare, especially in the Russell Wilson-era. Wilson and the Seahawks have only been a home underdog in the regular season seven times and three of those were during Wilson’s rookie season in 2012. In those seven games, the Seahawks are 6-1 ATS, winning the first six such games before suffering their first lost in 2019 against the 49ers. That was the last time the Seahawks were home underdogs in the regular season. Overall, Seattle is 12-2 ATS in their last 14 games as a home underdog.  

Line on the Move 

Despite the Rams relative lack of success in the Pacific Northwest, bettors are hammering LA and have this line moving. It opened as low as a pick’em in some places, and Rams -1 in many others, but was quickly moved to Rams -2.5, where it currently sits. According to Action Network, that’s because 80% of the bets have been on the Rams and 91% of the money has followed suit. 


Donald’s Dominance 

Aaron Donald is a freak. He is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, having won the award in three of the last four years (2017, ’18 & ‘20). Despite playing on the interior of the defensive line, Donald has registered 87.5 sacks in his 109 career regular season starts (including a league-leading 20.5 sacks in 2018). According to Pro Football Focus, here is how Donald has ranked among interior defensive linemen since 2014: 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st and 1st. That’s right, he’s been PFF’s highest-graded defensive lineman in every season since 2015, though they have him ranked 2nd so far in 2021 (behind Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward). Donald has been graded above 90 in every season that he’s been in the league (above 90 is considered “Elite” by PFF). 

Now he gets to go against a Seattle offensive line that, frankly, has not been very good. We noted above how Wilson has already been sacked 11 times this season, and much of that falls on the play of the offensive line. NFL Network’s Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund says that the unit is in her bottom-3 in the league. Interestingly enough, it hasn’t been the offensive tackles that have been the issue; both Duane Brown (17th) and Brandon Shell (30th) rank in the Top 30 among offensive tackles, according to PFF.  Their guard play has been abysmal with both Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis graded below 60, which puts them in the “Replaceable” category. Center Kyle Fuller is graded at 52.6, 5th-worst in the league among qualified centers. 

So, you have Aaron Donald, arguably the best defensive player in the league, lining up against the middle of the Seahawks offensive line, which has been one of the worst trios in football. Donald may currently be rated as the second-best interior defender this season, but he’s got a golden opportunity to retake his spot at the top this week. Including playoffs, Donald has racked up 15 sacks in 15 career meetings with the Seahawks, all of those against Russell Wilson. That includes 11 sacks in the last eight matchups, capped off by two sacks in the Rams’ playoff win over Seattle in January.

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