The Seattle Seahawks travel to Missouri this week to take on the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football. Head coach Pete Carroll and his staff have had an extra four days this week to put together their game plan, so we can expect the Seahawks to roll out some new wrinkles in this week's game.
According to Vegas Insider, the Seahawks are 11.5-point favorites in this game, which is a lot for a road team in the NFL. Given that the Seahawks are 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight games, the gamblers reading this are probably expecting the Seahawks to win in a blowout.
The Competitive Edge
|Seattle Seahawks||Category||St. Louis Rams|
|4th||Yards Per Attempt||26th|
|7th||Yards Per Carry||30th|
|2nd||Yards Per Attempt||30th|
|8th||Yards Per Carry||23rd|
It would be very difficult to look at this chart and not come to the conclusion that the Seahawks are clearly the better team from a statistical standpoint.
Seattle is the better team in every statistical category except for passing yards, but that has more to do with the Rams attempting 82 more passes than anything else. The Seahawks have the better passing offense on a per-play basis.
Of course, the Rams' passing attack is likely to take a serious step back now that starting quarterback Sam Bradford is out for the year with a knee injury, per Cedric Williams of CBS St. Louis. Journeyman backup Kellen Clemens will get the start at QB for the Rams on Monday.
Seattle's Offense vs. St. Louis' Defense
Double- or Triple-Team Robert Quinn
The Rams have the league's best 4-3 defensive end, at least according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Robert Quinn's overall plus-27.1 performance rating is more than Seattle's Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril combined.
The conventional stats are also impressive for Quinn. He already has seven sacks and four forced fumbles this season.
Highest pass rushing productivity score of 4-3 DEs belongs to Robert Quinn (15.2). 2nd is Michael Bennett & 3rd Charles Johnson— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 23, 2013
Making matters worse for the Seahawks is that Quinn lines up primarily at right end, which means that it'll be the responsibility of backup left tackle Paul McQuistan to try and block Quinn.
Obviously, that isn't a recipe for success for the Seahawks.
Seattle must find a way to get McQuistan help on each and every play. Tight ends Zach Miller, Kellen Davis and Luke Wilson will be those most likely called upon to help McQuistan block Quinn.
Protect the Rollout
The Seahawks have gotten into the habit of rolling quarterback Russell Wilson out of the pocket to help him avoid pressure caused by poor pass-blocking. This is especially true after play action to the left, rolling Wilson away from McQuistan's poor blocking at left tackle.
Opposing teams have started to take notice of this trend.
The Arizona Cardinals were able to cause problems for Wilson and the Seahawks by attacking the rollout point on the right side on many running play to the left, rather than having that defender help with run defense. This meant that whenever it was play action, Wilson faced instant pressure as soon as he turned around.
If the Seahawks are going to continue to run play action in this way, then they have to start accounting for the outside defender in their blocking schemes.
Pound the Rock
If there's something that is very clear in the table above, it's that Seattle should have no trouble running the football.
Seattle is among the best in the running game, and St. Louis is among the worst at stopping it.
The Rams are likely to sell out to try and stop running back Marshawn Lynch from running them into the ground, but the Seahawks need to make sure to stick with the run. There's no reason to get cute and try and use Lynch as a decoy all game. This is a game where the Seahawks need to give the ball to Lynch and let him carry them to an easy victory.
A strong and consistent commitment to the run will also help keep Quinn and the other St. Louis pass-rushers in check on the plays in which the Seahawks do pass the ball.
Seattle's Defense vs. St. Louis' Offense
Adjust on the Fly
It is difficult to guess exactly what the Rams' offense is going to look like this week. This will be the first time they've gone into a game without starting quarterback Sam Bradford this season. They are bound to make significant changes to their offense, but it is unclear exactly what those changes might be.
The last time Clemens started a game was in 2011. The Rams have a new coaching staff and drastically different personnel around Clemens now, so the game tape from those starts isn't particularly useful in trying to determine how the Rams might alter their offense.
The Seahawks will have to make adjustments as the game progresses as they figure out which tendencies the Rams are following.
Contain Tavon Austin
The Rams have had a difficult time regularly getting the ball into the hands of the eighth overall pick in last April's draft. Wide receiver Tavon Austin has 29 receptions on the year, but his numbers certainly aren't trending upward.
With Clemens now under center, that might change.
The Rams will be looking for additional offense, and Austin represents a mostly untapped resource. It is highly probable that the Rams will be looking for more creative ways to get Austin the ball on Monday.
Austin is the type of receiver that gives the Seahawks fits. He's small and super-quick, much like Indianapolis' T.Y Hilton, who had a monster game against the Seahawks three weeks ago.
Austin has game-breaking speed, which is why he was taken so high in the draft. The Seahawks must keep him under wraps and not let him dominate the game the way Hilton did against the Seahawks in Week 5.
Bottle Up Zac Stacy
For the last three games, rookie Zac Stacy has been the starting running back for the Rams, and he's done well with the increased playing time. Stacy is averaging 4.3 yards per carry, which is better than some notable RBs like Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and C.J. Spiller.
With Bradford out, Stacy should see an increase in his number of carries this game. The Rams will likely lean on Stacy to try and keep Clemens from facing too many 3rd-and-long situations.
Luckily, the Seahawks have quietly turned into one of the league's best run defenses. After some early-season struggles, the Seahawks have clamped down against the run and are now tied for eighth in the NFL in yards per attempt.
Game Stats and Facts (via Pro-Football-Reference)
How will this game finish?
The Seahawks lead the all-time series between these teams 18-11, but it hasn't always been that way.
The Rams won the first four meetings back in the 1970s and '80s when matchups between these franchises were rare.
When the Seahawks joined the NFC West in 2002, the Rams won five of the first seven games. This includes three wins by the 8-8 Rams over the 9-7 Seahawks in the 2004 regular season and playoffs.
All that changed in 2005, when the Seahawks finally took control of the rivalry. Seattle has won 14 of the last 16 meetings, including 10 straight games from 2005 through 2009.
That means that in 2008 and 2009, when the Seahawks went a combined 9-23, they still managed to go 4-0 against the Rams.
Last season, the teams split their two games, with each team winning at home. Both games were also decided by a touchdown or less.