Los Angeles Rams: Three key matchups vs. Seattle

Nov 1, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) tackles Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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When it comes to the toughest remaining schedules in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams are a team that won’t have an easy path to the playoffs in the second half of the season. Coming off of their bye week in Week 9, the Rams have the fourth-hardest remaining schedule — per ESPN’s metrics — and their road to the postseason begins with a stiff test against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Rams currently boast a 5-3 record, with four of their five wins coming against NFC East teams. Given this information, some people are skeptical of Los Angeles and whether or not they are a legitimate playoff contender in a tough NFC West division.

The last time we saw Los Angeles take the field, they produced a dud against the Miami Dolphins, getting obliterated in every phase of the game. Though, a win over Seattle in Week 10 could possibly give the Rams the lead in the NFC West after all three NFC West squads lost in Week 9.

Sunday’s tilt with the Seahawks will be a perfect litmus test for the Rams, giving them a chance to prove themselves against Russell Wilson and Seattle’s high-octane offense. Wilson, despite uncharacteristically turning the ball over seven times in the past three games, is still playing at an MVP level and can single-handedly change the outlook of a game.

On the other hand, it will be up to Sean McVay and Los Angeles’ offensive unit to take advantage of a porous Seahawks defense. With the NFC West up for grabs heading into Week 10, let’s take a deeper look at a few matchups that could determine the outcome of Sunday’s bout between the Rams and Seahawks.

Cooper Kupp vs. Seattle’s CBs

When I say the defense of the Seahawks has been historically bad, I mean they have been HISTORICALLY bad. Through the first 10 weeks of the season, Seattle’s defense has allowed 455.8 offensive yards per game, which is ranked 32nd in the NFL.

For comparison, the NFL record for most yards allowed per game in a season was in 2012 when the New Orleans Saints conceded 440.1 offensive yards per game. While the entire defense of the Seahawks has been putrid, the secondary is arguably the weakest link.

More specifically, teams have typically taken advantage of Seattle’s secondary with slot wide receivers, which bodes well for Cooper Kupp. As Sosa Kremenjas of Pro Football Focus (If you aren’t following him already, what are you doing with your life?) points out, slot wide receivers against the Seahawks have feasted so far this season.

Just before the bye week, Kupp recorded a career-high 20 targets versus the Miami Dolphins, finishing with 11 receptions for 110 yards. I may be exaggerating a bit, but Kupp may see 99 targets on Sunday against the Seahawks’ slew of cornerbacks to pay homage to Aaron Donald.

Darrell Henderson vs. Seattle’s LBs

Before the season began, it was well documented that McVay was going to take a game-by-game approach at the running back position. Back in Week 1, it was Malcolm Brown who led the charge, commanding 60 percent of the team’s offensive snaps at running back. Rookie Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson would combine for the other 40 percent of offensive snaps.

However, since Week 1, the Rams have gradually figured out that Henderson is the best of the bunch right now. While Akers could improve moving forward, Henderson has been the most explosive option by far.

Henderson leads the team with 458 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, while also contributing 10 receptions for 120 yards and another score through the air. If he hasn’t already, McVay needs to realize that the offense is at its best when Henderson is manning the backfield.

Contrary to their pass defense, the Seahawks are stout against the run, surrendering the fourth-fewest yards per attempt (3.7) and fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (93.6) this season. The reason they perform well against the run is in large part due to their dynamic duo of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright at linebacker.

Wright is questionable to suit up on Sunday with a sprained ankle he suffered in Week 9 versus the Buffalo Bills. Regardless of Wright’s status — which he seems probable to play — getting Henderson involved in the offense should bode well for the Rams.

Jalen Ramsey vs. D.K. Metcalf

Over the course of his impressive career thus far, Jalen Ramsey has typically shadowed the opposing team’s best wide receiver. Although that may be true, his role in Brandon Staley’s new-look defense doesn’t secure him to one spot throughout the entirety of the game.

At certain moments, Ramsey may be lined up out wide, and at others, he could find himself playing in the slot. But with D.K. Metcalf making his way to SoFi Stadium, the Rams may want Ramsey to be matched up on him as much as possible.

While Ramsey wouldn’t say he would follow Metcalf all game, he at least admitted — to no one’s surprise — that he’d likely cover Metcalf at some point in the contest, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (who is another must-follow on Twitter). The All-Pro cornerback also uttered that he’d continue to move around and cover everyone just like he has all season.

Metcalf is showing his critics that he’s one of the best wide receivers in the league and he’s here to stay. The larger-than-life wideout is second in the NFL in receiving yards (788), having eclipsed 90+ receiving yards in seven out of Seattle’s first eight games, and is also second in the league in receiving touchdowns with eight.

Besides Metcalf, the Rams also have to worry about Tyler Lockett wreaking havoc in the aerial attack. Nevertheless, if the Rams are going to have Ramsey lined up across one of them more often, he’ll likely be guarding Metcalf for a decent portion of the game.

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