Quarterback controversy is something that typically occurs during training camp or early in the regular season. However, for the Los Angeles Rams, they may have one heading into their Wild Card showdown with the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.
With the Rams needing a win — or a Green Bay Packers victory over the Chicago Bears — in Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals, they were forced to turn to John Wolford at quarterback with Jared Goff sidelined with a broken thumb. While Wolford didn’t light up any metric in his first career start, he was a breath of fresh air for fans in Los Angeles as they defeated Arizona.
After hilariously throwing an interception on his first career pass attempt, Wolford settled in and threw for 231 yards while also rushing for 56 yards with his legs, which is a valuable asset that he brings that Goff is incapable of delivering. Wolford actually became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw for 200+ yards and rush for 50+ yards in their NFL debut.
Seeing that Goff recently underwent surgery, it is undetermined if he will be able to suit up for Saturday’s contest. Following Sunday’s win, Sean McVay remains mum about naming a starter against the Seahawks this week.
Given the magnitude of the game, McVay has no incentive in naming a starter before the opening kick-off takes place. In the third installment of Rams-Seahawks — aside from the intriguing quarterback situation — there are a few matchups that standout in the Wild Card round.
Cam Akers vs. Seattle’s front seven
Running the ball was something the offense of the Rams had success doing during the regular season. With a mixture of rookie Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles boasted the fourth-ranked DVOA rushing offense at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign.
The last time these two teams faced each other in Week 16, the Rams were without Akers due to a high-ankle sprain he suffered in Week 15 versus the New York Jets. However, Akers miraculously returned to action last week against the Cardinals, in which he ran for only 34 yards on 21 carries.
While he struggled on the ground, Akers did record a career-best 52 receiving yards on four catches. Following his forgettable performance, Akers will be relied upon to handle the majority of the backfield workload against a stout run defense in the Seahawks that conceded 3.9 yards per attempt, which was tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL.
Regardless of who ends up starting at quarterback, Akers and the running game could be useful in keeping Russell Wilson on the sideline as much as possible. At the same time, Akers’ receiving contributions could be beneficial in helping the offense get back on track.
Johnny Hekker vs. the football
No matter what both teams look like prior to facing one another, it always seems as if the Rams and Seahawks have nail-biting finishes. Even when Los Angeles seemingly dominated Seattle in their first meeting of the 2020 season, they walked out with a narrow 23-16 victory.
As a matter of fact, 12 of their past 18 matchups have been decided by seven or fewer points — dating back to 2012. With Saturday’s Wild Card showdown expected to be a close, hard-fought game, field position could determine the victor when it is all said and done.
Fortunately for the Rams, they have the best punter in the NFL in Johnny Hekker. Despite averaging a mediocre 45.6 yards per punt, Hekker was able to pin the opposing team inside the 20-yard line 28 times (tied for third-most among punters in 2020).
When you have a defense as dominant as the one the Rams have, being able to force the opposing team to drive the length of the field can be invaluable. Especially when you’re facing a team that has a quarterback that can create something out of nothing at any moment like Wilson.
Jalen Ramsey vs. D.K. Metcalf
It’s no secret that everyone is looking forward to the third clash between Jalen Ramsey and D.K. Metcalf on Saturday. In their previous two battles this season, Ramsey exuded his dominance by drastically limiting the standout second-year wide receiver.
Altogether, Ramsey covered Metcalf on 53 of his 77 routes in both games this season, holding the big-play wideout to one reception for 11 yards on a mere four targets. One.
Besides Ramsey, the entire secondary of the Rams has performed swimmingly this season. According to Sosa Kremenjas of Pro Football Focus, Los Angeles has three cornerbacks with top-18 grades at the position.
Don't look now, but the Rams have THREE (3) cornerbacks inside the top-18 overall grades @PFF:
4th. Darious Williams – 80.0
8th. Jalen Ramsey – 79.7
18th. Troy Hill – 74.2
Shoutout Troy Hill who's playing some of the best ball of his career and has been awesome this season.
— Sosa K (@QBsMVP) January 5, 2021
The eccentric secondary coupled with the lively defensive front of the Rams has given them the No. 1 ranked defense heading into the playoffs, which is a testament of how special Brandon Staley has been in his first season as the defensive coordinator of the Rams. While slowing down Tyler Lockett and the other wide receivers in Seattle’s offense will be crucial though, Ramsey shutting down Metcalf for the third time would come as a welcomed sight for fans.