We have (barely) made it through the 2020 NFL Season and now the playoffs are here! This year introduces a bye for only one team, as well as three Wild Card teams per conference. The NFL Playoffs are always unpredictable and adding an additional team should only increase the chance of an upset. With this in mind, (almost) every team feels like they have a legit chance to raise that Lombardi Trophy in a few weeks.
We’re looking at every NFL Wild Card matchup and diving into the history between the teams, the keys to victory for each side, and a prediction on how we think it will play out.
This matchup sees two NFC West rivals going head to head yet again.
Being in the same division, Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams is a matchup that occurs, at a minimum, twice a season. Lately, it has been a rather competitive series. In 2020, the two teams split the season series, and since 2015, all but 4 of the times they have met have been decided by one score.
The most recent of their meetings was just on Dec.27th, with the Rams falling to Seattle by a score of 20-9. This game is more notable, however, for an attempted throw late in the game that saw Rams QB Jared Goff connect with a Seattle defender’s helmet on a follow-thru and break his thumb. It is this injury that kept Goff out of the Rams week 17 match-up and has him doubtful for this weekend.
Keys for the Los Angeles Rams
All the talk has been, predictably, on who will start at Quarterback. If Goff can’t go, the game will be started by Rams backup QB, and former college teammate of one Matt James, John Wolford. In his Week 17 start against the Arizona Cardinals, which was itself basically a playoff game, Wolford had a very serviceable, if not a bit pedestrian, stat line while guiding the Rams to victory. It is for this very reason that I don’t really think who plays under Center will be the deciding factor in this game. In fact, I’d probably play both guys just to keep the Seattle defense on their toes.
It doesn’t matter who plays QB for the Rams this season mostly because that’s not how this team is built. The Rams have the number 1 defense in the NFL this season, led by superstar talents Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. It is HARD to score a bunch of points on LA. And on the offensive side of the ball, this team will run it down your throats over and over again with a seemingly endless supply of running backs. Passing is definitely not the feature, and when it is, Cooper Kupp seemingly turns a 5-yard throw into a 30+ yard gain every week. As long as someone can get Kupp the ball, that’s really all they have to do.
Keys for the Seattle Seahawks
For the Seahawks, I think it boils do to one question: Which Russell Wilson is going to show up? Will it be the Russell Wilson from the first 4 weeks of the season, who was the surefire MVP choice? Will it be the Russell Wilson of the last 4-6 weeks of the season who seemed content to simply check the ball down and not take any chances? Or will it be the Russell Wilson from the period between those two, who was throwing interceptions at an alarming rate? If it’s the first one, game over, bring on the next round. If it’s either of the other two, then this could be anyone’s game, especially the latter. And of course, the Rams can’t let him scramble around freely and create plays for his teammates.
This is going to be an ugly football game, where the defenses have ample opportunities to shine. Whichever team can protect the ball the best will likely win. I do think the Seahawks have more pressure on them, and for that reason, I am picking the Rams in an upset: 19-17.
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