Wild Card Weekend will feature two games against division rivals. The first is a matchup between the two heavyweights of the NFC West, as the 10-6 Los Angeles Rams will take on the 12-4 Seattle Seahawks in Seattle.
Here is a closer look at each team, along with a summary of their previous matchups and any betting trends to note. Right now, Seattle is a solid five-point favorite at home.
In their first meeting on November 15, the Rams took advantage of a short-handed Seahawks offense to win at home 23-16. L.A. didn't have a single running back gain over 40 yards but got three rushing touchdowns, while quarterback Russell Wilson had zero touchdowns and two interceptions with none of Seattle's top-three running backs on the field. The Rams also sacked the Seahawks six times, three of which coming from linebacker Leonard Floyd.
However, in Week 16, the Seahawks won the rematch 20-9 to clinch the NFC West. Wilson was better, throwing for a touchdown and running in for one as well, while Rams QB Jared Goff threw a pick and hurt his thumb during the game. The one carry-over from the first game to the second game was L.A.'s pass-rush, which once again sacked Wilson five times, two of them coming from Floyd.
Beginning on offense, the Seahawks hold the edge there. This season, Seattle averaged 28.7 points per game, eighth in the NFL, while the Rams averaged 23.3 points per game. However, both teams were fairly even in terms of yards per game, with the Seahawks owning the slight 388.5 to 387.6 edge. L.A. had a better third-down offense as well, averaging a 43.4 percent success rate compared to Seattle's 40.2.
Defensively, the Rams are up by a wide margin. Los Angeles is the number one team in the NFL with 18.5 points allowed and 304 yards allowed.
By comparison, the Seahawks are 15th and 23rd in the league with 23.3 points allowed and 396 yards allowed per game, respectively. While both teams have top-five run defenses, L.A. also ranks in the top-three in third-down defense, whereas Seattle sits 27th, but each team was among the top-six in sacks.
The 10-6 Rams managed to go 9-7 ATS, including going 4-4 on the road. L.A. has gotten the better of the Seahawks in recent years, beating their northern rivals in five of their last seven meetings. However, they have won just three of their last 16 meetings when the game is played at Lumen Field in Seattle.
Meanwhile, the 12-4 Seahawks went just 8-8 ATS, but among those games went 6-2 ATS at home. Seattle is winning games, winning six of seven heading into the weekend and seven of their eight home games. But they have only covered in four of their last 12, and more importantly, are just 3-6 ATS in their last nine divisional games.
Each team has injuries to monitor heading into Saturday. For Seattle, that means offensive linemen Mike Iupati and Brandon Shell, although head coach Pete Carroll has said he expects them both to be available. However, star safety Jamal Adams suffered an injury Sunday against the 49ers, and his status for the Wild Card matchup is in doubt.
But the most significant injury to watch is Goff, who appears to be a longshot to play. Should he be ruled out, the backup John Wolford would draw the start. L.A. also has players like left tackle Andrew Whitworth and wide receiver Cooper Kupp who are currently questionable to play.
This game has the lowest point total among the Wild Card Weekend slate, and for good reason. Both times these teams played earlier, the total points came below the 42.5 this game to currently projected at, and that was with a healthy Goff. Expect another low-scoring bout in round three of this rivalry.
Regardless of who is the quarterback for the Rams, expect them to continue to put tremendous pressure on Wilson just like the first two meetings, while also doing their best to shut down Seattle's star receiving duo of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Their defense alone should make this close, but I ultimately see Wilson and the Hawks narrowly escaping with the win at home.
Give me Seattle to win a tight one, but the Rams to cover.
Betting Pick: Los Angeles Rams (+5).