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Thursday Night Preview: Rams at Seahawks

This week Thursday night football may not pack the marquee punch that fans are looking for but there is still a bit of intrigue. For the Rams, it will be seeing how the team will respond after the recent firing of head coach Jeff Fisher. Opposing them will be the Seahawks who are leading their division but coming off of their worst loss of the season.

TNF: Los Angels Rams at Seattle Seahawks -15

Venue: Century Link Field 

Thursday night football may not pack the marquee punch that fans are looking for, but there is still a bit of intrigue. For the Rams, it will be seeing how the team will respond after the recent firing of head coach Jeff Fisher. Opposing them will be the Seahawks who are leading their division but coming off of their worst loss of the season. So the Seahawks along with the 12th man will look to avenge that loss while the Rams will try to turn the page on a forgetful return to Los Angeles. Vegas has little faith in the Rams as the Seahawks have been given a fifteen point spread while the game sits with an over under of 38.5. Coaching changes can sometimes light a fire under a group of players that desperate for a coaching chance, but it would take a Mega Jackpot for the team to surprise and upset the Seahawks on the road this week. Being fifteen point favorites is a monster spread, but stranger things have happened.

When the powers that be announced that the Rams would be moving they probably envisioned a change in climate as a change in fortune for the franchise. The weather has been sunny but the wins haven’t followed. The biggest highlight of the Rams season came this week when it was reported that newly extended head coach Jeff Fisher had been relieved of his duties. The show must go on though and special teams coordinator John Fassel will take on the role of head coach in a short week against the division leading Seattle Seahawks. In most occasions, the next sentence would be “leading the Rams into battle is…”, but who exactly is leading the Rams? The most talented player on their roster is part of the most disappointing stories of 2016, Todd Gurley. The former Georgia Bulldog has rushed for over 75 yards in a game twice this season. In 2015, he had seven such games. Some might say that this is for a lack of opportunity, but he does rank seventh in the league with 227 total carries. He is one of just three running backs in the league that has 200 carries for under a thousand yards. On top of that, he represents one of two players at his position with 200 carries that has just one rush of twenty yards or more. Last week against Atlanta was an ideal matchup for a running back but the game was out of hand and Gurley was left with just 16 carries for 61 yards and a rushing touchdown.

This week the matchup will get tougher against a Seahawks defense that is traditionally tough against the run. The Seahawks have allowed 87 more rushing yards to running backs than Gurley’s week 14 opponent but have also allowed 9 less total touchdowns to the position. The problem for Gurley at this point is that defenses aren’t respecting the Rams rookie signal caller and continue to stack the box. Regardless of stacking the box or not, the Rams offense will rely on Gurley in some fashion this week.

Every now and again a top tier rookie will get drafted into a good spot. Prime example of this would be Ezekiel Elliott going to the Cowboys with an upper echelon offensive line. Jared Goff was as fortunate as he ended up on Rams team that has talent but seemed to be poorly coached. The rookie took over the starting job in week 11 and has two 200 passing performances under his belt. Just last week he had his highest yardage total (235) so far this season but failed to score a touchdown till late in the fourth quarter when he was able to run it in for a two-yard score.

Kenny BrittWhen an interim coach steps into the picture it’s always a stand back and watch approach to see just how the offense takes shape. They could rely on the run more but if they choose to drop back and pass they do have some capable options. Last week it was both Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin hauling in a team-high seven receptions each. Over the last three weeks though it has been Britt getting the most love from Goff as he has led the team in receptions each week. In regards to the touchdowns, it has been the speedster Tavon Austin leading the way with two while Britt and tight end Lance Kendricks have one each. With Seahawks safety Earl Thomas being out, the opportunity could be there for Goff to get off some passes to his targets. The key to this game for the Rams should be to interchange small intermediate routes. This is to help aid Goff from getting sacked like he has 10 times in the last three weeks as well as putting the Seahawks linebackers on their heels. By doing this they may be in a position to free up some open space for Gurley. At this late stage of the season for the Rams, it should be about gaining some continuity within and growing confidence for Goff.

Thomas Rawls Fantasy FootballThe Seattle Seahawks have been hit with four losses this season and one of them was back in week 2 against this Rams squad. This won’t be a game that is just about getting revenge on the Rams as it will also be trying to overcome last weeks embarrassing loss against the Green Bay Packers. It was a 38-10 loss in Green Bay that saw Russell Wilson throw for 5 interceptions which was the most of any start he has ever had in the pros. It didn’t help matters that Wilson was sacked three times and had his third lowest passing yards total of the season. Earlier this season against the Rams, Wilson had 254 yards passing with no touchdowns or interceptions but it’s also important to note that he spent the better part of the early season hampered by numerous injuries. Ironically enough it is the Rams that the Wilson has the worst record against within the division. Wilson has a 4-5 record against the Rams all time with just over 2,000 yards and nine touchdowns. The leading pass catcher for Wilson has undoubtedly been Doug Baldwin. He leads all Seahawks pass catchers in receptions (74), yards receiving (878), and is tied with tight end Jimmy Graham for the most receiving touchdowns (5). Baldwin and Tyler Lockett may be the biggest beneficiaries of the pass attack as the Rams have been tough against the tight end. Graham will be lining up against a Rams defense that is allowing the fourth fewest yards to the position. Los Angeles currently ranks eighth against the pass so it may be up to the running game to help gain a victory this week.

Running back Thomas Rawls had made his return in week 11 this season but didn’t really make his presence felt till week 13 against the Panthers when he torched the former NFC champions for 106 yards on just 15 carries for two touchdowns. Last week, Rawls still had a nice average of about 5.8 yards per carry but failed to reach the end zone as the Seahawks got down big. For all the Rams fault, they do have a tendency to play tough defense. Despite their efforts, they do rank 20th against the run. This may be the opportunity that Rawls is looking for and it is safe to say that he could end up with more carries than he has had in a game this season. In regards to the famed Seahawks secondary, they’ll need to do a better job of making up for the loss of Earl Thomas. Last weeks romp saw Aaron Rodgers throw for three scores of the Legion of boom while completing 78.26% of his passes. The luxury of it is that the Seahawks aren’t facing a Super Bowl winning quarterback this week. This game reeks of the Seahawks game style. Generating a pass rush could keep Goff off the field and ultimately tire out the Rams defense with a strong running game from Rawls. Given the history of the Rams playing the Seahawks tough I’m not in love with the 15 point spread, but I do expect the Seahawks to take the second game of their 2016 matchups. The Seahawks will march one step closer to a division title while the Rams take one step closer to preparing for the 2017 NFL draft.

My Prediction: Seahawks 23 Rams 13


Fantasy Thoughts & Tips:

Due to the Rams roster this will likely be an abbreviated version of my thoughts and tips. If you’re up against it in regards to matchups, I think you can do worse than Kenny Britt. The Rams pass catcher has had ten targets or more in his last two games. It pains me to say this but I do not like starting Gurley this week. You’re literally doing it on name value only as he has given you nothing this year and the Seahawks have allowed the fourth fewest points (standard formats) to the position. You’re in the playoffs now and with a team switching coaches it is really tricky to be sure of what philosophy they will take on. Messing with the Rams on a short week after switching coaches is bottom line risky business. In regards to the Seahawks I like both Doug Baldwin and Thomas Rawls. The Rams are allowing the eighth most points to opposing wide receivers and that’s due in large part to them being one of seven teams to allow more than 15 receiving touchdowns to the position. I like Rawls to get over 100 yards rushing in this matchup as the Seahawks will end up controlling the clock. Wilson will be serviceable here but if you have another quarterback with a better matchup I would take that. Wilson is a great NFL quarterback but that hasn’t always translated to fantasy.

Quarterbacks that could be more serviceable this week are Eli Manning, Big Ben, Tyrod Taylor, and so on. I don’t like either tight end here as the matchup is not a desirable one. The Rams are allowing the sixth fewest points to the position in standard formats while the Seahawks are right behind them in seventh. I don’t envision Russell Wilson throwing another 5 interceptions so I would probably keep off the Rams defense, but I do like the Seahawks defense to rebound at home against a rookie quarterback. There has to be a turnover or two coming their way!

Good luck in the playoffs folks.

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