With six first-round playoff games on tap, the NFL’s wild-card weekend should feature some entertaining matchups.
And while it’s still not known whether Jared Goff will start at quarterback for the Rams, the Seahawks’ wild-card showdown against their NFC West foes is no exception.
Nationally, pundits predict a low-scoring, close affair, with a few upsets sprinkled throughout. Our four experts predict a tight game, but all four have the Seahawks advancing.
So, which NFC West team will come out on top? Here are the national media’s predictions for Saturday’s wild-card game at Lumen Field:
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell: Seahawks 24, Rams 10
Whether it’s a compromised Goff or the inexperienced Wolford, the Seahawks have been dominating overmatched quarterbacks on defense over the past six weeks. They’ve gone 5-1 over that stretch while holding Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy, Sam Darnold, Dwayne Haskins, Goff and Nick Mullens to a league-best 1.29 points per possession. The Rams are second over that time frame, but as we saw in Week 16, Seattle might not need many points to win this one. Receiver Tyler Lockett had his biggest game in more than two months in Week 17, and with cornerback Jalen Ramsey expected to shadow DK Metcalf, another 90-yard performance could be what gets Seattle through to the next round.
MMQB experts: Five pick Seahawks, three pick Rams
Albert Breer: Rams
Jenny Vrentas: Seahawks
Conor Orr: Seahawks
Michael Rosenberg: Seahawks
Greg Bishop: Seahawks
Andrew Brandt: Seahawks
Gary Gramling: Rams
Mitch Goldich: Rams
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: Seahawks 20, Rams 18
These two split their games in the regular season, with each winning at home. Seattle beat the Rams two weeks ago in a game where Jared Goff hurt his thumb. The Rams had chances in that matchup, even with Goff banged up. The Rams defense always seems to give Russell Wilson problems — that will be the case here. But Seattle’s defense has picked up its play in a big way. That will make for big problems for the Rams offense, no matter who starts at quarterback. Seattle will win a low-scoring game.
Pro Football Talk: Seahawks 24, Rams 21 (Mike Florio), Seahawks 16, Rams 13 (Michael David Smith)
Florio: Russell Wilson is getting too deep into his career to blow a shot at enhancing his legacy on a team that quite possibly will be led by John Wolford.
Smith: The Rams’ defense should play well against Russell Wilson, but I’m not sure I can trust the Rams’ offense, regardless of whether Jared Goff or John Wolford is at quarterback. I like Seattle to win a close, low-scoring game.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: Rams 20, Seahawks 19
I think the Rams are the most likely underdog to win this week because they have the best defense in a defensive matchup. Aaron Donald has 16 pressures in two games against the Seahawks this season and Jalen Ramsey has helped limit DK Metcalf’s impact. This game is bound to be ugly, low-scoring and close in the fourth quarter. McVay has a 5-3 record against Pete Carroll and winning on the road with a backup quarterback would get the crown back as the NFC West’s best coach and certainly the best division’s best defense.
New York Times’ Benjamin Hoffman: Seahawks
Be it Wolford or a limited version of Goff, the Rams should be underdogs against the Seahawks (12-4). Seattle’s offense was never in question — Russell Wilson is a threat to throw a touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf on almost every play — but after a brutal start to the season, the Seahawks’ defense improved considerably. The only solace for Los Angeles is that Seattle may be without safety Jamal Adams and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, which would significantly weaken the Seahawks’ pass rush. At full strength, this would probably have been a terrific game between N.F.C. West heavyweights. And you can’t count out the Rams as long as defensive tackle Aaron Donald — one of the best players in the N.F.L. at any position — is around. But when taken in its diminished form, this game tilts in Seattle’s direction.
The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg: Seahawks -3.5
The Seahawks had no trouble putting points on the board during the first half of the season but have since cooled off, dropping from 3.0 to 2.1 points per drive, which is the league average. Luckily, Seattle’s defense is peaking at the right time, holding opponents to 1.5 points per drive during the second half of the season. Seattle also appears to be in a win-win situation this weekend. If injured Rams quarterback Jared Goff plays, he will be coming off thumb surgery, perhaps limiting his effectiveness, inconsistent to begin with. He was ranked as the 24th most valuable passer of 2020, per ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating. If Goff doesn’t play, the Rams will roll with backup John Wolford under center for a second straight week.
SB Nation experts: Seven pick Seahawks, three pick Rams
One of the best things about the extended playoff format is how we get to see a couple of third games between fierce division rivals. In the NFC West this means a rubber match between the Rams and Seahawks, with the panel believing Seattle will get it done. However, keep in mind that Los Angeles knows Seattle well, and the total point differential between their two games is just a +4 in Seattle’s favor. This will be a game to watch.
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: Rams 20, Seahawks 17
The Rams expect to have Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp back for the rubber match after the Week 16 loss at Seattle cost them the NFC West title and forced them to have this matchup on the road. But the Seahawks don’t have the same home-field advantage, and also their defense has played better of late, the Rams are the ones with the dominant, big-play unit led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The Seahawks’ running game will be contained and Russell Wilson won’t see much open downfield for D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The Rams will mix up personnel, running the ball well and spreading it around in the intermediate passing game to Kupp, Woods and the tight ends.