Seattle’s visit to Los Angeles to play the Rams, suddenly somewhat overshadowed by the move of the game to Tuesday afternoon, isn’t the NFC West title showdown the Seahawks hoped it would be when the schedule was released last spring — or that it was last December when the Seahawks beat the Rams at Lumen Field to claim the divisional crown.

But it’s still as important as any game the Seahawks will play this season. For any longshot hopes of making the playoffs to come to fruition, Seattle logically has to win out. Seattle has won its past two games to keep playoff hopes alive. But this is the game that either makes those hopes start to seem somewhat realistic — with home games against struggling Chicago and Detroit the next two weeks — or just about ends them for good.

Seahawks’ game at the Los Angeles Rams has been pushed to Tuesday because of COVID-19 issues

It’s also a litmus test on the past two weeks and whether what we’ve seen is a Seahawks team really beginning to find itself, or just Seattle taking advantage of a couple of favorable matchups. And suffice to say, it’s also a game that could go a long way toward skewing how the season will be viewed once the hard decisions arrive in the offseason.

Complicating matters is each team’s COVID-19 situation — the Rams had 18 players remaining on the list as of Monday afternoon, while Seattle had nine overall, including WR Tyler Lockett, RB Alex Collins, DT Bryan Mone, RB Travis Homer, DE Kerry Hyder Jr., RT Brandon Shell, CB D.J. Reed and two practice squad players. It is unclear who might miss the game.

On to our keys to the game.

Matchup to watch

Seahawks interior OL vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald

Donald was about as dominant as a defensive lineman can be in Monday’s 30-23 win over Arizona with three sacks and a tipped pass that turned into an interception. And Seattle fans probably don’t need reminding that Donald has 14 sacks in 15 career games against the Seahawks. The Rams move him around, and opponents always use multiple players trying to block him, so it will take a team effort for Seattle to try to prevent him from wreaking havoc, though mostly from center Ethan Pocic and guards Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis. As coach Pete Carroll said, what’s also a key is avoiding too many obvious passing situations. “You have to control the rush by not letting them rush at you when it’s obvious,” Carroll said of Donald and the Rams. “That’s moving the football and keeping them in first and second downs as much as you can and keeping the flow of the game in your favor. It’s been difficult because look at what they have, those three guys are monsters. It’s better when they are not sure when we are throwing it.”


Player to watch

WLB Jordyn Brooks

The Rams’ passing game puts a lot of stress on the middle of the field and requires linebackers to be on it in coverage to try to beat them. Brooks has been a key part of Seattle’s run defense this year and has 134 tackles, third in the NFL, and is rated 15th of 86 linebackers against the run by Pro Football Focus. But he remains a work in progress against the pass, rated 70th of 79 LBs by PFF. He allowed four receptions on four targets for 64 yards in the first game against the Rams and 8 of 9 for 106 Sunday against Houston.

Coaching decision to watch

To blitz or not to blitz?

The Seahawks are blitzing less and less down to 24.8% for the season compared to 33.5% last year. That’s one reason for Seattle’s extreme bend-but-don’t-break ways — not blitzing can decrease the chances of sacks and forcing turnovers but also the risk of big plays. But maybe this is a game the Seahawks will need to be more aggressive. The Rams have been sacked just 21 times this season, third fewest in the NFL (Matthew Stafford has taken 20 of those). Interestingly, that’s the same amount of sacks Seattle has for the season, 21, tied for third fewest. The last thing Seattle wants is for Stafford to have all day to throw.

The X-factor

Each team’s COVID situation

It is unclear which players from each team won’t be able to play in Tuesday’s game. For Seattle, it’s obviously a big deal if Lockett, who went over the 1,000-yard mark last week for the third straight season, can’t play. That would put the onus on second-year player Freddie Swain and rookie Dee Eskridge to pick up some of the receiving slack and also means Seattle will need a big game out of DK Metcalf. The Rams, though, might again counter by sticking standout cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Metcalf, as they have usually done in past meetings. Ramsey was on the COVID list earlier in the week but cleared to play over the weekend.

Player who could surprise

Nickelback Ugo Amadi

Amadi became Seattle’s full-time nickel corner after the loss of Marquise Blair to a knee injury Oct. 25 against the Saints. Amadi played 27 snaps in the first game against the Rams and via PFF gave up three receptions for just 18 yards. But he’ll again have his hands full against the Rams, particularly when he’s matched up against the NFL’s leading receiver, Cooper Kupp. Kupp has lined up in the slot on 507 of his 824 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Kupp is the only receiver with more than 100 catches (113), good for 1,489 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Key stat

Red-zone scoring

One key to Seattle’s somewhat contradictory defensive numbers — ranking last in the NFL in yards allowed at 394.9 per game but fifth in points at 20.2 — is its success in the red zone. Seattle has allowed TDs on just 24 of 49 drives inside the 20, 49%, fourth best in the NFL. The Rams have not been as efficient on offense. While LA ranks seventh in total offense at 384.5 yards per game, the Rams have scored TDs on 33 of 55 drives inside the 20, 60%, which ranks 15th in the NFL. The team that wins that battle goes a long way to winning Tuesday.


Rams 28, Seahawks 23

The COVID situations makes this a much tougher game to call.

But all things being equal, the Rams are the better team, especially on the lines, which has often been the difference. If the Rams don’t get a few of their key guys back, though, Seattle will have a much better chance at a win that might finally make you think there’s a chance at the postseason.