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Week 5 Sunday Afternoon Football Preview: Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| October 6, 2017 12:00 am PDT
seahawks-vs-rams

In the National Football League, every single season sees at least one team come from out of the blue to completely take the league by storm.

Last season, the big comeback story was the Oakland Raiders. After the death of long-time owner/manager Al Davis led the team to bring in brilliant GM Reggie McKenzie, in short order, the Raiders went from laughingstock of the NFL to legitimate contender. In a flash, Oakland went from 3 wins (in 2014/15) to 7 wins (in 2015/16) to 12 wins (in 2017/18).

This year, the new incredible comeback story in the National Football League is the Los Angeles Rams.

Owning the distinction of the only franchise in the National Football League to have won a championship in three different cities, the Rams (formerly of St. Louis formerly of Los Angeles formerly of Cleveland) moved back to Los Angeles in the offseason following the 2015/16 season, after the romance had worn out with the city of St. Louis and the team had missed the playoffs 11 straight years.

Upon moving to Los Angeles, over the course of a year the Rams completely changed their identity. They mortgaged future draft picks to move up and select Jared Goff with the #1 pick overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. Towards the end of the season, long-time head coach Jeff Fisher was fired. This past offseason, the team hired 31-year old Sean McVay, the former offensive coordinator of the Redskins.

After making so many changes and winning only 4 games in their first year in L.A., no one really expected the Rams to play as well as they have thus far in 2017/18.

In easily the most incredible turnaround in the entire National Football League, the Rams went from the team that scored the fewest points in the league last season (14.0 per game) to the team that has scored the most in the league through the first quarter of this season (35.5 per game).

The Rams are averaging three more touchdowns scored per game than they averaged last season.

  • Who: Seattle Seahawks (2–2) vs. Los Angeles Rams (3–1)
  • Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Los Angeles, California
  • When: Sunday, October 8, 2017. 4:05 PM (EST) on CBS

For gamblers, the biggest danger with this young and exciting team is that we allow ourselves to jump on the bandwagon and get sucked into the narrative so much that we lose our objectivity. It’s important to remember what the facts are in this situation:

  • The Rams have a sophomore quarterback, the same class as Jacoby Brissett and Cody Kessler
  • The Rams have a rookie head coach, who still has a lot to learn in terms of game management
  • The Rams have a very young defense that has given up the 5th-most points in the league so far

It’s certainly true that watching the turnaround in Los Angeles this year (for the Rams, certainly not for the Chargers) has been an incredibly fun storyline. However, it’s important that we don’t jump on the bandwagon so much that we lose our ability to make savvy and informed gambling decisions.

Because even though the Los Angeles Rams have been incredibly exciting so far this young 2017/18 season, the Seattle Seahawks are still a force to be reckoned with.

In focusing too much on the narrative for the Los Angeles Rams, there’s a definite chance that we could lose out on the narrative for the Seattle Seahawks.

For a team that seems every year to be a serious contender come playoff time, and that is routinely counted among the most complete and dynamic in the league by the end of the season, it’s hard to square the fact that the same team seems every year to start off incredibly slow, and to make fans question why certain issues (most importantly the offensive line) never seem to get fixed.

This season has been no different than seasons past: The Seahawks’ offensive line has looked terrible.

However, it’s important to note that last week, at home against the Indianapolis Colts, the Seahawks seemed to hit a huge turning point in their season, at the midway point of the game on Sunday Night Football.

After going down 15–10 (and surrendering a safety) to Jacoby Brissett and the Luck-less Colts’ offense, the Seahawks finally turned things around. After a couple of defensive scores and some downfield throws, Seattle finally rediscovered its ability to score and put up an incredible 36 points in the second half alone (to the Colts’ 3 points) to ultimately win the game 46–18.

Both of these teams have something to prove, and in a divisional matchup on Sunday afternoon they’re going to need to bring their A-game if they want to prove it.

It should be an exciting game, and we’ve got you covered with all the information you need to know in order to make informed gambling decisions on the following bets:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

The Rams very well might be this year’s incredible comeback story, much like the Raiders last year. And this Sunday’s game against the division rival Seahawks should be their biggest test yet.

Seahawks vs. Rams Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Seahawks -105
  • Rams -115

When picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy is to try and determine which team will be able to find and maintain a mental advantage in the game.

In our experience, whichever team stays mentally tough for the entire 60-minute contest generally ends up winning. On the other hand, when a team loses focus, they are much more liable to make significant mistakes on both sides of the ball:

  • On offense, quarterbacks make errant throws, receivers run incorrect routes and drop passes, protection schemes get miscommunicated, offensive lineman lose the battle in the trenches, and penalties are made.
  • On defense, defensive backs have blown coverages and missed assignments, linebackers get turned around, defensive linemen get out-muscled at the point of attack, and once again, penalties are made.

Once these mistakes start piling up, on both sides of the ball, drives end on offense, the defense can’t get off the field, the time of possession shifts, and the game generally starts to spiral out of control. In this way, we see that the mental aspect of the game isn’t just some mumbo-jumbo superstition: it really is the means by which games are won and lost in the National Football League.

In this game, home-field advantage isn’t as big of a mental factor as the game being a divisional game.

The Los Angeles Rams current stadium, the Coliseum, is not their ultimate home. And if we’ve learned anything over the last two seasons (with the Rams over the course of these past two seasons, and with the Rams and the Chargers this season), it’s that the fan base in L.A. doesn’t offer nearly the same type of home field advantage that you see in other stadiums across the league.

However, despite the fact that the stadium should have perfect weather and shouldn’t be significantly louder when either team is on offense, the fact that this game is a divisional game significantly impacts the outcome.

The NFC West is known, perhaps more than any other division in the league, for having incredibly close, very low-scoring intra-divisional matchups.

Just take last season as an example. Even though the Seattle Seahawks were clearly the best team in the division (at the end of the season), and all three other teams in the division combined for only 13 wins between them, the following truisms still held:

  • The 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams twice.
  • The Rams beat the Seahawks by a score of 9–3, and then later lost to them 3–24.
  • The Seahawks ended up in a tie to the Cardinals 6–6, and later lost to them 31–34.
  • The Cardinals lost to the Rams, but then ended up with the best record in divisional games.

So in summary, the Rams beat the Cardinals, but the Cardinals beat the Seahawks, but the Seahawks beat the 49ers (twice), but…the 49ers beat the Rams.

This is what we mean about the NFC West: it’s a closed loop. No matter who is playing who, and no matter how “good” the two teams are against other teams, whenever it’s an NFC West divisional matchup all logic goes out the window and you have to look at the game in a vacuum.

In this way, to find a mental advantage between these two teams, we need to see where they’re at.

For the Los Angeles Rams, last week the team went into AT&T Stadium in Arlington and beat the Dallas Cowboys 35–30. Many people saw this as a completely unexpected turn of events, but when the Los Angeles Rams looked at the matchup (and, we’d like to add when we made our prediction for the game), they saw a team with the exuberant energy and the mental toughness to win on the road.

Sean McVay has clearly changed the entire culture of the Rams organization, and with the new protection that they’ve added for Jared Goff as well as the additional weapons in the passing game, everything has opened for them offensively, and they feel very confident in their ability to outscore any opponent.

So, the Rams aren’t scared of the Seahawks defense. They will try to play their game. The biggest question for this game, then, is whether the Seahawks can handle it.

Last week against the Colts, the Seahawks allowed Jacoby Brissett to move down the field and look very competent in the first half. Then, in the second half, they made him look like a high school quarterback.

The difference wasn’t in Brissett: the difference was in the Seahawks’ defense. If you look at their roster and evaluate their injury situation, it’s abundantly clear that they have all the talent they need on the field to have one of the league’s best defenses. They just need to be able to put it together mentally, in terms of communication, trust, and chemistry.

Pete Carroll is known for running an incredibly competitive training camp, which is one of the reasons why the Seahawks always enter the season with their defensive identity a little hard to pin down.

Tack on the fact that Earl Thomas was out of the starting role for much of last season with a broken leg and is now coming back into a leadership role, and then throw into the mix a host of emotional political conversations surrounding the national anthem protests, and it’s not really a surprise that the Seahawks’ defense would need some time before they are able to work together as a cohesive unit.

These issues of defensive identity are not the kind of things that get fixed over the course of 1 week.

We like to think that last week, on Sunday Night Football, if the Colts had been able to borrow the Rams’ offense just for a single half – or perhaps even just for the duration of the third quarter – the Seahawks wouldn’t have been able to do enough to win the game.

We believe that the Seahawks are not yet ready to play great defense for an entire 60-minute game. We think that some significant work will need to be done during their bye week (following this Week 5 game), and we believe that even though their defense is starting to trend in the right direction, it won’t be enough against their division rivals on Sunday.

In the end, we like the surging home team to maintain their mental focus into the later part of the game more than we like the still figuring-it-out visitors to pull out the victory.

Pick: Rams to win

FootballSpread
  • Seahawks +0 (-110)
  • Rams -0 (-110)

Now that we’ve made our prediction for the Los Angeles Rams to win at home because they have a more solid identity at this point in the season than the Seattle Seahawks, it’s time for us to turn our attention to the bet against the spread.

However, this game is a pick’em, meaning that the oddsmakers believe the best way to promote even action on both sides of the line is to make the line 0 points. So given that we picked the Rams to win the game for moneyline odds, we’ve already made our prediction against the spread.

It’s important to note that even though this game is a pick’em, that doesn’t mean that Vegas thinks these two teams are equally matched.

Generally speaking, home teams receive a three-point advantage against the spread just based on the fact that they’re playing at home, to account for home field advantage. If two teams were truly evenly matched, generally speaking, the home team would be –3.

So in this Sunday afternoon game between the Rams, the fact that the game is a pick’em in Los Angeles indicates that the Seahawks are favored, but only slightly.

With this in mind, let’s show up our case for a Rams home win by looking at some x’s and o’s. Specifically, we believe that the key matchup to watch for the bet against the spread is the way that the Rams’ offense matches up against the Seahawks defense, and we will be looking forward with great anticipation to watching the game specifically when the Rams are on offense.

As we mentioned above, the Rams have the best offense (statistically) in the league through 4 games.

In an incredible turnaround, the Rams have gone from the worst in the league last year (14.0 points per game) to the best in the league so far (35.5 points per game).

The biggest reason for the Rams turnaround on offense has been personnel: By bringing in key free agents and draft picks on the offensive line and in the receiving corps, the offense has become balanced.

The Rams have run the ball the 6th most in the league (29.5 attempts per game), and despite having the 5th most passing yards and the 6th most passing touchdowns, they’ve actually attempted the 5th fewest passes all year (29.8 attempts per game), giving them the league lead in terms of net yards per passing attempt.

This incredible balance on offense – 118 rushing snaps over four games to 119 passing snaps – is one of the reasons why they match up well against a complete Seahawks’ defense. Sean McVay has certainly made some mistakes in game management, but the former Redskins’ offensive coordinator has been excellent in play-calling.

The biggest reason why L.A. has been able to achieve such a great balance on offense is Todd Gurley.

After being drafted #10 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and making it to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, Gurley had a bit of a down season last year, as the Rams were not playing complementary football at all on offense.

But this season, Gurley has emerged as likely the best and most complete running back in the entire National Football League.

And importantly, Gurley’s ability to be a dual threat has opened up the offensive playbook for the Rams and made their offense much more dynamic.

Gurley has not only run the ball 21.5 times per game (on average) through four games, gaining 362 yards on the ground (90.5 per game) and four touchdowns for an average of 4.2 yards per carry, but he’s also the team’s leader in receiving targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs.

When you combine this with the similar dual-threat ability of wide receiver and return specialist Tavon Austin, as well as the down-the-field pass-catching ability of Robert Woods (averaging 15.5 yards per reception), Cooper Kupp (averaging 13.3 yards per reception), and Sammy Watkins (averaging 15.1 yards per reception), and the playbook is wide open for Sean McVay.

This means the Seahawks’ D will have to respect every formation they see, and with their aggressive (sometimes over-aggressive) style, this could lead to some big whiffs.

For example, imagine Tavon Austin coming across the field as though he’s about to get a direct wide receiver handoff. Perhaps Bobby Wagner blows the play up to his side, only to find out that it was a fake! Then, Todd Gurley appears to get the handoff, bringing Kam Chancellor flying into the box to stuff the run. But it’s a double-fake!

In this play, perhaps ultimately the screen pass goes to tight end Gerald Everett, and the Rams get a chunk of yardage. The point is, we expect to see Sean McVay use these types of tricky misdirection plays to keep the Seahawks guessing, and when you combine this with a healthy mix of run and pass, we believe the Rams will simply overwhelm the Seahawks’ defense.

As we mentioned above, the key for the Seahawks on defense right now is communication. When they’re able to trust that they’re covered by a teammate, they can keep their eyes right and play fast and loose.

However, at this point in the season, when they are at one of their weakest points in terms of this mental cohesion, the matchup with the Rams is not a good one. Last week against the Colts, Seattle was able to isolate the (very few) things that Indianapolis was doing well on offense, and in the second half they were able to trust themselves, shoot the gaps in the run game, and blow up passing plays.

However, the Rams’ offense has about 12 more layers of play-making than the Colts’ offense has.

We foresee this game starting out slow, with both teams trying to use the running game to land body blows on the other team’s defensive line. We foresee the Rams using Todd Gurley a lot early, to get him into a rhythm and to get the Seahawks’ linebackers and safeties to play more up in the box.

However, once the Rams establish the run, we like the Rams to start mixing in some play-action pass and some downfield throws, and for the screens and quick passes and misdirection schemes to put the Seahawks’ defense on their heels.

And at this point, as the Rams keep hitting the Seahawks in the mouth with runs by Todd Gurley, the Rams will simply wear them down, control the time of possession, and ultimately score points.

Pick: Rams to win in a pick’em

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 46.5 (-110)
  • Under 46.5 (-110)

Now that we’ve made our prediction for the Los Angeles Rams to win at home because they have a more settled identity than the Seahawks, and for the Rams’ dynamic offense to give the Seahawks’ defense more than they can handle, let’s now turn our attention to the question of whether we believe this game will be generally high- or low-scoring.

Our philosophy in picking the total score over-under bet is to take a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In our experience, just because the winning team moves the ball on offense and scores enough points to win ATS, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the game will be high-scoring. In fact, if their defense can simultaneously generate stops, they might control the flow of the game so much that the total score goes under.

On the other hand, when the winning team’s defense is unable to contain the losing team’s offense, the game can often turn into a shootout that pushes the over.

For this game, the matchup we’re interested in is between L.A.’s defense and Seattle’s offense.

So far, as has seemed to be the case every season in Seattle for the past few years, the big story for the Seahawks has been the inability of their offensive line to perform well in pass protection.

The blame shouldn’t be placed solely on general manager John Schneider, though. Seattle lost starting left tackle George Fant for the year during preseason (to a torn ACL), and last week against the Colts Fant’s replacement, Rees Odhiambo spent the night in the hospital after reportedly having difficulty breathing. Obviously, these are not issues in player acquisition.

Unfortunately for Seattle, the injuries sustained on the offensive line aren’t the only significant injury concerns they are dealing with on the offensive side of the ball.

After starting the season with a full stable of running backs (including last year’s starters Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, offseason free-agent acquisition Eddie Lacy, and rookie prospect Chris Carson) it had become clear through four games that Chris Carson was the featured back. In the first quarter of the season, his 49 attempts and 208 yards both led the team (by a factor of at least three).

Unfortunately, Carson received a particularly gruesome injury in the Seahawks’ Week 4 win against the Indianapolis Colts. Russell Wilson mentioned in his interview after the game that he’d heard something crack on the play, and the report after the game revealed that Carson ended up with a bone fracture just below his left knee.

But while the Seahawks still have enough quality running backs to employ the ground game, and while their passing game did get going last week, they’re still not a very dynamic unit.

The Seahawks have significant work to be done, as they do every season, to find an arrangement that works with their offensive line. Russell Wilson is always able to scramble and make plays with his legs, but the production on the side of the receivers hasn’t been there just yet.

And on the other side of the line, Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald is an absolute game-wrecker.

More than any other player in the league, probably, the stats simply do not tell the story for Aaron Donald. Though he has only one sack and seven combined tackles thus far this season, Donald’s return from his contract holdout was easily the most significant event this season for the Los Angeles Rams.

So far, through the first quarter of the year, the Rams are generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks an incredible 33.3% of their total dropbacks, which is ranked 2nd-best in the league.

The Seahawks, on the contrary, are allowing pressure at an equally incredible rate of 31.5% of Russell Wilson’s dropbacks, which is the 4th-highest in the NFL.

Even though Aaron Donald hasn’t been able to get home very often just yet, the impact he’s had blowing up opposing linemen has been extremely obvious to anyone watching the games, and the gravitational pull he exerts on offensive protection schemes (drawing double-teams, terrifying opponents, etc.) has directly led to the team’s 12 sacks and their 2nd-best pressure percentage.

And the Rams have a particularly special pass rush relationship with the Seahawks.

In his 10 career starts against the Los Angeles Rams, Russell Wilson has been sacked an amazing 39 times (averaging just less than 4 sacks per game), which is more than any other Seahawks’ opponent. Aaron Donald, for his part, has notched four sacks in his six career games against Seattle.

Even if their injured left tackle is able to play in this game with a bruised sternum, we don’t foresee the Seahawks’ offensive line being able to provide Russell Wilson any significant time in the pocket.

If the Seahawks are able to move the ball at all on offense, it will have to be in the running game.

Ultimately, though, we do believe that after a slow start, with a three-and-out or two and maybe a handful of additional punts, we foresee the Seahawks starting to be able to move the ball on offense late in the first half and particularly after the halftime adjustments are made.

We believe that once the Seahawks go down by one or two possessions and make these adjustments, they’ll start moving the ball with more of a sense of urgency and they’ll manage to put out a scheme that adjusts to the pressure from Los Angeles. With L.A.’s inexperienced secondary, we believe we’ll see some chunk plays in the passing game down the middle of the field.

However, we believe that once Seattle gets near the red zone, the field shortens, and their play selection becomes more limited, we’ll see the Seahawks get behind in the chains due to sacks and the offensive line penalties required to prevent those sacks. Seattle will be unable to convert 3rd downs and get stuck kicking field goals.

Ultimately, we believe this ends up in a low-scoring game that goes well under the posted total.

Pick: Rams 17, Seahawks 12

FootballProp Bets

Having established our overall prediction for the game, that the Rams will win at home because they have a more settled identity at this point in the season, that the Rams’ offense will be able to score points because Seattle isn’t playing cohesively as a unit yet, and that Aaron Donald will seriously disrupt the Seahawks’ offense, let’s see if we can’t profit off of these predictions for the game using prop bets.

Specifically, we believe that the following bets could potentially hold value in this game:

  • Total sacks in the game to go over. With Aaron Donald unquestionably the most dominant defensive lineman in the league (no matter what the stats show), the Seahawks’ O-line struggling, and the Seahawks’ D-line also great, we foresee lots of pressure in this game.
  • There will not be a score in the first 7m30s of the game. If we’re sure of anything in this game, it’s that the first half will feature an abundance of punts. Both defenses will come out fired up, and the offenses will take time to get going. Look for no score in the 1st half of the 1st
  • The Seahawks will go over their posted total in number of field goals. We’re envisioning lots of offensive possessions for the Seahawks ending due to pressure – both sacks and offensive line penalties. Look for these drives to push them into field goal range and lots of kicks for Walsh.

In addition to the props that we listed above, which we’ll be able to watch unfold live during the game, we would also turn your attention to the following future bets:

  • The Los Angeles Rams to win the NFC West. In a way, even though these teams will play again in Week 15, this game feels like it’s for the division. The Seahawks are very vulnerable right now, and if they drop to 2–3 while the Rams go up to 4–1, that gap could potentially hold ‘til January.
  • Aaron Donald to win Defensive Player of the Year. With the contract holdout putting his status for the season in question, and his play on the field thus far making him easily the most important player on the Rams’ defense, we think there’s certainly a case to be made for Donald.
  • Sean McVay to win Coach of the Year. If the Rams win this game, as we predict, they will have already matched their win total from last season. And if they win 10 games and make the playoffs (not impossible), then it will by a 6-game improvement for Sean McVay. Give it to him!

Experienced gamblers know that in order to take your gambling to the next level, it’s important to go beyond simply wagering on individual games and watching the bets unfold live.

When you watch game film, you also need to be able to take mental notes for future bets that you might place down the line. Keep a wary eye out for any clues you might see in this game that will tip you off one way or another for the future bets listed above.

Summary: Best Bets

Every season in the National Football League, we see at least one team come out of nowhere and take the league by storm. Last year, it was the Oakland Raiders, who jumped from 7 wins all the way up to 12 wins. This year, the early candidate for the dramatic comeback team is the Los Angeles Rams, who with a win on Sunday would match their win total from all of last season.

And in fact, we believe that the Rams will get that fourth win this week against the Seattle Seahawks.

We foresee the superior mental advantage provided by a cohesive team identity giving the Rams the edge in terms of mental toughness. We think that the Rams’ offense matches up particularly well against the Seahawks’ defense right now, and we see Aaron Donald completely dominating the Seahawks’ offensive line and disrupting the Seahawks’ offense.

In order to profit off of this prediction for the game, here are our best bets:

  • Rams -115 moneyline
  • Rams to win against the spread in a pick’em (-110)
  • The total score to go under 46.5 (-110)
  • Total sacks in the game to go over
  • There will not be a score in the first 7m30s of the game
  • The Seahawks will go over their posted total in number of field goals

Ultimately, time will tell whether the Rams are this year’s Raiders. But either way, if Los Angeles pulls out a win against Seattle on Sunday afternoon, the race for the NFC West becomes incredibly interesting. We can’t watch wait to watch how things unfold!

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