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Thursday Night Preview: The Seahawks Are Overwhelming Favorites Against Los Angeles

Seattle has lost three straight against the Rams, but the 'Hawks are a 15-point favorite in this one.

Thursday Night Football brings a far different contest to the table this week than it did in Week 14. Last Thursday, we were treated to an AFC West showdown between two of football's better teams. This week, we will view an NFC West clash between the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, two teams at opposite ends of our power rankings.

The Rams are in disarray, to put it kindly. They fired their head coach this week just shortly after signing him to a contract extension, and their star running back, Todd Gurley, complained about the level of ingenuity and creativeness in the offensive playcalling.

Seattle appears poised for another NFC West title, and they are 16-point favorites in this one. Obviously, it appears to be a mismatch, although it's interesting to note that the Rams are 4-1 against Seattle since the start of the 2014 season. That includes the Rams' 9-3 win over Seattle earlier this season.

Can the Seahawks get back on track after laying an egg in Week 14, or can the Rams maintain their inexplicable mastery over the Seahawks?

Quarterback Breakdown

Perhaps the widest gap in this breakdown is between Russell Wilson and Jared Goff, the top overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Wilson has struggled through an up-and-down season, ranking 17th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back among quarterbacks who have recorded at least 150 drop backs. In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which have positively impacted NEP -- Wilson is far better, ranking 8th with a 50.1% Success Rate.

As most rookies do, especially rookies on bad teams, Goff has really struggled. In Goff's 147 drop backs so far this season, he's logged a total of -35.4 Passing NEP, losing his team roughly five touchdowns with his play. In terms of Passing NEP per drop back, that equates to a mark of -0.24. If the subset is widened to quarterbacks with 100 drop backs or more, Goff is by far the worst in this set, and his closest competitor is Blaine Gabbert, who has registered a -0.12 Passing NEP per drop back. You read that right -- on a per drop back basis, Goff has been twice as bad as the next closest quarterback to him.

While the Seahawks have an edge at the quarterback position, how do the running games stack up?

Running Back Play

Thomas Rawls is the current starter for the Seahawks, but this has been quite the messy backfield in 2016. Rawls had a fibula injury early on, and Christine Michael inherited the starting job. After a hot start, Michael was cut from the Seahawks on November 16th, and C.J. Prosise took over the job. Prosise played well but suffered what appears to be a season-ending scapula injury, which has handed the lead job back to Rawls. We've come full circle.

In limited time this season, Rawls has been a below average runner, registering -0.02 Rushing NEP per play. In terms of Rushing Success Rate, he hasn't fared much better, positively impacted his team's NEP on only 34.7% of his rushes. Rawls was much better as a rookie, ranking second in Rushing NEP per carry (0.08) last season among backs with at least 100 attempts.

The Rams have also struggled running the football, as well. Much like Rawls, after a great rookie campaign, Todd Gurley has been pretty bad this season. Among the 33 backs with at least 100 rushes, Gurley checks in 28th in Rushing NEP per play (-0.11). With 227 rushes on the season, Gurley's rushing has lost his team an expected 24.5 points on his rushing attempts -- although the lack of a competent passing attack hasn't helped Gurley's cause.

Defensive Matchup

Both teams excel on the defensive side of the ball, and all we have to do it look back at their touchdown-less 9-3 matchup in Week 2 for proof of that.

Per our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Seahawks' defense is the better unit. They rank 6th overall -- 10th against the pass and 2nd against the run.

The Rams' defense, led by two-time Pro Bowler and former Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald, ranks 13th overall. The pass defense checks in 12th, while the run defense falls back a touch to 20th overall.

According to Adjusted Sack Rate from Pro Football Outsiders, the Seahawks rank 13th (6.1%), whereas the Rams have really struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, ranking 29th (4.9%).

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