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Thursday Night Preview: Will the Rams or Seahawks Prevail in This Key NFC West Clash?

It's Week 5. We are already one quarter of the way through the NFL season, and it is flying by.

There are now a trio of three-win teams in the NFC West, showcasing the overall strength of the division. Two of them square off tonight as the Seattle Seahawks host the Los Angeles Rams.

If we use our power rankings as a guide, this should be a lopsided affair. We have the Rams ranked as the league's third-best team, while the Seahawks are a bit further back at 20th. But it's not quite that simple.

Who will come out on top in this matchup? Let's dig in and find out.

Quarterback Breakdown

If there's one place that Seattle has a significant advantage, so far, it's been the quarterback position.

Russell Wilson has been outstanding this season. Among the 25 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, Wilson clocks in fourth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.30). On the other side, to put it bluntly, Jared Goff has struggled, ranking 19th with a mark of 0.07 Passing NEP per drop back.

In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- the gap closes down a bit. Wilson (52.41%) still ranks fourth among said group, while Goff (49.17%) flies up to 10th.

Both passers have done well in attacking defenses vertically. In looking at average intended air yards (the average air yards a passer throws on all attempts), Goff clocks in with a strong mark of 9.0, and Wilson is at 8.5.

Does either offense separate themselves at the running back position?

Running Back Play

These are two of the elite running games in the league, so we could see a decent amount of Todd Gurley and Chris Carson on Thursday night.

Among the 32 ball carriers with 20 or more carries in 2019, Gurley has clearly been the more efficient runner of the two backs. He has logged a rate of 0.12 Rushing NEP per carry (fifth-best), while Carson has been one of the league's least efficient runners, ranking 30th with a clip of -0.27. Carson's three fumbles lost this year certainly have impacted him from that perspective.

Going by Rushing Success Rate, Gurley has been even better, ranking third (48.98%) among the aforementioned subset, while Carson checks in 26th (36.17%).

Where these teams differ a bit is in their use of the running back. The Rams are a pass-focused offense with a 1.87 pass-to-run ratio, whereas the Seahawks are more run-heavy (1.31).

Defensive Matchup

It's early so far this year, but these defenses have both started out very slow in 2019.

Based on numberFire's opponent-adjusted metrics, the Rams have ranked as the better of the two units. LA's defense sits 14th overall, ranking in 11th against the run and 17th against the pass. The Seahawks, meanwhile, despite the addition of Jadeveon Clowney, rank 23rd overall. They have been solid against the run, ranking 12th, but are only 24th against the pass.

Both teams have struggled to get after the quarterback. Using Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, the Rams rank 18th (6.7), while Seattle is 21st (6.3%).

Game Projection

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