NFL Wild Card Playoffs: Rams-Seahawks preview, schedule, how to watch

Arun Srinivasan
·Writer
·5 min read

The NFL’s decision to expand its playoff format ahead of the 2020 season has paid dividends for the league, both in terms of revenue and quality of play. The disparity between the league’s elite teams and bottom-feeders has never been wider, and although numerous COVID-19 cases threatened to uproot the season, the NFL trudged through the pandemic into a new and improved 14-team playoff format.

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The juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs emerged as the AFC’s top seed, with Patrick Mahomes engineering a star-studded offense that seemingly scores at will, while Aaron Rodgers submitted an MVP-caliber season to lead the Green Bay Packers to the NFC’s No. 1 position. There are now six games in the wild-card round as a result of the expanded playoffs and four games in the divisional round, before the AFC and NFC championships decide which teams will play for Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay.

The Seattle Seahawks host the Los Angeles Rams in a classic NFC West divisional rivalry. Russell Wilson appeared to be poised to win his first NFL MVP after a scorching start to the season, but he cooled off relatively during the second half of the year. Wilson is looking to lead a second iteration of the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory, as DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett serve as arguably the NFL’s best receiver duo. Jared Goff and the Rams are back in the playoffs for the first time since losing in the Super Bowl in 2018 and despite an erratic season, they may have the least holes of any NFC playoff team. This might be the game of the wild-card round.

Wild Card Preview: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 27: Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Los Angeles Rams and DK Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks have a conversation in the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on December 27, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Jalen Ramsey and the Rams defense will have their hands full with DK Metcalf and the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks offense. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Date: January 9 at 4:40 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on DAZN

Seattle entered the year with the mantra of “Let Russ Cook”, a phrase meant to convey that the team would finally allow Wilson to operate out of a pass-heavy scheme, despite Pete Carroll’s prolonged insistence on being a run-first team. And it worked. Wilson was the MVP favourite for the first half of the season, forming an unstoppable connection with Metcalf (83 receptions, 1,303 yards, 10 TD) and Lockett (100 receptions, 1,054 yards, 10 TD) as the Seahawks’ passing game looked downright unstoppable.

Inexplicably, the Seahawks reverted back to their old offensive tendencies after a Nov. 8 loss to the Buffalo Bills, and though Wilson still commanded his team to a 6-2 record down the stretch, his own production dropped off dramatically.

Seattle’s defense was considered among the worst units of all-time during the first half of the season, but the second half was a completely different story. Jamal Adams (questionable for Saturday), acquired for two first-round picks, recorded 9.5 sacks as a safety in just 12 games, while Quandre Diggs also earned a Pro Bowl selection. This isn’t the Legion of Boom, but after the entire unit was roasted into oblivion by all corners of the football internet, the Seahawks allowed a mere 50 points in their final four games.

The Rams are the most erratic team of all 14 playoff entrants and yet on paper, they might have the fewest flaws. Los Angeles lost to the lowly Jets, then responded two games later with a season-saving win in Week 17. Goff is still prone to back-breaking mistakes despite good counting stats (67 percent completion, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions) but it’s not totally without hope. Robert Woods is as versatile an offensive option as there is and while Cooper Kupp is streaky, he can score in bunches. John Wolford may have to start in place of the injured Goff, however.

It’s a different story on the defensive side of the ball. Aaron Donald (13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles) is the most dominant player in the NFL regardless of position and if the electorate wasn’t resigned to giving the MVP to the league’s best quarterback, he would’ve won it before and would be in the mix again. Donald commands the most attention on every snap and he’ll be a nightmare against a much-improved Seahawks’ offensive line.

Seahawks vs. Rams: Tale of the Tape

Category

SEA

LAR

Record

12-4

10-6

Head-to-Head

1-1

1-1

Points For (per game)

28.7

23.3

Points Against (per game)

23.2

18.5

Seahawks will win because

Wilson, at his best, can scorch defenses at will, while Metcalf is too physical and too fast for any cornerback to contain him entirely. Bobby Wagner always elevates his game during the playoffs and a significantly improved Seahawks’ defense could feast on an injured Goff, or his replacement, John Wolford.

Rams will win because

Aaron Donald is a wrecking ball who takes over games, Jalen Ramsey has returned to All-Pro form and the Rams’ swarming defense has seen Wilson enough times to stop him from cooking on vertical routes. In what should be a close game, the Rams’ outstanding special teams unit could swing the balance.

What’s the NFL Playoffs schedule in 2021?

  • Wild Card games: January 9-10

  • Divisional games: January 16-17

  • Conference championships: January 24

  • Super Bowl: February 7

NFL Wild Card Weekend Previews

NFL Wild Card Round Schedule

Saturday January 9

Time (ET)

Matchup

Stream

1:05 p.m.

Colts at Bills

DAZN

4:40 p.m.

Rams at Seahawks

DAZN

8:15 p.m.

Buccaneers at Washington

DAZN

NFL Wild Card Round Schedule

Sunday January 10

Time (ET)

Matchup

Stream

1:05 p.m.

Ravens at Titans

DAZN

4:40 p.m.

Bears at Saints

DAZN

8:15 p.m.

Browns at Steelers

DAZN

NFL Division Round Schedule

Saturday January 16

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL Division Round Schedule

Sunday January 17

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL AFC/NFC Conference Championship Schedule

Sunday January 24

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL Super Bowl 55 Schedule

Sunday February 7

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion

DAZN

More NFL Playoffs on Yahoo Sports