Week 15 of the NFL regular season is now in the history books. The Rams are coming off back-to-back wins after defeating Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football. The Rams have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and now travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks, for nothing more than divisional bragging rights. Can the Rams once again pull off the upset and defeat the Seahawks twice this season? Can Dubs catch the leaders in the weekly picks contest?
Dubs’ Pigskin Pick ’em & Rams Game Preview returns for a third season. I’ll be predicting the winners (both straight up and against the spread) for all 256 regular season games. In addition, each week I’ll be featuring 3 games in my “Hot Picks Against The Spread”.
Pickwatch is a site devoted to tracking weekly picks results from NFL experts, analysts, and media types. This year, they’re tracking 134 experts on a weekly basis. I’m competing against them again this season, and will publish the weekly results! In each of the last two seasons, I’ve managed to tie for first place in the overall standings. Can Dubs make it three years in a row?
Week 15 Results
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Week 15||14 2||13 3||2 1||1 0|
|Season Record||150 74||144 76 4||32 12 1||8 6|
How did I fare against the experts in Week 15? My 14-2 record straight up was enough to move into sole possession of 2nd place in the overall standings, two wins behind the leader Josh Katzowitz of Forbes. My 13-3 record against the spread won a lot of money for better’s. My Hot Picks Against The Spread? It should have been a perfect week. Arizona and Seattle both won and covered the spread. Carolina eased off in the 4th quarter (holding a 35-14 lead) and ended up winning by only 3 points (the spread was 5.5). The target every year is to have a winning percentage of 70% in picking straight up and 60% against the spread.
2015 NFL Team Records
|NFL ATS RANKINGS|
Dubs’ Pigskin Picks – Week 16
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|Oakland||San Diego||Oak 6||Oakland||Oakland||27 21|
|Philadelphia||Washington||Phi 3||Washington||Washington||21 20|
|Seattle||St. Louis||Sea 14.5||Seattle||St. Louis||21 17|
|Atlanta||Carolina||Car 7.5||Carolina||Carolina||31 21|
|Buffalo||Dallas||Buf 7||Buffalo||Buffalo||21 10|
|Detroit||San Francisco||Det 10||Detroit||San Francisco||23 17|
|Tennessee||Houston||Hou 4||Houston||Houston||27 20|
|Kansas City||Cleveland||KC 13||Kansas City||Kansas City||31 10|
|Miami||Indianapolis||Mia 2.5||Miami||Miami||23 20|
|NY Jets||New England||NE 3||New England||New England||28 21|
|Tampa Bay||Chicago||TB 3||Tampa Bay||Tampa Bay||20 16|
|Baltimore||Pittsburgh||Pit 11.5||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||30 17|
|New Orleans||Jacksonville||Even||Jacksonville||Jacksonville||31 27|
|Arizona||Green Bay||Ari 4.5||Arizona||Green Bay||23 20|
|Minnesota||NY Giants||Min 5.5||Minnesota||Minnesota||28 21|
|Denver||Cincinnati||Den 3.5||Denver||Cincinnati||23 20|
Hot Picks Against The Spread
Kansas City over Cleveland – Should be an easy game for the Chiefs, who have now won 8 games in a row. the Chiefs have extra motivation, as they’ve yet to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Carolina over Atlanta – The undefeated Panthers are 10-4 against the spread this season (5-2 ATS on the road). They face a disappointing Atlanta team who only have 1 win in their last 5 games.
St. Louis over Seattle – Games between these two teams are always bitterly contested affairs. This game will be much closer than the 14.5 point spread suggests.
St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
Keys For The Rams Vs. Seattle
- The Rams must get off to a fast start in Sunday’s game. In each of their 19 victories over the last 2 plus seasons, the Rams were either tied or leading at the half. In their first 14 games this season, the Rams have been outscored 77-56 in the first quarter.
- Winning the turnover battle. In 2014, the Rams were 0-6 in games with a negative turnover differential. In contrast, the Rams were 3-0 in games with a positive turnover differential and 3-4 in games with an even turnover differential. Finally, the Rams were 4-0 in games where they didn’t turn over the football. Thus far in 2015, the Rams are 3-2 when they win the turnover battle and 3-6 when they don’t.
- The Rams must establish the running game, against a Seattle defense ranked 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (83.9) for the 2015 season. Can Pro Bowler Todd Gurley rush for 100 yards in his first game against the 2nd ranked Seahawks defense?
- Minimizing mistakes and penalties. When the Rams play disciplined football, they win games. In 2014, the Rams were 3-1 when they had a positive team penalty yards differential, and 3-9 when they had more penalty yards than their opponent. This season, the Rams are 4-2 when they’ve had the same or fewer penalty yards than their opponent and 2-6 when they’ve had more than their opponent.
- Pressuring and containing QB Russell Wilson. Putting pressure on and containing Wilson is one of the bigger keys in this game. He’s been on a tear for the past 5 weeks. The Seahawks’ offense is averaging 26.4 points per game (7th in the NFL). With injuries to RB’s Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls, Seattle will be looking to their passing offense to lead the way.
- Case Keenum once again gets the start for the Rams. Keenum played the best and most efficient game of his career last week against Tampa Bay. He will lead a conservative, ball-controlling Rams offense, against the 2nd ranked Seahawks defense. A clean, mistake-free game is all that’s expected of him. He’ll need to connect deep with Jared Cook, Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt to open up the Rams’ running game. Better utilization of: the RB’s coming out of the backfield, screens and shorter patterns all may help in reducing the pressure being put on Keenum in the pocket.
- 3rd down and red zone conversions will play a big role in this game. The Rams rank close to the bottom of the league in both statistical categories (last in 3rd down conversions).
Prediction: Seattle 21 – Rams 17
The Rams are huge underdogs in this game. Seattle has won 7 of their last 8 games and are streaking towards the playoffs. Everything points to a big Seahawks victory. It won’t happen. The Rams play their best football against division rivals, especially the Seahawks. I expect a close game and the Rams to easily cover the spread, with the outcome decided in the 4th quarter. The Rams could pull off the upset if the Special Teams score a surprise touchdown.
Perspective On The Rams Versus Seattle
- Seattle won its fifth straight game last week at home versus the Browns, 30-13. During the win streak, the Seahawks have averaged 34.2 points and 444.8 yards of total offense. They have at least 400 yards in all five games — the longest such streak in franchise history.
- The Rams’ 31-23 home win over Tampa Bay last Thursday gave them back-to-back victories on the heels of a five-game losing streak. St. Louis, which also won back-to-back games in Weeks 7 and 8, hasn’t won three straight games since Weeks 12 to 14 of the 2012 season.
- The home team has won the last four meetings between St. Louis and Seattle, and seven of the last eight. That includes a 34-31 overtime win by the Rams in Week 1 in St. Louis. The Seahawks lead the all-time series, 21-13.
- Todd Gurley is the third Rams rookie all-time to reach 1000 rushing yards, joining Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (NFL rookie record 1808 yards in 1983) and Jerome Bettis (1429 yards in 1993). Gurley’s yardage total ranks third among all NFL players this season, while his nine rushing touchdowns are tied for third most in the league.
- Doug Baldwin has 10 touchdown receptions over his last four games, with at least two in each. He joins Jerry Rice (1987) as the only NFL players ever to catch 10 or more TD passes over a four-game span within a single season. Baldwin’s 13 receiving touchdowns for the season have tied Daryl Turner’s franchise record (1985).
- With one more win this year, Seattle will reach 10 wins for a fourth straight season. The Seahawks had just five 10-win seasons in their history prior to 2012, and never in back-to-back seasons.
Nick Wagoner on what the Rams must do to pull off the upset in Seattle
Associated Press Capsule: St. Louis Rams Versus Seattle Seahawks
ST. LOUIS (6-8) at SEATTLE (9-5)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — Seahawks by 14
RECORD VS SPREAD — Rams 6-8, Seahawks 7-6-1
SERIES RECORD — Seahawks lead 21-14
LAST MEETING — Rams beat Seahawks 34-31 OT, Sept. 13, 2015.
LAST WEEK — Rams beat Buccaneers 31-23; Seahawks beat Browns 30-13.
AP PRO32 RANKING — Rams No. 19, Seahawks No. 4
RAMS OFFENSE — OVERALL (31), RUSH (7), PASS (32)
RAMS DEFENSE — OVERALL (22), RUSH (23), PASS (21)
SEAHAWKS OFFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (2), PASS (20)
SEAHAWKS DEFENSE — OVERALL (2), RUSH (3), PASS (4)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Rams beat Seahawks in Week 1 and have won three of last four in St. Louis, but haven’t won in Seattle since 2004. … RB Todd Gurley, DT Aaron Donald and P Johnny Hekker selected to Pro Bowl. … Gurley third in NFL with 1,023 yards rushing despite missing first two games of season. … Gurley is one of three Rams to rush for 1,000 yards in rookie season, joining Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Jerome Bettis. … Gurley is second in NFL in yards rushing in fourth quarter (348). … QB Case Keenum has won four of past five starts. … Keenum nearly had perfect passer rating last week of 158.0 in victory over Buccaneers. … WR Tavon Austin had TDs rushing and receiving last week. He’s first player since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 with five TD receptions, four rushing TDs and punt return TD in same season. … Donald leads NFL defensive tackles with 11 sacks and had two sacks in Week 1. … CB Trumaine Johnson has six interceptions, tied for second in league among cornerbacks. … S Mark Barron leads Rams with 127 tackles despite not starting until Week 5. … Hekker’s punting average of 43.9 is second in NFL. … Seahawks can clinch No. 5 seed in NFC playoffs with victory and Vikings loss. … QB Russell Wilson is first QB in NFL history with three or more touchdowns passing and zero interceptions in five straight games. … Wilson has 19 TDs and 143.6 passer rating over past five games. … RB Christine Michael coming off career-high 84 yards rushing last week against Browns. Michael expected to share carries with Bryce Brown for second straight week. … WR Doug Baldwin is third player in NFL history with two or more TD catches in four straight games. Baldwin has 10 TDs in past four games, tied for most in four-game span. … WR Tyler Lockett, voted to Pro Bowl, had 57-yard punt return for TD in Week 1 vs. Rams. … Seahawks have improved to No. 2 in scoring defense in league. They led NFL in scoring defense in each of past three seasons. … DE Michael Bennett looking for fourth straight game with sack and has career-high 9 ½ sacks. … Bennett made Pro Bowl along with SS Kam Chancellor, FS Earl Thomas, LB Bobby Wagner and CB Richard Sherman. … LB K.J. Wright leads team with 104 tackles. … Fantasy Tip: Baldwin has been on record-setting tear with 10 TDs in past four games and Rams have allowed 13 passing TDs in past six games.