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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

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December 13, 2008 5:02 PM

Inside the numbers with Doug Farrar -- Seahawks at Rams

Posted by Danny O'Neil

By Doug Farrar

Well, THAT was a crappy week, no? The Seahawks lose a heartbreaker to the Pats, just about the entire offensive line went on IR, Patrick Kerney had surgery on what turned out to be a torn labrum (his second), and Mike Holmgren revealed to a greater or lesser extent that he may have tried to extend his time with the Seahawks beyond this year, only to be rebuffed by the New Boss, and it's looking more and more that Holmgren may not coach Matt Hasselbeck in another game – at least not in Seattle.

Then, today, the really scary news: Yesterday, Walter Jones had microfracture surgery on his left knee. If you're not familiar with the microfracture procedure, I'll avoid taking this stat study off track and just refer you to the link provided by the Steadman-Hawkins clinic. Dr. Steadman is a pioneer in certain kinds of rehabilitive knee surgeries – he may have done Jones' surgery, though we don't know for sure. Here's what we DO know – when we're dealing with microfractures and football players over 300 pounds who get pushed and pulled around play after play, the odds are less than stellar, even for Supermen like Jones. Just ask Marcus Tubbs.

So, with all THAT out of the way, it's time for the 2-11 Seahawks to travel to St. Louis to take on the 2-11 Rams. Can you taste the excitement?

TeamTotal DVOARankLast weekOffense DVOARankDefense DVOARankSpecial teamsRank
Seahawks-23.2%2728-9.9%2715.5%262.2%10
Rams-50.2%3231-24.8%3225.0%31-0.5%22

Though Week 14, the Rams are on pace to finish the season with the third-worst DVOA since the 1995 season, which is as far back as our numbers go at this point. Only the 1999 Cleveland Browns and the 2005 San Francisco 49ers have been worse; the Browns were in their “expansion” year, and the Niners were undergoing a rebuild as drastic as any in recent memory. The Rams, at this point, are an undermanned team with pseudo-ownership and an interim coach. With good or average teams, it's easier to set up matchups, but with the Rams' personnel canyons and Seattle's replacement offense, it might be better to start by assuming that Seattle's opponent stinks out loud in just about every possible way. That said, who are the players worth saving? Three stand out to me.

Running back Steven Jackson: Always a threat when healthy, Jackson has seen his season blown apart by injuries. His FO numbers show league average performance this year, but look closer at the Rams' Adjusted Line Yards numbers. They're averaging .17 yards per carry more in running back yards than line yards, and they rank higher in 10+ yards than in any other rushing category by far. The further Jackson gets away from his line, the better off he is.

Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe: Not unlike Oakland super-corner Nnamdi Asomugha, Atogwe gets overlooked for two reasons: He plays on an atrocious team, and his name is 100 percent copy/paste. Still, the numbers on this kid are for real. In his fourth year, he's picked off four passes and forced five fumbles. In that second category, he's behind only Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Only Troy Polamalu, Nick Collins and Ed Reed have more picks among safeties. As the Rams slowly and sadly phase out Corey Chavous in favor of youngster Todd Johnson, Atogwe has been the rock of that shaky secondary. In the box or in space, he's worth watching.

Defensive End Chris Long: Not the pure sack artist you'd naturally expect of the second overall pick, but when we say “hybrid”, it's potentially the best of both worlds, not a shrugging compromise against the pass or run. Long has played on the left and right side with Leonard Little's injuries, and he's just now roaring into shape from a pass rush perspective with two sacks against the Patriots. The arrow goes up from here, starting with what could be a bravura performance against Seattle's mystery tackles.

St. Louis offense. vs. Seattle defense

TeamOffense DVOARankLast weekPass offenseRankRush offenseRank
Rams-24.8%3232-31.5%31-16.9%30
TeamDefense DVOARankLast weekPass defenseRankRush defenseRank
Seahawks15.5%262731.7%29-4.1%13

 

Jackson aside, the Rams' offense is a complete mess. Marc Bulger is down there in Quarterback DYAR with Ryan Fitzpatrick and J.T. O'Smellingsalts (and not too far down from Matt Hasselbeck, sad to say). He's dropping back behind a line ranked 23rd in Adjusted Sack Rate, and he's throwing to a rookie in Donnie Avery who's still getting the hang of the offense, and a veteran in Torry Holt who has a lower DYAR than Avery. The line features Alex Barron, the king of the false starts and Richie Incognito, king of the cheap shots (according to some Seahawks).

Seattle offense vs. St. Louis defense

TeamOffense DVOARankLast weekPass offenseRankRush offenseRank
Seahawks-9.9%2727-14.8%27-4.7%20
TeamDefense DVOARankLast weekPass defenseRankRush defenseRank
Rams25.0%313128.9%2821.6%31

 

Seattle's offense is in an intriguing position right now in that just about everyone playing down the stretch is doing so to prove a point. Sean Locklear and Seneca Wallace would like you to know that if necessary, they can replace Seahawks legends over a period of time. Deion Branch would like you to know that he was actually worth the first round pick, and all that money. Steve Vallos would like you to know that he has the potential to add a solid element to the middle of the line that hasn't really been there since Robbie Tobeck retired. Mo Morris would like you to know that the agility and speed around end he's showed lately isn't a fluke, and that he shouldn't be overlooked. Floyd Womack would like you to know that he's going to stay healthy this season and capitalize on his performance against the Patriots (where he was, in this observer's opinion, Seattle's best offensive lineman on the field).Mansfield Wrotto and Ray Willis just hope you'll remember their names when this season is over. There's a lot to establish in a very short time, and this is the sub-drama that can make a bad team interesting as a lost year draws to a close.

How will the game go?

After a short-lived resurgence following Jim Haslett's in-season hire, the Rams have fallen into a bottomless pit. Seattle has seen very slim DVOA upticks here and there in the second half of the season, and they could be that young, prospect-laden team that's more fun to watch than people imagine. This game features a team that's bent the wrong way against a team that's simply broken, and the score should reflect that, Without Hasselbeck and Jones, the Seahawks can still win a mistake-filled roadie, bringing one of the worst Seahawks weeks in memory to a somewhat happy close.

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