It's been a busy week for the Rams for all the wrong reasons. On Sunday, they suffered a 42-14 home loss to the Falcons. In the locker room afterward, 2015 first-round pick Todd Gurley had some thoughts on Los Angeles' offense: "It looked like a middle school offense out there."
And perhaps that reality, along with Gurley's frank assessment, had something to do with the Rams finally, mercifully, firing coach Jeff Fisher after four-plus seasons of mostly terrible football. Fisher leaves the team with a 31-45-1 record, and since he was hired in 2012, the Rams haven't had a winning record.
Los Angeles will finish the season with John Fassel, the special teams coordinator who was named interim coach, and if the first 13 games are any indication, things will likely get better before they get worse. We say that with the full understanding that, for all of this team's issues during Fisher's tenure, they were inexplicably dominant against the Seahawks.
This Rams outfit is currently 4-9, and before that, 7-9 in 2015 and 6-10 in 2014. Yet through all the mediocrity, those Fisher-coached teams had an uncanny knack for beating the Seahawks, who are 30-14-1 in that same span. Specifically, the Rams have won four of the last five meetings, including a 9-3 field goal-fest in Week 2.
Of course, Fisher is now out of the picture. Whether his success against Seattle follows him out the door (along with that 31-45-1 record) remains to be seen. Either way, if the Seahawks lose -- Vegas is unconcerned; Seattle is favored by 15 -- they'll be no worse than the No. 4 seed because of how truly awful the NFC West is behind them.
Recent Rams-Seahawks history aside, Thursday night should be a confidence-booster for the Seahawks fresh off a demoralizing 38-10 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field.
"I'm really confident we'll bounce back," linebacker Bobby Wagner said Tuesday, via the team's website. "We're not going to have another game like that. It was a just a crazy series of events. I can't see us doing that twice in one week. We're hungry, we're ready to get back out there, and it's going to show."
"That's not typical us," wideout Doug Baldwin added. "For instance, we had a lot of balls we dropped as receivers, we don't do that. Five interceptions, we don't do that. It's easier for us to get past because we know that's not normal."
Also not normal: a Seahawks defense that is without Earl Thomas. The all-world safety, a 2010 first-round pick, missed his first NFL start in Week 12. Then, a week later, he was lost for the season after breaking his leg. And now this defense must figure out how to function in a post-Thomas world.
It's impossible to oversell just how integral he is to the Seahawks' defensive philosophy. The Ringer's Danny Kelly wrote about this last week in a must-read piece. One of the biggest takeaways:
He's a 5-foot-10, 208-pound anthropomorphized version of Sonic the Hedgehog responsible for covering huge swaths of the field in Seattle's primarily single-high scheme, which asks Thomas to cover the ground normally assigned to two safeties. Along with Rob Gronkowski's and J.J. Watt's season-ending back injuries, you could make the argument this is one of the three highest-impact non-quarterback injuries a team will have to endure in the NFL this season.
The Gronk-Watt comparisons aren't hyperbole. You could argue that Thomas is more important to his team than either Gronkowski or Watt are to theirs. The Patriots have Martellus Bennett and Tom Brady. The Texans, somehow still in first place in the AFC South despite Brock Osweiler, have Jadeveon Clowney. The Seahawks have ... safety Steven Terrell?
There's also Russell Wilson, whose role is now more important than ever. If he plays like he did in 2015, when he ranked third in total value and value per play among all quarterbacks, according to FO, he can put this team on his back, even with Thomas sidelined. If, instead, Wilson stumbles through the next month or so in much the same way he played earlier this season (when, admittedly, he was hobbled by an ankle injury) -- or, God forbid, Sunday in Green Bay -- the Seahawks won't have a chance in January.
But with remaining regular-season games against the Rams, Cardinals and 49ers -- a group that is a combined 10-28-1 -- this much is certain: Seattle is headed to the postseason. In fact, according to Football Outsiders, not only do the Seahawks have a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs (thanks to playing in a terrible division), but there's a 50 percent chance they earn a first-round bye.
CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco's prediction
The Rams will be without Jeff Fisher, who was fired Monday. Does it matter? This team is a disaster and now must face a team coming off a bad loss on the road on a short week. The Seahawks unload on a team that has beaten them three times in a row.
Prisco's pick: Seahawks 28, Rams 10
Recent history favors the Rams in this matchup, but the man with the talisman, Jeff Fisher, has been fired. Perhaps the team shows up for interim coach John Fassel, but it's more likely that the Seahawks dominate at home, making up for last Sunday's embarrassing loss in Green Bay. Seattle will win its final two regular-season games, too, finish 11-4-1 and earn a first-round bye.
Our pick: Seahawks 20, Rams 6