What to watch for in Rams-Seahawks on 'TNF'

As the San Francisco 49ers return from a bye week, they hold tight to an undefeated record and the top spot in the NFC West.

It is through Seattle and Los Angeles that the division has gone in seasons of late, however.

And Thursday night's showdown between the Rams, the reigning division and conference champions, and the Seahawks is still very much of the heavyweight variety.

Russell Wilson is playing as well, if not better, than he ever has to lead the Seahawks (3-1) against the Rams (3-1), who are on the heels of their first loss -- a high-scoring 55-40 bout with the Buccaneers that has some in Southern California wondering if it's time to panic.

In contrast, the Seahawks responded from their only loss with their most lopsided win of the young season against the Cardinals.

As the two high-profile teams with high-profile coaches lock up, a key NFC West win is at stake when the Seahawks host the Rams on Thursday at 8:20 p.m. ET on FOX.

Here are four things to watch for on TNF:

1. The curious case of Jared Goff

Somewhere in the middle of being a Goff apologist and a Goff detractor is likely where the good, bad and ugly realistically resides for the former No. 1 overall pick.

Only in his fourth season, Goff has already guided the Rams to a Super Bowl berth and collected back-to-back NFC West titles. However, his play ranges from utter brilliance to completely head-scratching.

If ever there was a game that was emblematic of that, it was the loss to the Buccaneers.

Goff threw for myriad career-highs such as 45 completions, 68 attempts and 517 yards, but he had four turnovers, including a lost fumble that expunged any hopes of a Rams comeback.

All the pressure cannot fall squarely on the signal-caller's shoulders as he's been pressured 64 times, according to Next Gen Stats, which is more than any other quarterback. Still, when you drop back that many times, the pressure is going to come.

The word of the week for the Rams' offense might well be balance. As everyone worries about the play of Goff, they're likewise worried about the use and health of Todd Gurley, who had just five carries against the Bucs.

Truly, the number that sticks out is that the Rams threw the ball 68 times and ran it just 11.

When Sean McVay's offense hit its stride in 2018 it was dizzying for defenses, as Goff had Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks at his disposal in the passing game and also occasionally in the rushing game. Gurley was also an MVP candidate and a dual threat.

Thursday provides another prime-time showcase for McVay's offense to find its former dazzling form and sustain it on a consistent basis.

2. Russell Wilson's quiet stellar start

Wilson is off to one of his finest starts so far.

His numbers are brilliant: 97-for-133 for 1,141 yards, a 72.9 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.

As the Seahawks try to find their footing in a running game that's traditionally been their calling card, Wilson has found reliable targets in Tyler Lockett and young tight end Will Dissly.

However, Wilson's wonderful start will collide with his most dreadful opponent.

Wilson is 6-8 in his career against the Rams -- his most losses against any opponent.

True to form, he's been sacked (55) and hit (108) more by the Rams than any other team, too.

Will Wilson shake up his past storyline or will the Rams' defense, coming off a dismal defensive effort, continue to bottle up one of the league's premier passers?

3. Bobby Wagner continues his tremendous tackling ways

Sometimes a storyline becomes such a standard that it's overlooked no matter how standard.

Such is the case with Seahawks linebacker extraordinaire Bobby Wagner, whose phenomenal play has become commonplace.

He is a tackling instrument that has never dulled, wavered or shirked a task at hand. Since 2012, Wagner has racked up 959 tackles -- second only to the equally impressive Luke Kuechly in Carolina.

A five-time Pro Bowl pick and four-time All-Pro, Wagner's averaging more than 10 tackles per outing this season with 45, which is tops on his team and third in the NFL.

Wagner's play in the middle is something special to behold and likewise crucial to the Seahawks' success. In the Seahawks' lone loss to the Saints in Week 3, Wagner was all over the place and turned in a career-high 19 takedowns. Wagner is likely to lead the defense win or lose, but the Seahawks' D is at its best when everyone is contributing.

4. Is it past due for Aaron Donald to have a big game?

Just as the Buccaneers loss was confounding and confusing when trying to delve into the Rams' offense, it was doubly so for the Rams' defense.

The 55 points allowed were the most for the franchise in the Super Bowl era.

As the Rams' defense goes, the onus finds Donald.

Many believe the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is the best overall player in the league.

With that attention comes game-planning and Donald draws double-teams, triple-teams and respect and attention from the opposition. With all that, production can waver though you're still impacting a game by freeing up your teammates.

Such is the case with Donald, but he has yet to break out this season.

So far, he has only one sack through four weeks and 12 tackles.

Rams fans can find solace in the fact that he only had two sacks through four games a season ago. And, he has 10.5 sacks and 28 QB hits in his career against Wilson, which are his best numbers against any QB.

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