Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
The Seahawks are on a roll. There is no denying that. After winning their last 4 games by a combined score of 173-47, the Seahawks look to continue their impressive streak before heading into the NFL playoffs. To wrap up the regular season the Seahawks host the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks are 10-5 and are trying to get to 11 wins for the first time since they won 13 games in 2005. The Rams are 7-7-1 and a win this week would solidify their first winning season since 2003. This is the last regular season game of the season and there are a lot of different playoff scenarios in play on Sunday that will determine where the Seahawks will play in January. For now however, our focus is on St. Louis and this is what I’ll be looking forward to this Sunday.
After putting up at least 42 points in each of our last three games, I have no worry that our offense will be firing on all cylinders especially at home this week. Our main focus should be to keep our guys healthy for the postseason. Russell Wilson is two touchdown passes away from breaking the NFL record for most touchdown passes by a rookie, set by Peyton Manning in 1998. If Wilson breaks the record and the Seahawks are up by a substantial margin by the end of the third quarter, we will see Matt Flynn get some playing time in order to keep Wilson fresh for January. The same goes for Marshawn Lynch. I think we will see a good amount of Robert Turbin at running back this week. Keeping the offense healthy is the most important along the offensive line. Four of our five offensive linemen have started every game this season and having one or more of them get hurt one week before the playoffs would be a major blow. My player to watch this week is Doug Baldwin. He caught two touchdowns last week against San Francisco and he is seeing more playing time. With Sidney Rice nursing a knee injury and the playoffs right around the corner, we might see more of our depth at receiver which includes Baldwin.
At home the defense is always dominant. Against a solid but average St. Louis offensive line it is very real to think we can put a large amount of pressure on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Richard Sherman will be available this week after winning his appeal for performance enhancing drugs and his presence gives the Seahawks defense a confidence boost and his swagger and positive attitude seems to have a reverberating effect on the rest of the defense. My guy to watch on defense this week is Bruce Irvin. On an episode of Michael Robinson’s “Real Robinson Report” from rookie mini-camp in May, Irvin was asked how many sacks he would have in 2012. “I won’t give a specific number because I don’t want to jinx myself but I will say it will be at least double digits” was Irvin’s answer to the question. With one game left in the regular season Irvin sits at 8 sacks, two away from his preseason prediction and goal. Irvin will be especially hungry this week in order to reach double digit sacks. I would expect to see a lot of him this week and a lot more of him on first and second down. Irvin has three games this season with two sacks or more; his last coming in week 10 at home against the New York Jets so it is a definite possibility he will get to 10 sacks on the season this week.
It is hard to predict special teams plays but last week Red Bryant and Richard Sherman made a blocked field goal and touchdown return look easy. I would not be surprised at all to see something big happen in the special teams game this week. If this is to happen, look at pro bowler Leon Washington. Washington has only one kick returned for a touchdown this season but the Rams have had a history of special teams blunders in Seattle, most recently a blocked punt returned for a touchdown last season; blocked by Doug Baldwin, returned by Michael Robinson. Washington could be a dark horse factor this week and field position will be very important for both teams in this game.
Although the St. Louis Rams are 7-7-1 they have one big consistent strength this season. That is their play against NFC West opponents. The Rams have a 4-0-1 record against NFC West rivals this year and although they haven’t been dominant, the consistent factor in these games has been the play of their defense. The X-factor for St. Louis this week is cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The rookie from North Alabama has had a strong second half of the season. In his last 5 games Jenkins has recorded 25 tackles and three interceptions including one interception last week against Tampa Bay. One other St. Louis defender to keep an eye on is Chris Long. Long is always a consistent worry to opposing teams because of his ability to put pressure on the quarterback, however with Russell Okung playing his best football combined with Russell Wilson’s elusiveness, I do not see Long playing a big role in the St. Louis defense this week.
I am excited to see Greg Zuerlein kick for the Rams this week. The rookie kicker nicknamed “Legatron” is having a strong season and I for one am pumped to see him attempt a long field goal. I do not doubt he can nail a far field goal in Seattle and if he lines up for a 50+ yard field goal I think he will make it.
Congratulations to the Seahawks players participating in this week’s game who will be representing the NFC at the pro bowl next month. The representatives are Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, Max Unger, Russell Okung and Leon Washington. Let’s all hope these guys will get the opportunity to skip the pro bowl because they will be preparing for the Super Bowl in New Orleans!
Random Thoughts: The gameday theme this week is fan appreciation. This game is always fun because the Seahawks give out a ton of random stuff. I have only won one thing on fan appreciation day since becoming a season ticket holder; a 12th Man car flag in 2008… The Seahawks are also dubbing this game a “blue-out.” They are asking all fans to wear blue to this week’s game (in case you don’t already). If you are going to the game this week, wear blue!… Sunday’s halftime show is the annual wiener dog races. I love this halftime show because at least one dog always seems to break loose and run all around the field which is incredibly amusing… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week, their first Seahawks broadcast since the Arizona game 3 weeks ago… Not confirmed yet but it looks like Jeff Triplette will be the referee this week… I am taking by friend Dylan to this week’s game. He was supposed to go to the Patriots game with me but had to reschedule because of school obligations. Sorry D, but I don’t think this week’s game will be as exciting as the New England game… This is most likely the final home game of the season this week. Unless the pieces fall in our favor and Arizona beats San Francisco, this will be the last time I see everyone around me until August which is always sad… I will definitely be scoreboard watching on Sunday. My first priority is the Arizona/San Francisco game and I do not expect the Cardinals to hold the lead for any amount of time in that game. My second priority is the Green Bay/Minnesota game as a Vikings win and a Cardinals win would give us the division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs… Even though everyone around me at the San Francisco game did not take offense to the actions of my guest last week, I still feel I owe them a huge apology for what happened. Maybe I’ll even offer to buy a round of beers also. I’m still embarrassed but I can guarantee myself or my guest will not have a run in with security or alcohol enforcement this week.
Prediction: The Seahawks will end the season with their 3rd best regular season record in team history. The scoring will not be as dominant as past weeks but it will still be very impressive and will leave the 12th Man extremely confident heading to the playoffs. The Seahawks will win but the 49ers will win so we will settle for the 5th seed in the NFC playoffs. By 9pm Sunday night, the Seahawks will be prepping for a trip to Washington D.C. to play the Redskins in an NFC wild-card playoff.
Seahawks 38, Rams 14
Check back for my review of the regular season finale with the Rams on Monday afternoon. I will also share a brief mini-preview of the Seahawks NFC wild-card playoff game. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!