Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
It is a case of déjà vu for the Seahawks this week. Once again we end our regular season at home against the St. Louis Rams and once again a Seahawks win will clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks are 11-4, winners of their last 5 games. The Rams are 6-9, last place in the NFC West, and are looking to avoid their first double-digit loss season since 2011. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 20-13. St. Louis’s win over the Seahawks back in October is the only divisional blemish on the Seahawks record. This week the Seahawks and the 12th Man want to ensure the road to Super Bowl XLIX goes through CenturyLink Field. This is what must happen for the Seahawks to avoid an epic upset that could cost us the #1 seed.
Overall, I believe both the Seahawks offense and defense ae plenty capable of getting the job done this week. The only way I see Seattle losing is if we beat ourselves which is a big reason as to why we lost to the Rams earlier this season. There are three things we need to avoid doing in order to come away victorious. The first thing the Seahawks must do is not to commit penalties in excessive fashion. Last week penalties were a huge problem especially in the first half. The Seahawks are averaging 8.5 penalties per game and there have only been two games this season where Seattle’s opponent commits more penalties than the Seahawks themselves. If the Seahawks can hold their number of penalties to under their season average we will be in tremendous shape. Specifically, the Seahawks must show they have fixed their problem with procedure penalties. Seattle committed two false starts and two offsides penalties last week. Zero is my target number this week. Anything greater than zero is a failure in my eyes.
The second thing the Seahawks must do is not commit turnovers; something they have done an excellent job controlling the past few weeks. During our five game winning streak the Seahawks have turned the ball over only three times. The Seahawks have also averaged only one turnover per game at home this season. Ball security has been a huge strength of this team down the stretch and the Seahawks will absolutely secure a victory if they can continue to not turn the ball over.
The third thing, which is the broadest yet the most important thing that must happen, is to avoid major injuries. With the playoffs coming up, the worst thing that can happen is for the Seahawks to lose important pieces of the starting lineup especially on defense. The Seahawks have played as complete of football since the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and the re-emergence of strong safety Kam Chancellor. We are ready to make an impact in January. The only thing that could threaten our hopes of making a deep playoff push is injuries.
After watching the St. Louis Rams drop back-to-back games the previous two weeks I am reminded of our matchup against the Arizona Cardinals last week. I say that because of the temporary leader of the Rams offense, quarterback Shaun Hill. After a lackluster game against Arizona two weeks ago, Hill bounced back with a 75% completion percentage and threw for 290 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and an interception in a losing effort last week against the New York Giants. This tells me one thing; Hill is a very inconsistent quarterback where even his best effort is not enough to win. Like Arizona last week, if the Rams have any chance at winning this game it will have to come at the hands of their defense and special teams. The Rams sport a very talented defense with recognizable names at all three levels but my focus this week is on a player who does not get constant recognition. My X-Factor player to watch for the Rams this week is safety T.J. McDonald. Not many Rams defenders do multiple things really well but McDonald does a very good job getting to the ball carrier to make tackles and also does a good job tracking the ball in the passing game. McDonald ranks third among all Rams in tackles with 98 on the season. McDonald also gets to the quarterback when safety blitzes are dialed up, recording two sacks this season. In the secondary McDonald has seven passes defensed and one interception. I do not expect the Seahawks to air the ball out consistently this week so I expect McDonald’s biggest impact to be getting to the ball carrier. If McDonald can force a Seattle turnover it is possible that St. Louis can keep this game close.
Random Thoughts: Seahawks in all blue, Rams most likely in all white this week… Gus Johnson and Charles Davis have the call for FOX this week. This is the first and only NFL game Johnson and Davis call this season, as they normally are FOX’s number one broadcasting crew for college football. For those of you unfamiliar with Gus Johnson’s broadcast style you are either going to be wildly entertained or wildly annoyed. His nickname is “screamin’ Gus” for a reason. Just type his name in on YouTube and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I would love to hear a Gus Johnson call of a long Marshawn Lynch touchdown this week… We have played the Rams at home in week 17 four out of the past five seasons. Hey NFL, how about we switch the schedule up next year… Going to switch it up before the game. Pyramid Alehouse for lunch and perhaps a beer at Safeco Field before heading into the stadium. Looking forward to Pyramid’s fish and chips… The Seahawks are giving away “We Are 12” t-shirts at the gates this week. I hope they look cool. We’ll see if the Seahawks encourage the fans to wear the shirts or to use the shirts to wave like towels… The postseason schedule will likely be announced at halftime of Sunday Night Football between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. As excited as I am for the Seahawks game, I am almost more excited to see when and at what time the Seahawks will play their first playoff game. I am hoping we get to play on the Sunday of divisional weekend instead of Saturday like last year… Barring an epic collapse my hope is to be down at the Seahawks Pro Shop after the game getting my Seahawks 2014 NFC West champions gear just like last year!
Seahawks Playoff Outlook: A Seahawks win gives us the NFC West title and virtually guarantees we clinch the #1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The only way the Seahawks do not earn the #1 seed with a win is if the Lions/Packers game ends in a tie. If the Seahawks lose and the Cardinals lose, the Seahawks will still win the NFC West but could earn the #1, #2, or #3 seed depending on what Detroit, Green Bay, and Dallas do on Sunday. A Seahawks loss and a Cardinals win would give Arizona the NFC West title and the Seahawks will be the #5 seed. Here are Sunday’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.
Dallas (11-4) at Washington (4-11)
Arizona (11-4) at San Francisco (7-8)
Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4): The winner of DET/GB wins the NFC North and clinches the #2 seed in the NFC. The loser clinches the #6 seed in the NFC.
Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9): The winner of CAR/ATL wins the NFC South and clinches the #4 seed in the NFC
Prediction: The Seahawks know what is at stake and they will not let anything prevent them from winning this game. Marshawn Lynch will score a pair of touchdowns and Russell Wilson will also throw for a pair of touchdowns. For the second straight week the Seahawks will not allow a touchdown and the Seahawks will coast into the playoffs as the 2014 NFC West champions. Seattle will wrap up the #1 seed in the NFC and will take a week off before getting ready to play either Atlanta, Arizona, or Detroit in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Seahawks 31, Rams 6
Check back late Sunday night as I review our regular season finale against the Rams. I will also take a first look ahead to the NFL Playoffs and who I believe the Seahawks will face in their first playoff game. Enjoy the game and Go Seahawks!