Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
The Seahawks wrap up the home portion of their 2015 season on Sunday against a familiar December opponent. Seattle concludes their home slate against the division rival St. Louis Rams for the fifth time in the last six years. The Seahawks are 9-5 and have a playoff berth already wrapped up. The Rams are at the tail end of yet another mediocre season under head coach Jeff Fisher with a record of 6-8. Seattle leads the all-time series 21-14 but the Rams bested the Seahawks in week one, coming back to defeat the Kam Chancellor-less squad in overtime 34-31. 15 weeks later the Seahawks are a completely different team and the Rams have added a dynamic force on their offensive unit. Here is what I will be watching out for on Sunday.
Look for the Seahawks offense to try to mirror what it accomplished last week against Cleveland. Christine Michael will likely be the lead back and will see anywhere from 15 to 20 carries. The talk of the town has been the phenomenal play of quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin. If Wilson can continue to avoid turning the ball over I believe our offense will put the team in good position to win. On defense my number one focus will be to watch how well our starters match the speed of the Rams offense. On the ground the combo of Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin has combined for 1,413 yards and 13 touchdowns. St. Louis likes to use Austin in the backfield and on end arounds so the Seahawks must be quick on the outside. The presence of Kenny Britt at receiver also equips St. Louis with an explosive downfield threat. Richard Sherman will likely cover Britt on Sunday. If the Seahawks can hold the Rams to under 300 yards of total offense it will be a successful day.
As I previously mentioned, the Rams have a weapon on the offensive side of the ball that was not available when these two teams faced off back in September. He is the guy I will keep my focus on more than any other Rams offensive player. Since his debut in week 3, running back Todd Gurley is on pace for 1,200 yards, has been named to the Pro Bowl, and is the front runner to win offensive rookie of the year. He is the closest thing to Marshawn Lynch that has come into the league in recent years and he has the talent to make even the toughest run defenses look silly. I believe Gurley will see at least 20 carries and if the Rams find success in the running game they will continue to feed him the ball. Getting solid production out of Gurley in this game will take a ton of pressure off of quarterback Case Keenum.
The mystery of the St. Louis Rams comes from their defense. Over the past few seasons the Rams have been hyped to be potential contenders for the NFC West crown. I believe a lot of this hype comes from the talent they possess on the defensive side of the ball. Yet somehow the pool of talent cannot seem to band together to help the team win football games. They remind me of the pre-Jim Harbaugh San Francisco 49ers; they have the talent but it is not being utilized correctly. The Rams defense will be represented in the Pro Bowl by defensive tackle/interior pass rusher Aaron Donald who leads the team with 11 sacks and also has the fourth most tackles on the defense with 64. The middle of the defense is anchored by veteran James Laurinaitis but the secondary is what I will have my eye on. Safety Mark Barron leads the team in tackles and cornerback Janoris Jenkins has recorded 14 passes defensed. The Rams other starting cornerback also has 14 passes defensed but has also done more on the stat sheet. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the St. Louis Rams is cornerback Trumaine Johnson. In just his fourth season, Johnson has emerged as one of the Rams best players. This season he has already shattered his personal best for interceptions in a single season with 6. He has intercepted a pass in each of his last three games and one of his interceptions occurred against the Seahawks in week one. Johnson will likely shadow the red-hot Doug Baldwin and with the trust Russell Wilson has had going to Baldwin over the past 5 weeks, particularly on third down, Johnson will absolutely see opportunities to make an impact in this game.
Random Thoughts: College navy jerseys and pants for the Seahawks. The Rams will wear white jerseys and will likely wear navy pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber will lead the broadcast on FOX… The referee for this week’s game is John Hussey… The gameday theme is fan appreciation which means the Seahawks will be giving away a wide array of prizes to the fans in attendance. In all the years I’ve been a season ticket holder I’ve only won something on fan appreciation day once; a 12 car flag in 2008… The Steve Largent Award will also be presented during pregame festivities. Russell Wilson won it last year and it is possible he could win it again… It’s disappointing this final regular season home game will be a goodbye to everyone I sit around until August of next year. I’ve been so used to having home playoff games to look forward to the past couple of years that this year feels slightly abnormal… If the Seahawks win they will have reached the 10-win mark. If that’s the case the Seahawks will have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. What an amazing feat that would be.
Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Arizona Cardinals clinched the NFC West last week, meaning at best the Seahawks can be the #5 seed. With a win over the Rams the Seahawks will maintain their position as the #5 seed. The Seahawks can clinch the #5 seed with a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss. The Seahawks will fall to the #6 seed if they lose and the Vikings win. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.
Washington (7-7) at Philadelphia (6-8) (Game to be played Saturday night)
Green Bay (10-4) at Arizona (12-2)
New York Giants (6-8) at Minnesota (9-5)
Prediction: The Rams have not won in Seattle since my 15th birthday. That draught will continue on Sunday. The game will be tied at halftime due to a strong first half by Todd Gurley but Russell Wilson will come out of the intermission on fire, throwing for touchdowns on our first two second half possessions. The Seahawks will get to 10-5 and will send the 12’s home happy one last time this season.
Seahawks 27, Rams 16