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Rams/Seahawks Preview

26 Dec
rams preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

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

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Seahawks/Rams Preview

12 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Site: Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The preseason-long wait is finally over. The two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks begin their journey for a third straight Super Bowl appearance on Sunday when they take on their NFC West rivals, the St. Louis Rams. In their meeting in St. Louis last season, the Seahawks came close to completing a massive comeback. Unfortunately some Rams trickery and possibly some help from the officials was enough to doom the Seahawks as they lost 28-26. No matter how good or bad the Rams are, they ALWAYS play Seattle tough at the Edward Jones Dome. Since the Seahawks and Rams became rivals in 2002, Seattle has beaten St. Louis by more than one score only twice at the dome. Given that this is the first game of the season, this will be a much more evenly matched game than you may think. Here is what I will be looking for this week.

It may be only week one, but believe it or not this may be the toughest road test the Seahawks will face all season. It is crucial that our offense does not struggle. This week on offense I am looking for the Seahawks to break from their traditional offensive approach. What I mean is this. The Seahawks tend to formulate a game plan and for the first half they stick to their blueprint no matter what happens. This sometimes means the Seahawks struggle, fall behind, then in the second half they adapt to what the opposing defense is doing and in the process call plays that will take advantage of the defense’s weaknesses, thus moving the ball and scoring points. I would not be surprised at all if the Seahawks try to establish the running game early and struggle, allowing the Rams to control the momentum early. I believe stretch runs, screens, and quick slants are the best plays to call for the Seahawks to thrive this week due to the uncertainty of our offensive line play against the Rams superior front seven. Given this, Tyler Lockett could make a big impact out of the slot this week. If the offense can put at least two touchdowns on the board and Marshawn Lynch can run for at least 70 yards, Seattle will be in fantastic shape.

It should be obvious what my defensive focus is on this week. Half of our Legion of Boom starters have turned over from last year. Strong safety Kam Chancellor continues his holdout, which means that Dion Bailey will start in his place. Cary Williams will start at cornerback opposite of Richard Sherman. If Rams quarterback Nick Foles gets good protection I expect him to challenge our secondary early. It also would not surprise me if the Seahawks play a good amount of nickel coverage with Marcus Burley this week to take away the potential speed threat of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in the slot.

The St. Louis Rams enter this week’s game somewhat of a mystery on offense. They are led by a new quarterback, Nick Foles, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia over the offseason. Running back Tre Mason is questionable this week and rookie Todd Gurley will be inactive as he is still rehabbing from a torn ACL he sustained while at the University of Georgia last year. At this point it is looking like Benny Cunningham will start at running back. To make things even murkier, St. Louis will start two rookies along the offensive line. For the first time ever I am putting my X-Factor Players to Watch spotlight on these rookie linemen, left guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein. Brown will have to deal with Brandon Mebane in the A gap while Havenstein will have his hands full with Michael Bennett on the outside. If Bennett can penetrate the line of scrimmage with ease the Rams could be in big trouble throughout the game. Short passes may be the best strategy for the Rams given the questions in pass protection and because of how poorly the Seahawks defended quick passes during the preseason, especially on third down. I believe Foles will look to his bigger receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick on the outside. Keep an eye on Quick in particular, as he will likely line up against Cary Williams.

If there is one thing the Seahawks should have learned in these games in St. Louis is to be on the lookout for special teams funny business. In 2012 the Rams successfully executed a fake field goal for a touchdown and the Seahawks lost by 6. Last season the Rams conducted a fake punt to perfection, baiting all the Seahawks special teamers to one side of the field with a decoy returner while Stedman Bailey fielded the punt on the other side of the field and ran straight down the sideline for an easy touchdown. Then late in the fourth quarter, punter Johnny Hekker lined up to punt but threw the ball for a first down, extending the Rams final drive. The Seahawks, as you know, lost by 2. I believe everything is fair game on special teams in this game. I believe three fake-outs in three years is enough for Pete Carroll and the coaching staff to finally put a heavy emphasis on trick plays in practice this week. The Seahawks will surely be on alert. I dare the Rams to try to catch us off guard on special teams.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are finally telling the fans in advance what their uniform combo will be. We will be wearing white jerseys and college navy pants this week. Hopefully the Seahawks will give this kind of notice every week this season… The Rams will wear navy jerseys. My guess is they will wear navy pants with them… Kenny Albert and Daryl “Moose” Johnston have the call for FOX this week… The referee this week is Jeff Triplette. Since Bill Leavy has a new role with the NFL, I now believe Triplette is the worst referee in the league. Don’t be surprised to see many questionable and/or wrong calls this week… It will be nice to have a bunch of friends over for football this week. Barbeque and Bud Light all day long!… The Rams are yet another team threatening to relocate to Los Angeles next season and they may be in most dire need for hometown support. The Rams are struggling to fill seats at the Edward Jones Dome for this game and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the majority of the upper deck empty. Given the excitement around St. Louis for the Cardinals success and the fact that they play at the exact same time as the Rams on Sunday, support for the Rams will be visibly lacking, perhaps virtually nonexistent at the dome. Personally I would love to see the Rams move to Los Angeles because the NFL would kill two birds with one stone. The Rams moving to LA would mean that the NFL wouldn’t have to worry about division realignment (something that would have to occur if the Chargers and Raiders both moved to Los Angeles). In my mind a Rams move would also create a geographically perfect NFC West with teams in Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, and Los Angeles.

Prediction: I expect rust. I expect penalties. What I do not expect is for the Seahawks to lie down. Marshawn Lynch will catch a touchdown out of the backfield in the red zone and Jermaine Kearse will add a deep touchdown of his own. Steven Hauschka will miss one extra point but will redeem himself in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard field goal. The game will come down to a 57-yard field goal attempt off the foot of Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, which he will hook wide right. The Seahawks will survive and start the season 1-0 for the third straight season.

Seahawks 16, Rams 14

Review: Seahawks 20, Rams 6

28 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After a rough start, the Seahawks took control and never looked back. The Seahawks scored 20 unanswered points and defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-6 on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks finish the season 12-4 and are the 2014 NFC West champions. The road to Super Bowl XLIX is now guaranteed to go through CenturyLink Field. Before we look ahead two weeks from now to our NFC Divisional playoff matchup, here are some brief thoughts about what I took out of this week’s game.

First Half Turnover Differential: After the first 30 minutes of the game the Rams led the turnover differential 2-0. St. Louis took a 6-0 lead into the half. If this game does not prove the importance of turnover differential I do not have a better example. A Russell Wilson interception and a Marshawn Lynch fumble gave St. Louis short fields to work with which ultimately resulted in 6 points. This game was completely controlled by the Rams through the first half. Two questionable calls on fourth down by the Seahawks contributed to St. Louis’s control of the first half. Rams quarterback Shaun Hill did not play anything like how he played the previous two weeks, playing conservative football which was effective in moving the ball into scoring range. Although the Seattle defense held St. Louis to 6 points in the first half and although the fans in attendance felt fully confident in the Seahawks chances of coming back, the first Seattle shutout offensive through the first half since 2011 showed how taking care of the ball can make the difference between controlling the game and trailing to an inferior opponent.

Hill, Irvin Change the Game: The Seahawks evened up the turnover battle in the fourth quarter with two huge plays. Jordan Hill intercepted a Shaun Hill pass which looked to be a busted play and throw into the ground with 14:51 left in the game. That play led to a Marshawn Lynch touchdown and a 13-6 Seahawks lead. The play of the game was made by defense end Bruce Irvin. Irvin intercepted a Shaun Hill pass two series later which he returned for a touchdown, giving the Seahawks a controlling and deciding 20-6 lead. The Seahawks have allowed only three touchdowns in their past 6 games and after the pick-six by Irvin it was all but assured the Seahawks would win this game. The Seahawks defense has been playing at a level that I have never seen. With the playoffs coming through CenturyLink Field, I would be shocked if this defensive play does not continue.

12th Man Heats up in Second Half: Two weeks ago against the San Francisco 49ers, I noted on my Facebook that the 12th Man treated the first half of that game like it did not mean anything. This week however, the 12’s brought the noise nonstop throughout the game. I was thoroughly impressed with the fans in attendance this week. They knew what was on the line and especially once the Seahawks took the lead the 12’s made sure the Rams had no shot getting back into this game. With the playoffs on the horizon, I expect nothing less than deafening decibels this January.

Random Thoughts: Maybe I should stop adding commentary about the opposing team’s uniforms. The Rams went with the white jersey/navy pant combo instead of the all-white look this week. That is the second straight week I have been wrong about our opponent’s uniforms. It didn’t help their chances though… The fish and chips at the Pyramid Alehouse do not disappoint at all. Add a Pyramid hefeweizen to the meal? Flawless. A very underrated way to spend time before the game and something I enjoy doing once per season… One of the few places I enjoy drinking Mac n’ Jacks is Safeco Field, which is where I went after lunch. I recommend “The Pen” for any group who cannot get into a neighboring bar (if you have kids for example)… Two groups of people around me got ejected this week; a guy in an Aaron Rodgers Packers jersey two rows behind me, and a guy who sits one row in front of and two seats across from me. The Packers fan fell and almost knocked me over, and he made one of the girls in the row directly behind me cry. The Seahawks fan in the row in front of me was throwing peanuts at fans coming up the aisle at halftime. Idiots… This is about to be a very exciting January.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks have clinched the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. Seattle will host the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, or Detroit Lions in the NFC Divisional Playoffs on Saturday, January 10th at 5:15pm.

Check back later this week as I provide commentary on these three potential opponents and shed light on who I would most like to face in two weeks. Go Seahawks!

Rams/Seahawks Preview

27 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

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!

Seahawks/Rams Preview

18 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Site: Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Even though we are the defending world champions and even though we are playing one of the toughest schedules in the National Football League, for the first time in a long time the 12th Man is feeling a bit uncertain moving forward. After falling at home to the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Seahawks now face two straight road games that are now even more important to win. This stretch starts on Sunday when the Seahawks take on the St. Louis Rams in our first NFC West game of the season. The Seahawks are 3-2 on the season and with the loss last week we currently sit in 3rd place in the division. The Rams are 1-4 and are in last place in the NFC West. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 20-12 and in their last meeting the Seahawks defeated St. Louis in Seattle by a score of 27-9. Here is what to watch for in this week’s game.

This week there is one over-arching question that must be asked on both sides of the ball. How will injuries to core players affect our play? On the offensive side of the ball I am focusing on the Seahawks offensive line. The Seahawks will be without Max Unger for the second consecutive week. Russell Okung is likely to play but he is still has a labrum injury lingering in his shoulder. It will be crucial for the offensive line to create running room for Marshawn Lynch and to give Russell Wilson a clean pocket to throw from. The Rams have a lot of talent along their defensive line and historically they have given Seattle problems when playing in St. Louis. Although the Seahawks only allowed two sacks of Russell Wilson last week, the talent the Rams will send his way is much better in my opinion than what the Dallas Cowboys had to offer. The running game must be effective for us to have any chance in winning this game. It starts with Marshawn Lynch. After only 10 carries in a losing effort last week, expect his workload to be dramatically higher this week. Even if Lynch struggles to get going early, I expect offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to not shy away from calling Lynch’s number especially after the criticism he was faced with after last week’s game.

On defense the Seahawks will be without at least one starter and possibly without one other starter. Bobby Wagner is suffering from turf toe and has been ruled out of this week’s game. Seattle will play the linebacker shuffle this week, moving K.J. Wright to middle linebacker with Malcolm Smith taking Wright’s spot as the starting “Will” linebacker. The Seahawks may also be without starting cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has not practiced all week while recovering from a calf strain. After Wagner exited last week’s game it felt as though our defense fell apart. The Seahawks defense allowed 23 points once Wagner departed in the second quarter. The tackling in the middle of the field worsened in the second half and the Cowboys skill position players found lots of room in the open field. It will be important for Wright to be an anchor in the middle of the field and make clean, fundamental tackles. Last week Rams quarterback Austin Davis was able to make clean throws to receivers Kenny Britt and Austin Pettis among others in the middle of the field against a banged up San Francisco defense. This week look for Davis to use these receivers and speedster Tavon Austin out wide to test the Legion of Boom especially if Maxwell is inactive. Marcus Burley will likely start for the Seahawks if Maxwell cannot go and it is very possible to think that Davis will look in the direction of a raw inexperienced starter rather than to throw in the direction of all-pro Richard Sherman.

This season the St. Louis Rams defense is not putting up the numbers like they did a season ago but they are still an intimidating bunch, especially the front seven. Last season Rams defensive end Robert Quinn ranked second in the NFL in sacks with 19. That dominant performance earned him a new contract but so far Quinn has not earned his newfound money. Quinn has only 12 tackles so far this season with no sacks. The only sack the Rams have recorded this season belongs to my X-Factor player to watch, defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald, from the University of Pittsburgh, was a first-round pick of the Rams back in May. He along with Michael Brockers form one of the best up-and-coming defensive tackle combinations in all of football. Just like Robert Quinn, Donald has also recorded 12 tackles including 4 tackles for loss. I loved Donald coming out of college because of his potential as an interior pass rusher and with Max Unger out this could be the perfect opportunity for Donald to show what all the hype was about back before the draft. Donald vs. Seahawks center Stephen Schilling is a matchup to keep an eye on this week. If Donald is successful in getting through the middle of the Seahawks offensive line it could be a frustrating day once again for Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and the rest of the Seattle offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks have confirmed via their Twitter that they will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants this week… The Rams will wear navy blue jerseys with either white or navy blue pants… Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, and Tony Siragusa have the call for FOX this week… Brad Allen is this week’s referee. Allen is one of 4 rookie referees in the NFL this season… I was hoping the St. Louis Cardinals would extend the National League Championship Series into Sunday. It would have been great for the entire city of St. Louis to be infatuated with playoff baseball, virtually making this week’s Rams game an afterthought. That will not be the case however, after the Cardinals season came to an end on Thursday night… In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 2-2 playing the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome… St. Louis would have been an interesting road trip to do. Game tickets are dirt cheap but round-trip airfare to St. Louis is a bit on the pricey side. I have given some thought into doing a spontaneous short-notice weekend trip to St. Louis for the game this year and in previous years but have never done it… I have been to every NFC West for a Seahawks game except for St. Louis… I am not in panic mode yet but if the Seahawks lose this game I am sure this entire city will be panicking. My word of encouragement: Never lose faith in this team.

Prediction: I could see this game going down to the wire, much like some of our previous games played in St. Louis. I think it will be incredibly difficult for the Seahawks running game to get going once again this week and it will be up to Russell Wilson to extend Seahawks drives. The only Seahawks touchdown will belong to Wilson on a scramble from inside the redzone. The Seahawks defense will play a much more sound game this week, including three sacks of Austin Davis. The Rams will win the turnover battle however and that could cost the Seahawks a chance to win the game late. Of course I hope I am wrong, but I believe the Rams will win a tight, physical game and the Seahawks will lose back-to-back games for the first time since weeks 7 and 8 of the 2012 season.

Rams 17, Seahawks 16

Check back on Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

Rams/Seahawks Preview

28 Dec
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After losing to the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Seattle Seahawks have a third and final chance to clinch the NFC West division title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs this week against the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 12-3 after last week’s loss and the Rams enter Seattle having won 4 of their last 6 games. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 19-12 and have won the last two games including a 14-9 win in week 8 in St. Louis on Monday Night Football. It is also noteworthy to point out that the Rams currently have an 8-game losing streak in Seattle. Their last win at CenturyLink Field came on January 8th, 2005 in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. This week’s game has become the biggest game of the season and I expect and anticipate a playoff-type atmosphere on Sunday. This is what will be in the way and what the Seahawks must do to be the 2013 NFC West champions.

Forget about how well the defense played. Forget about the bad calls that went against us. The primary reason why we were unable to win and clinch last week was the inept play by the Seahawks offense. Protecting quarterback Russell Wilson is by far the most important thing the Seahawks must do in order to be successful this week. J.R. Sweezy has been practicing this week and it is logical to believe he will be back starting at right guard, adding stability to a position that was a brutal weakness last week with Michael Bowie filling in. As important as the running game will be with Marshawn Lynch this week, it is the Seahawks passing game that will need to step up to move the ball in chunks, extend drives, and get into scoring range on a more consistent basis. Last week Arizona forced 7 Seahawks three-and-outs, which was a significant factor in Arizona being able to control the clock and tire our defense out. If the Seahawks offensive line does a sub-par job protecting Wilson, look for the Seahawks to utilize a screen pass package that could feature Golden Tate on bubble screens and Marshawn Lynch on conventional screens out of the backfield.

The Seahawks defense has not allowed more than 20 points in a game since before the bye week. This week, in an effort to improve exposed aspects of our defensive game plan last week, it is imperative that the Seahawks must be able to stop Rams running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has been on a tear as of late, running for 133 yards and 104 yards in the last two weeks respectively. Stacy also ran for his season high 134 rushing yards against the Seahawks back in October. Although St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens has been playing decent football since starting quarterback Sam Bradford got hurt that does not diminish the fact that Clemens will have to play in front of a revved up 12th Man that will be at full roar on Sunday hoping to boost the Seahawks into the division title. The Seahawks have intercepted 9 passes in their last two games and putting pressure on Clemens could significantly up that number this week. This is why Stacy becomes such a viable weapon for St. Louis and by eliminating Stacy’s production and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw will give the Seahawks a tremendous advantage this week. Look for the Seahawks pass rush to also make an impact on the left side of the Rams offensive line, as starting left tackle Jake Long is out for the season. Rodger Saffold will start in place of Long this week.

The last time these two teams played, the St. Louis Rams defense did a surprisingly incredible job of shutting down a Seahawks offense that had been rolling in their previous few games. It was this game that the Seahawks were unfortunately introduced to defensive end Robert Quinn. Quinn is currently the NFL leader in sacks with 18, racking up 5 sacks in his last two games, thus he comes into Seattle very hot. The way the Rams control this game is to make life miserable for Russell Wilson. And the way Seattle blocked against Arizona will not cut it this week as the Rams pass rush may be one of the league’s best right now. The Rams like to use pressure early and they will use packages that include Quinn, defensive end Chris Long, defensive end William Hayes, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Quinn will be the primary focus of the Seahawks offensive line and it would not surprise me to see Quinn line up at defensive tackle to try to penetrate the soft spots in the Seahawks offensive line. Double teaming Robert Quinn will be necessary at times but being able to harness the rest of the Rams pass rushers will make it easier for the Seahawks to take care of Quinn.

On offense for the Rams there will be a gigantic emphasis on the running game because St. Louis averages less than 200 passing yards per game this season. If the running game cannot pick up steam, quarterback Kellen Clemens will be forced to throw. Much like how I think Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense can effectively run screen passes this week, I think the same goes for the Rams. Kellen Clemens does not want to throw into the Legion of Boom and being able to play conservatively in the passing game could benefit the Rams offense overall. Using screen passes could be the best way to move the ball through the air this week and my X-Factor player to watch this week is a man who has suddenly become Clemens’s most popular target; wide receiver Stedman Bailey. Bailey is a rookie wide receiver from West Virginia and was taken two rounds after his college teammate Tavon Austin was also taken by St. Louis. With a season-ending injury to Austin, Bailey has seen significant playing time and has seen an increasing number of targets over the past 4 weeks. Last week Bailey led all Rams receivers in targets with 5, catching 3 of them for 44 yards. Bailey is short yet quick and I consider him a possible Doug Baldwin/Golden Tate hybrid. Using Bailey in the quick passing game is what I will look for this week while the Rams are on offense. If the Rams decide to throw bubble screens, expect Bailey to be the top target on the outside.

Like I previously stated earlier in this post, after last week’s loss the sense of urgency this week has blossomed from easy comfort to overblown panic. To all of the fans, especially those attending this week’s game, I remind you that we still control our own destiny but the Seahawks need us to do our part now more than ever. The 12th Man needs to enter CenturyLink Field on Sunday with the belief that this is a playoff game. I expect an extremely loud atmosphere (even for a Sunday afternoon game) that will make St. Louis struggle as badly as San Francisco and New Orleans did in primetime atmospheres. Plain and simple, this is a playoff game. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare during pregame and cheer and yell like it is a playoff game.

Random Thoughts: This week’s game theme is fan appreciation and the Seahawks will be giving away tons of prizes throughout the game. I haven’t won anything on fan appreciation day since 2008… Last season the Seahawks chose 60 season ticket holders randomly to be on the field for player introductions. If they are doing it again this year I didn’t get picked. Oh well… The Seahawks will wear all blue this week and the Rams will likely wear white jerseys and white pants… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will broadcast their final Seahawks game of the season this week on FOX… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee. Triplette’s crew has been rather controversial this year. In a Sunday night game between the Giants and the Redskins a few weeks ago, Triplette’s crew incorrectly told Redskins coach Mike Shanahan that they moved the chains for a first down but they really had not gained enough yards for a first down. The Redskins could not convert and the Giants won the game… This week I am taking my sister to a Seahawks game for the first time since her birthday in 2008. This is also the first time I’ve taken a family member other than my Dad to a game since then. She recently turned 21 so I will be able to show her what a normal gameday is like when I take my friends. Pregame at the Hawks Nest Bar starts at 9am… Shortly after the afternoon slate of games the NFL usually releases the schedule for both Wild-Card weekend and Divisional weekend. The Seahawks will likely know what day and what time they play their first playoff game by 5pm Sunday night. Congratulations to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas for being named to this year’s Pro Bowl and congratulations to Russell Okung, Golden Tate, and Steven Hauschka for being named Pro Bowl alternates. However, hopefully they trade their trip to Hawaii for a trip to New York to play in the Super Bowl instead.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As we enter the final week of the regular season there are 3 scenarios that could determine the Seahawks road to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Scenario #1: A Seahawks win clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #2: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers loss to Arizona clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #3: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers win over Arizona clinches the NFC West for San Francisco; the Seahawks would be the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

The NFC North and NFC East division titles will be decided by win-or-go-home games that will determine who will be the #3 and #4 seeds.

The Carolina Panthers can clinch the NFC South and the #2 seed with a win over Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Tampa Bay. New Orleans wins the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss.

Here are this week’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3)

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11)

San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5)

Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7)

Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5)

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7)

Prediction: This game will feature shades of our first game against St. Louis and last week’s game against Arizona. The Seahawks offense will struggle to get going and the Rams will have the lead at halftime. A couple of big gains in the passing game and a touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch from just outside the goal line will give the Seahawks a late lead. The defense will play a consistent game throughout the day and they will step up when we need them to the most. The Rams will need to put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes to win the game but Richard Sherman will pick off Kellen Clemens, giving the Seahawks the win, the NFC West title, and home field advantage.

Seahawks 21, Rams 16

Check back for my Rams/Seahawks review as well as a brief outlook on the start of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday night. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Hawks!