Five matchups to watch: Seahawks vs. Rams

Posted Dec 28, 2013

The Seahawks enter their regular-season finale against the Rams on Sunday needing the same thing they’ve needed twice in the previous three games: A win to clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

A look at the Seahawks’ Week 17 game against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, including five matchups that could impact the outcome:

When: Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field

Records: Seahawks 12-3 after Sunday’s 17-10 to the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field; Rams 7-8 after Sunday’s 23-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in St. Louis

Playoff implications: The Seahawks will clinch the NFC West title, a first-round bye in the playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory, or go into the playoffs as a wild-card team if they lose to the Rams and the 49ers defeat the Cardinals in Arizona; the Rams were eliminated from the playoffs after their Dec. 8 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona

TV: FOX (Q/13), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jennifer Hale

Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 KIRO FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Rest of the West: 49ers (11-4) at Cardinals (10-5)

Matchup microscope

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. the situation: Were those eagles circling the Seahawks’ practice field this week? Or vultures in skeptic’s feathers? Wilson has done so much in his first two seasons with the Seahawks that what has happened the past three weeks is uncharted territory. The Seahawks failed to clinch the NFC West when they lost the 49ers in San Francisco on Dec. 8 and again last Sunday against the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field. Wilson did not play well in either loss, after doing so many things so well during the team’s 11-1 start. The nattering nabobs of negativity want answers. Instead, Wilson smiled and offered, “Sometimes you just have a bad day.” But No. 3 needs to bounce back in this third opportunity to clinch the division, a first-round bye in the playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

One to watch

Seahawks LT Russell Okung vs. Rams DE Robert Quinn: Quinn leads the NFL with 18 sacks and six forced fumbles on those sacks. He got to Wilson three times in the Week 8 game in St. Louis, but Okung didn’t play in that game because of a toe injury. Neither did right tackle Breno Giacomini, as Chris Long also collected three sacks from the other end position. Can one or two players make a difference? They're going to have to, especially Okung. Quinn is on a roll, as he’s coming off another three-sack performance against the Bucs last week. Wilson needs time to go through his progressions, and his tackles need to provide it against Quinn, Long and a pass rush that has produced 49 sacks.

Fun to watch

The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl secondary: LCB Richard Sherman. FS Earl Thomas. SS Kam Chancellor. Pro Bowlers, one and all. It’s the third consecutive season Thomas has been selected; a repeat honor for Chancellor, who was an injury replacement as an alternate in 2011; and an overdue first selection for Sherman. And you wonder why the Seahawks lead the NFL in interceptions (26). Sherman has a league-high eight, Thomas is tied for fourth with five and Chancellor has three. These guys are fun to watch in practice. But it’s game day when they really turn it on and up.

One tough task

Rams QB Kellen Clemens vs. the Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense: Clemens stepped in as the starter for the Week 8 game against the Seahawks in St. Louis, after Sam Bradford was lost for the season. The Rams have compensated by trying to run the ball more than they pass it. That has been the case in five of Clemens’ starts, when the Rams are 4-1. In the four games where they threw more than ran, the Rams are 0-4. You get the picture. The way to beat the Rams is to stop Zac Stacy, who had 134 yards in the Week 8 loss to the Seahawks; and force Clemens to make plays to win it. That won’t be easy against a Seahawks defense that leads the league in average yards (281.3) and passing yards (173.8) allowed, turnovers (37) and opposing QB passer rating (63.3). Mix in the din generated by the 12th Man at CenturyLink Field and it could be a long afternoon for Clemens.

Don’t overlook

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Rams LBs James Olgetree and James Laurinaitis: Lynch had a very un-Beast Mode game in Week 8 against the Rams. He got only eight carries, a season-low by eight carries; and produced just 23 yards, a season-low by 20 yards. In the next two games, Lynch went for 125 and 145 yards, but he hasn’t had a 100-yard game since – a five-game drought that is his longest since the first six games in 2011. Ogletree (144) and Laurinaitis (134) have combined for 278 tackles. And, the Rams have allowed an average of 2.8 yards per carry over the past six games. But the Seahawks have to find a way to get Lynch going, and do it early.

Worth noting

The Seahawks lead the series 18-11, including a 16-6 victory in the 2010 regular-season finale that gave the Seahawks the division title and wins in 15 of the past 17 meetings. … The Seahawks have not scored more than 20 points against the Jeff Fisher-coached Rams, losing 19-13 in St. Louis and winning 20-13 in Seattle last season and winning 14-9 in Week 8 this season in St. Louis. … The Seahawks are five for 26 on third-down situations in their past two games. … The Rams’ Johnny Hekker leads the NFL in net punting average (43.8 yards). … Stacy needs 42 yards to become the third Rams rookie to rush for 1,000 in a season, joining Eric Dickerson (1,808 in 1983) and Jerome Bettis (1,429 in 1993). … MLB Bobby Wagner (107) and Thomas (98) lead the Seahawks in tackles.