The Seahawks head into Week 18 with a playoff berth on the line, and while they do need some help in the night game to make the postseason, they know their only job is to handle their business against the Rams on Sunday. It's the second straight must-win game for the Seahawks after last week's win over the Jets, valuable experience for a young team.
"This is really good, and last week was the same," Pete Carroll said. "It just took a step forward more to the championship feeling and the playoff feeling, you're down to it. There's nothing in our minds at all about what happens Sunday night, that's not what's going on. This is our playoff opportunity right now to go further with our sights on, we're going to take on everything we can take on. It's very positive, it's upbeat, the guys had fun, they were tuned in, they're excited for it. It wouldn't matter who we're playing or where we're playing, but it happens to be the Rams at home, so we'll try to take full advantage of it."
Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks host the Rams Sunday at Lumen Field:
1. Can the Kenneth Walker III and the run game keep it up, and in doing so hit a big milestone.
The Seahawks played what they felt like was one of their most complete games of the season last weekend, and a big part of that was a balanced offensive attack that saw Seattle rush for 198 yards, including 133 yards from Kenneth Walker III, his fourth 100-yard game this season and second in as many weeks.
The Seahawks did beat the Rams the last time they played, but got only three carries for 36 yards out of Walker before an ankle injury knocked him out of the game, and with DeeJay Dallas also injuring his ankle, the Seahawks had a hard time getting the running game going that week.
Over the last six quarters, Seattle's offense has gotten back to playing the way Pete Carroll wants it to, and if Walker and company can get going early again, it should make everything function better on offense. And if Walker does get going, he can join excusive company in Seahawks history, as he is only 64 yards from becoming the second Seahawks rookie, along with Curt Warner in 1983, to rush for 1,000 yards.
2. Will Geno Smith, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have another big day against the Rams?
As mentioned above, the Seahawks didn't run the ball well in the previous outing, but they still won the game in large part because of the play of Smith and his top two weapons. With the offense managing only 90 yards on the ground, Smith threw for a career-high 367 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Metcalf.
Lockett and Metcalf took turns helping to carry the offense, putting up almost identical stat lines, with Lockett catching nine passes for 128 yards and a score, while Metcalf had eight catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The Seahawks want to be balanced, but as they showed the last time they played the Rams, they have the weapons to get the job done through the air when called upon.
"I think we did a great job of getting those guys started early," Smith said of that game. "I think we did a great job in that game making sure that me, personally, was getting the ball out in rhythm and getting it out on time. Obviously, DK (Metcalf) and Tyler (Lockett) did a phenomenal job. They had an excellent game, and they have done it all year. DK gets excited for those big matchups and (Jalen) Ramsey and that defense and playing against Bobby (Wagner) again. Those are the ones that we are thrilled to play. As long as we have those two guys with Tyler and DK, we've got a shot at doing some excellent things, and we are looking forward to seeing what they do on Sunday."
3. Can the Seahawks stop Bobby Wagner from playing spoiler in his return to Seattle.
There figures to be plenty of love showered on Bobby Wagner before Sunday’s game kicks off, but once the game starts, Wagner's top goal will be to beat his former team and keep them out of the playoffs. And as Wagner showed last time these teams met, the Seahawks absolutely need to be aware of his presence at all time, as Wagner recorded two of his career-high six sacks as well as interception in his first game against his old team.
"He has 120-something tackles again," Carroll said. "Here he goes again. I'm not sure the exact number, couple picks. He's got six sacks. I don't remember him ever getting that many sacks. He has rushed a lot in their system. Where it's been a challenge, going there, and following last year and all that stuff, I think he's probably been a real steady voice for them and factor for them. I can't imagine him being anything but that."
4. Does the defensive progress continue?
The Seahawks have slowly been making a positive turn on defense dating back to their Week 15 loss to the 49ers. The following week, they held the Chiefs to a season-low 297 yards while forcing six punts and four three-and-outs, and last week the held kept the Jets out of the end zone for the entire game and shut them out in the second half.
Defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt came out of that win over the jets liking "the effort and the intensity that the guys played with. I thought that we were physical. Obviously, there is a certain energy and juice that you want to see when guys take the field, and that one felt different. I was really excited about that."
To have another good day on defense, the top priority will be slowing down running back Cam Akers, who has rushed for 241 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games, and averaged better than 5 yards per carry in three straight. Another factor for the Seahawks to contend with that wasn't there earlier this season is the addition of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has helped the Rams to two wins in his first four games.
Mayfield has helped the Rams get back to some of the things that the Rams do best under Sean McVay, Hurtt noted.
"The stuff that Sean has done in his past with the boot game, the wide zones, and things of that nature, it's always a part of that nature of who they are and his offense, but definitely with Baker, you can see him run everything very fluidly and handle all the boot games and the intermediate pass game and what not," Hurtt said. "He can do all those things. He's a talented player."
5. Will the Seahawks take care of business, and get the help they need from the Lions?
The Seahawks need to win, first and foremost, and that is their only focus as they get ready for the game, but if they are able to take care of that part of the equation, they will then have to play spectator and wait to learn their fate.
The Seahawks, Lions and Packers are all 8-8 heading into this weekend, and if the Seahawks and Lions both finish 9-8, Seattle advances because of their head-to-head win earlier this season. If the Seahawks and Packers both win, however, Green Bay advances by virtue of a better conference record. Complicating matters is the fact that if Seattle wins, the Lions are eliminated from the playoffs before the Sunday night game kicks off, though Carroll isn't concerned that Detroit will come out fighting no matter what is at stake.
"I know that there's been maybe some question about the order of the games being played on Sunday or whatever," Carroll said Monday. "That doesn't mean anything to me. We don't care about that one bit. It's not going to change anything that we're doing. We're going for it. And then maybe there'd be pretty good party afterwards to watch the next game. But the last thing I would ever worry about is coach Campbell's team not getting ready to play, regardless of what's at stake and what's going on. He's going to get them fired up and jacked, that's all he's ever done. And that'll be a great match too."
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Los Angeles Rams, the 49th regular season meeting between the two teams, for Week 18 of the 2022 season. Take a look back at some of their previous matchups.