The Seattle Seahawks were supposed to have everything clinched by now. Starting with their game Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers, the Seahawks have had some scenario every week where they could wrap up the NFC West division title.
But the 49ers beat the Seahawks 19-17 and kept winning, while the Arizona Cardinals dealt Seattle its first loss in CenturyLink Field in two years last Sunday. That puts all the pressure on the Seahawks Week 17 against the St. Louis Rams, as Seattle needs a win both to ensure that the road to the Super Bowl goes through CenturyLink and to establish momentum heading into the playoffs after losing two of three.
Arizona’s defense held the Seahawks to 10 points and 192 total yards last week, one of Seattle’s worst offensive performances of the season. Its worst game came in the first matchup with the Rams, as Seattle scratched out a 14-9 road win despite only 135 total yards.
Expect more of the same this week. St. Louis has risen to 12th in DVOA defensively after playing well the past two weeks in wins over the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The key to the game for the Seahawks will be protecting Russell Wilson, as the Rams have a pair of pass rushers that can make a major impact. Robert Quinn has emerged as one of the very best in the NFL with 18 sacks and is in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. Chris Long has also been a major headache, with three sacks in each of his last two games against Seattle.
St. Louis hit Russell Wilson 10 times back in Week 8, the biggest reason for its defensive success. The Seahawks’ offensive line was ravaged by injuries at that point in the season, but still has had its struggles recently. This week will be a major test for the unit.
The Seahawks desperately need to regain their offensive form after struggling the past three weeks. Arizona had an outstanding defensive scheme to limit Wilson, so it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell adjusts. The bread and butter of the Seattle offense is still the run, but the Seahawks have not been putting up big numbers on the ground either, so look for them to establish Marshawn Lynch early and often.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks have been dominant, with 9 interceptions over their past two games. Zac Stacy and the Rams rushing attack gashed the Seahawks Week 8, so Seattle will likely focus on shutting that down. St. Louis also has two tremendous athletes that they will try to get touches for in Tavon Austin (who is questionable to play) and Stedman Bailey. Seattle has the ability to counter that speed with possibly the fastest defense in the NFL.
This game has become one of the most important of the year for the Seahawks. A win means a bye and critical home field advantage. With a loss, Seattle could be heading to Chicago or Green Bay for the first round.
Photo Credit: Michael Conroy / Associated Press
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