Matchups To Watch: Seahawks vs. Rams
When: Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field
Records: Seahawks 10-5 and second in the NFC West after last week’s 42-13 victory over the division-leading 49ers; Rams 7-7-1 and third in the NFC West after last week’s 28-13 victory over the Buccaneers
Significance: Seahawks already have clinched a playoff spot, but can win the division with a victory and a 49ers loss to the Cardinals; Rams can finished unbeaten in the division and also claim their first winning record since 2003
TV: Fox (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jaime Maggio
Radio: 710 AM ESPN Seattle and KIRO Radio 97.3, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Rest of the West: Cardinals (5-10) at 49ers (10-4-1)
Rams linebackers James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar vs. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch: To say that the Rams have not had an answer for Lynch isn’t entirely true, but it’s close enough. The NFL’s second-leading rusher will be looking for his third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance against the Rams, and fourth game in a row with a touchdown against them. He ran for 118 yards and a TD in the Week 4 loss in St. Louis. He had 115 yards and a TD in a victory at CenturyLink Field last December, and 88 yards and a TD in the Week 11 win in St. Louis last season. And as improved as the Rams defense is under Jeff Fisher in his first season as coach, the Rams have not had to deal with the zone-read that the Seahawks have used so effectively – and productively – during their four-game winning streak, when they’re averaging 226.5 rushing yards; and Lynch is averaging 6.7 yards per carry with six rushing TDs. Laurinaitis (166) and Dunbar (144) have combined for 310 tackles.
One to watch
Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins vs. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: This one is a matchup of leading candidates for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jenkins has scored four touchdowns, the most by a defensive rookie in league history. In addition to his three interception returns for score, he also has scored with a fumble recovery. Wilson, meanwhile, needs one TD pass to tie the rookie single-season record of 26 set by Peyton Manning in 1998, and two to break it. Wilson passed for four TDs in last week’s rout of the 49ers and has at least two in seven of his past 10 games. With a 98.0 passer rating, he’s also looking to crack the Top 5 among rookie QBs in NFL history. In the Week 4 loss to the Rams in St. Louis, Wilson threw three interceptions. But he has thrown just six in the 11 games since, and only two in the past seven games.
Fun to watch
Rams defensive end Chris Long vs. Wilson: It will take more than one Ram, even one as good as Long, to contain Wilson with the way he has been passing, and running, and tormenting D-linemen with his movement in and out of the pocket. But this one is special because Wilson and Long go way back. Wilson grew up in Richmond, Va.; while Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long, was raised just-up-I-95 in Charlottesville, Va. “We grew up near each other and used to play each other all the time,” Wilson said. “I’m really good family friends with him. He’s a tremendous football player, one of the better defensive ends in the National Football League. I used to watch him play all the time. I know his family extremely well. So it will be great to play against him again.” Long has 8.5 sacks, while Wilson has been sacked just four times in the past three games.
One tough task
The Seahawks vs. the scoreboard: The 49ers and Cardinals will kickoff at the same time in San Francisco, while the Cowboys will play at the Redskins in the Sunday night game. Coach Pete Carroll was emphatic this week that winning the division is Goal No. 1, and has been. For that to happen, they need more than a little help from the Cardinals. If that doesn’t happen, then the Seahawks will be heading to either Dallas or D.C. in the opening round of the playoffs – with the winner of the Cowboys-Redskins game taking the NFC East and clinching the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs. But as Carroll said when asked about taking the occasional peek at the CenturyLink Field scoreboard, “There won’t be anybody with a transistor radio the sideline. We won’t be doing that. We’re just going to play the game. We’ve got to take care of business. It doesn’t matter what happens if we don’t take care of our business.”
The Rams are 4-0-1 in the division and also have a three-game road winning streak, their longest since 2003. … The Seahawks have won their past four games, their longest winning streak since 2007, and six of their past seven. … The Seahawks are looking to go unbeaten at home for only the third time in franchise history, joining the 2003 and 2005 teams. … Rams running back Steven Jackson needs 10 yards to become the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons. … Since 2006, Jackson’s 11,134 combined yards rushing and receiving are the most in the league. … Rams wide receiver Chris Givens is averaging 46 yards on his three TD receptions. … Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the Seahawks with 130 tackles and needs seven to break the rookie franchise record that was set in 1977 by Bobby Wagner. … The Rams had no players selected to the Pro Bowl, while the Seahawks had five – left tackle Russell Okung, center Max Unger, kick returner Leon Washington, free safety Earl Thomas and Lynch. … Washington’s 30.1-yard average returning kickoffs ranks second in the NFL. … Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has seven interceptions, which ties him for second in the league.
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