(AP) — The Seattle Seahawks need to defeat the St. Louis Rams to have any shot of winning their second NFC West title in three seasons.
Even if they don’t finish atop the division, the Seahawks could still be riding a wave of momentum into the postseason.
Seattle will look to extend its longest winning streak in five seasons to five games on Sunday when the Rams try to finish undefeated in the West and above .500 for the first time since 2003.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw a season-high four touchdowns in last Sunday’s 42-13 victory over San Francisco, but the Seahawks (10-5) still trail the 49ers for the West lead. Seattle has clinched a wild-card spot, but the only way it will win the division is to record its eighth consecutive home win over the Rams, and for Arizona, loser of 10 of 11, to defeat San Francisco on Sunday.
The Seahawks last won the division title in 2010 despite finishing 7-9 along with St. Louis.
“Now we’re there with the opportunity to still win a division championship which would be huge for us and that obviously takes a lot of work somewhere else but we have to take care of our business first,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team has won six of seven.
The Seahawks will face a Rams defense that’s limited four of its last five opponents to 17 points or fewer, but Seattle has scored 150 over its last three contests. It’s the most points scored by an NFL team during a three-game span since the Los Angeles Rams tallied 163 from Oct. 22-Nov. 5, 1950.
“I can’t remember a team that’s averaging 50 points a game over three consecutive weeks. So that’s very impressive,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who is one win shy of 150. “But you’re talking about a team that’s won six out of their last seven. Their younger players are just getting better and better. It starts with the quarterback.”
Wilson has thrown for eight scores and rushed for three more during the winning streak. He needs one TD pass to tie Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26.
“We have a frontline, first-rate quarterback going out there in these games and you are seeing that,” Carroll said.
Wilson and the Seahawks will try to complete their first undefeated home season since 2005, when they finished 13-3 en route to their lone Super Bowl appearance.
St. Louis, winner of four of five following last Sunday’s 28-13 victory at Tampa Bay, will miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season, but the team arrives at CenturyLink Field with a chance for its first four-game road winning streak since going 8-0 in 2001.
The Rams (7-7-1) can also post their first winning record since going 12-4 nine years ago. St. Louis, 4-0-1 against West rivals, defeated Seattle 19-13 on Sept. 30.
“So we don’t even have like one in a million chance (to make the playoffs)? Well, we’re going to play hard. We’re going to finish up strong,” said Fisher, who took over a team that had two wins last season and 15 total in the previous five.
“This is a chance to finish out on a winning note and a chance to be undefeated in the division. If we’re able to do that, I’d say then we can jump into the offseason with optimism for next year.”
It’s uncertain if running back Steven Jackson will return to St. Louis – he has a player option to get out of his contract at season’s end. If it is his last game in a Rams uniform, he could end it in style with an eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season. He is 10 yards shy of that mark.
Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 118 yards and a score in the Sept. 30 defeat, needs 10 yards to become the third Seattle back – and first since Shaun Alexander set a franchise-high with 1,880 in 2005 – to reach 1,500.
The Rams will also have to keep an eye on Wilson, who is third among NFL quarterbacks with 431 rushing yards.
St. Louis, though, could put plenty of pressure on Wilson as it tied for third in the league with 46 sacks after recording five last Sunday.
The Rams also had four INTs in that victory. That effort was highlighted by Janoris Jenkins’ third returned pick for a TD, which tied him for the NFL rookie record and leaves him one shy of equaling the league’s single-season mark.
Wilson was intercepted a season-high three times in St. Louis earlier this season, with Rocky McIntosh, Bradley Fletcher and Trumaine Johnson each recording one.
Richard Sherman picked off a pass by Sam Bradford in that game, and the cornerback is expected to play after winning his appeal of a four-game league-imposed suspension for performance-enhancing substances on Thursday. Sherman had an INT and returned a block field goal 90 yards for a score last Sunday.
“There was obviously a good amount of stress because you just don’t know,” Sherman said. “You know how strong your case is, how strong everything is, but it was just great to get it over with.”
Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant is practicing after missing the last four games with a hamstring injury, but he’s still questionable, as is Walter Thurmond (hamstring) after missing the last two games.
The Seahawks’ last five-game winning streak was Nov. 12-Dec. 9, 2007. They haven’t lost at home to St. Louis since a 33-27 overtime defeat on Oct. 10, 2004.