Rams-Seahawks Preview

With another chance to clinch the NFC West title and home-field

advantage throughout the playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks are focused

on bouncing back from their first home loss against an opponent

they’ve dominated there.

Fixing their offensive struggles, however, could be difficult

against the St. Louis Rams’ defense.

The Seahawks look to secure the conference’s top seed with their

ninth straight home victory over the Rams on Sunday.

Seattle (12-3) had a chance to secure the division crown as well

as home-field advantage last Sunday against Arizona, but had its

14-game home win streak snapped in a 17-10 loss.

Now the Seahawks are hoping to get back on track at CenturyLink

Field with another opportunity to accomplish that goal with a win

or a San Francisco loss. They also have a chance to match the

franchise record for wins set by the 2005 team that reached the

Super Bowl.

”It’s a good thing that it happened here because now we know

that we’re not invincible at home,” receiver Doug Baldwin said.

”This is going to help us, not only with the next game next week,

but through the playoffs if we get home-field advantage.”

The Rams (7-8) haven’t won in Seattle since a 27-20 victory in a

2004 NFC Wild Card contest, and the Seahawks have averaged 27.4

points while limiting St. Louis to 11.1 during their eight straight

home wins.

That offensive production, though, has been difficult to come by

recently for the Seahawks. Since averaging 36.0 points in the final

three contests of their seven-game winning streak, they’ve scored

16.7 per game in dropping two of their last three.

Seattle has averaged 176.3 yards through the air in its last

three games after averaging 233.9 passing yards through its first

12, and Russell Wilson has been sacked 10 times in the past three

contests after going down three times in the previous four.

Wilson was taken down seven times in Seattle’s 14-9 win at St.

Louis on Oct. 28, with Robert Quinn and Chris Long each registering

three sacks. Quinn has five sacks, a forced fumble and fumble

recovery in his last two games overall.

”The guys are happy for me,” said Quinn of his NFL-leading and

franchise-record 18 sacks. ”I couldn’t have done it without

them.”

The Seahawks have hardly been dominant on the ground lately,

either. Marshawn Lynch, who had 10 100-yard rushing games in 2012,

has only three this season – none in the past five games. He had a

string of three consecutive 100-yard efforts against the Rams

before they held him to a season-low 23 yards on eight carries in

October.

The Rams have the NFL’s best run defense since Week 10, allowing

an average of just 68.0 yards in the past six games after holding

New Orleans and Tampa Bay to a combined 120 in consecutive

victories.

”We’ve always had tough games with these guys and they’ve been

tough on everybody in the division and nothing should be different

about this one,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

It should help Seattle that left tackle Russell Okung should be

able to play despite aggravating a toe injury last week, though

receiver Percy Harvin (hip) has been ruled out. It’s uncertain

whether Harvin will be available in the postseason.

Zac Stacy leads a potent Rams ground game that has averaged

155.6 yards per game since Oct. 28 – second only to Philadelphia’s

175.1 over that span.

The rookie seeks his third straight 100-yard performance after

totaling 237 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. He ran

for a season-high 134 yards on 26 carries in the first meeting with

Seattle.

Rodger Saffold, however, is expected to start at left tackle

after Jake Long suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee in a

23-13 win over the Buccaneers last Sunday.

Though he struggled while completing 15 of 31 passes for 158

yards with two interceptions against the Seahawks, Kellen Clemens

has hit on 30 of 40 attempts for 316 yards with two scores in his

last two games.

He could have his hands full with a Seattle defense that picked

off Carson Palmer four times last week and has nine interceptions

in the past two games.

Richard Sherman had a pair of picks, giving him eight for the

second consecutive season. He has one in each of his last three

games against the Rams, who are hoping to have rookie wideout Tavon

Austin back after he missed two games with a left ankle injury.

Austin practiced Friday and coach Jeff Fisher said he was

encouraged by his progress, though he’ll list him as

questionable.

St. Louis is trying to avoid its seventh straight losing

season.