Sep 30, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Kellen Heard (96) talks with Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (92) after the game at Edward Jones Dome. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 19-13. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Seattle approaches their week 17 game with the Rams on Sunday with a chance to go 11-5, their best record since their magical run to the Super Bowl in 2005. The Seahawks are peaking at the right time coming off four straight wins, three of the blowout variety. The Rams are a better team than they are given credit for with a 7-7-1 record, including 4-0-1 within the NFC West. In order to preserve a perfect home record (with an asterisk) the Seahawks need to take care of business against the plucky Rams. Without further ado, here’s 2012’s last (regular season) edition of “Matchups of the Game”.
Matchup #1: Russell Wilson vs. The Rams Secondary
Russell Wilson comes into this game with 25 touchdowns through the air and needs two more to break Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26. Given all Russell has done this year I’d like to see him get an individual accolade like that. The problem is that the Ram’s pass defense, especially in the Red Zone, can be very stingy. The Rams have only allowed 15 passing touchdowns all year while nabbing 17 interceptions. With the power of the 12th man and the way this offense has been rolling 2 touchdowns for Wilson has to be considered within reach but it’s far from a slam dunk. Russell doesn’t seem like a me-first selfish guy but I’m sure this record will cross his mind once or twice during the game. Let’s hope he gets it sealed away early on.
Matchup #2: Marshawn Lynch vs. James Laurinitis
I always like to see two of the best in the business go head-to-head and this is a classic example of one of those cases. Lynch is having an incredible season with career highs in carries, yards, and, most impressively, yards per carry (5.0 compared to a previous career high of 4.2). He has been everything one could reasonably expect and more as the battering ram that makes this Seahawks offense go. Lynch is a mortal lock to reach 1,500 yards for the season in this game (he needs 10 yards) a milestone that is rarer and rarer as most teams are no longer using pure feature backs. Laurinitis is a tackling machine who has 115 solo tackles this year which leads the league by a solid margin. He is tough as nails, smart and instinctive and just about everything you could ask for in a MLB. If Lynch is the heart and soul of the Seahawks offense then Laurinitis is the heart and soul of the Rams defense. It has the makings of an epic stalemate but in reality I just don’t see anyone stopping Beast Mode right now.
Matchup #3: Brandon Mebane vs. Robert Turner
Mebane was very explosive early in the year and really hasn’t showed as much of late. A big game going into the playoffs might get Mebane going and when he is going the Seattle defense is even more dynamic. Mebane has been a jack of all trades this year with a respectable 3 sacks and 5 quarterback hits rushing the passer as well as 4 tackles for loss and a 1.07 tackle factor suggesting quality run-stopping production. Today he has an opportunity to expand on those numbers against journeyman G Robert Turner. After spending 5 years on the Jets with only 2 starts to his credit Turner has become a full time starter for the first time this year with the Rams. A former undrafted free agent, Turner has largely stuck around due to his versatility and ability to play center. There just aren’t a lot of guys who go undrafted, sit on the bench for 5 years, and become studs, so my guess is Turner is the sort of guy Mebane can handle. If he is, it could be a field day for the Seahawk defense with Mebane causing serious disruptions to both the Rams running game and passing game.
Seattle has locked up their playoff berth and likely their seeding as well, barring a miracle win by Arizona against the 49ers. It would be easy to say that they don’t have a lot to play for in this game. I don’t think this is the case. Firstly, you don’t want to lose to a divisional opponent twice in one year. Secondly, I think remaining unbeaten at home is meaningful even if they are unlikely to play a home game from here on out. Lastly, the Seahawks have some serious momentum going at the moment that should not be jeopardized going into the playoffs. For these reasons I think the Seahawks will be motivated and effective on Sunday and end the season with a win, or more precisely, five wins.