How bout a winner-take all scenario game to wrap up the NFL regular season? The NFC West championship game. Can Seattle win a division at 7-9 with Charlie Whitehurst at the helm? Can the Rams win in what, over the years, has been a very tough road environment with rookie Sam Bradford at the helm? The resurgent (7-8) St. Louis Rams will look to cap off the most improbable of seasons against the (6-9) Seattle Seahawks, kickoff slated for 8:20 PM EST. Matt Cassel or Brodie Croyle? Troy Smith or Alex Smith? And now, Matt Hasselbeck (above) or Charlie Whitehurst? For the third straight game, the Rams face a team with an unsettled quarterback picture. If Hasselbeck’s hip/gluteus injury heals sufficiently, he’ll bring a veteran presence. But he’s been less than stellar this season and was unimpressive Oct. 3 against the Rams. Whitehurst has good mobility but has thrown only 63 NFL passes.
If the Rams play their best game, or close to it, they will prevail. The Seahawks are a mess right now. They’ve lost seven of the last nine games, with all seven losses deteriorating into ugly blowouts. Chris Long said it best: the Rams have to stop Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. With so much turmoil at the QB position, the Seahawks probably will try to win a low-scoring game by running the football and cutting down on mistakes. If the Rams can keep Lynch and the struggling Seattle rushing attack in check, they’ll put the home team in some terrible third-down predicaments. Rams special teams have had an up-and-down season on coverage, ranking 24th in punt coverage and 22nd in kickoff coverage. They got scorched last week for a 78-yard punt return TD by San Francisco’s Ted Ginn. Seattle’s Leon Washington (below) ranks sixth in the NFL in kickoff returns (25.9 avg./3 TDs). Seattle ranks fifth in punt returns (12.3 avg.) with Washington handling duties there as well over the second half of the season. Seattle’s front seven isn’t as physical or as formidable as the San Francisco outfit that limited Steven Jackson(above) to 48 yards on 24 carries last week. The best way to quiet the crazies at Qwest Field is to get Jackson going early. When the teams met three months ago, Jackson was wearing his “groin contraption” to protect a strained groin he suffered just seven days earlier against Washington. He’s much healthier now.
High ankle sprains have marred LT Russell Okung’s rookie season in Seattle. The No. 6 overall pick missed the first three games with a left ankle injury, making his NFL debut in Game 4 against the Rams. Three weeks later, he suffered a right ankle injury that sidelined him three more games. He tweaked an ankle last week and hasn’t been right all season. Not even the Oct. 5 trade for Marshawn Lynch, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher with Buffalo and former Pro Bowler, has helped Seattle’s running game. He’s averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. The Seahawks are dead last in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 85.5 yards per game. Unless they gain 109 yards or more on the ground against the Rams, this will be the worst Seahawks rushing team in franchise history. Even with the NFL’s 29th-ranked pass defense, Seattle has players who can hurt you. DE Chris Clemons has a career-best 10½ sacks, tied four fourth in the NFC with Rams DE James Hall. Clemons had 2 sacks against the Rams in October. Lawyer Milloy (four sacks) is dangerous on the safety blitz, and got Sam Bradford once in the first meeting. And one of rookie S Earl Thomas’ 5 interceptions came against Bradford. Leon Washington is among the best and most dangerous return men in the league. He can change the game for the Seahawks. It’s imperative for the Rams must reign him in. They cannot have a special-teams debacle cost them an 8-8 season and a division championship.
Rams vs Seahawks Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
St. Louis Rams -4
@ Seattle Seahawks +4
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Rams vs Seahawks Prediction for Week 17:
Game Total Prediction (TOP PLAY) – The Seahawks usually get off to a decent start; in the seven losses they’ve had the lead or been tied in four of the games at the end of the first quarter. (And they’ve been within a touchdown of the lead in two others.) The energized crowd will get the home team pumped. If the Rams can ride it out early, they’ll be fine. When a game turns on the Seahawks, they tend to collapse. In their last seven losses Seattle has been outscored 211-76 after the first quarter, but I do not expect this from the Hawks’ this Sunday. The Seahawks will be ready to go in this one and I believe Pete Carrol will have enough “pep” to get this offense to perform this Sunday night. The total has gone OVER in 5 of Seattle’s last 5 games and has gone OVER in 5 of Seattle’s last 6 games at home. The Rams, led by Sam Bradford, have been performing all season and I expect them to weave their way into some scoring opportunities. RB Steven Jackson will be a formidable force for the Rams against a weak and untalented Seahawks front four. Take a look at the OVER in Seattle on Sunday night.
Spread Prediction – Qwest Field in an animal in its own and Seattle will rally with the 12th man come Sunday night. Not that it’s a comfy venue for visiting teams. The place can cause chaos and confusion for offensive linemen. Since 2005, visiting O lines have twitched for 105 false start penalties. The Rams have committed 28 false starts this season, the league’s third-highest total. Rookie offensive tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith have five apiece. If the Rams are jumpy up front they’ll fall through the trap door at Qwest. Lets not forget that St. Louis is 83-112 ATS against conference opponents since 1992. St. Louis is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Seattle and is 1-6 ATS overall in its last 7 games when playing Seattle. Seattle is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against St. Louis. Take a look at the Seahawks breaking this spread and becoming one of the most undeserving playoff teams in NFL history. Cheers!
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