NFC West rivals will renew their rivalry in Week 4 when the Seattle Seahawks (2-1) travel east to take on the St. Louis Rams (1-2) on Sunday afternoon.
While the Rams are coming off a low-profile blowout loss at Chicago last weekend, the Seahawks are just days removed from a high-profile and extremely controversial win over the Green Bay Packers.
The blown call heard around the world has cast the Seahawks in a negative light and will certainly have them under pressure to perform on the road this weekend.
Here we get you set for kickoff with everything you need to know for Sunday's divisional matchup in St. Louis.
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO
When: Sunday, September 30 at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: ESPN 710 (Seattle), ESPN 101 (St. Louis)
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Seahawks (-1), according to Covers.com.
What's At Stake?
With both the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers off to a hot start in the NFC West, both the Seahawks and Rams are in need of a win in order to keep pace in the division. Clearly St. Louis needs this game more to avoid falling to 1-3.
A win for the Hawks, though, would have them at 3-1 and right in the mix with the two early-season NFC West favorites. St. Louis has lost three in a row to Seattle, and fell at home to its rival 24-7 a year ago.
Seahawks Injury Report
*According to official team website
CB Byron Maxwell (Hamstring), out
WR Doug Baldwin (Shoulder), questionable
RB Marshawn Lynch (Back), probable
WR Charly Martin (Chest), probable
TE Zach Miller (Foot), probable
T Russell Okung (Knee), probable
WR Sidney Rice (Rest), probable
Rams Injury Report
*According to official team website
DT Michael Brockers (Ankle), doubtful
DT Matthew Conrath (Knee), out
S Matthew Daniels (Hamstring), out
T Rodger Saffold (Knee), out
T Wayne Hunter (Ankle), questionable
RB Steven Jackson (Groin), questionable
RB Brit Miller (Thigh), questionable
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start 'Em: Seahawks D/ST
Seattle's defense is allowing just 13 points per game this season and hasn't allowed more than one touchdown in a game since Week 1. The Seahawks are also going up against a below-average offense in the Rams.
St. Louis ranks 27th and 20th in the NFL in passing and rushing offense, respectively. The Rams scored six points last weekend and will be over-matched offensively on Sunday.
Sit 'Em: Steven Jackson, RB
There's absolutely no reason to play Rams running back Steven Jackson in Week 4 against the Seahawks. After all, Seattle's rush defense ranks second in the NFL, allowing fewer than 59 yards on the ground per week.
Not only that, but Jackson has yet to rush for a touchdown in three games and has been hampered by a groin injury. He ran for just 29 yards on 11 carries last week in Chicago.
Sleeper: Sidney Rice, WR
Rice has been held to just four receptions over the last two weeks, but that was against two phenomenal secondaries in the Cowboys and Packers. The Rams are mediocre defending the pass in 2012, giving up a whopping 238 yards per week through the air.
After a quiet Week 3 in which he caught just one ball for 22 yards, look for Rice to break out and find the end zone against St. Louis.
What They're Saying
After benefiting from a terrible decision on Monday night, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was quick to go easy on the replacement referees but also acknowledge that the NFL needs the old ones back soon (via The Seattle Times' Danny O'Neil):
There's nothing easy about it, and it takes years and years of experience to pull it off properly and in a timely fashion and keep the flow of the game alive and all that. It's time for it to be over. The league deserves it. Everybody deserves it.
Unfortunately, the real officials won't be back in time for Week 4's matchup in St. Louis.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher wants to see his defense force more turnovers in the coming weeks and especially on Sunday against the Seahawks (via St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jim Thomas):
We have yet to force a fumble on this football team, and we need to start, not that we're not trying, but the ball has not come out. Whenever we get a couple balls on the ground, those types of situations can help you.
St. Louis will need to force turnovers to win games. The bad news is that the Seahawks have turned the ball over just two times in three games this season.
Seahawks Player to Watch
Defensive end Chris Clemons was an absolute stud for the Seahawks last Monday night. The veteran sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times and broke up a pass as well. At age 30, Clemons has proved that his motor hasn't gone away and likely won't anytime soon.
Clemons has five sacks, three passes defended and a forced fumble through three games this season and is on pace to break his career-high mark of 11 sacks, which he set in both 2010 and 2011 with Seattle.
Rams Player to Watch
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan has proven to be a stellar offseason pickup for St. Louis. The former Tennessee Titan has an interception in all three of the Rams' games thus far in 2012.
With still 13 games left in the regular season, Finnegan is just three picks away from setting a new career high. The seven-year vet has 18 tackles in three games this season and has been flying around the field for Jeff Fisher's defense, just like he used to in Tennessee.
The top matchup to watch for on Sunday will be the ongoing battle between the Seahawks' running game and the Rams' run-stoppers. Seattle ranks sixth in the league in rushing offense this season, while St. Louis has surrendered more than 120 yards per game on the ground on average this September.
If Marshawn Lynch and the Hawks' ground attack can find a rhythm in the Edward Jones Dome in Week 4, then it will be a long day for the home team.
On the Hot Seat
Jeff Fisher hasn't coached an NFL team to a winning season since 2008, when his Tennessee Titans were knocked out in their first home playoff game by the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round. Since then, he has gone 15-20.
If Fisher's Rams fall on Sunday, they will be off to a wretched 1-3 start in 2012, and his job security will be shrinking. St. Louis brought in Fisher to turn things around, but a second blowout loss in a row could really hurt his chances.
Although a large part of me hopes that the officials find a way to cost Seattle the game on Sunday as they handed them a win last week, I doubt it will happen. That being the case, I can only see Pete Carroll's Hawks winning their fourth consecutive game against the rival Rams. It won't be a blowout, but Seattle will get a hard-fought road win, something the Packers deserved last Monday night.
Seahawks 20, Rams 17
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