The Seattle Seahawks will fly into the Edward Jones Dome fresh off their victory over the Green Bay Packers. The St. Louis Rams are looking to bring them back down to field-level and stay in contention in the NFC West.
Despite entering the game with a 1-2 record and having lost 13 of the last 14 games in the series, the Rams are only a 2.5-point underdog on some lines. St. Louis has found life under new head coach Jeff Fisher and was only seconds away from beating the Detroit Lions in Week 1.
Then again, the Seahawks were just four yards shy from starting the season with a 3-0 record.
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri
When: Sunday, September 30, 1:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -3 (via Bovada)
Ron Pitts, former Rams coach Mike Martz and Kristina Pink get the call for Fox on Seahawks-Rams game. Fox's No. 7 crew.— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@espn_nfcwest) September 26, 2012
Like most NFC West matchups this season, this game will be decided in the trenches.
The Seahawks are emerging as one of the best defenses in the NFL, and their defensive line has been nearly impenetrable to the run so far in 2012.
The Rams are steadily improving on that side of the ball as well with the free agent addition of Kendall Langford and a promising first-round draft pick.
Both teams have had health and performance issues with the offensive line, but the Seahawks are in better shape at this point.
Potential breakout player
Rookie first-round draft pick Michael Brockers could make his NFL debut in this game.
He said there's a “pretty good chance” he will play, as his ankle has held up well during individual drills this week.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
I’m real anxious to get this thing started and help the defense out. I feel like this high ankle sprain has some more weeks to go, but I feel like I’m able to hold off players and be able to make some plays. I feel pretty good.
He would help round out the Rams' defensive front. The team is still a bit thin at linebacker, but star middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said it would be “huge, literally and figuratively,” to get Brockers on the field.
Rams' offensive output
While Brockers would help the Rams control the Seahawks' powerful rushing attack, there are major concerns with St. Louis' offensive line. The Rams will be without starting center Scott Wells and left tackle Roger Saffold.
Seattle's defense has outperformed Chicago thus far in 2012 and poses an even bigger threat. They won't get the same jump off the line that they get at home, but Seattle will be working against an offensive line that hasn't started the same combination of blockers yet this season.
The Rams will be in for a long day on offense if their line can't protect Bradford.
Seahawks' offensive output
Seattle has had the same issue with continuity on their offensive line. Week 4 will likely be the first time this season where the same set of players have started two consecutive games.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable has managed to get decent run blocking from his crew. They've been adequate in opening holes for Marshawn Lynch.
However, Seattle has struggled with pass blocking and rookie Russell Wilson has had difficulty setting up in the pocket.
Life doesn't figure to be much different this week for Seattle's third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin. The Rams have a decent pass rush, even if they lack production in the sack department, and should be able to pressure Wilson.
Cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins have been solid this season, but space can be found in their secondary. The Rams are inexperienced at free safety, and Quintin Mikell doesn't strike fear in opposing receivers like Kam Chancellor.
Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have shown the ability to get open at times in 2012. The Rams' defense, while strong, is a far-cry from the three top-10 units Seattle has faced so far this season.
Wilson will throw enough to keep St. Louis honest but not so much as to be the key factor in the game. Unless, of course, the Rams can bottle up Marshawn Lynch and force the Seahawks to go to their passing game.
Key to the game
This game will come down to how well the Rams can protect Sam Bradford. St. Louis has had little success running the ball on Seattle; Steven Jackson has never had a 100-yard game against the Seahawks.
Who wins this matchup?
Don't expect that to change with a hobbled Jackson or rookie Daryl Richardson carrying the ball. Seattle held Dallas and Arizona under 50 yards rushing, and Cedric Benson managed just 45 yards on 17 carries on Monday night.
The Rams will have to throw, which doesn't bode well for the home team. Seattle showed a rejuvenated pass rush last week and has arguably the best secondary in the NFL.
The real hope for the Rams in this game is catching the Seahawks coming out flat following their emotional win over the Green Bay Packers. If not, and Seattle's defense brings the same energy they displayed the prior two weeks, the Rams will struggle to move the ball.
The Seahawks have also struggled in early games the last four seasons, but head coach Pete Carroll is changing that trend.
If there is such a thing as a trap game, this would be it for Seattle.
While the Rams will have more success this season than in 2011, don't expect much of a change in their macthup with the Seahawks. Seattle outscored them 54-20 last season and their defense is just too strong for an inexperienced Rams offense.
Preseason Prediction: Seattle, 30-10
Current Prediction: Seattle, 20-10
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and Seattle Seahawks.