The Seattle Seahawks welcome the St. Louis Rams in Week 17, hoping to enter the playoffs on a five-game win streak.
Seattle (10-5) clinched a playoff berth last week with a 42-13 dismantling of the 49ers. The performance, which was equal parts impressive and dominant, continued an unprecedented hot streak from the Seahawks. In its last 13 quarters, Seattle has outscored opponents 164-33.
The Rams (7-7-1) beat Seattle back in Week 4, but have waxed and waned through the rest of the season. Now 7-7-1, they have chance to finish the season above .500, which, considering preseason expectations, would have to be considered a major accomplishment.
Neither team has a ton at stake other than pride against a division opponent. It should still be a treat to watch, though, especially at CenturyLink Field—the undisputed most daunting stadium in the league.
Let's take a look at what to watch for:
When: Sunday, Dec. 30th, 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Watch: Fox (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Seattle -10.5 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
I subscribe, unconditionally, to the theory of "no amount of points is too many points in Seattle."
Well, almost unconditionally.
The one condition that alters my judgement is whether or not the Seahawks care about winning. And in this particular case, I'm not sure that they do.
They clinched a playoff berth last week, and are, for all intents and purposes, locked into the No. 5 seed. I mean, even for as bad as the Niners looked last weekend, there's no way they lose to the Cardinals, right?
St. Louis will be playing harder than most eliminated teams. Winning means they finished the season above .500; losing means they finished below that benchmark.
I'm not sure they can win, but they can certainly keep things within 10 points. Take the Rams.
Over/Under: 41.0 (via VegasInsider.com – LVH)
This one is tough. I'm tempted to pound the under, just in case Seattle benches starters at some point, but even then, would that be a wise choice?
If he's called upon for action, Matt Flynn is no stranger to Week 17 success. In last season's final week, Flynn, then a member of the Green Bay Packers, racked up 480 passing yards and six, count 'em six, touchdowns.
If Flynn doesn't play, Russell Wilson will lead a Seahawks team that's hit five consecutive "overs."
I'll stick with the trend and take the over once again.
St. Louis Rams Injury Report (via USA Today – 12/27/12)
|RB Steven Jackson||Foot||Probable|
|LB James Laurinaitis||Back||Questionable|
|C Scott Wells||Knee||Questionable|
|CB Cortland Finnegan||Thigh||Questionable|
Seattle Seahawks Injury Report (via USA Today – 12/27/12)
|RB Marshawn Lynch||Back||Probable|
|WR Sidney Rice||Knee||Probable|
|S Earl Thomas||Ankle||Probable|
|DE Red Bryant||Foot||Questionable|
|T Breno Giaco||Elbow||Questionable|
|TE Anthony McCoy||Back||Questionable|
|CB Walter Thurmond||Hamstring||Questionable|
|CB Marcus Trufant||Hamstring||Questionable|
|LB LeRoy Hill||Hamstring||Questionable|
|DB Winston Guy Jr.||Suspension||Questionable|
Fantasy Big Plays
St. Louis Rams: QB Sam Bradford
If you're still playing fantasy in Week 17, then (a) your league is weird for not ending last week, and (b) you probably don't need help at the quarterback position.
But on the off chance you're scrambling for a last-minute signal-caller, there are worse options than Sam Bradford.
If Seattle takes a lead and decides to take its foot off the pedal, Bradford could put up some solid "backdoor" numbers. I wouldn't count on him setting the world on fire in quarters one and two, but in quarters three and four, he could pad his stats bountifully.
Don't start Bradford over a more stable option. Don't start anyone against the Seahawks over a more stable option.
Just don't resign yourself to defeat if you play Bradford, either.
Seattle Seahawks: QB Russell Wilson
He struggled in the teams' previous meeting, but Russell "hustle-and-bustle, man-muscle" Wilson has a chance to exorcise some demons on Sunday.
The Rams held Wilson to 160 yards, and baited him into three interceptions when the teams played in September. But saying the rookie QB has improved between then and now is a massive understatement. It's like saying Natalie Portman improved between the Star Wars prequels and Black Swan.
In his last seven games, Wilson's posted an average QB rating on 113.8. The only time he finished below 100 during that stretch came against Arizona—a game he exited after 35 minutes, en route to a 58-0 victory.
Know that old saying about how it's hard to beat a team twice in one season? The same goes for suppressing an elite NFL quarterback.
And that's exactly what Wilson's become.
Key to Victory
As mentioned frequently throughout this piece, I'm not sure if the Seahawks will get up for this one. I mean, it's got all the trappings of a letdown game, right?
Coming off an emotional victory? Check.
Looking ahead to a big game? I'll say so.
Outcome has little-to-no effect on their playoff standing? Yup.
If the Seahawks come out flat, there's no reason the Rams can't abscond from Seattle with a victory.
I think that, at least for the first quarter, Seattle does show up duly motivated. A win would secure an 8-0 home record, a fact this crowd is well-apprised of.
This game is also, in all likelihood, the Seahawks' final home game of the season. And once again, the crowd will be well-apprised.
After taking an early lead, look for Seattle to coast the rest of the way. St. Louis won't seriously threaten to win, but they'll stay close enough to cover.
Predicted Score: Seattle 27, St. Louis 20