The 7-8 St. Louis Rams will be fighting for a .500 season record in this NFC West showdown, while the 12-3 Seattle Seahawks will be fighting for the first overall seed in the NFC playoffs.
Seattle, who is considered by many to be the favorites to reach the Super Bowl, is coming off their first home loss in the Russell Wilson era to the Arizona Cardinals, another division rival. Seattle had previously gone 14 straight games undefeated and are in striking distance of securing the title of No. 1 defense in terms of overall yardage.
These two squads met back in week 8 on Monday Night football, with Seattle barely holding on to win 14-9. Can the Rams, on the road in arguably the toughest stadium to play in lately, follow through on the promise they showed in that initial contest?
Russell Okung vs. Robert Quinn
Former first-rounder Robert Quinn has been on a tear this season (leads the NFL with 18 sacks), owning by far the best pass rushing grade among his 4-3 defensive end peers. He hasn’t slowed down, either, with five sacks, two hits and 10 hurries in his last two games and was carried off the field by his teammates after the Tampa Bay game. It wasn’t a surprise that he wreaked havoc in the first meeting between these two teams with three sacks (including on back-to-back plays), two hits and a hurry.
A lot of Quinn’s damage came at the expense of back-up left tackle Paul McQuistan. Starting left tackle Russell Okung, also a former first-round pick, was injured early in Week 2 and did not return to the lineup until Week 11, and he will be available this time around to give Quinn some more resistance. Okung struggled a bit in his first few weeks back (-3.8 pass blocking grade in Weeks 11-13) but has been excellent the last few weeks with no pressure allowed in week 15 and only a single hurry last week. He does have a “sore” toe, but the Seahawks have a much better chance of dealing with Quinn this time around.
Janoris Jenkins vs. Golden Tate
One of the best matchups to watch in this game for will be WR Golden Tate vs. CB Janoris Jenkins. In that first contest Tate caught all five passes thrown at him in Jenkins’ coverage. Only one of those catches led to a first down, while another was a stop for Jenkins on a third-and-long. However, two of the catches were scores with one being a short-yardage crossing pattern while the other was arguably the most remembered play of the game. It was an 80-yard catch-and-run TD where Jenkins tried and failed to make a play on the pass, ending up on the ground as Tate continued to the end zone, blatantly taunting another Ram defender in the process. Can Jenkins get the last laugh in the rematch on Sunday?
Zac Stacy vs. Seahawks Run Defense
It took until Week 5 for the Rams coaching staff to begin giving rookie fifth-rounder Zac Stacy the majority of carries, and he’s repaid them with consistent production on the ground. Stacy has a healthy 4.1 yards-per-carry average, seven scores, 29 forced missed tackles, and the 13th most rushing yards, needing only 39 yards to reach 1,000 for the year. It’s worth noting that he did fumble last week, though.
Stacy had his most rushing yards (134) in that first game vs. the Seahawks, which was also his first 100+ yard performance. While defensive tackles Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane and defensive end Cliff Avril all earned positive grades in run defense in that game, five other Seahawks got ‘red’ grades in this area. Among those culprits were safety Earl Thomas (-3.4 run defense grade on the year) and defensive linemen Clinton McDonald and Chris Clemons. Will they let the rookie run wild on them again?
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