Week 8 of NFL action concludes tonight with a matchup of NFC West teams when the Seattle Seahawks take on the St. Louis Rams at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Pete Carroll has his Seahawks, at 6-1, off to the best start in franchise history. The numbers have been impressive. The Seahawks are second in the NFL in rushing offense, fifth in rushing defense and second in passing defense.
On the other hand the Rams have struggled to run the football and stop the run, with 29th and 30th overall rankings, respectively. Things didn't get any better for St. Louis last week against Carolina with starting quarterback Sam Bradford suffering a torn ACL. This doesn't bode well for a Rams organization that is 2-14 against the Seahawks since 2005. This will be the 31st overall meeting between the two teams, with Seattle leading the series 18-12.
3 Things to Watch
No Sam Bradford
In the wake of Bradford's season-ending ACL injury, the Rams will turn to backup Kellen Clemens. St. Louis doesn't appear to be very confident in Clemens, who started three games for an injured Bradford in 2011, as reports have it that the Rams reached out to the 44-year-old Brett Favre. Rejected by Favre, the Rams signed Brady Quinn and Austin Davis to serve as Clemens' backups. While many have been critical of Bradford's play, the former Oklahoma Sooner was playing well this season. Through seven games Bradford was completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,687 yards with 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In fact, in his last three games Bradford had thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception. Clemens benefits from the fact that he is in his seventh season working with Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who held the same role with the Jets from 2006-11. Even so, Seattle defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are licking their chops as they look to pad their interception totals.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Rams' run defense
The Rams have the 30th-ranked rush defense, allowing 126 yards per game. The Seahawks own the NFL's second-best rushing attack, averaging 154 yards per game. Marshawn Lynch has amassed over 575 rushing yards, which ranked him second in the NFL entering Week 8. The Rams have faced top-level backs in recent weeks in Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster and DeAngelo Williams. Jones-Drew was held to 70 yards rushing, Williams to 40 yards, but Foster ripped off 141 yards on the ground while Gore slashed the Rams for 153 yards. Last year, Lynch averaged 25 carries and 101 yards rushing in two games against the Rams. Lynch can help the Seahawks control the clock and open up passing lanes for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Rams' Pass Rush
The Rams have a trio of talented pass-rushers on their defensive line. Former first-rounders Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn have combined for 13 of the Rams' 18 sacks this year. Behind a struggling offensive line that's missing injured tackles Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung, Wilson has already been sacked 20 times. Only Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith, Brandon Weeden and Ben Roethlisberger had been dropped more entering Week 8. Without Okung, a Pro Bowl left tackle, the quick Quinn should be able to take advantage. Quinn, who already has seven sacks this year, will be matched up against Pat McQuistan, whose lack of athleticism and foot speed will be problematic against the dynamic Quinn.
Key Player for Seattle: Russell Wilson, QB
Wilson has been tremendous in his sophomore campaign. He's thrown for 1,500 yards and rushed for 300 yards in just seven games. Wilson is coming off of a game against Arizona in which he posted a 122.1 passer rating and three touchdown passes, both of which are season highs. As he appears to get more comfortable behind a patchwork offensive line, look for Wilson's production to continue to improve as the season progresses.
Key Player for St. Louis: Zac Stacy, RB
With Bradford out for the rest of the year, the Rams' offense will turn to its rookie running back. Stacy is averaging better that four yards per carry; however, the Rams are the only team in the NFL without a rushing touchdown this year. Things will not be easy for the former Vanderbilt Commodore, as the Seahawks' rushing defense is allowing less than 92 yards per game.
I really like the St. Louis defense. They create great pressure off of the edge, James Laurinaitis has been a tackling machine in the middle and the corner combination of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins is as tough as it comes in the NFL. The problem? The Rams' offense. This problem becomes even more of an issue with the loss of quarterback Sam Bradford. Kellen Clemens has been a mediocre quarterback his entire NFL career and I don't expect anything different. The Rams offense will struggle to put up any points on the stingy Seahawks defense. Expect Rams fans to be heading to the exits early to watch their Cardinals try and beat the Red Sox in Game 5 of the World Series.
Seattle 27, St. Louis 6