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Opponent Preview: Seattle Seahawks Redux

Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)
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When the Rams first met the Seattle Seahawks in week four, this author labeled them as overachievers.

As it turned out, the 19-13 win by the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome may have been one of the Seahawks’ biggest underachievements of 2012. That Sept. 30 loss dropped the Seahawks to 2-2, but they’ve gone 8-3 since and have locked up a playoff spot with one game to go.

That Seahawks team in week four was still finding its identity. There is perhaps no bigger symbol of the difference between that team and the one the Rams will face Sunday at CenturyLink Field than quarterback Russell Wilson.

In that game, the rookie quarterback threw for just 160 yards and was intercepted three times. Since that game, Wilson has thrown 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions. And he continues to get better as the season progresses – since a week seven loss against the San Francisco 49ers, Wilson has posted a quarterback rating of 100 or higher in six of the team’s eight games and hasn’t posted a rating lower than 88 in that span.

One player who didn’t need time to get up to speed was running back Marshawn Lynch. In that game, Lynch had 118 yards and a score, a representative effort in what has become a career year for the 26-year old back. After putting up 1,204 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in 2011, Lynch has been even stronger in 2012, rushing for 1,490 yards and 11 touchdowns through 15 games. On the strength of Lynch and Wilson, the Seahawks are second in the league in rushing yards per game, averaging 161.7.

A strong offense only makes the Seahawks more dangerous given their tremendous defense. The Seahawks are first in the league in points allowed, giving up just 15.5 per game. Their 304.5 yards allowed per game is fourth in the NFL, propelled by a secondary that allows less than 200 passing yards per game.

Once again, the defense is led by some relatively unheralded names. Defensive end Chris Clemons is tied for seventh in the NFL with 11.5 sacks, his third-straight season with 11 or more sacks. Rookie linebacker Bruce Irvin, a first-round pick that was panned by many at the time, has also added eight sacks in his first NFL season.

Another rookie, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, leads the team in tackles. Wagner’s 130 tackles is eighth in the NFL.

And even with cornerback Brandon Browner serving a four-game suspension, the defensive secondary is still dangerous with the presence of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Sherman’s seven interceptions rank second in the NFL, just behind Chicago’s Tim Jennings, who has eight. The second-year player has established that, especially with Browner missing on the other side, you don’t want to throw in his direction.

The last factor working for Seattle is its home crowd. The Seahawks will be playing for the chance to host the Wild Card round game, an advantage that may mean more to them than to any team. The Seahawks are a perfect 7-0 this season at CenturyLink Field, a place that has become famous for its ability to disrupt opposing offenses. The term “home-field advantage” applies no more perfectly than when the Seahawks are in Seattle, a lesson the Rams know well heading into Sunday’s matchup.

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