When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PDT, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
Records: Seahawks 2-1 and tied for first in the NFC West; Rams 1-2
TV: KCPQ/13, with Ron Pitts and John Lynch
Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 EPSN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Seahawks FS Earl Thomas vs. Rams QB Sam Bradford: This one is obviously an entire-defense task for the Seahawks, but the matchup of the top pick in April’s draft (Bradford) and the 14th pick (Thomas) is not just another rookie-on-rookie battle. Thomas had a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions against the San Diego Chargers last week, including one on fourth down at the Seahawks’ 5-yard line that sealed the upset victory. Bradford, meanwhile, has thrown five interceptions in three games and four have been by opposing safeties. But Thomas also made some “rookie mistakes” before his late heroics last week, while Bradford completed 23 passes to nine different receivers in a very un-rookie-like performance to spark the Rams’ big win over the Washington Redskins. So this one will be worth watching, from start to finish and goal line to goal line.
One to watch
Seahawks RB Justin Forsett vs. Rams MLB James Laurinaitis: This also is more of an entire-defense challenge for the Rams, but stopping Forsett will start with Laurinaitis. The last time Forsett played at the Edward Jones Dome, he ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries – all career highs. Last week, he got 17 of the Seahawks’ 21 carries, after getting 15 combined in the first two games. The coaches seem determined to see how far Forsett can carry the still-developing game. The biggest road block this week will be Laurinaitis, who had nine tackles during that game last Nov. 29 and had four tackles for losses against the Redskins last week.
Fun to watch
Rams LT Rodger Saffold vs. Seahawks DE Chris Clemons: While Clemons has missed some practice time this week with a sore ankle, he didn’t miss anything against the Chargers last week. He tormented the Chargers’ Brandyn Dombrowski, and not just on the plays where he got his two sacks. Clemons’ constant pressure, especially on the Chargers’ last few drives, forced Philip Rivers to throw early – and often incomplete. Saffold, the Rams’ second-round draft choice, has good size (6-5, 323). But he’s also making his fourth NFL start. Clemons needs to take advantage of his inexperience to pressure Bradford into making some mistakes.
One tough task
The Rams’ coverage units. The Seahawks’ Leon Washington (46.3 yards) and Golden Tate (25.3) lead the league in kickoff and punt return averages. And those averages could be even higher. Washington was one-too-many moves on Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding from breaking a third TD return last week to go with his 101- and 99-yarders. Tate, who returned a punt 63 yards the first time he touched the ball in a regular-season game two weeks ago, also was close to breaking a scoring return on his 31-yarder against the Chargers. The Rams are allowing averages of 26.1 (kickoffs) and 8.2 (punt) yards, but they have not faced a 1-2 punch like Washington and Tate.
First-round draft choice Russell Okung is expect to make his regular-season debut after missing 5½ weeks with a high ankle sprain. Whether he starts at left tackle and how much he might play is a game-day decision. … Steven Jackson, the Rams’ leading rusher, is questionable because of a strained groin. If Jackson can’t play, Kenneth Darby is expected to start. … The Seahawks have swept the home-and-home series the past five seasons. … The Seahawks, who have their bye next week, are 16-5 in games the week prior to their bye. … The Rams’ 30-16 win over the Washington Redskins last week snapped a 10-game losing streak overall and a 14-game losing streak at home. … Laurinaitis leads the Rams with 21 tackles, two more than FS Oshiomogho Atogwe. … SS Lawyer Milloy leads the Seahawks with 23 tackles, three more than MLB Lofa Tatupu.