When: Sunday, 5:30 p.m., Qwest Field
Records: Rams 7-8 and first in the NFC West; Seahawks 6-9 and second in the NFC West
Ramifications: The winner of the game is the NFC West champion, advances to the playoffs and will host a first-round game next weekend. If the Rams win, they are 8-8. If the Seahawks win, both teams will be 7-9, but the Seahawks would hold the tiebreaker based on a better division record (4-2 vs. 3-3).
TV: KING-5, with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Andrea Kremer
Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu vs. Rams RB Steven Jackson: This isn’t all on Tatupu, of course, but these two have had some memorable matchups in the past – going back to their Pac-10 days when Tatupu was at USC and Jackson was at Oregon State. The Seahawks’ ability to contain Jackson will start with Tatupu’s ability to read the play and then react, rapidly and decisively. Jackson was selected to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday and has rushed for 1,196 yards. In the nine previous matchups with Tatupu, Jackson has never rushed for 100 yards, although he has had three 90-yard efforts and 39 receptions (to match his uniform number). Tatupu, meanwhile, has averaged 6.8 tackles in those games, and he’s coming off a season-high 10-tackle effort against the Buccaneers last week.
One to watch
Seahawks pass defense vs. Rams WR Danario Alexander: The rookie doesn’t start, but he is becoming the finisher in the Rams’ passing game. Two months removed from a fifth surgical procedure on his left knee, Alexander had a breakout six-catch, 99-yard performance against the 49ers last week. He is averaging a team-high 17.2 yards per reception. Opposing defenses had been doing a better job on Alexander by jamming him off the line, but the 49ers could not contain him. The Seahawks are allowing an average of 257.1 passing yards – which ranks 29th in the league – and they’ve also yielded an NFL-high 58 passes plays of 20-plus yards. During the Seahawks’ current 2-7 slump, the Bucs’ Kellen Winslow (seven catches for 98 yards and two TDs), Falcons’ Roddy White (seven for 65), 49ers’ Josh Morgan (three for 82 and a TD), Chiefs’ Dwayne Bowe (13 for 170 and three TDs), Saints’ Marques Colston (eight for 113 and two TDs), Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald (seven for 91), Giants’ Hakeem Nicks (six for 128 and a TD) and Raiders’ Darius Heyward-Bey (five for 105 and a TD) have had big days at their expense.
Fun to watch
Seahawks DE Chris Clemons vs. Rams DE Chris Long: They won’t match up against each other, obviously, but their respective success in pressuring the QB will be a big factor in the game. Clemons has a career-high 10½ sacks, including two in the Week 4 loss to the Rams, and 20 QB hits. Long – Howie’s kid – has 8½ sacks, eight of them coming in the past 10 games. The tackles for these two teams – Russell Okung and Sean Locklear for the Seahawks; rookie Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith for the Rams – can’t allow Clemons and Long to be disruptive forces.
One tough task
Sam Bradford and Charlie Whitehurst. One quarterback (Bradford) is making his first NFL start at Qwest Field. The Seahawks are planning as if the other (Whitehurst) will make his second NFL start. The winner of this game will have to make plays in the passing game, and that starts with this relatively inexperienced pair. Yes, Bradford has taken every snap for the Rams this season, when he has broken Peyton Manning’s rookie record for completions (335) and also passed for 3,357 yards and 18 TDs. But he never has played in an atmosphere like Qwest Field. In Whitehurst’s other start, the Giants slapped the Seahawks with a 41-7 in Week 9. If he does Sunday night, Whitehurst needs to be better – and so do the players around him.
The Rams have not won at Qwest Field since 2004, when they beat the Seahawks 33-27 in overtime during the regular season and 27-20 in the first round of the playoffs. … The Rams have been outscored 98-19 in their last three games in Seattle. … The Rams are plus-5 in turnover ratio after forcing five fumbles against the 49ers last week. … The Seahawk are minus-9 in the same category, which ranks 28th in the league. … Rams K Josh Brown, a former Seahawk, has scored 119 points, tied for fourth highest in the league. … P Donnie Jones, another ex-Seahawk, is third in the league in net average (39.9). … Jackson is second in the NFC and eighth in the league in combined yards from scrimmage (1,540). … Rams WR Danny Amendola is second in the league with 29 third-down receptions. … The Seahawks’ Leon Washington leads the league with three kickoff returns for touchdowns and his average (25.9) ranks sixth. … Rams MLB James Laurinaitis leads the Rams with 105 tackles, and in his past three games against the Seahawks he has 28 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. … LB David Hawthorne leads the Seahawks with 98 tackles.