Good morning. The weather here is clear but freezing, and it should stay that way up until game time late this afternoon, with a 5:15 kickoff.
Well, here Seattle sits with a chance to make the playoffs. All they have to do is win a game at home against a beatable opponent in St. Louis. Head coach Pete Carroll has said that Charlie Whitehurst will be the guy today. However, he’s left open the possibility that Matt Hasselbeck can return from a strained hip. Hasselbeck is questionable today.
So here are my five keys for the Seahawks to come out with a win and punch their playoff ticket.
Defend the dink and dunk: I’m not going to mention containing Steven Jackson because I think that’s a given. So besides that, the key for Seattle will be defending the Rams’ short passing game.
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Sam Bradford relies on getting the ball out quick and letting his receivers make plays in open space with quick passes, bubble screens and crossing routes. So the Seahawks need to do a couple things well today.
They need to get to Bradford with four-man pressure along with an occasional blitz, play sound football in pass coverage and they need to tackle. The Seahawks also were killed by screens against the Rams in the first game, so again they need to make sure they stay fundamentally sound and don’t over-pursue.
Protect the quarterback: Whether it’s Charlie Whitehurst or Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks’ front five needs to play well against a solid St. Louis defensive front four. In the first contest the Rams confused rookie offensive tackle Russell Okung and got pressure with just rushing four, finishing with four sacks. That can’t happen today. The Seahawks will need time because they are likely going to have to throw the ball to move it down the field.
Win the turnover battle: I say it each week because it’s really the only way this team wins games. They have to win the turnover battle and steal a couple possessions to have a chance. The Seahawks offense is not good enough to sustain long drives on a regular basis, so they need some help by getting the short field. The Seahawks have a +8 turnover ratio in their six wins and -17 in their nine losses. Create some explosive plays: Again, because Seattle struggles moving the ball they need to create some chunk plays to make it easier to get into scoring position. And once they do get in the red zone, they have to put the ball into the end zone. So don’t be surprised if you see a couple trick plays today to help create some explosive plays offensively.
Play to the crowd: At 6-9 Seattle really should not be in this situation. But here they are. So the should play free today and let it all hang out. Get the 12th man going and feed off of that energy the crowd generates at home. Force Sam Bradford to makes some plays under duress. The Rams are 3-point favorites and most observers expect them to win today, so the Seahawks need to play loose and aggressive.
John McGrath of the The News Tribune tops his New Year’s wish list with a Seahawks win today, “just to see how many guys on the Seattle sideline will have the courage to put a ‘2010 NFC West Champions’ cap on their head.”
Dave Boling of The News Tribune writes that whoever wins tonight’s game will be hanging an NFC West Champions banner from the rafters, no matter the record. Says Craig Terrill: “They don’t put your record on the banner. The champ is the champ.”
The Rams and Seahawks meet in a “playoff” game to decide will get into the postseason next week.
Ryan Divish of The News Tribune writes about Leon Washington’s comeback season.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com says welcome to the “We’re Not Worthy” Bowl.
Rams defensive tackle Fred Robbins joined St. Louis as a free agent this season and is one of the keys to an improved defense.
Doug Farrar of Sportspressnw.com writes that the Seahawks will have to do a better job of defending the screen pass against St. Louis this time around.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that the Rams are ready for Washington and Seattle’s return game.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that the Rams are ready for their final exam.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff offers seven things to watch for in tonight’s game.
Dan Pompei of the National Football Post provides an early look at this year’s defensive tackle draft class.
Clark Judge of CBS Sports previews the Rams-Seahawks game.