The 2012 NFL season takes a different turn for the St. Louis Rams in Week 4, as the Blue & Gold meet their first NFC West Divisional opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Rams and Seahawks have waged quite a war against each other since the NFL’s last re-alignment in 2002 put them both in the same division for the first time.
Back then, the Rams were still the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams, and laid some pretty good whoopins on the then up-and-coming Seahawks, including a memorable, miracle comeback up in Seattle, when the St. Louis came back from 17 points down in the 4th quarter to win in overtime.
Recently though, this matchup has been all Seahawks, who have won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the clubs, including both games last year and a win in the season finale in 2010 that earned Seattle the NFC West title and kept the Rams out of the playoffs.
This season, St. Louis and Seattle have opposite records heading into Week 4, with the Rams at 1-2 and the Seahawks at 2-1.
The teams are built similarly, with a heavy emphasis on the running game, as St. Louis calls on two-time Pro Bowler Steven Jackson and Seattle looks to emerging young star Marshawn Lynch.
Both clubs also have young quarterbacks, with Sam Bradford calling the signals for the Rams and rookie Russell Wilson running things for the Seahawks.
The difference is where the talent on the team is at right now in their career development paths.
Seattle, especially on defense, is a club that’s got legitimate playoff and Super Bowl aspirations, while the Rams are just still trying to climb out of the NFC West cellar.
Some are calling Seattle’s defense the best in the league, especially in the secondary, where safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are both Pro Bowl-caliber players, and corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are both shut down guys that dare opposing quarterbacks to throw their way.
The Seahawks are also doggone good on the front four, where Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, and massive Red Bryant, are a group that just terrorized the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football last week.
The Rams still have the same old O-line problems, with three backups starting and only right guard Harvey Dahl playing the same position he did for St. Louis last year.
One thing Green Bay showed on Monday night was that the Seahawks, despite their reputation as stingy against the run, can be had on well-conceived and smartly timed run plays.
So it’s imperative that the Rams, whether it’s with Jackson (who will play despite his lingering groin injury), or rookie Daryl Richardson, find a way to move the ball on the ground.
With a battered and beaten up line, Bradford could be a sitting duck against the Seahawks pass rush. So the Rams are going to have to find a way to do some things without taking too many chances.
The teams have just taken the field for warm-ups and kickoff is just over a half hour away.
Time for all of St. Louis, and all of Seattle for that matter, to settle in for what should be an interesting Sunday afternoon of football at the Dome.
Prediction: Seahawks 27 Rams 17. Seattle’s front four will likely be too much for the Rams O-line. And even when he has time, Bradford will most likely find it difficult to spot many open receivers against this Seahawk D.
I like the Rams ability to run the ball, and pressure Seattle rookie QB Wilson. And I expect St. Louis to get a boost from the debut of first-round draft pick Michael Brockers, who will play and start for the Rams on Sunday.
But I still don’t believe the Rams have enough just yet to hold off a hard-charging club like the Seahawks.