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Rams-Seahawks Preview


STATS Writer

(AP) -- With another chance to clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks are focused on bouncing back from their first home loss against an opponent they've dominated there.

Fixing their offensive struggles, however, could be difficult against the St. Louis Rams' defense.

The Seahawks look to secure the conference's top seed with their ninth straight home victory over the Rams on Sunday.

Seattle (12-3) had a chance to secure the division crown as well as home-field advantage last Sunday against Arizona, but had its 14-game home win streak snapped in a 17-10 loss.

Now the Seahawks are hoping to get back on track at CenturyLink Field with another opportunity to accomplish that goal with a win or a San Francisco loss. They also have a chance to match the franchise record for wins set by the 2005 team that reached the Super Bowl.

"It's a good thing that it happened here because now we know that we're not invincible at home," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "This is going to help us, not only with the next game next week, but through the playoffs if we get home-field advantage."

The Rams (7-8) haven't won in Seattle since a 27-20 victory in a 2004 NFC Wild Card contest, and the Seahawks have averaged 27.4 points while limiting St. Louis to 11.1 during their eight straight home wins.

That offensive production, though, has been difficult to come by recently for the Seahawks. Since averaging 36.0 points in the final three contests of their seven-game winning streak, they've scored 16.7 per game in dropping two of their last three.

Seattle has averaged 176.3 yards through the air in its last three games after averaging 233.9 passing yards through its first 12, and Russell Wilson has been sacked 10 times in the past three contests after going down three times in the previous four.

Wilson was taken down seven times in Seattle's 14-9 win at St. Louis on Oct. 28, with Robert Quinn and Chris Long each registering three sacks. Quinn has five sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in his last two games overall.

"The guys are happy for me," said Quinn of his NFL-leading and franchise-record 18 sacks. "I couldn't have done it without them."

The Seahawks have hardly been dominant on the ground lately, either. Marshawn Lynch, who had 10 100-yard rushing games in 2012, has only three this season - none in the past five games. He had a string of three consecutive 100-yard efforts against the Rams before they held him to a season-low 23 yards on eight carries in October.

The Rams have the NFL's best run defense since Week 10, allowing an average of just 68.0 yards in the past six games after holding New Orleans and Tampa Bay to a combined 120 in consecutive victories.

"We've always had tough games with these guys and they've been tough on everybody in the division and nothing should be different about this one," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

It should help Seattle that left tackle Russell Okung should be able to play despite aggravating a toe injury last week, though receiver Percy Harvin (hip) has been ruled out. It's uncertain whether Harvin will be available in the postseason.

Zac Stacy leads a potent Rams ground game that has averaged 155.6 yards per game since Oct. 28 - second only to Philadelphia's 175.1 over that span.

The rookie seeks his third straight 100-yard performance after totaling 237 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. He ran for a season-high 134 yards on 26 carries in the first meeting with Seattle.

Rodger Saffold, however, is expected to start at left tackle after Jake Long suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee in a 23-13 win over the Buccaneers last Sunday.

Though he struggled while completing 15 of 31 passes for 158 yards with two interceptions against the Seahawks, Kellen Clemens has hit on 30 of 40 attempts for 316 yards with two scores in his last two games.

He could have his hands full with a Seattle defense that picked off Carson Palmer four times last week and has nine interceptions in the past two games.

Richard Sherman had a pair of picks, giving him eight for the second consecutive season. He has one in each of his last three games against the Rams, who are hoping to have rookie wideout Tavon Austin back after he missed two games with a left ankle injury.

Austin practiced Friday and coach Jeff Fisher said he was encouraged by his progress, though he'll list him as questionable.

St. Louis is trying to avoid its seventh straight losing season.

Updated December 27, 2013

127 © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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