If the Seattle Seahawks (10-5) didn't have your attention after they trampled the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills by a combined 108-17 in Weeks 14 and 15, then they certainly captured your attention in Week 16, when Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense shredded San Francisco's elite defense en route to a 42-13 win.
Now in Week 17, the Seahawks play host to the St. Louis Rams (7-7-1), as Pete Carroll's squad tries to cap off a perfect regular season at home -- and perhaps capture the NFC West crown.
Seattle is already guaranteed a playoff berth, and at worst, will be the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. A Seahawks win coupled with a 49ers loss, however, will give the Seahawks the NFC West title -- and at least one home game in the playoffs.
Meet the Seahawks
Five Seahawks were named to the NFC's Pro Bowl roster -- but two of Seattle's more prominent players were left off. Center Max Unger and tackle Russell Okung were named starters, while running back Marshawn Lynch and safety Earl Thomas were named backups. Leon Washington will serve as the NFC's kick returner.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has been one of the league's best quarterbacks to date. Wilson has completed 63.4% of his passes through Seattle's first 15 games, while throwing for 2,868 yards and 25 touchdowns. Wilson, however, is a dual threat, and has rushed for 431 yards.
Pass defense has been one of the biggest keys to Seattle's success in 2012. The Seahawks only allow opponents to pass for 199.9 yards per game -- a figure that is fifth best in the NFL. Seahawks fans breathed a sigh of relief this week, as cornerback Richard Sherman's suspension was dropped by the league following Sherman's appeal, allowing the talented cornerback remain on the field for the rest of the season.
Meet the Rams
In his first season as head coach, Jeff Fisher has taken the Rams from a dismal 2-14 record a year ago to a respectable 7-7-1 headed into Week 17.
St. Louis' offense is anchored by Steven Jackson, though it's widely believed that St. Louis' Week 17 tilt will be Jackson's final game with the Rams. Jackson is just 10 yards shy of his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Even though he's 29 years of age, Jackson is still averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
In his third offense in as many years, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has enjoyed the best year of his young career. Bradford has already set a career high in touchdowns with 20, and needs just 63 yards to set a career high in yardage. Bradford's 83.2 quarterback rating is also a career-best mark.
Defensively, the Rams are in the middle of the pack. St. Louis allows opponents to pass for 226.2 yards per game -- 15th best in the NFL -- and allows opponents to rush for 115.1 yards per game -- 16th in the NFL.
Local Takes: Seahawks
After three consecutive blowout wins, one of which coming against one of the NFL's top teams, Seahawks fans over at Field Gulls wonder what fans can realistically expect from the Seahawks on a weekly basis.
So naturally the question arises, what's Seattle's new baseline? What can we realistically expect? That's virtually impossible to say with any precision but I think it is fair to say that if this team is capable of going where we think it can we should see a soft landing from the peak rather than a crash landing. First, this Rams defense is quite good. So there's that. Perhaps more importantly, Seattle has had some incredibly fortunate bounces over the past few weeks that led to a ton of "add on" points.
Local Takes: Rams
Tevin Broner from Turf Show Times believes a win is important for St. Louis on Sunday -- even though the Rams won't be participating in the playoffs this season.
Although the Rams blew their chances for the playoffs this season, at 7-7-1 they still have plenty of reason to play this Sunday. Not only will a win this Sunday make the Rams above .500 for the first time since 2003 (they won 8 games in 2004 and 2006 also), but a win will prove that they've learned how to win.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Rich Sherman was selected to be 'randomly' tested again this morning, and unsurprisingly, he woke up and pissed excellence.— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) December 27, 2012
Now to A) Finish today with a win, II) Provide Seattle with an butt whooping next week.— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) December 23, 2012
Do the same for the road team's SBN blog and a couple of local beat reporters.
@dannyoneil - Seahawks beat writer
Bob Wallace, former NFL executive, upheld Richard Sherman's appeal due to irregularities in the testing procedure.— Danny O'Neil (@dannyoneil) December 27, 2012
@miklasz - St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist
I don't get into heavy griping over Pro Bowl voting. But in my view, and many Rams fans will disagree, best case was for S Quintin Mikell— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) December 27, 2012
There's a zero percent chance I'm picking against the Seahawks right now. They're the most fun team to watch in the NFL.
The pick; 38-10, Seahawks
The Seahawks enter Sunday as 10.5 or 11-point favorites depending on the books, according to OddsShark. The over/under is set at 42.5.
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks will wait until the dust settles in the NFC to see who they'll take on in the playoffs, while the Rams will get to work on the 2013 season.