Welcome to the TST's very first pre game rub down. Get comfortable.
Turn on the hype machine, the weekend is here and the Rams "must win to be considered legit" game against the Seahawks is just two days away. Coming off of their bye week, the Seahawks have had plenty of time to lick their wounds after getting the Abu Gharib treatment the week before with the Bears in the role of Lyndie England. Rex Grossman, (who? yeah, exactly) looked like a young Dan Marino in a game that became the Seahawks worst loss of the Mike Holmgren era.
But that's the thing about Mike Holmgren, he's not going to roll over and take the bottom for awhile after a pounding. He's one of the more aggressive coaches in the NFL right now, and you can bet his Seahawks aren't coming into St. Louis expecting a gimme. No way. Any two-bit football analyst can surmise that they'll be looking to their so far missing air attack, having had a bye week to get new acquisition Deon Branch integrated into the offense, and probably creating a few plays specifically for the WR considered a replaceable cog by Bill Belicheck.
Even at 3-1, the season's started off slow and tedious for Matt "we're gonna win" Hasselbeck. Six touchdowns and 7 interceptions hasn't just been a disappointment to the fantasy players who took him in the 4th round of their draft, it's been a huge let down for Seattle. The Seahawks are averaging just a shade over 19 points a game this season, after leading the NFL in their 2005 Super Bowl bridesmaid appearance season. You can be sure Homlgren's got his QB psyched up for what could be a weakened St. Louis secondary.
According to the Post-Dispatch today, it looks like Fakhir Brown - listed as questionable - will be out this week. Travis Fisher, also a questionable, should be able to play, but won't be available on as many downs as normal. Corey Chavous can stay at strong safety if Fisher's in the game. Tye Hill should come out looking for redemption after getting burned in the fourth quarter last week, if the cornerback has a good day, Hasselbeck won't get much help fixing his QB rating.
The O line playing in front of Hasselbeck isn't having their best season either, after losing guard Steve Hutchinson to free agency. Hasselbeck's been sacked 13 times through 4 games this season. Another forced turnover on the opposing QB is a distinct possibility, and could be key for a Rams defense thriving on forcing turnovers this season.
And of course they're sans MVP Shaun Alexander again this week, but Maurice Morris isn't a slouch as the backup running back. He's a speedy back, and the Seahawks coaching staff are still picking their lips up off the floor after watching Green Bay's third string running back put up a 100 yard rushing day last week. The Rams rushing D is allowing an average of 120+ yards a game, and has been scored on 6 times this year. Let's face it, the Rams rushing D isn't very good; Kevin Jones put up 90+ yards and 2 TDs on them, `nuff said. Haslett has to minimize the damage on the ground, or it'll be a long day.
"Ok, you've run down the Seahawks offensive troubles, what about their defense, you moron?"
Glad you asked. The Seahawks, on the strength of their defense, sit on a 3-1 record. Their rushing D is among the league's best, 79.8 yards per game and just 2 rushing TDs.
When the Bears pillaged them in week 4, they spread the defense out and kept them off their guard by doing a good job of mixing up the plays. Thomas Jones had 2 TDs and the Bears rushed for a total of 143 yards. In the air, the Bears had 219 yards and 2 TDs. In spite of their much publicized red zone troubles, the Linehan's Rams have done a great job mixing up the offense. This ain't the Mike Martz Rams. Steven Jackson hasn't faced a top run defense this season, but he's capable of finding the few gaps they'll allow once he gets done tap dancing and starts running.
The air will be the offense's happy place though. The Seahawks pass defense allows almost 222 yards per game, and has been scored on six times. They have four interceptions this season, middle of the pack, and Bulger can continue his INT-free season if he keeps playing smart this week. However, don't confuse that with an unwillingness to take risks. If the Rams are still struggling in the red zone, spreading the ball around has TST's full endorsement.
The Seahawks are a 3-point favorite to win the game.
The bottom line is that the Rams need to continue forcing turnovers and play airtight football, bad penalties or any other mistake like that won't be as easy to conceal against the Seahawks as it was against the Packers, Lions, and Cardinals, oh my. The pundits are calling for a shootout, but, given the various circumstances mentioned above, a lopsided, low-scoring affair would be only a mild surprise. (How's that for hedging? Politics is calling!)
TST says the Rams win [of course] 28-21.
Consider yourself rubbed down. Oh. Yeah.