St. Louis Rams (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (12-3)

Sports Xchange

December 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at CenturyLink Field, Seattle – TV: FOX, Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jennifer Hale
SERIES HISTORY: The Seahawks lead 19-11, and have won 15 of the past 17 meetings, including a 14-9 win on Monday Night Football in St. Louis on Oct. 28.

KEYS TO THE GAME
A very difficult matchup for the Seahawks the past two seasons, Rams DEs Robert Quinn and Chris Long have been able to keep Seahawks QB Russell Wilson from escaping the pocket, extending plays and pushing the ball downfield. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry in December as the offensive line has struggled to generate a push. Lynch doesn’t regularly rip off big chunk plays, but if he’s not generating a solid 3-4 yards a pop, the Seahawks offense bogs down as it did in last week’s loss against Arizona because Wilson lacks receivers who generate separation. The Rams will be content to play a field position game and lean on rookie RB Zac Stacy, who has consecutive 100-yard games and had a career-high 134 in the 14-9 Week 8 home loss to the Seahawks. Seattle enters with the league’s top-ranked defense and simply swarms at home – including two sacks and four interceptions last week.

MATCHUP TO WATCH
Quinn vs. Seahawks LT Russell Okung: Quinn leads the NFL with 18 sacks, including three in the Week 8 matchup when Okung was sidelined with a toe injury. Okung scared Seahawks fans when he left last week’s loss, but appears on track to play Sunday. If not, rookie Michael Bowie gets thrust into a highly uncomfortable situation.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond: There was no hiding the disappointment among coaches and players when Thurmond was suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He returns this week, but he may have lost critical ground – and free agent pull – with the strong play by Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane in his place.

FAST FACTS: With a Rams win, every team in the NFC West would finish with a .500 record or better. … Lynch had a season-low eight carries for 23 yards in the first meeting.

PREDICTION: How much is on the line for Seattle? Win, and the Seahawks clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Lose, and they could wind up as a wild-card team playing on the road next week. That’s massive motivation and while the offense’s struggles are a real concern, the defense dictates again.

*Our pick: Seahawks 19-16