Key Matchups: St Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks


The final game of the 2014 regular season sees the St Louis Rams on the road in Seattle for the fourth time in five seasons. While unfortunately the Rams will not be in the postseason this time around, the team has the opportunity to get one over a divisional rival and have an influence on Seattle’s home field advantage (or otherwise) going into January. For St Louis to end the season on a high, here is this season’s final installment of the key one-on-one matchups.

Kenny Britt vs Richard Sherman

While Kenny Britt has fallen short of the 1000-yard mark that was widely hoped for preseason, he is the first Ram to gain over 700 yards receiving since Torry Holt in 2008 and needs 66 more to exceed his previous personal career-high of 775 set back in 2010 with Tennessee. Britt again becomes a free agent this Spring as his one-year contract expires and given his contribution he is certainly a player the team will hope to bring back going into 2015, salary considerations permitting. Britt was the most targeted receiver last week against the Giants, and he can be expected to play a big role in the Rams passing game again this weekend. In Britt’s way on Sunday will be Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Sherman is currently second in the league in allowing only 44.3% of passes caught against his coverage, and is Pro Football Focus’ 4th highest graded cornerback at +17.0. Sherman is known for his fierce competitive nature and he will be paying close attention to Britt, hoping to shut down the Rams leading receiver. This has the potential to be a fiery, physical battle between two highly motivated players with every possibility of a flag or two along the way.

Marshawn Lynch vs James Laurinaitis

Along with TJ McDonald, Rams linebacker Laurinaitis is one of only two members of the entire roster to have played over 1000 snaps so far in 2014. Second only to Alec Ogletree this year, Laurinaitis has reached three figures of combined tackles in every one of his six seasons with the team and is justifiably regarded as one of the central figures of the defence. In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, the Seahawks ran the ball 29 times in total, with the bulk of the carries (18) going to leading running back Marshawn Lynch who already has well over 1200 yards on the season. Against a Rams run defence that has given up an average of nearly 109 yards per game on the ground this campaign, we can expect to see Lynch handed the ball often on Sunday, calling Laurinaitis into play. Lynch will certainly hope to make up for a poor performance in the dome in week seven, where despite the number of carries he only accumulated 53 yards at 2.9 yards per attempt. If the Rams offence can sustain drives and keep the defence rested, Laurinaitis will be hopeful he can keep Lynch contained. If not, the league’s 3rd highest rusher could have a far more productive afternoon.

Russell Wilson vs Aaron Donald

Unlike Marshawn Lynch, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson had a great deal of success running the ball against the Rams earlier in the season, carrying for a total of 106 yards and a touchdown. Unquestionably Wilson poses just as much of a threat to opposing defences on the ground as he does through the air. Fortunately for the Rams, they have recently-selected Pro Bowler Aaron Donald on the front line who is just as effective against the run as he is pressuring quarterbacks in the pocket. Donald leads all defensive tackles on Pro Football Focus with a +29.8 grading and must surely be a leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year. Whether Wilson drops back to pass or decides to keep the ball himself, look for Donald to get after him on Sunday. When the two teams faced each other earlier in the season, Donald dropped Wilson twice including one sack. With Donald eeding just two more sacks on the year to each double figures and Wilson only 58 yards short of 900 yards rushing, this will be a fast paced battle between two elite athletes.