The Seahawks and Rams have been on a collision course for a Week 16 NFC West Championship Game for some time now. And here we are, just days away from the matchup that will likely determine this year’s division winner.
Likely is the appropriate word because Los Angeles’ embarrassing loss to the Jets added a noteworthy loophole for Seattle. The Seahawks could lose on Sunday, beat the 49ers in Week 17 and still win the division if the Rams were to lose to the Cardinals in their regular season finale. Whereas if Seattle won, it would be the champs and Week 17 would be moot.
A Seahawks victory would clinch the No. 3 seed and allow Seattle to host the Wild Card Round in the playoffs. That game could very well end up being a rubber match against the Rams.
The No. 2 seed would still be possible if the Saints were to lose another game with a prayer at the No. 1 seed still in play if the Packers lose to the Bears in Week 17. Seattle would also need to win in Week 17 for those scenarios to be applicable. For what it’s worth, Football Outsiders gives the Seahawks just a 7.3% chance at the one seed and an 18.5% chance to claim the No. 2 seed.
A loss would likely drop them to the No. 6 seed with the Buccaneers moving into the No. 5 spot.
But while those are the literal stakes, there’s also an unquantifiable amount of sentiment and perception on the line. The Seahawks have been a highly scrutinized team on both sides of the football. Seattle’s offense has struggled recently against top tier opponents and its defense, while dominating inferior competition of late, remains largely unproven against more prolific offenses.
This Sunday is the Seahawks final barometer check prior to the postseason. Losing to the Rams, particularly if it’s another lopsided defeat, would crush all optimism within the fan base going into the playoffs.
There’s a major opportunity within that reality, though. The Rams have had Seattle’s number in recent years, winning five of the last six meetings between the new teams. The last two contests featured a combined score of 51-28 in decisive favor of Los Angeles. The Rams match up incredibly well with the Seahawks, and despite the inexplicable loss to the Jets, they remain one of, if not the most complete team in the NFC.
That means a win would generate a palpable buzz in Seattle as the calendar readies to flip to 2021. There’s no better momentum (if you believe in that sort of thing) and confidence builder than exorcising demons against a division rival.
You already know the major plot points. Pete Carroll’s defense finally cracking the code of Sean McVay’s offense. Seattle’s pass rush remaining a factor while the secondary continues its run of strong play. DK Metcalf producing against Jalen Ramsey. Russell Wilson playing a turnover-free game while engineering touchdown drives. The offensive line not letting Aaron Donald take the game over.
Any of those storylines playing out, particularly in a win, would quiet Seattle’s critics while convincing skeptics (of which there are many) that this team may in fact be capable of making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2014.
Again, there is no quantifying sentiment, and it arguably means less than ever in a pandemic-altered season that is absent of any 12s at Lumen Field. But in your conversations at the dinner table, the mood of your group texts and your interactions on social media, you know optimism and hope count for something.
And that’s what is on the line on Sunday.