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Seattle tries to keep playoff momentum vs. Rams

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Seattle tries to keep playoff momentum vs. Rams

SEATTLE (AP) No matter how unlikely, Pete Carroll is grasping at the slim chance his Seattle Seahawks still have of winning the NFC West.

Sure the Seahawks would need a win over St. Louis on Sunday and help from Arizona to make playing at home early in the postseason a reality. But as long as there remains the chance of Seattle getting a home playoff game, and with it a division title, Carroll is going to try and grab it.

``It's been great playing at home during the season, and if this is our last chance at it then we want to make the most of it,'' Carroll said. ``If we can put ourselves in position to come back again, there would be nothing sweeter than that.''

The Seahawks (10-5) close out the regular season hosting improving St. Louis. The Seahawks are already in the postseason thanks to a four-game win streak - the longest of Carroll's tenure - that was capped by a 42-13 thumping of San Francisco last Sunday night. Unless they get a lot of help, the Seahawks will likely be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs and will face the NFC East winner - either Washington or Dallas - in the first round of the playoffs.

There remains one hope for Seattle to win the division: beat the improving Rams (7-7-1) and get a shocking upset of San Francisco by Arizona. How unlikely is that scenario? The 49ers are more than two-touchdown favorites at home against the Cardinals and are undefeated the past two seasons coming off a loss.

At the very least, a victory would get Seattle to the 11-win plateau for the third time in franchise history, the most wins for the Seahawks since 2005 when they made their only Super Bowl appearance.

No matter how unlikely the chances of getting the division, that slight possibility is a rallying point for Carroll this week to make sure his team doesn't have a lull after last week's emotional win over the 49ers.

``It feels good to have 10 wins,'' Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. ``We definitely want to have 11.''

Seattle is drastically different from the squad that floundered through a 19-13 loss in St. Louis in Week 4, and no one more so than quarterback Russell Wilson. At that time in late September, the Seahawks were still in the infancy of learning the unique qualities of their new quarterback. That was before Wilson's running became a true threat as a complement to running back Marshawn Lynch.

And it was before Seattle's offense became the efficient machine it's been the past three weeks. The whopping 150 points the Seahawks have scored the last three games stole the attention. But within that points eruption was a stunning run of offensive prowess led by Wilson.

``He's just an athletic guy. He's been playing very well, as a rookie, as a young guy,'' Rams defensive end Robert Quinn said. ``You've got the combo of being a premier quarterback, but the athleticism of some of the best out there as well.''

Whether running with his legs, using his dynamic arm, or a combo of both, the Seattle QB has led the offense to 15 touchdowns and six field goals during its blowout wins of Arizona, Buffalo and San Francisco. Those numbers become even more impressive when considering in the first 11 games, Seattle had 23 offensive touchdowns.

``He's grown so much just from the first game,'' Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ``You would even say that in terms of the plays that we have, where to go with the ball, what's the answer, where's the quick throws, and then the things that we change up each week, I think he understands why we do that.''

With the franchise already on an upward swing, the Seahawks got even better news Thursday when cornerback Richard Sherman's four-game suspension for performance enhancing substances was overturned on appeal. Suddenly, the Seahawks went from possibly being without both starting cornerbacks for the season finale - Brandon Browner is missing the final game of his four-game PED suspension - to having Sherman available against the Rams and, more importantly, both available in the playoffs.

``It was just great to get it over with and get the win and just have that burden off your shoulders and move on and try to make this playoff run with my guys,'' Sherman said.

Coach Jeff Fisher has engineered an impressive turnaround in his first season with the Rams, taking the franchise from 2-14 last season to the chance at St. Louis' first winning season in nearly a decade. The Rams have not finished above .500 since 2003, when they went 12-4 and last won the NFC West.

The Rams are the only undefeated team within the division this season, going 4-0-1 with a sweep of Arizona, wins over San Francisco and Seattle and a tie against the 49ers. And they are closing the season with a flourish, winning four of five, with the only loss coming to Minnesota when Adrian Peterson went off for 212 yards rushing.

St. Louis has also won three straight on the road for the first time since the 2003 season.

``Sometimes things are just coincidence. Sometimes you play really well and then one or two plays don't go your way or you don't finish. That's how we were earlier in the season,'' Rams defensive end Chris Long said. ``I think we played well on the road, we played toe to toe with some good football teams, but we just didn't finish. We've done a better job of finishing at times, we've gotten turnovers and we've also jumped out ahead a little bit earlier.''

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Lamar Jackson received congratulatory postgame texts from Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson received congratulatory postgame texts from Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham

Lamar Jackson's first NFL start against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday will go down as one of the most memorable days of his career.

Going 13-of-19 for 150 yards in the air while rushing for 117 yards on 27 attempts is a pretty solid day for a rookie quarterback

With several days to reflect, one of Jackson's favorite parts of the 24-21 win was the congratulatory texts he received from two former quarterbacks.

"I got a text from Doug Williams and Randall Cunningham congratulating me," Jackson said Wednesday. "So, that was pretty cool."

Williams, who became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1987, and Randall Cunningham, who had a long career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Ravens, are seen as trailblazers by Jackson.

The rookie QB noted that he has been in contact with the two prior to earning the starting job in Week 11.

"Those are the guys that paved the way for us," Jackson added.

"Without those guys, you know, we probably wouldn't be in the situation we are [in]. So, hats of to those guys. Them congratulating me, from the GOATS, I'm like, 'yeah, that's cool.'

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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip

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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip

The Capitals return home to play the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) after a successful road trip (3-1-0), but will still be without forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie (upper-body injuries), who remain day-to-day, according to coach Todd Reirden.   

Here are four things to watch:

Holtby’s back

After missing three games with an upper-body injury of his own, Caps goalie Braden Holtby was thrown into the fire down 4-2 at Montreal on Monday. But he played lights out and matched Habs goalie Carey Price save-for-save, finishing with 22 as Washington rallied for a 5-4 overtime win. Holtby now feels good enough as he will start against the Blackhawks tonight. In his past four appearances, Holtby has stopped 116 of 122 shots on goal.

New-look Blackhawks

Chicago’s slow start cost Joel Quenneville his job on Nov. 6. An NHL coach getting fired is rarely news. But when it’s a guy who’s been in his post for more than a decade and has won three Stanley Cups it is still jarring. The results are mixed since Jeremy Colliton took over. Chicago lost his first two games behind the bench, but is 2-0-2 in its past four games. That’s a small step in the right direction, but the Blackhawks are in sixth place in the Central Division.

Wilsonnnnn!!!!!

This was supposed to be the day Tom Wilson returned to the lineup after his 20-game suspension. An arbitrator cut that short last week so Wilson played on all four games of the road trip and had a goal and four assists. Not a bad start. Wednesday he gets his first home game of the year and what should be a raucous reception from the faithful at Capital One Arena. 

Old mates

On Monday, the crowd at Bell Centre booed former Canadien Lars Eller, who promptly took the puck up ice and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. It was a great moment for a player who felt Montreal gave up on him way too soon when trading him to the Capitals. Michal Kempny knows how he feels. 

Languishing on the bench for most of last season in Chicago as a healthy scratch – he played just 31 games - Kempny sees his old team for the first time since helping Washington win a Stanley Cup. Quenneville is gone, but the defenseman would love to show the rest of the organization trading him was a mistake. 

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