The Rams will travel to Seattle on Sunday to square off with the Seahawks in a critical battle for the NFC West. If Seattle wins, the Seahawks (8-5) and Rams would be tied at the top of the division. But the Seahawks would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, effectively giving them first place.
But if the Rams (9-4) can pull off their second victory at CenturyLink Field in the last three seasons, they would improve to a two-game lead over the Seahawks with just two games to go.
"It's a great opportunity for us and that's the way that we look at it," head coach Sean McVay said. "We're up one and they're saying the same thing as far as they're down one. I know our guys are excited to compete against a great football team and we can't wait to get going."
Sunday's contest will represent the latest in a string of playoff-caliber matchups for the Rams. Last week, L.A lost a tough game to the Eagles at home and will be looking to avoid a two-game losing streak for the first time this season.
But a win in Seattle does not come easily.
CenturyLink Field is widely regarded as one of the most hostile NFL stadiums and the Seahawks carry quite the home-field advantage, winning 10 out of the last 11 games against the Rams at home.
"Coach was asking me, 'How loud is it going to be?' I'm like, 'Yeah, we're not going to hear nothing,'" running back Todd Gurley said. "Not expecting to hear anything, but hopefully we go in there and do what we're supposed to do and shut the crowd up."
The primary challenge for the Rams this week will come in the form of one player — quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson has had an MVP-caliber season thus far and is now just one touchdown and 18 yards away from becoming the first player ever to have multiple seasons with 30 touchdown passes and 500 rushing yards.
Simply put, the L.A. defense will have its hands full trying to corral a quarterback that accounts for 82.2 percent of the Seahawks offensive production.
"He's special. I don't think I've seen anybody like him," safety John Johnson III said. "I don't think anybody will ever be like him. He's Houdini, he's a magician."
"I feel like every week it's about trying to figure out how to stop him," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree added. "I think it's more of just trying to slow him down. You know, he's a great athlete and he makes a lot of plays out there for the offense."
Plus, the Rams will be trying to contain Wilson without one of their starting cornerbacks, Kayvon Webster, who is out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured achilles.
But defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is confident that cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman will be up to the challenge of filling in on the outside.
"He's a great competitor. He's especially good against the slot," Phillips said. "But, outside — size you always worry about that. But they worry about size with their quarterback too and he makes plays. So, it's the same way with Robey. He makes plays you think a smaller guy can't make, but he does."
Offensively, the Rams are coming into this Sunday's game as the league's second-highest scoring team, averaging 30.5 points per game. But in order to find success against the Seahawks, L.A. will need to excel both on the ground and in the air.
In Week 5, Seattle held Gurley to just 43 yards on 14 carries. That number will need to increase if the Rams hope to present a balanced attack.
"Not making any excuses, those guys won the game," Gurley said. "But at the end of the day, we didn't do a good enough job of taking care of the ball. We're excited for the opportunity to play these guys again and try to get this win."
Fortunately for the Rams, L.A. should be getting a nice boost from wide receiver Robert Woods, who will be returning to game action on Sunday for the first time in three weeks.
"As far as in the game, he does so much stuff that you can't really see," quarterback Jared Goff sais. "I think just his feel for the game and his understanding for leverages and coverages and everything. He sees the game the right way and that'll be nice to have back."
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And while Woods will be back on field for Sunday's contest, there will be at least three key players missing from the Seattle defense.
Cornerback Richard Sherman (ankle), defensive end Cliff Avril (back), and safety Kam Chancellor (neck) are all out with season-ending injuries. Additionally, the Seahawks could be without linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion) who are all questionable and doubtful to play, respectively.
But even against a depleted Seahawks defense, the Rams were quick to acknowledge the great challenge they will be up against.
"Earl Thomas," Woods said, naming Seattle's All-Pro free safety. "Earl is pretty much their heart. We know Kam and Sherman are big contributors to that as well, but Earl is really their heart. He's controlling the whole secondary, flying over, getting guys in place — making plays, making other people's play. [And they] have a lot of different guys stepping in too."
"The approach is the same because what you do see is a very sound, fundamental group [with] great football players," McVay said. "It's still going to be a great defense and we've got to be ready to go, especially going there and what a tough atmosphere and environment that it to play in."
As McVay said, Sunday's contest is shaping up to be a hard-fought battle with large NFC West and playoff implications. Kickoff for Sunday's contest is set for 1:05 p.m. For more information on how to watch, click here.