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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