Up next: St. Louis Rams

Published on December 29, 2010 by     T.C.

When: Sunday, 5:15 p.m., Qwest Field

Record: 7-8 following Sunday’s 25-17 victory that eliminated the 49ers from the NFC West race and lifted the Rams into a one-game lead over the Seahawks

Ramifications: The winner of the game is the NFC West champion and advances to the playoffs. If the Rams win, they are 8-8. If the Seahawks win, both teams will be 7-9, but the Seahawks would hold the tiebreaker based on a better division record (4-2 vs. 3-3).

To perform your own statistical comparison visit Bing.com and search for any two players of the same position.

Where they rank: No. 25 on offense (23rd rushing, 19th passing); No. 18 on defense (15th rushing, 20th passing)

Series: Seahawks lead 14-10, but the Rams won the Week 4 game in St. Louis 20-3 to snap Seattle’s 10-game winning streak vs. St. Louis

Star power: Sam Bradford. This spot usually is reserved for Steven Jackson, the team’s battering-Ram of a back – and he does have 1,196 rushing yards to rank third in the NFC and eighth in the NFL. But the biggest difference between the team that won six games combined the past three seasons and the one that has seven wins this season is the rookie QB. In Sunday’s win over the 49ers, Bradford broke the rookie-season record for completions (335) that was held by some guy named Peyton Manning (who had 326 in 1998). In the Week 4 win over the Seahawks, Bradford was 23 of 41 for 289 yards with two TD passes and an interception. For the season, Bradford is completing 60.5 percent of his passes and has 3,357 passing yards with 18 TD passes and 14 interceptions.

Unsung hero: Danario Alexander. Two months removed from a fifth surgical procedure on his left knee, the rookie wide receiver from Missouri caught six passes for 99 yards against the 49ers. His increased productivity is a product of increased playing time. He was on the field for 43 of the Rams’ 66 offensive plays last week and got 30 snaps the week before against the Chiefs. The obvious reason for that is that  the Rams are using more four-receiver sets – eight of their first 10 snaps against the 49ers and roughly 20 for the game. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Alexander has 17 receptions for 292 yards and team-high 17.2-yard average.

On the spot: Both teams. Each already has gotten an earful of how neither deserves to be in the playoffs, let alone host a first-round game. If the Rams prevail, they would be only the third team since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to win its division with an 8-8 record – joining the 2008 Chargers and 1985 Browns. If the Seahawks prevail, they would be the first team to do it with a losing record. Asked about the they’re-not-worthy chatter after Sunday’s loss to the Bucs, Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams offered, “They say if you argue with a fool, people can’t tell who’s won. So we’ll let those people talk about who deserves to be there and what not.”

Burning question: Who are these guys? Quick, name the Rams’ starting wide-outs. With Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton on injured reserve and long-time Seahawks nemesis Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce retired, the answer would be … Brandon Gibson and Laurent Robinson. OK, so the Cougar Faithful in the crowd would have gotten Gibson, because he played at Washington State. But the Rams’ leading receiver is Danny Amendola, who is averaging 8.2 yards on his 83 receptions. Like Armstrong, he plays in the three- and four-receiver sets. Gibson (6-foot, 210) and Robinson (6-2, 197) came to the Rams in 2009 trades; Gibson from the Eagles and Robinson from the Falcons. Gibson has caught 50 passes for 590 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson has 32 receptions for 330 yards and a pair of TDs. Sunday, they’ll be working against a Seahawks defense that ranks 29th in the NFL against the pass and has allowed a league-high 58 pass plays of 20-plus yards.

Familiar faces: In addition to Gibson, K Josh Brown was the Seahawks’ seventh-round draft choice in 2003 and led them in scoring in four of his five seasons with the team; P Donnie Jones was a seventh-round draft pick by the Seahawks in 2004; and FB Mike Karney went to Kentwood High School. On the coaching staff, defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was with the Seahawks from 1999-2002, wide receivers coach Nolan Cromwell held the same position with the Seahawks from 1999-2007 and cornerbacks coach Clayton Lopez was with the Seahawks from 1999-2003.

The last word: “It’s going to be awesome. A win-and-you’re-in kind of situation is what you play for and I’m excited about it. I’m looking forward to it.” – linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Rams’ leading tackler

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