42F Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO
Last season's NFC West race came down to a Week 17 showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams to determine which of those underachieving teams would win a weak division.
Both teams again sport losing records, but the playoffs almost certainly seem out of the question in 2011.
The Seahawks and Rams, however, both look to build on victories when they meet for the first time this season Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
The last time these teams met, Seattle scored the only touchdown in a 16-6 home win over St. Louis to clinch the division with a 7-9 record thanks to a tiebreaker over the Rams, who also finished 7-9.
With San Francisco (8-1) now owning a five-game lead atop the West, neither the Seahawks (3-6) nor the Rams (2-7) appear playoff bound.
Despite their records, last week was a good one for each club. The Rams rallied to win 13-12 at Cleveland last Sunday, and the Seahawks snapped a three-game skid by stunning Baltimore 22-17 at home.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 109 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries for Seattle, which forced a pair of turnovers on special teams and got five field goals from Steven Hauschka . The veteran back has rushed for 244 yards over the last two games, and all five of his TDs have come in his last five contests.
"We're going to work at running the football regardless and try to get this thing balanced out again where we can have a good feeling for it," coach Pete Carroll said. "We're going to bring it and see how it goes."
Seattle has a good chance to keep the ground game rolling against a St. Louis defense that ranks last in the NFL with 150.6 rushing yards allowed per game.
Lynch, who has never posted three straight 100-yard rushing games, ran 20 times for 75 yards in last season's division-clinching win over the Rams.
"We're looking pretty good. These guys are feeling pretty good," Carroll said.
Seattle, however, will be without rookie right guard John Moffitt , who is done for the season after tearing ligaments in his right knee versus Baltimore.
St. Louis also has been plagued by injuries and placed cornerback Al Harris and tight end Mike Hoomanawanui on injured reserve this week with knee injuries. Despite those issues, the Rams have won two of three after starting 0-6.
"Guys keep going down and we have the young guys and new guys who weren't on the depth chart at the beginning of the season come to fill the holes," running back Steven Jackson said. "They have to come in and play right away."
Jackson has rushed for 417 yards and two TDs while posting three straight 100-yard games, including a 128-yard effort on 27 carries at Cleveland. However, Jackson has never totaled more than 93 yards in 13 career games against the Seahawks.
In his first win since beating San Francisco on Dec. 26, St. Louis' Sam Bradford went 15 of 25 for 155 yards last Sunday and tossed a 7-yard scoring pass to Brandon Lloyd for the game's only touchdown.
"You get what you earn in this league," Rams guard Harvey Dahl said. "We aren't happy with our record, but we come to work every day and try to get better."
Bradford threw 17 touchdowns in his first 11 career starts, but has just five TD passes in his last 12. He was 23 of 41 for 289 yards with two TDs and an interception to help the Rams snap a 10-game skid versus Seattle with a 20-3 home win Oct. 3, 2010.