St. Louis Rams (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (6-9)
Who cares if both teams have losing records? Or that the NFC West race has devolved into a turtle derby? This is by far the biggest game in Week 17 of the NFL regular season and as such, the NFL and NBC have “flexed” this game into prime-time.
Yes, that’s right — it’s Seahawks versus Rams on Sunday Night Football. Winner goes to the postseason, loser’s season ends.
The big news out of Seattle this week pertains to the health of starting QB Matt Hasselbeck. In last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, Hasselbeck strained hip/glute muscles on a TD plunge midway through the first quarter. Since the game meant little (win or lose, Seattle would have to beat the Rams this Sunday to qualify for the postseason), Hasselbeck was pulled from the contest in favor of backup Charlie Whitehurst.
But what transpired throughout this past week turned out to be much more serious. Pulling Hasselbeck from last week’s contest wasn’t just a safety precaution — the guy is seriously injured. He hasn’t practiced all week and the ‘Hawks are preparing to go with Whitehurst on Sunday (this despite the fact he has one career start on his resume). Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said Hasselbeck is “fighting a battle against the odds” and that if he was to be healthy for Sunday, it’d be a “miracle comeback.” So, not much optimism from Carroll, which is rather strange. He’s the biggest glass-half-full guy you’ll ever meet.
As for the Rams, the QB position is looking much rosier. Barring an unforeseen switch by voters at the ballot box, QB Sam Bradford will win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. If there was any doubt about Bradford deserving the award, consider this: Last week in a win against San Francisco, he completed his 335th pass of the season. That broken the previous rookie record for most completed passes in a season, held by Peyton Manning during the 1988 season (326).
What Bradford’s gunning for now, however, is an even loftier record. Should St. Louis win on Sunday, Bradford would become just the third rookie QB in NFL history to start all 16 games and qualify for the postseason (Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco were the others). Bradford would be the first, however, to inherit a 1-15 team and take it to the promised land.
From the oddsmaker’s perspective, the Rams will enter this contest as three-point road favorites, due in large part to the uncertainty surrounding Hasselbeck. Whitehurst is about as untested a backup as there is in the NFL and hasn’t looked good in his limited opportunities with Seattle.