St. Louis Rams

Rams-Seahawks: Five Things to Watch

Seattle has typically been a hostile settle for most teams, including the St. Louis Rams. The Rams (6-8) will be looking for their first win in Seattle (9-5) since 2005 on Sunday when they take on their NFC West rival at CenturyLink Field (3:25 p.m.; TV-Fox Channel 2; Radio-WXOS-FM 101.1).

Here are five key areas to watch:

1. While it’s true the Rams have enjoyed some success against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, isn’t Wilson on one of the hottest streaks of his career?

He is and being at home against the Rams should do nothing to cause Seattle much worry. Sure, the Rams have 29 sacks in their last six games against Wilson, including two by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald in a 34-31 season-opening win at the Edward Jones Dome. But Wilson has thrown for 19 touchdowns and no interceptions during a five-game winning streak and is connecting with wide receiver Doug Baldwin at historical levels. Baldwin, questionable for Sunday with a hamstring injury, has 10 TD receptions in his last four games along with 21 catches for 366 yards. Not bad for a guy that had 18 TD catches in his first 4 1/2 NFL seasons. Wilson was 21-of-30 for 249 yards and three TDs last week against Cleveland and enters this game on a major roll.

2. Won’t the Seahawks present the toughest challenge yet for quarterback Case Keenum and new offensive coordinator Rob Boras?

Without a doubt. Keenum has looked better while winning his last two starts, but those were against Detroit and Tampa Bay. He’s coming off a strong and extremely efficient outing against Tampa Bay where he completed 14-of-17 passes (82.3 percent completion rate) for 234 yards and two TDs. The offense has shown signs of life since Boras replaced former offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, but a Seahawks “Legion of Boom” defense led by Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas — and playing at home — is a completely different roadblock.

3. Can a Rams defense without injured standouts Robert Quinn, T.J. McDonald and Alec Ogletree contain the Seahawks in Seattle?

If the Rams’ defense can force turnovers and apply pressure on Wilson there’s a much better chance. Wilson is in one of the best hot streaks of his career and even without injured star running back Marshawn Lynch the Seahawks’ offense has been operating at high efficiency during the five-game winning streak. The Seahawks have outscored teams 143-56 over the last four games and Wilson is spreading the ball around and making all the right decisions.

4. How will the Seattle defense do against Rams’ offensive standouts Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin?

Despite sitting out the early portion of the season while coming off ACL surgery rehab, Gurley ranks third in the NFL with 1,023 rushing yards. With Tampa Bay stacking the box last week, he managed only 48 yards on 21 carries, but still helped create some openings for Tavon Austin. Austin leads the Rams with 10 touchdowns and is best when utilized as a hybrid running back-receiver, something Boras seems to have focused on in his first two games. Look for Seattle to focus on stopping these two and letting someone else try to beat them.

5. Who is the Rams’ most consistent performer in 2015?

It should be All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker, who grew up in Seattle and starred at Oregon State before being drafted by the Rams. Hekker leads the NFL in gross punting average (48.3 yards per punt) and ranks second with a 43.9-yard net average.

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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