RENTON — Maybe you have been thinking that Rams-Seahawks is beginning to feel like the next great NFC West rivalry.
The two have combined to win the last three NFC West division titles and are the only teams in the division to make the playoffs in any of the last three seasons.
They’ve played three down-to-the-wire games the last two years, including two last season that went to the Rams — by a combined seven points.
Seven points that, if they’d gone in Seattle’s favor, would also have given the division title to Seattle instead.
But one of the only Seahawks left from the days of Seattle’s last great NFC West rivalry — the one against the 49ers from roughly 2011-14 — says there’s no comparison. Not yet, anyway.
“Not even close,’’ said linebacker K.J. Wright, the longest-tenured player on the team, when asked if the games against the Rams the last few years have felt anything like the heated contests Seattle once played against Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis and the rest of a 49ers squad that was the team Seattle had to beat at the beginning of the Pete Carroll era.
“Not even close,’’ Wright repeated. “I haven’t felt anything (like that) since the San Fran days. This team is a tough opponent. We all know that we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game with them. But the rivalry, old school, dawg-feeling — I don’t feel that.’’
Maybe that begins to change Thursday night, when the Seahawks and Rams meet again at 5:20 p.m. at CenturyLink Field.
Emotions figure to be high in the stands before the game when former owner Paul G. Allen is inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor — fittingly, becoming the 12th member of that esteemed group — in a ceremony set to begin at 4:50 p.m. It’s a ceremony that will conclude with his sister and the new chair of the team, Jody Allen, raising the 12 Flag, a moment that has the makings of feeling like something of a public passing of the torch at the top of the organization roughly a year after Paul Allen’s death.
Emotions should be equally high on the Seahawks sideline, considering not only the literal stakes of the game but the potential symbolism involved, as well.
When the Rams beat the Seahawks, 42-7, on Dec. 17, 2017, it was widely portrayed as another passing of the torch — from Seattle to Los Angeles as the kings of the NFC West. Seattle’s vast roster makeover following that season further led to the idea that the time for the Carroll-era Seahawks had come and gone.
But it wasn’t just the 10-6 record last season after an 0-2 start that proved to the team that there might be life in the post-Legion of Boom era but also the two games against the Rams, contests in which Seattle gained 463 yards rushing and 7.0 yards per rushing attempt, that left the Seahawks thinking there wasn’t much of anything really separating the two teams.
“We felt like last year, we really could’ve won those two games, to be honest with you,’’ said quarterback Russell Wilson. “We had some mishaps there at the end, and that can’t happen when you’re playing a great team. It’s that simple.’’
That the Rams “coulda, woulda, shoulda’’ won the Super Bowl only reinforced to the Seahawks how close they remain to elite status, a feeling that manifested itself in the aggressive move to add Jadeveon Clowney.
Beat the Rams on Thursday night, and the 42-7 of 22 months ago begins to recede that much further into the distance — and in meaning.
But in Seattle’s only game in its first four this season against a team with a winning record — the Saints — the Seahawks stumbled.
The Rams also are coming off a surprising home loss, last Sunday to Tampa Bay.
And the combination of those two games means that it’s the 49ers who actually are in front of the division at the moment at 3-0.
That also means the winner of Thursday’s game could be in first place in the division by the end of the weekend (depending on how the 49ers fare Monday night against Cleveland) but that the loser will be assured of being in third.
Consider further that the 49ers then play at the Rams the following Sunday, which means the scenarios for how well off the Seahawks could be with a win Thursday — versus the hole they might have to dig out of if things don’t go so well — are pretty vast.
Wright allowed that as a defensive player, maybe it’s the nature of the games that have differentiated the contests with the Rams the last few years and those against the 49ers.
“The 49ers, it just felt like it was the Super Bowl when we was playing them in that time,’’ he said. “Those games were low-scoring. (Against the Rams) it’s pretty much just been a shootout the past few times, and I don’t look at it like San Fran at all.’’
So, maybe it’s not a true rivalry just yet. We’re not going to argue what players say.
But in what the game might mean for both teams now and down the road, it’s shaping up to indeed have that old-time feeling.