ESPN.com--John Clayton

First St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks: Even in this era of parity in which franchises can go from worst to first, division takeovers don't always happen overnight.


The Eagles have ruled the NFC East the past three years. Despite the Vikings being the favorites to win the NFC North this year, the Packers have won the past two division titles. And the Patriots seemingly now have the AFC East by the throat. But the longest divisional success story is the St. Louis Rams, who have either won or tied for the divisional title four of the past five years.


Since joining the division in 2002, the Seahawks have set the Rams in their sights and structured their team in preparation for Sunday's game against St. Louis. If the Seahawks win at Qwest Field, they take control of the division with a 2-game lead. If they lose, the Rams would hold an edge because the Seahawks have a tough road trip to New England next week. Back-to-back losses by Seattle could give the Rams a half-game lead and the confidence of knowing the Seahawks would have to come to St. Louis on Nov. 14.



DE Grant Wistrom is eyeing another division title -- with the Seahawks this time.
On paper, the Seahawks have done all the right things to overtake the Rams. They've built an offense that can annually rank in the top seven in various statistics and play high-scoring games to counter the Rams' high-powered offense. They might have made the single biggest offseason move to weaken the Rams and strengthen themselves by signing former St. Louis defensive end Grant Wistrom.


One player doesn't make a defense, but Wistrom is a player who makes this defense work. For one, he's a hustling player who creates a lot of energy. Second, he's a leader. Third, he gives the team a pass-rushing threat on the other side of Chike Okeafor to put pressure on quarterbacks.


His absence has caused adjustments on the Rams defensive line, which also lost defensive tackle Brian Young and is missing injured defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. Defensive end Leonard Little is being moved around to avoid the double-team blocking -- a strategy that worked well last week against the *****. In past years, Little drove right tackles crazy by rushing from the left side while Wistrom got his usual eight sacks from the right.


In the past three years, the Rams haven't finished lower than 16th in defense. This year, they are 27th and are giving up 137.3 yards a game rushing. They are also giving up 21.5 points a game.


While Arizona and San Francisco are in rebuilding mode, the NFC West is a two-team race. Sunday will determine which team has the edge