SEATTLE – The proverbial fork in the road stands in front of them, although it may not be apparent to the Seattle Seahawks amid the possibility of Lambeau-like conditions at Qwest Field for tonight’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
One prong points toward a fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs; the other road is headed toward Pretenderville. Tonight’s result could send the Seahawks in either direction.
“You’ve got six games left in the regular season,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said, “and they all take on a special significance.”
While the Seahawks (6-4) gained a little breathing room in the NFC West on Sunday – the St. Louis Rams’ 20-17 win over San Francisco gave Seattle a 1 1/2-game lead over the Rams and 49ers – the rest of the NFC contenders looked like a refrigerator full of Thanksgiving leftovers.
“If you look at all the teams in our conference, everybody except Chicago (9-2) is close,” Seahawks cornerback Kelly Herndon said. “We’re all in a fight to get one of those spots (in the playoffs), so every game is a pivotal game. Even Green Bay has got a shot, so it’s a big game for them too.
“It’s the last weekend in November, so it’s definitely a pivotal time for the teams that want to get into the playoffs.”
Seattle is currently a half-game behind a pair of 7-4 teams – New Orleans and Dallas – that are trying to earn the NFC’s No. 2 seed and the first-round bye that comes with it. Both teams won during the holiday weekend, while Minnesota’s victory over Arizona put the Vikings within striking distance. Green Bay could crash the wild-card party with a win over the Seahawks tonight.
“All of your games are very big at this point in the season because after you get past the halfway mark, everything is starting to be defined of where you are as a football team as far as your record and which way you are going as a football team,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said last week. “The way I view this game is you have two teams that are not very happy with their last performance, so it is going to be a very emotional, very energetic football game.”
The importance of tonight’s game hasn’t been lost on the Seahawks.
“You’re getting into the playoff run, the homefield advantages and playoff byes,” wide receiver Darrell Jackson said. “Those are the things that come into play at the end of the season.”
At a time of the year when teams are trying to get into gear, the Seahawks are slowly getting some of their main parts back. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is likely to return from a four-week layoff tonight, while running back Shaun Alexander returned from a foot injury last week. Right tackle Sean Locklear, center Robbie Tobeck and wide receiver Bobby Engram could also be a week or two away from coming back from health problems.
“It’s definitely time for us to start rolling,” tight end Jerramy Stevens said. “We’ve got all our weapons, so there’s no reason not to now.”