All will be forgiven if Hawks make playoffs

  • By Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, December 14, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

As unlikely as it may seem, the Meltdown on Monday Night could soon be forgotten. The Slip-Up against St. Louis might escape the memory banks. And the Buffaloing by the Bills could one day be seen as a positive for Seattle Seahawks fans.

If the Seahawks can sneak into the postseason, it might all be irrelevant.

And as of today, the Seahawks (7-6) look like they may be on their way to the playoffs.

There are still three weeks of football to be played – and Seattle has been anything but predictable this season – but after Sunday’s win over Minnesota the Seahawks control their own destiny again.

With the St. Louis Rams having lost five of seven games and unable to beat anyone outside of the NFC West, Seattle is back atop the division. The two teams close out the regular season with similar schedules.

The Rams travel to Arizona this weekend. The Seahawks play host to the Cardinals the following week. Both teams face playoff contenders in the other two games, with Seattle playing against a pair of teams with a combined 19-7 mark, and St. Louis facing two teams that are 21-5.

The paths won’t be easy for either team, but at least they’re both still alive in the crazy NFC West.

“Well, that’s where you would like to be,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. “Ideally – if you can’t be like Philly or Pittsburgh or one of those that just clinched it – at least we’re in it. We are playing for something and it should be real exciting in the last three weeks.”

If the first 14 weeks were any indication, the final three games should have their share of drama. Here’s a look at five players who may hold the key to the NFC West treasure chest:

* Chad Brown: Seattle’s linebacker is expected to be back this week, and he might provide a struggling defense with the lift it needs. The Seahawks haven’t been able to stop anyone lately, so the return of Brown couldn’t come at a better time.

* Chris Chandler: For at least one more week, the pride of Everett High will run the show in St. Louis. If he performs like he did last Sunday – he threw six interceptions in a loss to Carolina – the 39-year-old might end up handing the division title to the team he once loved.

* Josh McCown: He was benched as Arizona’s quarterback three weeks ago, but now McCown is back in the saddle and hoping to pull off a couple longshot upsets. McCown, who has already beaten the Seahawks once this season, faces St. Louis and Seattle over the next two weeks.

* Curtis Martin: Like McCown, Martin faces both the Seahawks and Rams down the stretch. His New York Jets should be favored in both games, especially when considering the way Seattle and St. Louis have struggled against the run. Martin has fared better at home, which doesn’t bode well for the Seahawks, but he’s yet to play in a dome. That will change in the season finale, when Martin’s Jets go to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

* Muhsin Muhammad: The wide receiver has helped spearhead Carolina’s improbable run back into the playoff picture. If he can continue to keep the Panthers on the winning track, Carolina will be a wild-card team. That probably means only one NFC West team will go to the postseason.

Of course, there are plenty of other factors that will determine who wins the West. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has to continue to thrive, while the Rams’ Marc Bulger needs to get healthy.

Seattle might have to beat another team with a winning record, which is something it did for the first time in 27 games Sunday. St. Louis has to beat someone outside of the NFC West – a feat the Rams have accomplished only once this season, Oct. 10 against Tampa Bay.

Oft-criticized head coaches Holmgren and Mike Martz of St. Louis have to find ways inspire their teams down the stretch and get the fans off their backs.

Holmgren is resisting the temptation to look at the possible playoff scenarios, instead throwing all his focus on this Sunday’s game against the Jets. His Seahawks then face an Arizona team that beat the Seahawks in October and an Atlanta team that has already clinched the NFC South title and a home playoff game.

The road won’t be easy, but the win over Minnesota three days ago gave Seattle the inside track in a three-week race.

“It’s one step, now we have three left,” Holmgren said. “Hopefully we can continue and use this as a little springboard, a little momentum for the next three games.”

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