SEATTLE – Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren didn’t want to hear any of it last week.
He refused to answer a question about his team’s opportunity to wrap up the NFC West today. He winced when the subject of homefield advantage in the playoffs came up.
For a guy who’s on the verge of making it to his third consecutive playoff appearance, Holmgren sure hates talking about the postseason.
“Stuff like that makes me nervous,” Holmgren said last Wednesday after politely refusing to answer a question about his team’s chance of clinching the division title today. “We’re just going to take them one game at a time.”
That leaves six-game winning streaks, 8-2 starts and even the potentially huge, Dec. 24 game against Indianapolis off the list of available topics.
All Holmgren really wanted to talk about last week was the New York Giants.
Just don’t tell him what’s on the line today.
When the Seahawks (8-2) and Giants (7-3) do battle, the winner could very well have the inside track on the NFC’s No. 1 seed with five games to go.
A Seattle victory would:
A) put the Seahawks two games ahead of the NFC East-leading Giants;
B) allow the Seahawks to maintain their one-game lead over anyone in the NFC; and,
C) give the Seahawks head-to-head tiebreakers over three NFC title contenders (Atlanta, Dallas and the Giants).
And that doesn’t even count the possibility of officially wrapping up the NFC West, which would happen if Seattle wins and St. Louis loses to Houston today.
By contrast, the Giants could bring Seattle back to the pack while opening up their half-game lead atop the NFC East to a full game.
“As you go along here if you’re fortunate enough, each game becomes more important – more magnified – and it’s a good situation to be in,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “It’s good for players to have to perform under this kind of circumstance.”
While the Seahawks have a little wiggle room in terms of winning their division – Seattle currently leads the second-place Rams by four games – every game has added importance in terms of the NFC hierarchy. The Giants are one of four 7-3 teams (and two more are 7-4) currently nipping at the Seahawks’ heels.
“You know down the line that this is going to be an important game,” Seahawks cornerback Kelly Herndon said. “You’ve got two good teams going at it with two good records, so you look at it like two playoff teams. You just look at the records, and it’s definitely a big game.”
It’s understandable if some of the grayer-toothed Seahawks might want to steer clear of playoff talk. The last time this team started a season 8-2, it fell on hard times en route to five losses over the final six games of the 1999 season, the last of which was a postseason home loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Players from that Seattle team have been saying all week that this is a different group, one made up of high-character veterans and younger players who have the right work ethic to keep it going.
So, like their coach, the Seahawks are making an attempt not to get ahead of themselves this week. Even though they can’t deny how important a week it is.
“I think it’s a big game,” Seahawks wide receiver Bobby Engram said. “It’s an NFC opponent. They lead their division in the East.
“… These are the types of games that you look forward to this time of year. It just builds up. When you talk about November and December, you talk about big games.”
While Holmgren acknowledges the importance of today’s game, he’s still a little gun shy about its playoff implications.
“Until it actually is fact, let’s wait,” Holmgren said. “It probably comes from my old days of selling cars. I used to sell cars (during his college days at USC). You never said you’d sold the car until the person signed the form, because anything could happen. So that’s probably why I do what I do.”