The Seattle Seahawks reached the Super Bowl the last time they earned home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
They can secure home field again with a win Sunday over the visiting Arizona Cardinals - who would be all but eliminated from postseason contention with a loss.
With just Sunday's game against Arizona and next week's contest versus St. Louis remaining, Seattle (12-2) could be playing at CenturyLink Field until the Super Bowl, should they get that far. The Seahawks, who have won 14 regular-season home games in a row since losing Dec. 24, 2011, to San Francisco, lost Super Bowl XL to Pittsburgh after finishing with the NFC's best record in 2005.
"Here we come this week and there's nothing new, which is a good thing. We're going to make the most of what we got," said coach Pete Carroll, who can clinch his second division title with Seattle and the third of his career. "I would've wanted it as soon as we could've won it and dealt with that challenge, but right now I think we understand clearly what we're trying to get done here."
Seattle was dominant at MetLife Stadium - the site of this year's Super Bowl - in a 23-0 victory over the Giants last week. The Seahawks gave up a season-low 181 yards and the league's top pass defense (174.2 ypg) intercepted Eli Manning five times, including two each by corners Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell.
Sherman, whose six interceptions are tied for the NFL lead, has four picks and two fumble recoveries over his last four games versus Arizona.
"All the guys contributed, the linebacker and everyone contributed," Carroll said. "The fact that we stayed on top of the deep ball really well again and when they threw it, we were there to challenge the ball as well as played tight coverage underneath. So there was some really cool stuff."
The Seahawks sacked Carson Palmer seven times and intercepted him twice in a 34-22 Week 7 win in Arizona. The Cardinals (9-5) have won six of seven since, with Palmer's 106.0 passer rating among the NFL's best during that stretch.
"We're starting to get a lot of confidence as a team," Palmer said.
Prior to this year, he lost his only other previous start in Seattle, throwing for 342 yards with two interceptions in a 24-21 loss for Cincinnati on Sept. 23, 2007.
"Obviously, they're confident for a reason," Palmer said. "They've won a lot of football games, they've won at home, but we've been playing well the past couple of months. It's a big game for them, a big game for us."
Arizona, which has already clinched its first winning season since 2009, wouldn't even ensure itself of a playoff spot with a win Sunday followed by a home victory over the 49ers next week. The 11 wins would tie a franchise record. The 2008 New England Patriots are the only club during the 12-team format to miss the playoffs despite winning 11 games.
'The last time we were there, obviously everyone knows what happened," coach Bruce Arians said of Arizona's 58-0 loss at Seattle last season. That was one of 11 losses in 12 games to close the year, leading to Ken Whisenhunt's firing.
"That wasn't we, that was another team. So this is our barometer to see where we're at," Arians said.
Palmer is expected to play despite nursing a high ankle sprain, but his primary target's status seems more uncertain.
Larry Fitzgerald's streak of 104 consecutive games played could be in jeopardy after he suffered a concussion late in the Cardinals' 37-34 overtime win at Tennessee last week. Fitzgerald said he practiced fully on Thursday but has one more concussion test to pass with an independent neurologist before he is cleared to play.
Seattle has limited Fitzgerald to 82 yards on seven catches and no scores in the last three matchups.
Keeping Russell Wilson in check will likely be a point of emphasis given the season-high 394 yards passing the Cardinals surrendered last week to the Titans. Wilson has yet to lose at home in his career, recording a 119.2 passer rating with 29 TDs compared to six interceptions.
Marshawn Lynch ran 21 times for 91 yards and a touchdown in the teams' meeting. Arizona has limited opponents to an average of 69.4 rushing yards per game and two scores in seven games since.
It's not clear if Percy Harvin (hip) will play. He has only appeared in Seattle's Week 11 victory over Minnesota.
Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner was suspended indefinitely Wednesday by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy. Browner hasn't played since Week 10 and won't be able to file for reinstatement for a year. His contract expires at the end of the season.
Seattle, which has won five of the last seven meetings, can tie the all-time series at 15 wins each with a victory.
The Associated Press News Service
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