Known for having possibly the best home-field advantage in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks hope this is the last time they have to go on the road until next season.
Coming off their first loss in two months, the Seahawks have an outside chance to wrap up the top seed in the NFC as early as Sunday when they travel to face the New York Giants.
Though its ticket to the playoffs has already been punched, Seattle (11-2) failed in its first attempt to win the NFC West and secure a first-round bye last Sunday as its seven-game win streak was snapped with a 19-17 loss at San Francisco. The Seahawks' first defeat since Oct. 6 meant no division title celebration, though that can happen this week if they defeat the Giants and the 49ers fail to beat Tampa Bay.
"It's disappointing but we've still got three games left and we've got the possibility of doing it (against the Giants)," linebacker Bobby Wagner said of clinching the West. "So we've just got to keep our heads up."
The Seahawks, who have won 14 consecutive home games, are playing their final road game before hosting Arizona and St. Louis to close the regular season. They would clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win Sunday along with the 49ers losing and New Orleans falling at St. Louis.
"We had our chance and we let the opportunity get away," coach Pete Carroll said of last Sunday's loss. "So we crank it up. It's really important, as we have throughout regardless of what the game is before, you have to handle it properly and put it in the right perspective and move forward effectively."
Carroll would like to see a more effective running game.
The Seahawks (11-2) have rushed for 97 first downs on the season, tied for third-most in the NFL, but did so just once last week. Marshawn Lynch has averaged 3.2 yards per carry and 57.0 per game over the last three with just four runs of 10 or more yards - he had 11 in the previous two weeks.
Lynch played well the last time Seattle faced the Giants, totaling 131 yards with 98 and a touchdown on the ground in a 36-25 road victory Oct. 9, 2011. The Seahawks had lost their previous five road games against New York.
Russell Wilson is third among quarterbacks with 458 rushing yards but had just two last week, and his 81.9 passer rating was his worst since a Week 5 loss at Indianapolis.
He's facing a Giants defense which has surrendered 390 rushing yards over the past three games, and lost two of them to fall out of the playoff race.
New York (5-8) was eliminated from postseason consideration last week following a 37-14 loss at San Diego.
"It's definitely a little disappointing," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "Obviously you want to go and have a good season and put some good things together and hope you can make it through the playoffs and all of those good things."
All season long, an issue for the Giants has been turnovers. They've given up the ball 34 times, most in the NFL, and Eli Manning has thrown an NFC-high 20 interceptions. Facing a Seahawks defense that is tied for second in the league with 28 takeaways, ball security could be an important factor in determining who comes out ahead.
New York is 1-7 when committing more than one turnover.
Given how they played last Sunday, when Manning threw two INTs and the defense allowed 25 first downs, the Giants know they will need to raise their game against Seattle, even if they have little more than pride on the line.
"We didn't play well (against the Chargers), but that's not going to change the way in which we approach each game and, yes, we're excited to host this outstanding Seahawk team and to prepare for them," coach Tom Coughlin said. "It is no doubt a tremendous gauge for our team or for any team playing against a team that has the record and has accomplished what the Seahawks have."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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