Pro-football fans in the region might try getting use to the phrase "number-four seed." They also may want to circle on the calendar the weekend of Jan. 8 and 9. That’s because the Seattle Seahawks, even given a 34-19 loss to the world-champ Saints in New Orleans Sunday (Nov. 21), are the probable winner of their decrepit division and hence would earn a playoff berth and a home post-season game.
Anything beyond success at such a level requires a lot of wishing and hoping, to say nothing of a much better team than the one that showed up Sunday.
The four National Football Conference West teams lost their Sunday games by 71 points. Given this level of collective ineptness, the Hawks could win the division championship by two full games and still finish at just 8-8. St. Louis, San Francisco, and defending NFC West champ Arizona are a combined 10 and 20, projecting, then, to a 16-32 finish.
Under such circumstances, the Hawk divisional "dominance” is worth something between a shrug and a yawn. As for the promise of reaching the playoffs, it's possible that Seattle could wind up meeting the Giants or Saints, who beat the '10 Hawks 75-26.
Yet, it's not as if a division championship (it would be the first since 2007) would be insignificant. At the very least it could confer on the franchise the idea that the era of coach Pete Carroll is moving forward at a faster pace than many imagined.
With six games remaining, it's possible (in the sense that, say, Bristol Palin winning "Dancing With the Stars” evidently is possible) that the Hawks could finish 11-5.
More likely they'll win three or four: good enough for fourth seed and a Qwest Field date with the best of the two NFC wild-card participants.
Sunday the Saints played without key personnel and still never trailed. Quarterback Drew Brees was predictably brilliant, with a pair of picks scarcely diminishing a four-scoring-toss. He gained 382 yards in the air.
The wonder was that Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck nearly equaled Brees's yard total given that the Hawk field leader's leftover wrist injury was such that he basically played with a right hand and a left paw. He also was handicapped by a rushing game that totaled just 58 yards.
Afterward Carroll praised pass-protection that gave Hasselbeck chances to see opportunities down field.
The mentor was less pleased with a defense that repeatedly failed to reign in the Saints, allowing the opponent 11 for 15 third-down efficiency and an eight-minute advantage in possession time.
"We couldn't slow 'em down the way we needed to," Carroll conceded. "We couldn't get them off the field."
On paper, the only date remaining that might be considered a sure Seattle win is the Dec. 5 Qwest visit by 1-9 Carolina. It would guarantee a 6-10 season for the Seahawks. What's amazing is that, in this division, it might even be good for fourth seed and a home playoff game.