San Francisco (5-8) at Seattle (8-5) Thursday 8:00 pm EST
SEATTLE (Ticker) -- The Seattle Seahawks can clinch their third
straight NFC West title on Thursday night when they host the San
Francisco 49ers in a battle of division rivals.
Injuries sidelined reigning NFL rushing champion Shaun Alexander
for six games and Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for four
games, but the Seahawks are still on the verge of making the
playoffs for the fifth time in Mike Holmgren's eight seasons as
Getting back to the Super Bowl will be difficult for the
defending NFC champions. Last season, the Seahawks had
home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and defeated
Washington and Carolina before losing to Pittsburgh in Super
Bowl XL at Detroit.
However, Seattle may not even get a first-round bye this time
because Chicago (11-2) and New Orleans (9-4) have better records
in the conference.
The Seahawks didn't have Hasselbeck, who was out with a sprained
knee ligament, in a 20-14 loss at San Francisco on November 19.
Backup Seneca Wallace filled in and threw for 252 yards and two
touchdowns, but was also intercepted three times - two of them
by cornerback Walt Harris.
That game was especially memorable for Frank Gore, who rushed
for a franchise-record 212 yards on 24 carries for the 49ers. A
third-round pick in 2005 out of Miami, Gore leads the NFC with
1,347 rushing yards and has 49 catches for 384 yards.
However, since that win over Seattle, the Niners have dropped
three in a row to essentially fall out of the playoff race.
Last week, Gore rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown, but Alex
Smith completed just 12-of-29 passes and was intercepted twice
in a 30-19 loss to Green Bay.
The Seahawks lost three fumbles - one each by Hasselbeck,
Alexander and fullback Mack Strong - in a 27-21 loss at Arizona
last week. Alexander was held to 76 yards on 22 carries, but
Hasselbeck was sharp, completing 20-of-28 passes for 243 yards
and three touchdowns.
Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson will face his
former team for the second time. Peterson signed a seven-year
contract worth $54 million with Seattle last March after
spending his first six seasons with the Niners.
The Seahawks are coming off a disappointing loss in Arizona, but back at full strength along the offensive line, they will look to be hitting on all cylinders, as they try to lock up the NFC West.
Both teams prepare for a game that is coming after a short week of preparation and the Seahawks, who tend to play very well at home, will try to avenge a loss they sustained in San Francisco four weeks ago in San Francisco.