Game an opportunity for Seahawks to progress

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll will have an eye on the outcome of today’s Rams-49ers game, but he contends that won’t affect how Seattle plays against the Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla. (Associated Press)
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll will have an eye on the outcome of today’s Rams-49ers game, but he contends that won’t affect how Seattle plays against the Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla. (Associated Press)

SEATTLE – There’s a chance Seattle’s game at Tampa Bay will have no bearing on the Seahawks’ playoff chances.

But that won’t make it meaningless.

There’s too much at stake for this franchise – and its future – to dismiss it as irrelevant. This is a team still trying to establish an identity, a franchise trying to find a way to summon a closing kick after a disappointing two months.

If St. Louis beats San Francisco today, the division will be decided by the regular-season finale between the Rams and the Seahawks next weekend at Qwest Field. The outcome of Seattle’s game in Tampa Bay wouldn’t affect that at all. If the 49ers beat the Rams, Seattle must win its final two games to eliminate the possibility of finishing tied with San Francisco, because the 49ers would win that tiebreaker because of a better conference record.

The Seahawks have lost six of their past eight games, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has committed 13 turnovers in the past four games. Yet after all that, Seattle is in control of its own playoff fate: Two victories, and the Seahawks are in.

“I’m really fired up that we get to be in this situation that we’re in,” Hasselbeck said. “We have a chance to win our division again. It has been two years. There’s two games to do it. We don’t have to depend on anybody else. We just win two games.”

And they might not even have to do that if the Rams beat the 49ers. Then, all Seattle has to do is beat St. Louis on Jan. 2 to reach the playoffs.

Will Carroll keep an eye – or an ear – out for a score from that Rams-49ers game, which begins at 10 a.m. PST?

“I’ll keep track,” he said. “Let me just tell you, I’ll know what’s going on.”

That doesn’t mean it will impact anything Seattle does when the game in Tampa kicks off today at 1:15 p.m. PST.

He’s not a coach who talks about who’s the underdog and who’s the favorite. He doesn’t dangle those things as carrots in front of the team or use them as sticks.

“We’re going to deal with the stuff that we control,” Carroll said.

And this is what the Seahawks control: If they win their final two games, they make the playoffs. It’s not any more complicated than that.

But this is Year 1 of a process, the start of Carroll’s regime, not the end. And while Carroll has avoided the word rebuilding, that is the reality. These next two games will determine whether this season can be a springboard to brighter days or it will be a sign of just how much more change is needed.

The Seahawks can’t finish above .500, but then again, no one really expected them to. These next two games, however, are the difference between winning the division and not. They are the difference between Hasselbeck showing he might be a consideration at quarterback going forward or not.

So with all due respect to playoff mathematics, this game means something. No team has ever made the playoffs with a losing record.

Human nature says the Seahawks’ energy level will subside in Tampa should St. Louis win, rendering the outcome of Seattle’s game irrelevant to playoff seeding.

“We don’t want to be normal in that regard,” Carroll said. “We don’t want to be human nature. We want to be above and beyond.”

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