Seattle Seahawks (11-2) at Tennessee Titans (4-9)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Tim Ryan
SERIES: 13th meeting. Seattle leads 8-4. The teams haven't played since 1998 when Jon Kitna's third-down pass to Mike Pritchard moved the Seahawks into position for Todd Peterson's winning field goal with one second remaining. The 20-18 victory wasn't enough to get the Seahawks into the playoffs, however, and Seattle fired coach Dennis Erickson a short time later.
2005 RANKINGS: Seahawks: offense 2nd (3rd rush, 13th pass); defense 11th (10th rush, 18th pass). Titans: offense 16th (20th rush, 12th pass); defense 13th (16th rush, 15th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Titans need big plays to level the playing field, and the secret might lie with CB Pacman Jones, who leads the NFL with an average of 12.9 yards on punt returns and has three kick returns of at least 50 yards. The Seahawks' one glaring weakness has been poor coverage and too many penalties from the special teams. Otherwise, the Titans will struggle to match up with the Seahawks man to man. Seattle welcomes back WR Darrell Jackson for the first time in 10 games as it also seeks more of a deep threat to its passing game to take defensive pressure off RB Shaun Alexander. The Seahawks' defense is very thin in the secondary, but the Titans' beat-up receiving corps will struggle to take advantage of it. Tennessee relies heavily on its tight ends and running backs in the passing game, which will put the burden on Seahawks rookie LBs Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to make the correct reads.
FAST FACTS: Seahawks: Can clinch home-field advantage in the NFC with a win and a Chicago loss. ... Alexander needs 104 rushing yards to become the fifth player in league history with consecutive 1,600-yard rushing seasons. ... Alexander is on pace for an NFL record 28 touchdowns (Priest Holmes, 27, 2003). Titans: Have not had a 100-yard rusher in their past 17 games. ... QB Steve McNair needs 183 passing yards to reach 3,000 for the fourth time in the past five years.
--WR Darrell Jackson went full speed in practice this week, showing no limitations for a second consecutive day. The Seahawks plan for Jackson to start Sunday in his first game back from knee surgery.
--LB D.D. Lewis did not practice this week. He is not expected to play this Sunday..
--LT Wayne Hunter has been suspended one game and docked one game check for violating terms of the NFL's personal-conduct policy. The violation stems from a 2003 domestic-violence case. A roster designation on ourlads.com infering that Hunter has been placed on injured reserve appears to be incorrect, or at least unconfirmed, at this time.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck is the highest-rated passer in the NFC among quarterbacks with at least nine starts. He ranks fourth in Pro Bowl balloting among fans. He is running the offense better than ever and the results are clear in the team's 11-2 record.
--RB Shaun Alexander needs five rushing touchdowns to match Eric Dickerson, who ranks ninth on the NFL career list with 90 in 11 seasons. Seattle's sixth-year back has the same number of rushing TDs through his first 93 career games (85) as Jim Brown. He leads the NFL this season in third-and-1 rushing (13-for-13) and in runs of 10-plus yards. He also has 317 touches this season and he has not lost a fumble.
--QB Steve McNair practiced a bit this week, but he still is dealing with left shin and ankle problems as well as back stiffness. He'll play Sunday against Seattle, but he could be in danger if he absorbs the wrong kind of shot from a sack-happy defense. McNair said he expects he'll need to run more than he has in recent weeks.
--RB Travis Henry, already expected to miss Sunday's game against Seattle with an ankle injury, was excused from work Thursday while he was dealing with the flu.
--LB Rob Reynolds is a key special teamer for the Titans, but hasn't practiced this week because of an ankle injury and a bout with the flu.
--TE Erron Kinney will miss his second consecutive game after minor knee surgery, leaving Ben Troupe and Bo Sciafe to catch most of the passes aimed at tight ends.
--WR Bobby Wade was claimed off waivers from Chicago, and coach Jeff Fisher said the team likes him a lot as a shifty slot receiver. But Wade won't be active against Seattle as he won't have had sufficient time to get up to speed in time to contribute, Fisher said.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
-- Coach Mike Holmgren held WLB D.D. Lewis out of practice this week, and Lewis is not expected to play this Sunday.
When asked if Lewis would hit the field, Holmgren said, “I don’t think so. That will be a Sunday decision. We think he’s going to be in much better shape for the stretch run if we hold him out for one more game.”
Holmgren also said that Lewis, who has been dealing with a knee injury over the last couple of months, was eager to play. “Very. He has been bugging me a lot. He really wants to play and he’s a great young guy. But in trying to explain to him why this is a good thing for him, I think he believes me but at the same time he misses playing.”
If he doesn't play against the Titans, Lewis will be replaced by Kevin Bentley for the second straight week.
The Seahawks play the Colts on Saturday, December 24. Expect to see Lewis in the lineup then, if he has no serious physical constraints.
Holmgren was also asked if he thought Lewis' knee was a "chronic" injury. “I think he is too young to have chronic knee," Holmgren said. "He got it injured, he had a little stretch of his ligament in there and now it just had to quiet down. In the beginning he could play on it but it would hurt during the week. What we’re trying to do is just let it quiet down and heal up so he can play and practice and do what he normally does. I don’t think it’s chronic, not yet.”
-- The Seahawks could have as many as five Pro Bowl players on offense, even though no single receiver has put up numbers strong enough to command serious consideration.
LT Walter Jones is increasingly regarded as the best offensive lineman in the game. The sack he allowed against the Giants a few weeks back snapped a string of more than 1,000 pass plays in which Jones prevented his man from sacking the quarterback.
Jones' obvious talents and the nature of his position have conspired to overshadow LG Steve Hutchinson, who is enjoying another Pro Bowl-caliber season. With
Jones and Hutchinson on the left side, it's no wonder RB Shaun Alexander puts up huge numbers every season.
After 13 games, Alexander leads the league in rushing and touchdowns. He is the only player in league history to reach 100 yards rushing in nine consecutive division games. He is the only player in league history to score 15 or more touchdowns in five consecutive seasons. He has eight more rushing touchdowns in five-plus seasons (85) than Tony Dorsett had during his entire 12-year career.
Alexander needs five touchdowns to match Eric Dickerson, who ranks ninth on the all-time list (90 in 11 seasons). Seattle's sixth-year back has the same number of rushing TDs through his first 93 career games (85) as Jim Brown. He leads the NFL this season in third-and-1 rushing (13-for-13) and in runs of 10-plus yards. He also has 317 touches this season and he has not lost a fumble.
QB Matt Hasselbeck is also putting up Pro Bowl numbers, and he has an 11-2 record on his side. Hasselbeck is the NFC's highest-rated passer (minimum nine starts). No one in the NFC has a better passer rating on the road this season (96.1).
FB Mack Strong is the Seahawks' wild card when it comes to Pro Bowl consideration. Strong is an effective blocker in both the run and pass games. He doesn't get many carries or touchdowns because Seattle has plenty of options in that department. If Strong is ever going to earn a Pro Bowl trip, this is probably the year. Seattle is 11-2 and on the verge of clinching home-field advantage, and the man Strong blocks for - Alexander - is enjoying an MVP-caliber season.
The Titans claimed receiver Bobby Wade off waivers from Chicago on Wednesday.
Wade won't play Sunday against Seattle, but Tennessee thinks he can provide some long-term help, coach Jeff Fisher said.
"It would be very difficult to get caught up to this point to where we could keep him active," Fisher said. "As soon as we get him caught up, we'll keep him active, get him in a ballgame and let him play.
"He's a very nifty inside slot receiver with run-after-catch ability, and I think he can help us."
Wade's biggest struggles in Chicago were as a fumble-prone return man, and the Titans don't need him in that role, as Pacman Jones has it covered.
"I was extremely surprised (to be waived), that caught me absolutely off guard," Wade said. "It's the nature of the business. I'm just looking forward to moving on now with the Titans."
The Titans have been thinned out at receiver because of a knee injury to Brandon Jones and a wrist injury to Roydell Williams, which ended the seasons of two of the team's three draft picks at the position.
Right now, the Titans are using ineffective Tyrone Calico and invisible Courtney Roby as their second and third receivers behind the undependable Drew Bennett.
FINAL INJURY REPORT:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-2) AT TENNESSEE TITANS (4-9)
OUT: CB Andre Dyson (ankle); CB Kelly Herndon (knee); S John Howell (hamstring).
QUESTIONABLE: LB D.D. Lewis (knee).
Titans: OUT: WR Roydell Williams (wrist).
QUESTIONABLE: RB Chris Brown (elbow); RB Travis Henry (ankle); TE Erron Kinney (knee); DE Travis LaBoy (elbow); QB Steve McNair (back/ankle); LB Robert Reynolds (ankle); WR Sloan Thomas (groin); TE Ben Troupe (concussion).
FURTHER PRE-GAME READING FROM SEAHAWKS .NET: