The Seahawks have taken care of business methodically during their finest season in two decades. They claimed a second consecutive NFC West title before finishing their division schedule. They secured a first-round bye with two games still to play. The next step - getting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs - could come Saturday or Sunday.
"If we just win our games, then it doesn't matter what anybody in the NFL does," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said after passing for three more touchdowns against Tennessee on Sunday. "We're playing at home (in the divisional round) and we have a first-round bye. Now our next goal is to play at home (all the way)."
Seattle can claim home-field advantage by beating the Colts at home Saturday, or by getting some help from Green Bay on Sunday. A Packers victory over the Bears would leave Seattle with a two-game NFC lead heading into the final week.
For now, the Seahawks can rest assured that they won't suffer a third consecutive playoff defeat in the wild-card round. "I've been here six years and we've been striving for that a long time," wide receiver Darrell Jackson said. "We don't have to play the first round of the playoffs and we can't get put out in the first round. That means a lot to us, a lot to the city, a lot to the organization, a lot to our supporters.
"Hopefully we can keep it going and get past that first round and win in the second round."
The Seahawks have not won a playoff game since December 1984, the longest current drought in the NFL. The team is 0-3 in playoff games under seventh-year coach Mike Holmgren. That includes 0-1 in the Kingdome and 0-1 at Qwest Field.
--Look for Seahawks left guard Steve Hutchinson to be named to his third consecutive NFC Pro Bowl squad. Seattle's fifth-year lineman has helped the Seahawks lead the league in yards per game, clearing the way for running back Shaun Alexander to lead the league in rushing. Alexander added 172 yards against Tennessee on Sunday. Hutchinson left a favorable impression on the Titans. "That's probably the strongest dude I've ever faced on the field," Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. "He was definitely the best guard and I wish him the best of luck. He's definitely got to be in the Pro Bowl."
The Titans have faced Indianapolis and Cincinnati this season, but Haynesworth said he hasn't faced an offensive line as good as the one Seattle puts on the field.
"They're really good," Haynesworth said. "They're probably the best line I've ever faced."
--Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has seven touchdown passes over the last two games. He leads the NFC in passer rating after completing 42 of 51 passes against the 49ers and Titans. Even his jokes are getting laughs. After trading trash talk with former Big East rival Keith Bulluck of the Titans, Hasselbeck explained that some of his antics - including hand signals at one point - were actually hard-core gang signs. "East Side ... Bellevue, Redmond," Hasselbeck said, referring to the upscale Seattle suburbs near the Seahawks' headquarters.
--The Seahawks definitely miss injured cornerbacks Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon when they play against good quarterbacks. Titans quarterback Steve McNair played one of his best games Sunday, racking up 310 yards against Seattle's backup defensive backs. Herndon could return for the final regular-season game. Dyson could return for the playoffs. "We struggled a little in the secondary," coach Mike Holmgren said. "That's a concern, but we have some young people playing back there. They're going to have some days when they struggle against good players. The important thing is we won and we can build on it and the mistakes are correctable."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--QB Matt Hasselbeck is looking like a Pro Bowl lock after tossing seven TD passes in his last two games. Hasselbeck is the NFC's leading passer heading into Pro Bowl balloting by coaches and players this week. He has completed 41 of 52 passes in his last two games.
--MLB Lofa Tatupu was not happy with the defense's inability to stop the Titans on Sunday. He said the defense went flat after the offense staked Seattle to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Tatupu has high standards for himself and the defense, and both fell short in this game. The Seahawks have suffered from injury problems in the secondary.
--RB Shaun Alexander has an outside chance at reaching 2,000 yards this season. He has 1,668 yards with two games to play. Seattle needs to win Saturday to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Alexander had 172 yards Sunday. He would need two more games in that range to hit 2,000 yards.
--TE Jerramy Stevens will see favorable matchups more frequently now that WR Darrell Jackson is back from injury. Stevens caught a TD pass Sunday for the second week in a row. Stevens can beat linebackers and safeties in single coverage.
--FB Mack Strong came out of the game Sunday but was able to return. He's been slowed by a foot injury.
--DT Chuck Darby has a bruised knee that could be a factor heading into the playoffs unless Seattle can find a way to rest him. Darby has come out of recent games, only to return at less than full strength.
REPORT CARD VS. TITANS
PASSING OFFENSE: A - QB Matt Hasselbeck set a career high with a 147.7 rating. He threw three TD passes, giving him seven in the last two games. Hasselbeck completed 21 of 27 passes (77.8 percent) against the Titans after hitting 21 of 25 attempts (84 percent) against the 49ers last week. He made the right decisions when Seattle was able to get favorable matchups against linebackers and safeties. That was the case when he found TE Jerramy Stevens for a 22-yard TD pass in the first quarter. Stevens was matched up against Titans LB Peter Sirmon.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A - RB Shaun Alexander carried 26 times for 172 yards and his 24th TD of the season. He showed patience while allowing his blockers the time they needed to clear defenders out of his way, particularly during a 52-yard run in the first quarter. The offensive line dominated for most of the game. Alexander also benefited from outstanding downfield blocking by the Seattle receivers.
PASS DEFENSE: F - The Seahawks hadn't played a competent quarterback in several weeks. Titans QB Steve McNair had plenty of time to throw as Seattle went without a sack for the first time this season. CB Jordan Babineaux seemed to have trouble staying on his feet. SS Michael Boulware appeared late getting over to help on some plays. Titans TE Ben Troupe was often wide open, and Seattle had trouble tackling him once he caught the ball.
RUSH DEFENSE: B - Seattle allowed a rushing TD for only the fourth time all season, but the defense did manage to stop Tennessee on a crucial fourth-down running play late in the game. MLB Lofa Tatupu did not provide the impact plays that have made him a Rookie of the Year candidate. Boulware failed to wrap up McNair on a fourth-and-1 sneak, allowing the Titans to convert.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F - The Seahawks had a field goal blocked, turning the momentum in Tennessee's favor. Seattle also committed its 20th special-teams penalty of the season. P Tom Rouen dropped one punt inside the 5-yard line, but the coverage team clumsily pushed the ball into the end zone for a touchback.
COACHING: C - The offensive plan was effective early and late. The Titans won the first round of adjustments, but Seattle's counter-adjustments helped the Seahawks score the final 14 points of the game. The defensive plan failed to confuse McNair or force him into errors. Much of the blame rests with the players, but the coaches didn't have the right answers, either. Special teams coach Bob Casullo has been unable to stem the penalty problems that have afflicted his units all season.
Tony Dungy said it plain and simple.
When the Indianapolis Colts coach was asked how he planned to approach this week's game at Seattle, Dungy answered, succinctly, "We're going to go out there and play to win. But we are going to use everybody. How much we will play everyone is still to be determined. But in any case, we plan to play a lot of people."
In the aftermath of last week's loss at home to San Diego, the Colts were expected to start resting players in preparation for the AFC playoffs. With a 13-1 record, Indianapolis has already clinched a first-round bye as well as home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
But Dungy has been adamant about his decision - if you're healthy, you'll play.
"The guys that are healthy, we're going to play them," he said. "We want them to practice. We want them to get better."
One player sure to see some playing time this week, as well as next week against Arizona at the RCA Dome, is second-year quarterback Jim Sorgi. Sorgi saw extensive playing time in last year's regular-season finale at Denver and has been used in mop-up roles the last two seasons.
"I don't know exactly, but I think that Jim will play some in this game," Dungy said. "We'll talk about that as the week goes on. But we've got to get him some work and we think will give him that opportunity. If he could play a little bit in each game, that would be a plus."
--"Life goes on. It happened. We didn't want it to happen. It shouldn't have happened. But we didn't play Colts ball, and unfortunately, we got an 'L'." - Colts cornerback Nick Harper on the loss to the Chargers.
--"We had a great run going and that's still a positive thing. (Sunday, San Diego) was the better club and we have to give credit to them." - Colts defensive tackle Josh Williams on the impact from the loss to San Diego.
--"I never think losing helps, and it's not something we wanted to do. But if it brings us back with a little more resolve in these last two weeks, then maybe some good will come of it." - Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said of the loss to San Diego.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--T Ryan Diem suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the first quarter of Sunday's game with San Diego. Diem is not expected to play this week at Seattle. The length of his absence has yet to be determined.
--G Jake Scott took over for Ryan Diem at tackle Sunday against the Chargers. Scott should remain there until Diem is able to return to the starting lineup.
--Rookie G Dylan Gandy received his first extensive playing time of the season Sunday against San Diego, replacing G Jake Scott in the starting lineup. Gandy will remain in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.
--DT Larry Tripplett incurred a sprained ankle in the second half of Sunday's game against the Chargers. Tripplett was able to return to the game and should be able to play this week at Seattle.
--DE Robert Mathis is expected to miss a second straight game as he recovers from a foot injury. Mathis was injured at Jacksonville two weeks ago and did not play against San Diego last Sunday.
--DT Corey Simon will be sidelined for a second consecutive game with a strained left foot. Simon was held out of Sunday's game against the Chargers with the injury, which he initially suffered at Jacksonville.
REPORT CARD VS. THE CHARGERS:
PASS OFFENSE: B-minus - Yes, QB Peyton Manning completed 26 of 45 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown. Manning spread the ball around between six receivers. That's the good news. But the Colts also allowed Manning to be sacked a season-high four times while Manning was picked off twice. He also had a costly intentional grounding penalty called against him that took Indianapolis out of field goal range midway through the fourth quarter.
RUSH OFFENSE: D - It was, quite simply, the worst running performance of the season for the Colts. RB Edgerrin James was limited to 25 yards in 13 carries. Manning had minus-1 yard in two runs, including on a bootleg pass on a fourth-and-goal at the San Diego 1-yard line. James averaged 1.9 yards per rushing attempt. As a team, Indianapolis averaged 1.6 yards per rush.
PASS DEFENSE: C - Indianapolis got to San Diego QB Drew Brees once, but it was a big play as DE Dwight Freeney forced a fumble near the Chargers' end zone. The Colts interecepted Brees twice, by LB Gary Brackett and CB Nick Harper. But Brees managed to complete 22 of 33 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown, including a third-and-9 pass from deep in his own territory to WR Keenan McCardell, which went for 54 yards and allowed the Chargers the opportunity to kick the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. The Colts allowed three pass plays of 20 yards or more and two of 40 yards or more.
RUSH DEFENSE: C - The Colts weren't doing too bad a job against the run. That is, until rookie RB Michael Turner picked up 113 yards on just eight carries. Turner's 83-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter was the back-breaker. Indianapolis had limited San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson to 76 yards in 24 carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus - Where do we start? A fumbled kickoff return by RB Dominic Rhodes. Inconsistent kickoffs by kickoff specialist Dave Rayner. Rayner's failed attempt on a 59-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half. The bright spots included a pretty good performance by P Hunter Smith, who averaged 45 yards per punt overall and 37 yards net on six punts, and better than average kickoff coverage. PK Mike Vanderjagt made his only field goal attempt, from 32 yards out.
COACHING: C-plus - The Indianapolis Colts were mentally and physically prepared to play the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, that much is clear. But the question can be asked if the Colts were emotionally prepared to face a Chargers team that came into the game with its back to the wall and needing a win desperately in order to stay in contention for a wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs. Indianapolis couldn't match San Diego's intensity during the game and that may have proved to be the edge that the Chargers needed.