Seahawks try to end road curse vs. St. Louis

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2003

The Seattle Seahawks are going from dome to dome as they try to secure a playoff berth.

Dome? They'd rather be home.

After getting beaten 34-7 in Minnesota last week, the Seahawks go to St. Louis on Sunday to play the Rams, who are two games ahead of them in the NFC West. Unless they win, the Seahawks will be chasing a wild-card spot a St. Louis victory clinches the division.

Seattle is 1-5 on the road and the Rams are 6-0 at home, but Mike Holmgren is conceding nothing.

''This is the time of year when your best players have to grab hold and lead you to the playoffs,'' he says. ''I'm talking about your best players playing their best. I'm counting on them to do that.''

Easier said than done.

The Rams are built for their advantage of the artificial turf with speed on both offense and defense. Comparative scores usually mean little, but here's one: The week before the Vikings trounced the Seahawks, they lost 48-17 in St. Louis.

Seattle won the first meeting, 24-23 in Week 3 when St. Louis was still tinkering and Marc Bulger was still settling in at quarterback. Since then, the Rams have won 10 of 11 and are tied with Philadelphia (10-3) for best record in the NFC.

Seven of the eight division races could be over after this weekend the AFC North is the only one that can't be decided.

New England already has won the AFC East and the Rams can clinch the NFC West. The Eagles can clinch the NFC East if they win Monday night in Miami and Dallas loses in Washington.

Minnesota can clinch the Central with a win in Chicago if Green Bay loses in San Diego. And Carolina, which has lost three straight, can still wrap up the NFC South if it wins at Arizona.

Indianapolis can win the AFC South if it beats Atlanta at home and Tennessee loses. If the Colts win, they clinch a playoff spot.

And Kansas City, which already has a playoff berth, can clinch the AFC West with a win or a Denver loss.

Tennessee and Dallas could wrap up wild-card berths with victories and help.

Philadelphia (10-3) at Miami (8-5) (Monday night)

The Eagles, who have won eight in a row, lead Dallas by two games in the NFC East with three to go. So their main concern is home-field advantage in the playoffs as they try to reach the Super Bowl after losing the NFC title game the last two seasons.

If the playoffs started now, Miami would be out. The Dolphins are tied with Denver for the second wild-card spot, but are 5-5 in the AFC compared to 7-3 for the Broncos. Jay Fiedler reinjured his left knee in the 12-0 loss in Foxboro, but expects to play.

Minnesota (8-5) at Chicago (5-8)

Green Bay (7-6) at San Diego (3-10)

The improving Bears, who will give rookie QB Rex Grossman his first start, are 4-2 at home and have won three of their last four, the only loss by two points to St. Louis. They could make it difficult for Minnesota.

It the Packers win and the Vikings lose, they're tied entering the final two weeks. Green Bay also is chasing Dallas and Seattle for a wild-card spot.

Atlanta (3-10) at Indianapolis (10-3)

The Colts have all but wrapped up the AFC North, leading the Titans by a game and a tiebreaker. What they'd really like is to catch either the Chiefs or Patriots (or both) and get at least a bye in the playoffs.

Buffalo (6-7) at Tennessee (9-4)

Tennessee clinches a wild-card spot with a win and losses by Miami and Cincinnati.

The Titans have to rebound from two straight losses turnovers killed them against Indianapolis last week. It's no coincidence that the defeats coincided with Steve McNair's injury woes, the latest a badly sprained left ankle with a cracked bone spur.

Jacksonville (4-9) at New England (11-2)

Detroit (4-9) at Kansas City (11-2)

The Patriots and Chiefs are tied for the AFC lead. But New England has one fewer conference loss, so the Patriots would hold home-field advantage if they win their final three. They have won nine straight and haven't allowed a touchdown at home in four games since a 38-30 win over the Titans on Oct. 5.

Dallas (8-5) at Washington (5-8)

The Cowboys have lost three of four, although they could clinch an unanticipated playoff spot with a win here and the right results in games involving the Vikings, Packers, 49ers, Saints, Bucs and Seahawks.

Carolina (8-5) at Arizona (3-10)

It's been an agonizing uphill hike for the Panthers to get that one win that will clinch the NFC South. They've lost three straight and this may not be easy the Cardinals have nothing to lose and have been decent at home, beating the Packers, 49ers and Bengals and playing the Rams very tough.

Baltimore (8-5) at Oakland (3-10)

San Francisco (6-7) at Cincinnati (7-6)

Bay Area vs. AFC North.

The Ravens and Raiders last met in January 2001, when the Ravens won the AFC championship game 16-3 in Oakland. Nothing like that is on the line this week. But Baltimore can move closer to the AFC North title with a victory. With career third-stringer Anthony Wright at quarterback, it has scored 119 points in three straight wins, including a 31-13 victory over Cincinnati last week.

Cleveland (4-9) at Denver (8-5)

Denver's demolition of Kansas City last week kept the Broncos in the final AFC wild-card spot, a tiebreaker ahead of the Dolphins. So if they win out, they get in.

This is Denver's only easy game on paper the Browns put four starters on injured reserve this week. They must close on the road at Indianapolis and Green Bay, teams that have a lot to play for.

Houston (5-8) at Tampa Bay (6-7)

Pittsburgh (5-8) at New York Jets (5-8)

New York Giants (4-9) at New Orleans (6-7)

The Bucs and Saints still harbor playoff hopes. One of them might even win the NFC South at 9-7 if the Panthers keep losing. The Saints have the upper hand because Tampa Bay lost twice to Carolina.

Of the other four teams, only Houston can feel decent, having a respectable second season as a franchise.

David Carr might be back in place of rookie Dave Ragone, who had a tough start to his career last week.

The Steelers, Giants and Jets, all playoff teams a year ago, are playing out the string. For what it's worth, QB Jesse Palmer gets his first career start for the Giants in place of Kerry Collins, out with an ankle sprain.



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