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A game with three-appeal
TORONTO – The Seahawks’ third season under coach Pete Carroll is down to its final three regular-season games, and Sunday’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre has turned into a cross-country, dual-country three-for-all.
First, there are those three games that will determine if this season includes a postseason. At 8-5, and with victories over the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, the Seahawks currently hold the top wild-card spot – or No. 5 seed – in the NFC playoff picture. They can improve on that by overtaking the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1), who play the 10-3 Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday night before visiting CenturyLink Field for a nationally televised rematch with the Seahawks next Sunday night.
Then, after impressive victories over the Bears in Chicago and the Arizona Cardinals at home the past two weeks, the Seahawks are looking to put together their first three-game winning streak since last December. They’ve won back-to-back games three other times this season, only to trip over themselves in road losses at St. Louis, San Francisco and Miami.
Also, they’ve already played three games in domed stadiums this season, and lost them all – 20-16 to the Cardinals in their opener; 19-13 to the Rams in Week 4; and 28-24 to the Lions in Week 8.
Finally, a win against the Bills would give the Seahawks three road victories, including two in their final two trips. That would be a definite confidence boost if they play a road game in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
But Priority One in this three-for-all is the Bills, in this game, on this day, in this stadium, in this country.
“We’ve got to focus on this one game,” special teams standout Heath Farwell said. “Because next week doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win this week.”
And a loss to the Bills also would tarnish the considerable achievements of the past two weeks – when they beat the Bears in overtime and then blew out the Cardinal at home?
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Farwell said. “We’ve put two good wins together in a row, but that won’t mean as much, either, if we don’t win this week.”
And the Seahawks will try to do it as strangers in a strange setting against a team they’re not that familiar with. The Seahawks haven’t faced the Bills since 2008, when only two players expected to start on Sunday were even on the team – defensive end Red Bryant and nose tackle Brandon Mebane. And they’ve never played in Toronto, where the Bills began playing one “home” game a year in 2008.
Heck, some players have never been to Canada, and for others it’s just barley.
“I’ve been to Vancouver, but I haven’t been to Toronto,” rookie quarterback Russell Wilson said this week when asked by a Canadian reporter if he has visited the country. “I hear Toronto is great, too. It’ll be great to play in Toronto. I’m sure there will be a good amount of Seahawks fans there supporting us, and that will be great.”
That’s another factor in this week’s game. The Seahawks catch a double-break because they don’t have to venture to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, where the Sunday forecast is calling for a high of 46 degrees, with a 50-percent chance of rain and 14 mph winds. It will be even chillier in Toronto, but not inside the dome.
Then there’s the fan factor. Those at Ralph Wilson Stadium usually fall into the rabid category. As for those who make the 90-minute trek to Toronto? Not so much, and not as many.
“My first year, we played Chicago and the stadium was all Chicago because of their fan base,” Bills running back C.J. Spiller said this week. “I think this year it’s going to be a different feel just because of the hockey season (being on hold because of the lockout).
“At the same time, we do have a good fan base up there and we are trying to get more fans and get them incorporated into our organization and get behind us.”
And that is the reason behind the Bills playing one game a year in Toronto, where they’re 1-3.
But the Seahawks can’t concern themselves with that. Or the Bills’ 5-8 record. Or the additional elements involved with traveling to Canada, like going through customs and the need for passports.
There’s too much riding on this three-for-all game.
“Championship teams have to be able to win on the road, and they have to be able to do things when the game is on the line,” said Wilson, who just happens to wear No. 3 and share the same last name as the Bills’ owner. “We have to play the Buffalo Bills first. That’s our championship game this week. We have to go 1-0 this week, and that’s our mentality.
“It’s one game at a time. What you did a week before or what you did several weeks before that, it doesn’t matter. It’s the now, and we have to be able to play a great game.”