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Focus on: Another actual championship opportunity

Posted Dec 17, 2013

For the second time in three weeks, the Seahawks have a chance to capture the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Cardinals on Sunday.

As anyone who has been paying attention knows, every week is a championship opportunity for the Seahawks.

It’s a mindset and blinders-on approach that has allowed the Seahawks to be successful in 12 of their first 14 games. But one of those losses came the last time they had an opportunity to actually win a championship – 10 days ago, when they lost 19-17 to the 49ers in San Francisco. It was a rare bump in the road that prevented them from clinching the NFC West title and first-round bye in the playoffs that would have come with it.

Well, the Seahawks are at that crossroads of motivationally and actuality again.

With a win over the surging Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, the Seahawks capture not only the division title that has been the season-long goal but also home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

It would be victory No. 13 for the Seahawks, and putting them out of reach for the 49ers (10-4) in the division and also for the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers (both 10-4) for the best record in the conference.

The Saints will win the NFC South title and clinch a first-round bye with a victory over the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday. They’ll clinch a playoff spot if the Seahawks beat the Cardinals; or they tie the Panthers and the 49ers lose or tie; or the Cardinals tie; or the 49ers lose and the Cardinals tie. The Panthers can do the same with a win over the Saints, or the same other options.

The Seahawks also could lose to the Cardinals, who have won six of their past seven games after losing the Seahawks in Arizona in Week 7, and still win the division if the Atlanta Falcons upset the 49ers in what will be the final regular-season game at Candlestick Park.

They also could lose to the Cardinals and achieve the same things in their Dec. 29 finale against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field. But coach Pete Carroll and his players are taking a why-wait stance.

“The whole routine with the emphasis of every game is a championship game has been right on it for us,” Carroll said. “And so here we come this week and there’s nothing new. That’s a good thing. We’re going to make the most of what we’ve got. I would have won it as soon as we could have won it and then dealt with that challenge.

“But right now I think we understand clearly what we’re trying to get done here.”

As well as the Seahawks have played on the road this season (a franchise-best 6-2 record), there’s still no place like home when it comes to the postseason. In their first 37 seasons, the Seahawks are 7-2 at home in the playoffs and 2-10 on the road – with the wins coming last season against the Redskins and in 1983 against the Dolphins. In their first three seasons under Carroll, they’re 1-0 at home and 1-2 on the road in the postseason.

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