Seahawks will be waiting, and watching

Posted Jan 2, 2014

The Seahawks are practicing twice during their playoff bye week, but the NFC’s No. 1-seeded team won’t know whether it’s playing the Saints, 49ers or Packers until after this weekend’s wild-card games are played.

The Seahawks know they’re playing. They also know where they’re playing, and when. What remains in question is who the Seahawks will host in next Saturday’s divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field.

That will be determined this Saturday, if the No. 6-seed New Orleans Saints defeat the No. 3-seed Eagles in Philadelphia. Or, if the Eagles prevail, the Seahawks will play the winner of Sunday’s wild-card matchup between the No. 5-seed San Francisco 49ers and No. 4-seed Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

As not only NFC West champions, but the No. 1-seeded team in the NFC playoffs because of their best-in-the-conference 13-3 record, the Seahawks have a bye this weekend – as do the No. 2-seed Carolina Panthers – and will host the lowest-seeded survivor from wild-card weekend. The Panthers will host the highest-seeded remaining team – either the Eagles, or the winner of the 49ers-Packers game.

This is unchartered territory for the Seahawks who comprise the 2013 team, and a rarity in franchise history. The Seahawks won division titles in 1988 and 1999 – the AFC West; and also 2004-07 and 2010 – the NFC West. But the only time they had a first-round bye and home-field advantage was in 2005, when they also went 13-3 and used playing in Seattle in the postseason as a springboard to advancing to the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance.

The players will be watching this weekend, when they’re off, but for various reasons.

“I'll probably watch, just because it will be something out of the norm in terms of not being in the hotel or going through meetings,” defensive captain and veteran end Red Bryant said after Thursday’s bonus practice. “But it makes no difference to me who we play. Whoever we play, we’ll prepare and give it our best shot.”

For Bryant, and most of his teammates, it’s more about how the Seahawks play than who they play.

“That’s the good thing, from preseason to regular season to the playoff games, we’re not going to switch up in terms of who we are and what we’re about,” said Bryant, one of only four players remaining from the team coach Pete Carroll inherited in 2010 – along with nose tackle Brandon Mebane, Pro Bowl center Max Unger and punter Jon Ryan.

“So whoever we end up playing, we’ll prepare like we always do. We’ll respect our opponent and we’ll definitely make it as hard as possible on them and hopefully we can get a victory, whoever it is.”

Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson also will approach this weekend’s wild-card games as he does all games.

“I definitely won’t watch as a fan,” Wilson said. “I’ll watch and critique each thing – watching the coverages and watching the defense – just like if I was watching (game) film. I’m excited just to have a week to figure out who we’re playing.

“There are a lot of great teams. Obviously we can play either the Saints or the Packers or the 49ers, so all three of those teams are great football teams. So we’re going to have to be prepared. … It will be good to watch these games and figure out who we’re playing.”

“It’s going to be interesting to watch, just to see how those guys play, see what type of energy they bring,” said middle linebacker and leading tackler Bobby Wagner

“It’s not often we get to sit at home and watch everybody play, so you’ve got to enjoy it.” 

Here’s a look at the Seahawks’ possible opponents on Jan. 11 at CenturyLink Field, where kickoff and televised coverage on FOX (Q/13) scheduled for 1:35 p.m.:

New Orleans Saints

Record: 11-5
Seed: No. 6, as the second wild-card team
They’ll play the Seahawks if: They beat the No. 3 seed Eagles in Philadelphia
When and where you can watch: Saturday, 5:10 p.m. on NBC (KING/5), with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya
Weather forecast: 42 degrees with a 30-percent chance of rain
Road record: 3-5, including losses in their last three road games
Where they ranked: No. 4 on offense (25th rushing, 2nd passing); No. 4 on defense (19th rushing, 2nd passing)
Worth noting: The Saints were 8-0 at home, including victories over the playoff-bound 49ers and Panthers. But they lost on the road to the New York Jets (8-8) and St. Louis Rams (7-9) and beat the Atlanta Falcons (4-12) by four points and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) by two points.
Most recent game in Seattle: A 34-7 loss in Week 13 on “Monday Night Football,” as Russell Wilson passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns and also was the Seahawks’ leading rusher with 47 yards. The Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense limited the Saints to 188 yards – 44 rushing and 147 passing by QB Drew Brees.

San Francisco 49ers

Record: 12-4
Seed: No. 5, as the first wild-card team
They’ll play the Seahawks if: The Eagles beat the Saints on Saturday, and they beat the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday
When and where you can watch: Sunday, 10:05 a.m. on FOX (Q/13), with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews
Weather forecast: 0 degrees, with a 20-percent chance of snow
Road record: 6-2
Where they ranked: No. 24 on offense (3rd rushing, 30th passing); No. 5 on defense (4th rushing, 7th passing)
Worth noting: The 49ers’ four losses came against teams that are in the playoffs – the Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Saints. … The 49ers finished the regular-season with a six-game winning streak, including a 19-17 victory over the Seahawks at Candlestick Park in Week 14.
Most recent game in Seattle: A 29-3 loss in Week 2, the Seahawks’ home opener, as the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense intercepted three Colin Kaepernick passes – one each by the three Pro Bowl members of the Legion of Boom secondary, free safety Earl Thomas, strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman – while holding the 49ers to 207 yards and their lowest point total of the season. Marshawn Lynch ran for 98 of the Seahawks’ 172 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns.

Green Bay Packers

Record: 8-7-1
Seed: No. 4, as the NFC North champion, but also the division winner with the worst record
They’ll play the Seahawks if: The Eagles beat the Saints on Saturday, and they beat the 49ers on Sunday
When and where you can watch: Sunday, 10:05 a.m. on FOX (Q/13), with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews
Weather forecast: 0 degrees, with a 20-percent chance of snow
Home record: 4-3-1
Where they ranked: No. 3 on offense (7th rushing, 6th passing); No. 25 on defense (25th rushing, 24th passing)
Worth noting: QB Aaron Rodgers returned last week after missing seven games with a broken left collarbone and threw a 48-yard TD pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds left to beat the Bears 33-28 in a division-clinching victory at Soldier Field.  
Most recent game in Seattle: A 14-12 loss in Week 3 last season, as Golden Tate caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson on the final play of the game. Wilson also threw a TD pass to Tate in the second quarter and the defense limited the Packers to a TD run and two field goals.