Lowly Seahawks out to end reign of New Orleans Saints


Sat, Jan 08, 2011 - Page 19

Seattle have the worst team to ever make the NFL playoffs, but the Seahawks have the home-field edge today when they try to upset the reigning champions the New Orleans Saints.

The Seahawks stumbled to a 7-9 record this season, but that was good enough to win the NFC West Division and book a spot in the 12-team playoff fight for berths in next month’s Super Bowl, while two clubs that went 10-6 stayed home.

No prior division champion in NFL history had ever finished worse than 8-8 and no team with a losing record had ever reached the playoffs in a season that was not shortened by a labor dispute.

Matt Hasselbeck, the Seattle quarterback who missed last week’s division-clinching victory over St Louis with a hip injury, will return. He has led the Seahawks to victory in their past four home playoff games.

The Saints ripped Seattle 34-19 in November in a regular-season meeting.

Today’s other playoff game finds the New York Jets at Indianapolis, while tomorrow’s games send Baltimore to Kansas City and Green Bay to Philadelphia.

New England, with an NFL-best 14-2 record, have a first-round bye along with AFC North Division champs Pittsburgh, 12-4, NFC pace-setters Atlanta, 13-3, and NFC North Division winners Chicago, 11-5.

Those four teams will host the following weekend’s playoff games against the four winners this weekend.

This weekend’s games mark the debut of a new overtime playoff rule, whereby a team winning the coin toss and receiving the opening kickoff in the extra period will not automatically win with a field goal on the first overtime possession.

The change ensures the team kicking off will have at least one possession in overtime after surrendering a field goal.

If the trailing side scores a touchdown, it wins. If it does not score, it loses. If it kicks a field goal to equalize, play continues as before in the usual sudden-death, first-team-to-score-wins format.

As the lowest playoff seeds, Green Bay and the Jets would have to visit top seeds if they pull off playoff upsets on the road: The Packers having to visit Atlanta, while the Jets would play archrivals New England.

Jets coach Rex Ryan, who has already predicted his club will run the playoff gauntlet and win the Super Bowl, had a dig at Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, saying no one studies the sport like Peyton Manning of Indianapolis.

The Colts and Jets met last year to decide a Super Bowl berth, with Manning guiding Indy to a 30-17 victory before their loss to New Orleans in the title game.

Green Bay defeated Philadelphia 27-20 this season, but that was back in the opening week of the season in September.

Baltimore and Kansas City have not met in two seasons. The Chiefs could have avoided the Ravens in round one with a higher seeding, but lost to Oakland in their final game of the season.