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Tuesday in Hawkville

A recap of the day’s activities:

FOCUS ON

The NFC West. As the Seahawks and their division rivals move into the final five weeks of the regular season, one of the four will emerge and secure a berth in the postseason. But which team will make it a December to remember?

As ludicrous as this might sound for a team that has given up 42 and 34 points in its past two games and been outscored 83-31 in its past two home games, the Seahawks continue to control their own destiny. Of course, so do the St. Louis Rams – who also are 5-6 and beat the Seahawks in St. Louis in Week 4; and the San Francisco 49ers – who pulled to within a game of the Seahawks and Rams with Monday night’s win over the Arizona Cardinals.

But the Seahawks cannot let another home game slip away, especially with the 1-10 Carolina Panthers coming to Qwest Field on Sunday and their next home game against the 9-2 Atlanta Falcons. The Seahawks also have to travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers next week and make a Christmas weekend trip to Tampa to play the 7-4 Buccaneers before hosting the Rams in a Jan. 2 game that could determine the division champion.

THE FINAL FIVE
A closer look at the NFC West as the Seahawks and their division rivals head into the final five games of the regular season: 

W-L Last 5 Home Away Opp. W-L
Seahawks 5-6 1-4 3 2 26-29
Rams 5-6 2-3 2 3 27-28
49ers 4-7 3-2 2 3 27-28
Cardinals 3-8 0-5 3 2 16-39

Remaining schedule

Seahawks: vs. Panthers (1-10), at 49ers (4-7), vs. Falcons (9-2), at Buccaneers (7-4), vs. Rams (5-6).

Rams: at Cardinals (3-8), at Saints (8-3), vs. Chiefs (7-4), vs. 49ers (4-7), at Seahawks (5-6).

49ers: at Packers (7-4), vs. Seahawks (5-6), at Chargers (6-5), at Rams (5-6), vs. Cardinals (3-8).

Cardinals: vs. Rams (5-6), vs. Broncos (3-8), at Panthers (1-10), vs. Cowboys (3-8), at 49ers (5-6).

The 49ers are the “hottest” team in this tepid division, but they play the 7-4 Packers in Green Bay this week and still have to travel to San Diego to face the resurgent Chargers (who have won four in a row) and also to St. Louis to play the Rams (4-2 at home). The Rams, meanwhile, still have to play the 8-3 Saints in New Orleans and the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs at home between games against the other three NFC West teams.

It’s a mangled menagerie of scenarios that has to be keeping coach Pete Carroll awake at night, right? Not quite.

“It’s nice to be in first place and all that,” he conceded. “But it doesn’t mean anything until you finish. It’s kind of like the BCS stuff. You can talk about the BCS and all that stuff that’s up in the air right now. It doesn’t mean anything until the end of it.

“To me, this is exactly the same way of looking at it.”

PLAYER WATCH

Colin Cole. The sweat was dripping from his face and had soaked his jersey as he sat in the locker room today removing his shoes.

Off day? Not for the Seahawks’ injured nose tackle. Cole is doing everything he can to get back in the lineup after missing the past four games with what Carroll labels “a pretty severe high ankle sprain.” That includes rehab and conditioning on the players’ “off” day.

It has been difficult for Cole to watch what has happened to the run defense since he and end Red Bryant were forced out of the lineup with injuries – Bryant for the season with ligament damage in a knee that required surgery.

Both went down in the Week 8 game in Oakland – Bryant in the second quarter, Cole in the fourth – as the Raiders were rushing for 239 yards. Since then, it’s been 197 rushing yards by the New York Giants, 41 by the Cardinals (in the Seahawks’ only win during this stretch), 112 at the Saints and 270 by the Chiefs on Sunday.

While it might sound like an excuse, or even a coincidence, losing Cole and Bryant is a huge reason why a defense that allowed an average of 70.4 yards in his first five games has yielded more than twice that in the past six games (164.0).

Bryant will not return. Cole will – if not this week, than hopefully next week.

“He’s not ready yet,” Carroll said on Monday. “He’s not ready to get up and going on that thing. He feels it. He wants to get back as soon as he can. He’s working real hard in rehab and so we’ll just have to wait it out.”

The proof of Cole’s desire to return was evident in the sweat that was dripping from his face and soaking his jersey.

INJURY UPDATE

Leading receiver Mike Williams remains day-to-day with the strained left foot that forced him to miss the game against the Chiefs. But so is left guard Chester Pitts, who also missed the Kansas City game because he has a sprained ankle and soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.

“We have to wait on Chester. We don’t know yet,” Carroll said. “He was pretty good by the end of (last) week, although he couldn’t run yet. We’ll have to see how he is on Wednesday. It’s another day-to-day thing with Chester.

“We’ll find out more when they try to get him on his toes and everything. He has an ankle and a knee combined thing going. So it’s a little more complex than just one. So we’ll have to figure him out in the next couple of days.”

Mike Gibson started at left guard against the Chiefs.

STAT DU JOUR

The Panthers are averaging a league-low 12.7 points per game. Through 11 games, they have scored 140 points – which, ironically, matches the season total for the 1992 Seahawks, who set the 16-game NFL record for fewest points in a season.

UP NEXT

The players return from their “off” day tomorrow to begin preparing for the Panthers, and they’ll do it with a new schedule – as the practices on Wednesday and Thursday will start at 12:15, rather than 1:30.

YOU DON’T SAY

“I’ll find out Wednesday. I don’t know. I was pretty direct.” – Carroll, when asked how he thought the players would respond after the team’s “Tell the Truth Monday” meeting


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