Seahawks vs. Giants

When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m., Qwest Field

Records: Seahawks 4-3 and first in the NFC West; Giants 5-2 coming off their bye week and first in the NFC East

TV: KCPQ/13 (Fox), with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver

Radio: 97.3 FM and 710 ESPN, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Matchup microscope

Charlie Whitehurst vs. the situation: It has taken 4½ seasons and 71 games, but Whitehurst finally will make his first NFL start because Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks’ starting QB, is out with a concussion after being sacks a career-high eight times against the Raiders last week. Whitehurst has appeared in a regular-season game – twice as a rookie with the Chargers in 2006 and for the final three plays last week. But he has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game. That, of course, will change on Sunday. But when Whitehurst drops back to pass, he’ll be facing a Giants defense that ranks second in the league and has gotten 20½ of its 24 sacks from its defensive linemen.

One to watch

Seahawks LT Chester Pitts vs. Giants DE Osi Umenyiora: Speaking of the Giants’ pass rush, Umenyiora has eight sacks and also has forced a league-leading seven fumbles. Pitts will be making his first start for the Seahawks – and first since last September while playing for the Huston Texans. He was expected to play left guard, but has moved outside because of injuries to first-round draft choice Russell Okung and backup Tyler Polumbus. Pitts got a couple of snaps at tackle last week, after Polumbus went down. But the last time he played the pivotal position for an extended period was the final 12 games in 2005.

Fun to watch

Seahawks FS Earl Thomas vs. Giants QB Eli Manning: The Giants love the long ball. But with it come passes that can be tipped or go off the hands of the intended receiver and lead to interceptions. While Manning has thrown 14 touchdown passes, he’s also had 11 picked up – seven on balls that first hit the intended receiver. That’s where Thomas comes in. The rookie already has four interceptions and he can use the same range, speed and instincts that helped him make those plays to help himself to any of Manning’s deep throws that go awry.

One tough task

The Seahawks vs. the situation: A first-time starter at QB (Whitehurst). Players making their first starts for the Seahawks at left tackle (Pitts), defensive end (Kentwan Balmer) and nose tackle (Junior Siavii). A practice-squad QB (Zac Robinson) as Whitehurst’s backup. A Giants defense that has knocked five QBs out of games this season. A Giants running game that features Ahmad Bradshaw (708 yards and a 5.3-yard average) and 264-pound Brandon Jacobs (five rushing touchdowns and a 4.9-yard average). A Giants passing game that features Manning throwing to Hakeem Nicks (45 receptions, eight TDs), Steve Smith (43 receptions) and Mario Manningham (15.7-yard average on 21 receptions).

Notable

The Giants’ four-game winning streak is the longest in the NFC, and they’re tied with the Falcons for the best record in the conference. …  The Giants defense is holding opponents to a league-best average of 3.6 yards on first downs, with the Bears No. 2 at 4.5. … The Giants offense is averaging 6.5 yards on first downs, second best in the league behind the Chargers (6.7). … The Giants have not played at Qwest since 2006, when they lost 42-30. … In 2005, a Giants team that was 7-3 lost at Qwest 24-21 in overtime, as they were penalized for 11 false starts. … The Seahawks have forced 12 of their 13 turnovers at Qwest, where they are 3-0. … Leon Washington continues to lead the NFL in kickoff-return average (33.7) and he’ll also return punts for the Seahawks after averaging 27 yards on three returns against the Raiders last week. … SS Lawyer Milloy leads the Seahawks in tackles (40), while FS Antrel Rolle paces the Giants (39).


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