TAMPA – Seasons greetings from a blustery and seasonably chilly Raymond James Stadium, where the Seahawks are preparing to meet the Buccaneers in a Week 16, Christmas weekend game that has playoff implications for both teams.
It was 75 degrees here on Christmas Day, but the forecast today is calling for a high of 55 and it has been breezy all day.
Will one of these team’s postseason hopes also be gone with the wind?
The Seahawks can capture the NFC West by winning their final two games. If they lose against the Bucs, they still can win the division title if the Rams beat the 49ers today and then the Seahawks beat the Rams at Qwest Field next week. If the 49ers win out, they’re in because they would hold the tiebreaker because of a better division record.
The Bucs are rooting for wins by the Giants and Falcons this week, because it would help them in their quest to capture a wild-card spot. But for that to happen, the Bucs must beat the Seahawks today and the Saints in New Orleans next week.
For the Seahawks to win here they have to avoid turnovers – and that starts with QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has committed eight turnovers in the past two games that have led to 35 points by the 49ers and Falcons. Hasselbeck’s plight was the main topic surrounding the Seahawks all week, but Pete Carroll is sticking with the veteran – after benching him in the third quarter last week – because the team’s first-year coach believes Hasselbeck gives the team its best chance to win.
“Matt had a very good week,” Carroll said on Friday. “He came out with his attitude just right, just like a pro. He put stuff behind him and was very focused, upbeat and very much looking forward to having a good game and doing the things that we want him to do. So he was great all week long.”
Now, Hasselbeck needs to be good – if not great – today.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris has put this game, and the rest of the season, on his offense because the defense has lost six starters to injury or suspension.
“He said in the meeting the other day, ‘We always put it on our defense. It’s our offense’s time. You’ve got to go out and win us a game. Go out and win us a game,’ ” rookie receiver Mike Williams told reporters in Tampa this week. “He said it in the team meeting, and that’s what we’ve got to do. He put it on us.”
The Bucs’ “Big Three” could make some history if they’re able to carry out their coach’s marching orders.
Williams leads all rookies in receptions (58), receiving yards (880) and TD catches (eight). Former Oregon back LeGarrette Blount leads all rookies in rushing yards (777) and touchdowns (six). The last time two rookies from the same team accomplished that in the same season was 1968 – Paul Robinson and Bob Trumpy for the Cincinnati Bengals of the old AFL.
Josh Freeman has passed for 2,959 yards, and could become only the fourth Bucs QB to reach 3,500 in a season.
To keep his injury-ravaged defense off the field, Morris could rely on running the ball with Blount. But the Seahawks also have been susceptible to the pass – allowing a league-high 54 pass plays of 20-plus yards. So Freeman-to-Williams also will be tempting for offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
The team that can shutout the implications of this game and just play their game will have the inside track on winning this game.
We’ll be back with the inactives for both teams …