Capsule Preview | Chargers at Seahawks, 1 p.m., TV: Ch. 7
Seahawks: The Seahawks failed to secure the NFC West title and dropped almost completely out of the race to be the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a disappointing 24-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 14. The game saw the Seahawks' defense dominate for three quarters while the offense struggled, only to have the 49ers seize momentum to start the fourth quarter with a 54-yard completion that set up their go-ahead touchdown. The 49ers scored on their next two possessions and gave up a useless touchdown pass to Seahawks TE Jerramy Stevens to complete the scoring.
Chargers: San Diego won its eighth straight game with a 20-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at home and kept a hold on the best record in the AFC at 12-2. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, almost a lock for NFL MVP, continued his dominance in with 199 rushing yards. Tomlinson scored two touchdowns to increase his season NFL record to 31. Meanwhile, the Chargers' defense sacked Chiefs quarterback Trent Green six times and held Kansas City to 241 total yards.
Seahawks: Seattle has won the past five regular-season meetings with San Diego, most recently a 31-28 win in 2002. ... The Seahawks came back from a 28-14 deficit late in the fourth quarter that day. ... Coach Mike Holmgren is 7-2 against the Chargers. ... QB Matt Hasselbeck has won four in a row against the AFC and completed 70.8 percent of his passes in those games. ... RB Shaun Alexander is averaging 108.4 yards per game with eight touchdowns in his past four games against AFC opponents. ... The Seahawks are minus-7 in turnover differential. ... The Seahawks lead the all-time series with San Diego 25-22.
Chargers: Coach Marty Schottenheimer is 17-7 in his career against the Seahawks. ... The Chargers' 100 sacks since the start of the 2005 season are the most in the NFL. ... QB Philip Rivers needs 24 passing yards to reach 3,000 this season. ... Rivers has 12 touchdowns and four interceptions in the past seven games on the road with a 99.8 passer rating. ... Rivers is the NFL's top-rated fourth-quarter QB with six touchdowns and one interception. ... Tomlinson needs 58 rushing yards to break his franchise season record of 1,683 in 2002.
Seahawks: C Robbie Tobeck (hip) is out. WR Darrell Jackson (toe) is doubtful. DT Rocky Bernard (right foot), DE Robert Pollard (knee) and LG Floyd Womack (groin) are questionable.
Chargers: DE Luis Castillo (ankle) is out. LB Randall Godfrey (hamstring), LB Marques Harris ([hamstring), G Scott Mruczkowksi (knee) and WR Eric Parker (neck) are questionable. S Bhawoh Jue (knee), LB Shawne Merriman (shoulder), CB Drayton Florence (illness), WR Kassim Osgood (illness), LB Carlos Polk (illness) and DE Derreck Robinson (foot) are probable.
Can the Seahawks stop The Great LT? If they tackle the way they have in recent weeks, forget about it. If quality backs like Edgerrin James and Frank Gore can go for over 100 yards on Seattle, Tomlinson might be good for 200. And the Seahawks must also account for the Chargers' other offensive weapons, namely tight end Antonio Gates and backup running back Michael Turner. The best way to stop Tomlinson is to keep him from bouncing to the outside.
If Seattle loses, will the tailspin continue? A loss doesn't destroy the Seahawks' playoff chances; they would still control of their destiny even if the 49ers win today. But it'll be tough to regain confidence after a third straight loss, and to top it off, the season finale is a road game three time zones away. Tampa Bay is no powerhouse at 3-11 with a new starting quarterback this week, their third of the season. It should be noted the last time Seattle lost three games in a row was in 2004 (Oct. 10-24) and they still won the NFC West with a 9-7 mark.
How do the Seahawks contend with Shawne Merriman? They have to turn the Lights Out. That's Merriman's nickname. Merriman is the new Lawrence Taylor and can take over a game. When Merriman is used as a rush end, Seahawks Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones draws the blocking assignment. It should be a good one to watch, and the Seahawks must know where Merriman is at all times.
What do the Chargers have to play for? They are still playing for a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This is not the week they rest their stars. San Diego has also never won more than 12 games in a season.
Where can the Seahawks gain an advantage? Through the air. The Chargers' secondary has been suspect in pass coverage. But Hasselbeck will need the time to throw, and the Chargers are the sack leaders in the NFL with 54.
José Miguel Romero
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