The most pertinent words for the Seahawks’ weekend off?
NFC West-champion Seattle (9-4-1) moved back into the No. 2 position in the NFC on Sunday -- without doing anything. That’s because the New York Giants beat North division-leading Detroit (9-5), pushing the Lions down below the Seahawks to tied for third in the conference.
If the Seahawks win their final two regular-season games, they will be the NFC’s No. 2 seed. They had fallen out of that spot with the previous week’s loss at Green Bay.
The top two seeds in the conference get byes past the first round of the playoffs that begin January 7 and 8. They also get home games in the second round January 14 and 15.
How important is the No. 2 seed for Seattle? The third seed must play on the opening week of the playoffs against a wild-card team, at home, then if victorious would play at the second seed in round two.
And the Seahawks are a different team at CenturyLink Field, where they host Arizona on Saturday, versus the road this season.
They are 7-0 and averaging 28 points per game at home following Thursday night’s 24-3 rout of Los Angeles. They are 2-4-1 averaging 14.6 points per game away from Seattle.
The three games the Seahawks have failed to score a touchdown this season have all been – you guessed it -- on the road.
Dallas (11-2 entering Sunday night’s home game against Tampa Bay) is cruising toward the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
The Seahawks making a move important to their goal of returning to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years without doing anything on Sunday is par for their weird course this season. They became the first NFL team to clinch a division title and won the West for the third time in four season despite not scoring a touchdown in three games.
They are back in the playoffs a week after face-planting at Green Bay in a 38-10 loss. That was Seattle’s largest margin of defeat in six years and ended an NFL-record streak of 95 games of not losing by more than 10 points.
"It has been strange," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It’s been different than any of the other years that we’ve had.
"Other teams in the division have struggled and so it made it available to us, in the sense that even with the play that we’re not as happy about. … Think about how many games have been so close, and stuff like that -- save the Packer thing."
Yes, the Seahawks are thankful to be back in the postseason, after how up and down their season has been.
"There’s people who have never been to the playoffs," quarterback Russell Wilson said, "and you’ve got to be grateful for that."
Grateful, yes, that the Cardinals began the season 1-3 to yield early in the defense of their division championship. They never recovered. The 49ers joinied the Browns as the league’s worst teams. The Rams have lost nine of their last 10 games while firing coach Jeff Fisher, the Seahawks had an early and clear path to the West title.
That was even with Wilson’s 2½ months of injuries, Seattle’s offensive-line issues that still aren’t settled – Bradley Sowell and Garry Gilliam are still battling to start at right tackle – and the season-ending broken shin All-Pro safety Earl Thomas go this month.
"We’ve just been out in front the whole time. We knew that and we’re working with that," Carroll said. "The good part about it is that here we have a couple more games left and we can continue to work at it and see if we can really develop some momentum and some better play. And you already know that you’re going (to the playoffs).
"I’m anxious to see how we do that. Do you get a little complacent or something because you won? That’s something that is the challenge that I like taking on, and I like to see if our guys can handle it."
The Seahawks host a reeling Arizona (5-8-1) team with little left to play for on Christmas Eve; the Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention when they lost Sunday at home 48-41 to New Orleans. Seattle finishes the regular season at miserable San Francisco (1-13) New Year’s Day.
Seattle leads Detroit and NFC South-leading Atlanta by a half game for that second seed. The Falcons are also 9-5 after drilling the 49ers on Sunday.
"It’s really important that we continue to push to get better," Carroll said, "and we’ll find out how we do that when we play the Cardinals a week from now."