|NFL Playoff Preview: Dallas at Seattle|
|Written by TheSpread|
|Saturday, 06 January 2007 11:00|
Surprise! Alexander and The Seahawks Aren't The Bettors Pick, Dallas Is
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The Seahawks and Cowboys look to put their recent struggles behind them and open the playoffs with a solid victory when they meet at Qwest Field in an NFC wild-card game on Saturday.
Seattle (9-7) won the NFC West for the third straight season, although it was without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and 2005 NFL MVP Shaun Alexander for much of the season with injuries.
However, even when they did get Hasselbeck and Alexander together in the same backfield, the reigning NFC champs still looked shaky as they finished the season losing three of their final four games.
"Our record isn't what we had hoped, to be honest with you, but there's something about 9-7 being a lot better than 8-8 even though it's just one game," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "The players feel that, and I think the organization does. Now we start our new season."
Dallas' season also ended in disappointment, as it too lost three of four, failing to cash in on an opportunity for a first-round bye. The Cowboys got crushed by NFC South champion New Orleans 42-17 on Dec. 10, and with a chance to still win the NFC East title last Sunday, they lost 39-31 at home to lowly Detroit.
"We haven't been playing well of late, but it's a new season," Terrell Owens said. "We have one game. Once we win that, we can keep going."
Dallas lost to eventual NFC East champion Philadelphia 23-7 on Christmas Day, and Sunday's loss to the Lions gave the team consecutive losses for the first time all season.
The Cowboys defense has given up 132 points in the last four games, the exact amount it gave up over the previous eight games.
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am. I really can't," coach Bill Parcells said after the Week 17 loss. "This is the low point for me in a long time."
While the Dallas defense is struggling, the NFL's No. 6 team in total offense (6,003 yards) and No. 4 team in scoring offense (26.6 points per game) is looking shaky behind Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo.
Romo lost two fumbles, threw an interception and was sacked a season-high four times on Sunday, and has not been able to provide the same spark he brought to the team when he became the starting quarterback in Week 8.
The Cowboys went 4-1 under Romo in his first five starts, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for 1,394 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions for a 115.8 quarterback rating. His last five games have been a letdown, though, as he's completed 60.5 percent for 1,247 yards, six TDs and eight interceptions for a 77.1 QB rating, while leading Dallas to just two wins.
"We are definitely going in backwards from the way we wanted to," Romo said. "We may not scare anyone right now. We win a game or two and that will change.
"This story won't be written about the last two games. It will be written about what happens from here on. We have a chance to do something special."
Julius Jones finished the regular season with 1,084 rushing yards for his first 1,000-yard season, but had only 91 yards and no touchdowns in 33 attempts over his last three games.
Jones had a career day in his only game against the Seahawks, though, rushing for career highs of 198 yards and three TDs in the Cowboys' 43-39 win on Dec. 6, 2004.
Dallas has lost three of four games against Seattle since 2001, including a 13-10 defeat at Qwest Field on Oct. 23 of last season. The teams have never met in the playoffs.
The Cowboys have not won a playoff game since 1996, losing in the wild-card round in their last three trips to the postseason.
Playing away from home may serve as an advantage for Dallas, which finished the regular season winning its final three road games. The team had a better road record (5-3) than home record (4-4) for the first time since 1989, when it was 1-7 and 0-8, respectively.
Seattle, meanwhile, stumbled down the stretch at Qwest Field, losing its last two home games. The Seahawks finished 5-3 at home after going 10-0 - including two playoff victories - at Qwest Field last season.
Seattle avoided ending the season with a fourth straight loss after defeating Tampa Bay 23-7 on Sunday.
The win may prove costly, though, as starting cornerback Kelly Herndon (broken ankle) and backup Jimmy Williams (knee) suffered injuries that will keep them out of the playoffs. Seattle also played without starting cornerback Marcus Trufant (high ankle sprain), and it's unlikely he will be able to return Saturday.
That leaves rookie Kelly Jennings and former safety Jordan Babineaux as the starting corners for a Seattle team which allowed only 903 passing yards in its last five games.
"We're losing guys at the wrong time ... but at the same time, everybody's just got to pick it up a little extra," receiver Deion Branch said.
Offensively, Seattle is back to full strength, but neither Hasselbeck nor Alexander have looked as impressive as they did a year ago.
In five December games, Hasselbeck threw for 1,036 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 56.6 percent of his passes. He matched a career high with 15 interceptions this season despite playing only 12 games after missing time with a sprained knee.
Alexander, who missed six games with a broken foot, is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns and three fumbles. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry with 27 rushing TDs and one fumble a year ago.
"We reached our first goal of making it to the playoffs," Holmgren said, "but we were a little frustrated because at times our play was inconsistent and we all expect more."
By: Michael Cash - theSpread.com - Email Us
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