KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -The Seattle Seahawks' latest streak feels a lot like the one the 2005 team went on en route to the Super Bowl.
Just don't ask coach Mike Holmgren about any similarities.
``I really don't want to compare the teams,'' he said Monday.
He has reasons for his reluctance.
Sure, Seattle (9-4) has won five consecutive games to clinch its fourth consecutive NFC West title, the latest Sunday's 42-21 domination of Arizona.
But this season has gotten comfortable only in the last month, after Holmgren declared he was going to depend more on Matt Hasselbeck's passing. Before that, the Seahawks endured three months of injuries and maddening inconsistency, primarily on an offense that was relying on a running game which was plodding to nowhere.
``In 2005, things were coming a lot easier,'' Hasselbeck said.
Yes, at this point two years ago, Seattle was finishing a franchise-record 11-game winning streak. It was equally lethal with Shaun Alexander's MVP running and Hasselbeck's throwing. And it was about to secure the NFC's No. 1 seed for the postseason. Seattle used the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs to win the conference championship.
This season's Seahawks better hope three is their magic number. Even though Holmgren said he will begin preparations for Sunday's game at Carolina (5-8) by emphasizing to his players the need to stay focused through the end of the regular season, Seattle appears locked into the conference's third seed.
``We have three games left really to try to achieve better positioning,'' Holmgren said. ``I will absolutely talk to them about that.''
The Seahawks are two games behind Green Bay for the second seed and three games behind dominant Dallas for the top position. The Packers don't appear ripe for a swoon, not while playing at St. Louis (3-10) and Chicago (5-8) and hosting Detroit (6-7). And the Cowboys are carrying a seven-game winning streak into final games against Philadelphia (5-8), at the Panthers and at Washington (6-7).
As for the only threat behind them, Seattle is essentially two games ahead of Tampa Bay (8-5), which is on the verge of clinching the NFC South. The Seahawks beat the Buccaneers in Week 1 and would win the tiebreaker with the Bucs for the No. 3 seed.
So Seattle likely will have to play in the first round of the playoffs at home, even if it sweeps the Panthers, Baltimore (4-9) and Atlanta down the stretch. Then potentially the Seahawks would have to go to Green Bay or, less likely, Dallas in the second round.
Then again, it's not that No. 3 is so bad. The Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl last January as a third seed.
``We have to put everything together, but we're on a roll right now,'' said cornerback Marcus Trufant, who had three interceptions of Kurt Warner on Sunday.
Trufant has seven picks this season - two fewer than he had in his first four seasons combined. Trufant's Pro Bowl-caliber play has complemented a recently ferocious pass rush, led by Patrick Kerney. Kerney leads the NFL with 13 1/2 sacks, after his third three-sack day in four games Sunday.
So three is his magic number, at least.
``Hopefully, our whole defense is proud of that number,'' Kerney said of his sack total, deflecting praise as usual.
No matter what might or might not be at stake in these final games, Holmgren said he will not rest his starters - not even in practice - unless it's because of an injury. And the Seahawks are perhaps healthier than can be expected for this late in the season.
Holmgren said receiver D.J. Hackett may return from a sprained ankle sooner than anticipated, but perhaps not this weekend.
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