Ending on a High Note

For some reason, Seattle coach Mike Holmgren still regrets resting his players at the end of the 2005 season. Now, however, he's got a similar decision to make.

The NFC West champion Seahawks will get one last tuneup for the playoffs on Sunday when they visit the woeful Atlanta Falcons.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Atlanta -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 38 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on Seattle +3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Seattle (10-5) has already clinched the No. 3 seed in the NFC and will face the No. 6 seed in the first weekend of the playoffs regardless of the outcome of this game. However, Holmgren has not decided whether or not to rest his key players on Sunday or play them in the hopes of keeping them sharp.

"My inclination right now is that we're going to keep playing and hopefully keep our momentum up a little bit," Holmgren said.

In 2005, the Seahawks entered the last week of the season with the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs already locked up. Holmgren rested most of his starters in that game and lost, but Seattle went on to its first Super Bowl.

Still, the coach says he regrets the way he played the meaningless final regular-season game.

"I'm not going to make wholesale changes. I'm not going to do that," he told the Seahawks' official team Web site.

Of course, the Seahawks might not need to be at full strength to compete against the Falcons (3-12), who have lost six straight as they wrap up a dismal season. Atlanta has been without star quarterback Michael Vick, who led the Falcons to playoff wins in 2002 and 2004 but just began serving a 23-month sentence in federal prison.

Making matters worse, coach Bobby Petrino quit to take a college job at Arkansas with three games left. And the Falcons are ending the season at home, where they are 2-10 over the last three years in November and December.

The only good news might be that the Falcons, who have dropped six straight, can wrap up the second overall pick in the NFL draft if they lose and St. Louis and the New York Jets both win.

"I tell them don't worry about anything you can't control," interim coach Emmitt Thomas said. "We have a good owner that's going to take care of them, so just prepare and play football."

The Seahawks, meanwhile, have won six of their last seven. They beat Baltimore 27-6 on Sunday, bouncing back from an upset loss at Carolina a week earlier.

Seattle has relied primarily on its passing game and Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who had two touchdown passes against the Ravens to give him a career-high 27 this season. Hasselbeck, who also threw two interceptions, is just 22 passing yards shy of the Seattle record of 3,841 he set in 2003.

Bobby Engram had five catches for 69 yards to break Darrell Jackson's team record of 87 receptions from 2004. Engram has a career-high 90 receptions.

However, the Seahawks also picked up a season-high 144 rushing yards. Running back Shaun Alexander, the 2005 league MVP, had his best game since Week 4, running for 73 yards and making his first touchdown reception of the season.

Alexander, who has been slowed this season by a knee injury and is still playing with a cast on a left wrist he broke in Week 1, had averaged just 42 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry in his previous eight games.

"You're probably kidding yourself if you think you can win in the playoffs - especially on the road, which we will have to do - if you don't run the ball," said Alexander, who is one rushing touchdown shy of becoming the eighth player in NFL history with 100.

Seattle's defense has also been strong this season, and can set a team record for fewest points allowed in a full season by holding Atlanta to 13 or fewer points. Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney, who played the first eight seasons of his career with the Falcons from 1999-2006, leads the league with a career-high 14.5 sacks.

The Falcons are coming off Sunday's 30-27 overtime loss at Arizona. Quarterback Chris Redman, starting for the third straight week, rallied the Falcons from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to take a three-point lead with 1:38 left in regulation. However, Arizona's Neil Rackers tied the game on a field goal as regulation ended and won it on a kick on the first possession of overtime.

"I just wanted to break down and cry, because we can't get any breaks," said Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White, who caught 12 passes for 141 yards. "We never get any beaks. Somebody up there doesn't want us to win any football games."

Redman was 28-of-42 for a career-high 315 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The Falcons, who rank ahead of only San Francisco with 14.3 points per game, posted a season high for points.

Atlanta had been outscored 71-17 in its previous two games, and lost its previous five by an average of nearly 22 points.

"Despite what people say, we haven't given up all year long," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "Guys continue to fight. It's just hard for me to explain this season for one, and today for two. It's just not meant to be."

Atlanta has dropped four straight against the Seahawks since a 24-17 road win on Nov. 30, 1997.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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