Tim Booth / Associated Press
RENTON, Wash. — Go ahead, knock them all you want. Plead and wish that the system was different and better teams would be rewarded for posting a winning record.
It's not going to change the fact the Seattle Seahawks are in the playoffs and have a home game.
Is a 7-9 team worthy of the reward? Probably not.
But now the Seahawks get a chance to prove they belong against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on Saturday in the first-round of the playoffs.
"We battled like crazy for this as did the other teams in our division as did the teams in other divisions so we're the last guys standing here," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday. "We're proud of that and we're going to go represent and hopefully do something really special with our opportunity and see how far we can go."
It's a point of contention for many that the Seahawks find themselves in this position: champions of the weakest division in football and the first division champion in league history with a sub-.500 record. While Seattle preps to host the Saints in Seattle's first home playoff game since Jan. 5, 2008, against Washington, the 10-win New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent Monday cleaning out their lockers and talking about next season.
Fair or not, go looking elsewhere for apologies. These Seahawks realize their fortune, especially after finishing 3-7 in their final 10 games, but they aren't trying to placate the critical masses.
"If you win your division, I think you deserve to go, despite what your record is," New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter said. "That's an NFL first, a team with a losing record to win their division and host a playoff game, but I mean, they achieved their goal and that was to win their division. They did that and I think they should be rewarded."
While the debate rages about the Seahawks' playoff merits, the biggest question for Seattle remains who will be its quarterback.
Carroll remained noncommittal on Monday, saying that Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst will split reps early in the week before a decision is made on the starter. Carroll said Hasselbeck, who didn't play Sunday night against St. Louis with a hip strain, will be full go in practice on Tuesday. The way Hasselbeck responds in practice will ultimately determine who Seattle goes with.
Hasselbeck has the experience with nine playoff starts in his career and he threw for 366 yards earlier this season against the Saints, the fourth-highest total of his career. Whitehurst has just two career starts period, but at least showed on Sunday night he was capable of not making the critical mistakes Seattle couldn't afford. Whitehurst threw for 192 yards and the only touchdown in Seattle's 16-6 win, while running for another 30 yards on eight carries.
"We'll just find out where we are and figure it out as we go through the week," Carroll said.
Statistically, the Seahawks have no right being in the postseason. They finished the regular season ranked 27th in total defense, 28th in total offense and barely avoided being the worst running team in franchise history, let alone 31st in the entire league. Seattle failed to have a running back top 100 yards, the closest being Marshawn Lynch's 89 yards rushing in Week 7 against Arizona.
They were outscored by 97 points for the season, a negative margin only topped by Arizona, Carolina, Denver and Buffalo — a quartet that combined for just 15 wins. And there's Seattle's lack of competitiveness, having lost all nine games by at least 15 points.
The victory over the Rams and playoff berth also came with one setback: Seattle went from having a possible top 10 draft pick in April to now picking no better than 21st. For a team with plenty of holes to fill in the future, it's a staggering drop.
But those are issues to deal with in the future. For now, Seattle's hoping that its dubious notoriety can continue beyond just one week of the postseason.
"I remind the guys who've been here for a few years now that we've captured this moment before — this is nothing new to us," Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux said. "For the younger guys I just had to reiterate the fact that these are rare moments, so you have to grab these and hold on to them because we've seen guys play great careers, but never have an opportunity to get in the tournament. And now it doesn't matter — records mean nothing. It's the best team that day."
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.