Like it or not, Seahawks are in the playoffs (and home vs. Saints)

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.

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Is a 7-9 team worthy of the reward? Probably not.

But now the Seahawks have a chance to show they belong against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints when the NFL playoffs open Saturday afternoon at Qwest Field.

"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," Seahawks 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 the NFL and the first division winner in league history with a sub-.500 record. While Seattle prepped for its game against New Orleans -- the Seahawks' first home playoff game since Jan. 5, 2008 -- 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 going 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," Saints 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."

Although the debate rages about the Seahawks' playoff merits, the biggest question remains who will be their quarterback.

Carroll remained noncommittal Monday, saying Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst will split reps early in the week before a decision is made. Carroll said Hasselbeck, who didn't play Sunday night against the St. Louis Rams because of a hip strain, will be full go in practice Tuesday. The way Hasselbeck responds in practice ultimately will determine who Seattle starts.

Hasselbeck has the experience, with nine playoff starts in his 12-year NFL career, and earlier this season against the Saints, he threw for 366 yards, the fourth-highest total of his career. Whitehurst has just two career starts, but he showed Sunday night he was capable of not making critical mistakes that Seattle couldn't afford. Whitehurst threw for 192 yards and the only touchdown in the Seahawks' 16-6 win, and he ran 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 lag far behind their fellow playoff teams. They finished the regular season ranked 27th in total defense and 28th in total offense, and they barely avoided being the worst running team in franchise history while finishing 31st in the league. Seattle failed to have a running back top 100 yards; the closest: Marshawn Lynch's 89 in Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Seahawks were outscored by 97 points for the season, a negative margin better only than those posted by the Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills -- a quartet that combined for 15 wins. All nine Seattle losses were by at least 15 points.

The victory over the Rams and playoff berth also came with one setback: The Seahawks went from a possible top-10 draft pick in April to selecting 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 later. For now, Seattle hopes its dubious notoriety can continue beyond only 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 onto 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."

Notes:Seahawks G Chester Pitts (concussion) and TE Chris Baker (hip fracture) will miss Saturday's game. ... WR Brandon Stokley (head) is questionable after he was inactive for Sunday's victory over the Rams.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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