Hawks try to take the road less traveled

logo-playoffs“There’s a real confidence about us. We don’t care where we are playing.’’ — Pete Carroll, on his 8-1 road Seahawks.

A wild-card team has never hosted a conference championship game, but the Seahawks have a chance thanks to the Vikings’ upset of the Saints in New Orleans on wild-card weekend.

If Minnesota can win in San Francisco on Saturday, the Hawks will be playing for a home game next week. If the 49ers win, though, Seattle will then try to join the three teams that have won three straight road games on the way to winning the Super Bowl.

It all starts with exorcising a couple of curses in Green Bay.

The Seahawks have not fared well in Green Bay — having lost eight straight overall and three during the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson era. And they have not been successful at all in road games in the divisional round, going 0-4 under Carroll and 1-8 as a franchise (the only win in 1983 in Miami).

But maybe they can channel that 1983 team, which won nine games with a mere plus-6 point differential and still managed to shock everyone by reaching the AFC title game. That team was just 4-4 on the road ahead of that Miami game; these Hawks, who won 11 games with a very similar plus-7 scoring margin, are 8-1 away from Seattle.

The eight road wins tie them with 16 other teams for third most since the 1970 merger. They are aiming to match the 2005 Steelers, who won nine road games on the way to Super Bowl XL, where they beat the Seahawks.

Those Steelers were considered the No. 4 team in the league, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA measure. They beat No. 8 Cincinnati, No. 1 Indianapolis and No. 2 Denver to get to the Super Bowl, where they then beat No. 3 Seattle.

If San Francisco beats Minnesota this Saturday, the Hawks would have to win a 10th road game to get to the Super Bowl — which would tie the NFL record set by the 2007 Giants, who upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

As lucky as people say these Seahawks have been, those Giants were luckier. They were No. 14 in DVOA and yet managed to get by No. 8 Tampa Bay, No. 4 Dallas and No. 5 Green Bay (in overtime) before knocking off the erstwhile undefeated Patriots.

These Hawks are ranked eighth in DVOA, ahead of Green Bay (10) but behind San Francisco (5) and Minnesota (7). Philadelphia was 11th. So, by DVOA, the Hawks look to have an easier path than did both Pittsburgh and New York.

The Packers also know what it is like to take the road less traveled. In 2010, they won three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl, where they knocked off Pittsburgh. Like the 2005 Steelers, those Packers were ranked fourth in DVOA; they beat No. 3 Philadelphia, No. 7 Atlanta and No. 14 Chicago.

If the 49ers win Saturday, the Seahawks will be trying to do what those 2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants and 2010 Packers did. Seattle’s injury issues aside, it certainly looks possible.

Lambeau Field has been known as a great home-field edge for the Packers, but Aaron Rodgers and Co. are actually just 3-2 there in the playoffs, 1-1 in divisional games. So it’s no slam dunk that they will beat the Hawks.

A win might send Seattle to San Francisco for a rematch of the 2013 NFC title game — and boy would the Richard Sherman stories fly. The Hawks know how to win by the Bay, having beaten the 49ers five of the last six trips — including an overtime win this season.

But maybe the Hawks don’t have to win three road games. If Minnesota could pull off another playoff upset, the Hawks could become the first fifth seed to host the NFC Championship Game. Everyone has called them lucky all season, so why not continue the streak?

To have a shot, they will have to end a couple of Crazy 8 runs — the eight losses at Green Bay and the eight losses in road divisional playoffs.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to show that we know how to travel again,” Carroll said this week. “The fact that we have been successful doing it is important to us, knowing that this is as difficult of a venue (as) you can play in. They’re great at home this time of year. It makes it really a fantastic challenge for us. The Packers will be ready. We know that. We’ve got to get ourselves ready to play football on the road and do a good job again.”


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