SEATTLE | Laugh all you want, the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks are going to the playoffs as champions of the NFC West.
The Seahawks are the first sub-.500 division champs, taking the division with a 16-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday night. Their reward: a home game on Saturday with the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. New Orleans beat the Seahawks 34-19 in Week 11.
Making his second career start, backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw a 4-yard TD pass on Seattle's first possession, Olindo Mare kicked three second-half field goals.
It makes for great jokes from critics, and the situation in the NFC Worst, er, West this season has reignited the debate whether division champs should automatically be granted home playoff games. The New York Giants and Tampa Bay have better records at 10-6, but it's Seattle that's playoff bound.
The Seahawks aren't apologizing. In his first season as their coach, Pete Carroll was fist-pumping and clapping his way up and down the Seattle sideline in the closing minutes as the Seahawks celebrated their first division title since capping a four-year run of dominance of the division in 2007.
St. Louis (7-9) was kept out of the end zone for the second time this season and rookie Sam Bradford couldn't complete the Rams' turnaround from winning just one game a year ago. Bradford finished 19 of 36 for 155 yards, and threw a costly interception midway through the fourth quarter.