Seattle’s longest road trip of the regular season and first game in Baltimore in a dozen years will be particularly unique for Tye Smith.
The Seahawks’ rookie cornerback attended Towson University, about eight miles north of downtown Baltimore.
“Sometimes we had Ravens players come to our games,” Smith said. “And we went to their games, too.”
On Sunday, Smith could get a different look at the Ravens (4-8) when the Seahawks (7-5) visit M&T Bank Stadium.
However, his view could come from the bench.
Smith was a star at Towson, leading the Tigers with eight pass break-ups as a senior, grabbing five interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, and being selected an Associated Press Football Championship Subdivision All-American. Seattle selected him in the fifth round of May’s draft a day before his 22nd birthday as the 170th pick overall.
But so far, he has appeared in two games on special teams, showing up statistically with one assisted tackle. He’s been on the 53-man roster all season — the Seahawks don’t want to risk losing him to waivers by putting him on the practice squad — but he’s been inactive for eight of the 12 game days. That’s even as Seattle has started three different right cornerbacks as free-agent signee Cary Williams, a former Raven, struggled through 10 starts before getting cut this week.
Smith sees his rookie season is one of development, even without much game experience.
“I’m learning the game, what the NFL consists of,” he said. “I’m also getting time without playing to develop the technique aspect of what they want me to do.
“When that time comes, I’ll be ready.”
PLAYOFF RACE MATH
Arizona’s 23-20 win over Minnesota Thursday night dropped the Vikings to 8-5 and clinched a playoff spot for the NFC West-leading Cardinals.
A win Sunday would give the Seahawks the same record as Minnesota, but Seattle would hold the fifth of six playoff spots because of its win over the Vikings last week.
The No. 5 seed, the first wild card, begins the postseason at the fourth seed Jan. 9 or 10. The four seed is the division champion with the worst record, which will apparently be in the NFC East. No team in that division has a record better than 5-7.
As for the NFC West, it’s all but over. It essentially was when Arizona won in Seattle Nov. 15. The Cardinals have a three-game lead over the Seahawks, plus a win in hand over Seattle, with three weekends left after this one in the regular season. The only way Seattle can have its regular-season finale at Arizona Jan. 3 mean anything toward the division title is if Arizona (11-2) loses both at Philadelphia and to Green Bay at home in their next two games — while the Seahawks beat Baltimore, then Cleveland and St. Louis at home to be 10-5 entering Jan. 3.
JIMMY CLAUSEN AGAIN?
Regular starter Joe Flacco is out for the season and had knee surgery Tuesday. His backup in Baltimore, Matt Schaub, missed his second consecutive practice Thursday with a sore chest after getting beaten up last weekend in a 15-13 loss at Miami, when he threw two interceptions.
That means — ta-da! — Jimmy Clausen.
Clausen practiced Thursday. Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman acknowledged to Baltimore media Clausen is “getting all the reps.” That increases the likelihood of Clausen making his second start against Seattle this season — with his second team.
Clausen filled in for Jay Cutler when Chicago came to CenturyLink Field on Sept. 27, and it was ugly. Clausen had just 48 net yards passing, spent most of the game conservatively handing off to Matt Forte, and the Seahawks rolled the Bears 26-0.
The Associated Press reported via STATS only six quarterbacks have started for two different teams against the same foe in one NFL season. Kyle Orton was the last to do it, in 2011 for Kansas City then Denver, for two games each against Oakland and Green Bay.
DEs Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, the two most consistently disruptive players on Seattle’s defense this season while playing the overwhelming majority of snaps, rested from an already light practice. … Defensive linemen Jordan Hill (toe) and Demarcus Dobbs (concussion) remained out, diminishing their chances of returning Sunday in Baltimore after missing last week. That means more work for DT A.J. Francis, whom Seattle signed, waived, then re-signed last week for his Seahawks debut at Minnesota.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle