SEATTLE (AP) – Shaun Alexander was enjoying the ultimate NFL player vacation, the minimal-work Pro Bowl week in Hawaii, when a hotel waiter almost giddily approached.

“Congratulations on making it to the Pro Bowl,” the waiter said, as if it was Alexander’s first time there.

“Oh, thanks,” Alexander said.

He thought the greeting was odd because he was in the same hotel before the Pro Bowl 12 months earlier.

“So how is it living in New York?” the waiter continued.

That’s when Alexander realized his shaved head, easy demeanor and almost constant smile had yet another person confusing him with New York Giants runner Tiki Barber – who was across room enjoying his first Pro Bowl.

“I’m not Tiki Barber. He’s in the other line,” Alexander said.

“Oh, so you’re (Tiki’s twin brother) Ronde. Congratulations again,” the waiter said.

“I feel like I’m part of the family,” Alexander said this week. “But my wife said I am better looking.”

Today, the bullish Alexander and his NFL-leading 1,229 yards rushing will oppose the sleek Barber – that would be Tiki – and his fourth-best 967 yards in a marquee showdown of the NFC division-leading Seahawks (8-2) and Giants (7-3).

Seattle, 5-0 at home, has won six straight and leads the NFC West by four games with six to go. The Seahawks can clinch the title with a win and a Houston upset of the reeling Rams. That would make Seattle the fourth team since the 16-game schedule began in 1978 to clinch a division after 11 games.

“Stop,” coach Mike Holmgren said, almost choking on water mid-swig. “Could we not go there? Gosh, we’ve got a lot football left to play.”

So does New York. The Giants are tied atop the NFC East with Dallas, whom they play after Seattle. The last time they were 7-3, in 2000, they ended up in the Super Bowl.

But they must play four of their final six games away from the Meadowlands. They are 5-1 at home but 2-2 on the road, with one of those “away” games at Giants Stadium against New Orleans.

The Giants see this as a measure of how suited they are for a playoff run.

“We’re playing for something and we’re playing the best right now,” defensive end Michael Strahan said. “That’s a great feeling and that’s a great challenge. … If (today) goes our way, then we have really put ourselves in a good position.”

Alexander and Barber will go a long way to determining how Sunday goes.

“Tiki has great quickness,” Holmgren said. “He’s an excellent pass receiver. I don’t think he’s going to carry the ball, as a rule, as much as Shaun does. He’s not quite as big and (has) his darting style.”

During New York’s win over Philadelphia last Sunday, Barber was helped off the field with an undisclosed injury. He brushed off the hurt after rushing for 112 yards on 21 tries. It was his third 100-yard rushing day this season, extending his franchise record to 25.

Barber is not on the injury report.

The consistent, dependable running of Barber has allowed Eli Manning to resemble the premier NFL passer the Giants sought after Manning told San Diego not to draft him 19 months ago.

“He’s had a huge impact. We are getting in better positions to run the ball and are hitting some play-action passes,” Manning said.

Barber is a major part of that. During the first half of last week’s win, he and Amani Toomer became the first Giants with 500 career receptions.

Tom Coughlin, like all coaches, embraces the run-pass balance that Barber epitomizes. Coughlin said his goal is to have his offense throw 55 percent of its plays and run on 45. This season, Barber’s excellence has pushed the Giants’ ratio to 53-47.

Coughlin added he didn’t rely more on Barber once he gave then-rookie Manning the quarterback job over Kurt Warner before the 10th game of last season. But Barber is running slightly more behind Manning than behind Warner. In nine games with Warner, Barber averaged 18 carries per game. Over 16 games with Manning, Barber is running an average of 21 times.

Alexander, meanwhile, has averaged more than 23 carries per game in that span.

Barber’s on pace to beat his career high of 1,518 yards last season. Alexander is on track to smash by almost 300 yards his career high, a franchise-record 1,696 yards from last season.

The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Alexander is listed as 25 pounds heavier than Barber. Unlike Barber, he often bulls through flailing tacklers, especially near the goal line. He has 19 touchdowns, the most over the first 10 games of a season in NFL history.

“You look on tape and you’re like, “How in the world does he do it?’ ” Strahan said. “But Shaun’s strong and he runs hard, faster than you think, and they have a good line up front. It’s a challenge because they average over 150 yards (rushing) a game.

“So this is going to be very tough for us, but I think guys are up for the challenge.”

But Barber’s challenge Sunday may be more difficult than Alexander’s.

Seattle is the only NFC team yet to allow a 100-yard rusher. On offense, the Seahawks have two Pro Bowlers blocking for Alexander in left tackle Walter Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson.

Barber, meanwhile, will be running behind two injured linemen, or their backups.

Left tackle Luke Petitgout is questionable with what Coughlin called “multiple contusions” on his left knee. The backup is Bob Whitfield. The 14-year veteran has played in only two games this season.

Center Shaun O’Hara is also questionable (sprained right ankle).

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