Here we go again.
The rivalry between Seattle and San Francisco has developed into one of the best in the NFL during the Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh eras. The teams will square off again on Sunday and the stakes have never been higher. One team will move on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, while the other will go home. A bitter pill to swallow, made even worse by the animosity between the teams and fanbases.
To summarize: Carroll doesn't like Harbaugh, Harbaugh doesn't like Carroll, Richard Sherman doesn't like Harbaugh, Anthony Dixon called Seattle the "She-Hawks," while K.J. Wright called San Francisco the "forty whiners." Add in two very talented rosters, likely the two most-physical brands of football in the NFL, and you have the makings of a 12-round prize fight for the NFC.
Although they may have their differences off the field, the 49ers and Seahawks are a lot alike. Both rely on strong rushing attacks and dominant defenses. Seattle led the league in scoring defense with San Francisco was not far behind in third. They finished second and third in rushing attempts, forcing their will on opponents and grinding them down. There won't be any secrets when the teams meet for the third time this season. They know each other very well and the game will likely come down to a battle of the trenches.
Marshawn Lynch carried the load for Seattle against New Orleans, rushing for a team playoff record 140 yards against the Saints. The 49ers have allowed just five 100-yard rushers since the start of the 2010 season. Lynch, accounted for three of those performances. As important as Lynch is for Seattle, Frank Gore is just as and possibly more important for the 49ers. The Seahawks and 49ers split their last four meetings. Gore rushed for 241 yards in the two wins, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. He totaled just 44 rushing yards in the losses, mustering a measly 2.9 YPA.
The NFC West was the best division in the NFL this season and the 49ers and Seahawks were arguably the two best teams in the conference. It only seems fitting they'll play for the NFC Championship and as Seattle's Doug Baldwin said, we "wouldn't want it any other way."