Preview

Seahawks vs 49ers

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."

Mark Sandritter

The Seahawks will win because

I believe that the combination of the Seahawks’ ever-improving pass defense, stout run defense and strong pass rush will stifle the Niners’ offense, take Colin Kaepernick out of the comfort zone he’s been in recently, and will allow Seattle to win a defensive knock-down, drag-out battle. Over the past four meetings, the two teams are split evenly with two wins apiece, but Seattle has outscored San Francisco 71-16 at the CLink, and while the Niners are undoubtedly hot right now, the Seahawks have that important home-field advantage. The Hawks will continue to rely on their ground game to move the chains and control the football -- they’ve rushed for an average of 142.5 yards per game over the last four meetings (averaging 174 per game in the last two at the CLink), and try to protect the football and play the field-position game. I think this game will be very close and likely will come down to who plays the best in the fourth quarter, but I think Seattle’s defense and run game, led by Marshawn Lynch, will help earn the Seahawks the win.

The 49ers will win because

This team is on a roll, and the 49ers are as healthy as they have been in some time. In its two losses in Seattle the last two years, San Francisco has lost by a combined score of 71-16. However, in the first loss the 49ers were without Justin Smith, and in the second loss they were without Michael Crabtree. This time around, they have both key players, and much of the rest of the roster is in good shape. This game might as well be a toss-up as both teams bring strong defenses, mobile quarterbacks and quality run games. The 49ers have the edge in front seven talent, and Colin Kaepernick has more weapons at his disposal. This is arguably the deepest roster of the Jim Harbaugh era, and it will be enough to get the narrow victory.

Number of interest

22

That’s Frank Gore’s average total yardage for the last two games at CenturyLink Field. Stopping Gore will be of paramount importance for the Seahawks. You only need to look at the last game between these two teams for the prime example: With the Seahawks holding on to a slim 17-16 lead late in the fourth quarter of Week 14’s matchup at Candlestick Park, Frank Gore had a huge 51-yard run that put the Niners in field goal range. After they ran power with Colin Kaepernick to secure another first down and drain the clock to 31 seconds, San Francisco was able to kick the eventual game-winning field goal. Bottling up Frank Gore will be Seattle’s primary goal; if the Niners have to go to the pass game, that’s playing into the Seahawks’ strength in their secondary and pass rush. Stop Gore, and Seattle gives itself a good chance to win.

Picks

  • Stephen White
  • Matt Ufford
  • Joel Thorman
  • David Fucillo
  • Jason Chilton
  • Ryan Van Bibber