Many felt the Seattle Seahawks were going to be a better team this year, but few expected them to be where they're at right now. They appear to have one of the NFC's Wild Card spots in the bag, but can also take the NFC West from the San Francisco 49ers if they win out.
That all starts on Sunday, when Pete Carroll's team will play host to Jim Harbaugh's. Seattle is undefeated at home this season, with a perfect 6-0 mark, and the 49ers can seal the NFC West by being the first team to walk away from there with a victory.
After starting the season with hope resting on its defense, the Seahawks now enter this contest as the "high-scoring offense" that will be taking on San Francisco's top-ranked scoring defense. The game was flexed to Sunday Night Football for the week, showing you just how far the NFC West has come in the last few seasons.
Meet the Seahawks
Seattle just got through with putting 50 points on the Buffalo Bills in Toronto, and quarterback Russell Wilson is riding a huge wave of hype. Since the last time Wilson played the 49ers (when he posted a season-low 38.7 quarterback rating), he's thrown 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions, good for a 111.3 passer rating.
During that stretch, the Seahawks are averaging 33.4 points, which mostly falls on Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch, who is sniffing the 1,500-yard mark with just 121 needed. As noted, the Seahawks are likely to secure the top wildcard spot in the NFC West, but can take the division if they beat San Francisco here and win their next game as well.
Meet the 49ers
Though they can clinch the division on Sunday night, the 49ers have their sights set on a bigger goal: winning out and securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC. With that No. 2 seed would be a first-round bye, and they just barely have a leg up on the Green Bay Packers. They hold that advantage thanks to a 10-3-1 record, while the Packers are at 10-4, so the tie is what helped them.
Colin Kaepernick, who took over for Alex Smith after the quarterback went down with a concussion earlier in the season, threw four touchdowns against the New England Patriots on Sunday, en route to a 41-34 San Francisco victory. Smith wasn't playing poorly, and is actually healthy at this point, but the 49ers went with Kaepernick. For now, it's paying off.
Local Takes: Seahawks
Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls takes a look at the matchup and the potential rivalry implications.
If the 49ers make a statement in Seattle, get ready for a loooonnnnggg offseason, barring a win over San Fran in the playoffs. If the Seahawks beat the Niners in front of millions of people, the rivalry is real. The first in the 11-year history of this version of the NFC West.
Local Takes: 49ers
Dylan DeSimone of Niners Nation takes a look at how the 49ers have been perfect on primetime this season:
After last week's big win over the Patriots, San Francisco clinched a playoff spot for a second consecutive year. If the Niners pull out a win against the Seahawks in Week 16, they will become the third team in NFL history to go 6-0 on primetime in a single-season, while winning the division title and nearing another first-round bye.
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It's tough to decide who's going to win this one, given Seattle's home-field advantage. San Francisco made Russell Wilson look bad in the first matchup, but that was a long time ago. As you'll see from the odds below, not many can decide on how this one is going to go. That being said, of the two teams, the one most likely to hit the proverbial wall is the Seahawks, so let's go with a 49ers victory in this one.
The pick: 49ers win, 20-13
The game is at even money on most books, but you can find the Seahawks actually favored by a point or more, according to OddsShark