Many believe the NFC West will be the toughest division in the NFL this season. Last year, both the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks made it to the playoffs, while the St. Louis Rams were a tough out for anybody in the league. This year, the two teams have been called two of the best in the league.
On Sunday, the division rivalry will heat up when the 49ers hit the road to take on the Seattle Seahawks in their stadium. It's a pivotal matchup, and is essentially as important a Week 2 matchup as one can get. Their destinies are still in each team's own hands this season, even after a game like this, but it's an important moment for the division and momentum in general.
The 49ers and Seahawks are developing quite a rivalry. If folks thought 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was vocal in the media this week, they should listen to him with a Pete Carroll matchup right around the corner. Let's take a look at the two teams below:
Meet the Seahawks
Seattle won a close game on the road in Week 1, besting the Carolina Panthers, 12-7. The Seahawks managed two field goals and trailed, 7-6, but Russell Wilson finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter, hitting Jermaine Kearse on a 43-yard touchdown pass as Carolina's defense broke down.
Wilson ended up having a pretty good game in the end, completing 25 of 33 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown. Marshawn Lynch had just 43 yards on 17 carries, so the offense was definitely carried by Wilson. It's fitting, given that Wilson has been the main reason for Seattle's turnaround.
Before, the Seahawks had an elite defense that was held down by no offense, and now they have what might be the best defense and a very promising quarterback, who will be looking to take advantage of a suspect secondary belonging to the 49ers in Week 2.
Meet the 49ers
The 49ers faced the tougher team in Week 1, but they did have them at home: the Green Bay Packers. San Francisco led the game for much of it, but the Packers ended up taking the lead in the fourth quarter after an Eddie Lacy touchdown run. Fortunately, quarterback Colin Kaepernick orchestrated two scoring drives after that, leading to the San Francisco win.
Like the Seahawks, the 49ers have a defense with a legitimate claim to the title of "best in the NFL." Also like the Seahawks, the 49ers have a young quarterback who could end up being one of the best in the league. Said quarterback threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1.
Everyone has been worried that Kaepernick won't have anyone to throw to with Michael Crabtree injured, but Kaepernick found veteran Anquan Boldin a whopping 13 times for 208 yards and a touchdown. He also connected with tight end Vernon Davis six times for 98 yards and two touchdowns. San Francisco should have a tougher time against the likes of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, however.
Local Takes: Seahawks
Aaron Sims of Field Gulls notes how the Seahawks didn't go to the read option a lot in Week 1:
With the read-option only accounting for 8% of the offensive plays against the Panthers, it is no wonder why Russell Wilson gave a baseball analogy when explaining how much of a role the read-option plays in the Seahawks' offense. Wilson recently referred to the read-option as his "third pitch" with his "first pitch" being Marshawn Lynch and his "second pitch" being play-action.
Local Takes: 49ers
David Fucillo of Niners Nation believes the 49ers will struggle with the crowd noise in Seattle:
The 49ers will need to figure out their play-calling and execution of the snap this week. We saw the team struggle at times in Week 1, and that was at home. The Seattle crowd will only make that more difficult. The team will need to figure out ways to get the play in quickly, have some kind of system in place if Kap is having any struggles hearing the calls, and of course, figure out how the 11 players of the offense will communicate effectively in the huddle.
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The Pete Carroll Show Week 1: Seahawks' coach talks about win at Carolina http://t.co/6iKjbc3pNn— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) September 9, 2013
These two teams are about the same in talent level according to most experts, and the Seahawks opened as 3-point favorites due to their home-field advantage. Throughout the week, the line has shifted slightly, narrowing to 2.5 points on some books, according to OddsShark.