By Jerrell Richardson
Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
This game will be about pride, an emerging rivalry, and the playoffs. Emotions will be running high with both teams looking to gain a win that will mean a lot to their playoff future. Seattle has a lot to prove after a close loss to San Francisco in Week Seven and wants to show that the NFC West is no longer a one-horse race. There is always a little extra motivation when playing a division rival and this one will only be magnified, as Seattle is playing for their playoff lives. The Seahawks have been on a roll, winning 5-of-6 and scoring 108 points in the past two games. The 49ers are playing to secure a first-round bye and want nothing more then to eliminate the Seahawks from playoff contention and show their fellow NFC West foe that San Francisco is still the king of the hill.
When Seattle Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
In their first meeting San Francisco won this battle. Marshawn Lynch did join the short list of backs that have rushed for over 100 yards against the 49ers this year, but he was contained for the most part as he was unable to reach pay dirt. This time around expect the 49ers to focus even more on Lynch and try and prevent him from duplicating his stats from the previous meeting. This will be easier said then done as Lynch is second in the league in rushing yards and will again be the key to the Seattle offense. If the 49ers can neutralize Lynch and put all the pressure on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, they should be able to leave Seattle with a win.
Russell Wilson has gained a lot of attention as of late with his steadily improving play, and he is nothing like the player who only completed nine of his 23 passes in the first game. He has played well in the month of December, but his opponents can’t be ignored as the offensive explosions came against two teams (Bills and Cardinals) that are not exactly known for their defensive prowess. He will answer a lot of questions on Sunday if able to continue his great play against a defense that is coming off a second half against New England that they would like to forget. The 49er defense is athletic enough to contain Wilson and frustrate the rookie, so they will try and force him into a costly mistake. Seattle will score more than the six point they put up in the first meeting, but they will be lucky to break 17.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage Seahawks
Like the 49ers, the Seahawks have such a talented defense that no task will be easy Sunday night. What works heavily in the favor of San Francisco is that they will have some new pieces on the field. In their previous meeting, quarterback Colin Kaepernick stepped on the field once and running back LaMichael James was still learning the ropes, and so both may be able to catch the Seahawks off-guard. Seattle will enter the game knowing that they must stop running back Frank Gore, which may open things up for James and Kaepernick to find room to run.
The running game figures to again be the difference in this one, but it’s the 49er wideouts that need to show that they can compete with a physical secondary. The Seattle secondary used a hands on approach to completely shut down the 49er receivers in their first meeting. 49er fans called it dirty, Seahawks fans called it old-fashioned football, and the referees had no comment. With no flags on the ground, it’s hard to say that the Seattle corners were overly physical, so it will be on Michael Crabtree and his fellow receivers to respond as another disappearance act could cause concern again with the receiving corp’s ability to do their part for the offense. Seattle may be without corner Brandon Browner, who violated the leagues substance abuse policy, but the team will still look to beat up San Francisco on the outside and take the receivers out of the game.
Both teams have a young quarterback, a top-tier defense and an enthusiastic coach whom the players love. Nobody expected the Seahawks to be this good this soon, but here they are with two games left, still in the thick of things. With both teams having something riding on this game, neither can say that they overlooked this one. Expect a game between two evenly matched teams, with the winner being the team that either makes the big play or simply wants it more. If Kaepernick continues to protect the ball, then despite one more game on the schedule, Seattle’s season will be over, and San Francisco’s will be just beginning.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.