A couple years ago, when the NFL changed their scheduling rules so that the last couple weeks were dominated by divisional games, this is the type of game that they had in mind. The 49ers need this win to keep pace with the Saints in trying to secure the #2 seed and a first round bye. The Seahawks know that a loss eliminated them from the playoffs. There’s a lot of drama, and these are 2 teams that know each other well. We should expect good football.
Interestingly, this game has almost nothing to do with the week 1 matchup between these same 2 teams. The Seahawks offense has transformed from being one of the league’s worst, to being one of the better offenses in the league over the last 6 games (though clearly not elite like the Patriot or Saints). The 49er offense was timid and afraid to make mistakes in week 1, now they’re physical and attack defenses with their running game.
Reasons for Optimism
Winers of 5 of their last 6 games, there isn’t a hotter team in the NFL than the Seahawks. The 49ers were hot early in the year, but have cooled off recently struggled to put away teams. They’ve also lost 2 of their last 4, and have a super short Monday to Saturday week.
Defensively, this is a matchup that the Seahawks are built for. Their stout run defense was built to stop run-first offense like that of the 49ers. Alex Smith isn’t going to simply dominate, that’s not anything he’s capable of doing. All the Seahawks have to worry about is Michael Crabtree, but Richard Sherman has appeared to be more than up to that task in recent weeks. If the Seahawks execute, the 49ers should really struggle to move the ball.
While the 49ers defense is good up front, they aren’t very good in the secondary. Teams have been able to move the ball them. The only thing that has kept them from losing many more games than they have are turnovers. They benefited from a +25 turnover ratio on the season. The Seahawks on the other hands, rarely turn the ball over. If they can continue to take care of the football, they neutralize the primary reason the 49ers have won games.
Causes for Concern
If you look at the chart from my power rankings, you’ll see that the 49ers have some of the best special teams in the NFL. The Seahawks on the other hand, are very close to zero (league average) in the regard. That’s a huge edge for the 49ers. You might remember that the different between the 2 teams in the week 1 matchup was 2 special teams TDs but the 49ers.
The 49ers biggest strength as a team is their defensive front 7. The 2 Smiths on the defensive line are particularly dominant. This is a major problem for the Seahawk team that is missing 3 starters on their offensive line. While the Seahawks were able to adapt and succeed against a good Chicago front 7 last week, this 49er front 7 is even better.
The Seahawks don’t force a lot of fumbles. most of their takeaways are interceptions. The 49ers don’t ask Alex Smith to throw a lot of passes. He’s a game manager who’s done a good job in protecting the football. I don’t think that the Seahawks can expect to get many turnovers coming their way in this game.
I expect a very low scoring game. Yards will be tough to come by early in this game, let alone points. In the end, the super short week and a road game in the toughest home stadium in the NFL will be too much for the 49ers. Fatigue and a couple mental mental mistakes will let the Seahawks eek this one out.
Seattle 20 – 17 49ers