As we turn our attention to the 49ers and the epic matchup that will happen on Sunday night, we first need to get reacquainted with the team that is the Seahawk’s biggest rival. To do that I decided to ask Eric Meledez, the editor from our San Francisco affiliate ninernoise.com, to join me for a quick Q&A on the team that he covers.
1) The reactions to the QB change in SF have been mixed nationally. How has it been viewed by the locals fans?
Eric Meledez: After Sunday’s big win over the Patriots, I would venture to say most if not all Niners fans are onboard with Colin Kaepernick being the quarterback. Before Sunday’s win there were some Niners fans who thought Alex Smith shouldn’t have lost his starting job because of an injury and with the way he was playing before he suffered his concussion. Smith was playing very well before he was injured by completing 25 of 27 pass for 304 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinals and Rams. However, now Niner fans cannot dispute Kaepernick is a much better option for the 49ers offense and he provides a spark to the team that Smith could not match.
2) Vegas has this game as a “pick” game (no favorite), are SF fans sweating this game at all? Or do they feel like a win is expected and would be shocked at any other outcome?
EM: This will be a very good matchup with both teams and fans assured their side will win. My guess is the 49ers Faithful is riding high with confidence after beating the Patriots, but there is no guarantee San Francisco will win. The Seahawks look like a team hungry to make the playoffs and having to face them in Seattle is never easy. Russell Wilson looks like he has finally found his grove and Seattle’s defense is one of the best in the NFL and is forcing opponents to make mistakes. Anytime Seattle and San Francisco play, you can throw out both teams’ records out the window, because anything can happen. Having both teams with winning records and fighting for a playoff spot and the NFC West title adds to the intensity of the game.
3) The 49er defense looked surprisingly ordinary after Justin Smith got hurt. What’s his current status, and is there some concern that the defense will struggle if he can’t play or is limited?
EM: Jim Harbaugh said on Tuesday he expects Justin Smith to play on Sunday. Still, Smith did not practice Tuesday and Wednesday so he might be a game time decision. Smith’s backup is Ricky Jean Francois who had two tackles and one sack filling in for him against the Patriots. Jean Francois can make plays on defense; however, should Smith not play the defense will struggle. Justin is a big reason why Aldon Smith has 19.5 sacks this season. Justin is able to gobble up offensive linemen, which allows Aldon to his speed to pressure the quarterback.
4) How do you think the 49ers will stop Seattle’s read-option attack?
EM: The 49ers defense has the best linebacking corps in the NFL and they will use their speed to shut down Russell Wilson and the read-option. The defense will likely designate either Navarro Bowman or Patrick Willis to shadow Wilson all game to keep him in check. If the defense can stay committed to their running lanes they are defending, then Seattle’s read-option attack will be subdued.
5) What’s your prediction for this game. Please include a final score prediction
EM: Russell Wilson looks like a completely different player than from Week 7 and the 49ers offense now has Kaepernick at quarterback, which adds interesting dynamics to the game since last time around. The game will be much more exciting than the first meeting, but the result will be the same, 49ers win 23-20.