It’s already game day. If feels like the Seahawks just played yesterday, and I’m sure the players feel the same way. Still, the 49ers await, so everyone has to be ready. That include me, and my prediction for this week’s game.
We’ve been getting a lot of new readers to the site lately, so I should probably remind everyone how I do these. My goal is to be empirical and objective, so I use the ratings from Pro Football Focus to help me identify who’s the the upper hand in terms on-field performance so far in the year.
This has gotten to be pretty tough on my in terms of predicting the Seahawks offense. Their overall ratings are still pretty bad, but they’ve been actually been pretty darn good the past weeks. So what do I use, the recent ratings, or the overall rating? it’s kind of a catch-22, since I think the Seahawks are better than their overall rating show, but not likely to live up the their ratings from the past 2 games. It puts me in a real bind, but I’ll do my best.
When the 49ers have the ball
The 49ers have the highest rated offense in the league now (94.5), held up almost entirely by their run blocking (58.8). It’s not the only thing they do well, but it’s the only thing in which they are elite. The rest of their offensive ratings are all on the good side of ledger, so there’s no huge weakness.
The Seahawks on the other hand have the league best defense, and 2nd place isn’t anywhere close. The Seahawks run defense is elite in it’s own right with a 36.8 rating, but that still less than the 49er running attack. This is going to be a tough test for the Seahawks, but not one in which they are incapable of wining.
If the 49ers have to pass the ball, the Seahawks should have a huge advantage. The 49 pass rush (9.1) isn’t likely to offer too much resistance to the Seahawks pass rush (44.2). Combine that with the Seahawks top 3 pass coverage rating (16.2), and you have the makings of a long day for Alex Smith.
When the Seahawks have the ball
As I said above, this section is really tough to write right now. Had the Seahawks played like they had the last 2 weeks in ever game, the offense would have a 72 rating and would be the league’s #2 rated offense. Conversely, had the last 2 games been like the fist 4, the Seahawks offense would be sitting a -26, and be the 3rd from the bottom. That’s a huge swing.
As they sit right now, they are right near league average at 8.1. Even if you remove the -10.4 contribution of JR Sweezy, who isn’t going to play since James Carpenter is now healthy, the 18.5 rating only moves the Seahawks up 2 spots to 15th. I think this is probably the best estimation of where the Seahawks are right now, until Russell Wilson continues his development.
Comparing that 18.5 rating for the Seahawk offense to the 49er defense (38.3) and you’ll see that the Seahawks are likely to have a tough go of it on offense. Not that that is anything new. Surprisingly the 49er’s defense is entirely one dimensional. Their entire strength is in their run defense (41.8) The rest of the defense is rather ordinary, and combines for a negative value.
Further complicating their problem in this game is the lack of pass rush (-5.3). When Russell Wilson has faced good pass rushing teams this year, he’s struggled. When hes faced teams with poor pass rushing ratings (NE, Carolina, Dallas) he’s been at his best. So while the 49ers stack the line to try and slow down Lynch, Wilson could have some success over the top like he did against the Patriots.
The Seahawk’s special teams remain among the league’s best at 26.6. The 49ers on the other hand, are below average at 13.0. This is a complete reversal of last season, when the 49ers special teams were decidingly better, and were the catalyst in both 49er victories.
The difference between these 2 units is actually fairly large. So I expect another big return or 2 from Leon Washington in this game.
This is one of the those games that could go either way. If the Seahawks stop the 49er running game, they could run away with this game. If not, If Gore and 49ers can move the ball with some consistency, this game has a chance of getting really ugly if the Seahawks start forcing things offensively trying to keep up.
Overall, I think it’s a toss up game, and the data agrees. History tells us that in toss up games, take the home team.
San Francisco 17 – 16 Seattle