For the third time this season, the Seattle Seahawks will face off against divisional rival, San Francisco 49ers. Of course, this game holding the highest stakes as it’s win or go home from this point on in the season. Despite the fact this is a divisional game and given, it is no easy task to defeat a team 3 times in one year, the San Francisco 49ers are favored to win.
But, the Seattle Seahawks do hold the edge in some categories. For starters, no one thought they would even be in this position. So, a loss for them wouldn’t change any perception of this franchise or the direction they are going in. All the pressure falls on the shoulders of Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy. He is leading a team that many perceive as favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Meaning, the Seahawks can enter this matchup and play freely. They don’t need to worry about expectations. They don’t to be hesitant in attacking certain aspects of this game. In fact, the X-Factor of this game is a player who was recently picked up by the Seahawks.
Seattle Seahawks: X-Factor that can lead them to victory in Wild Card Round
In early December, the Seattle Seahawks claimed former first round pick, Johnathan Abram, off-waivers. I don’t think many thought much of this signing as Abram was released by Vegas and then, Green Bay. But, the Seahawks have had to call upon him as of late due to Ryan Neal’s absence. On Saturday’s game against San Francisco, Abram is going to play a key role in helping this Seattle defense get off the field.
When Johnathan Abram entered the NFL, he was known as a hard hitting safety. A missile in the open field that was going to lay the boom given the chance. For whatever reason, his time in Las Vegas didn’t work out. But, he now finds himself in a position to fill a void left by Jamal Adams and now, Ryan Neal. Abram was given the assignment of guarding Travis Kelce in Week 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs. He had one key play, which was a pass break up on third down.
Overall, I would say he did a solid job in coverage. Against San Francisco, I’m assuming he will be tasked with slowing down George Kittle. Who, by the way, has been on an absolute tear over the last month. Brock Purdy has grown great rapport with Kittle and the numbers certainly back it up.
2 of those touchdowns coming against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football in Week 15. One came on a busted coverage. But, his first came on a great play design by Kyle Shanahan. That is another element Seattle will be faced with this week. Shanahan is one of the brightest play callers in this league and he has deadly weaponry in his arsenal.
Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and of course, the aforementioned, George Kittle. A large part of the Seattle game plan for Saturday will be stopping the run on early downs and securing tackles. Then, comes getting stops on third downs and that is where Abram will be able to hone in on Kittle and do everything to prevent him from making plays.
Third down stops will be critical in this game. The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best third down efficiencies on offense, converting on approximately 45% of their third downs. Of all the playoff teams, the Seahawks have the 2nd worst (trailing only Jacksonville) 3rd down defense, allowing a first down on 42% of third downs.
Given this is a divisional battle, you should expect a grind it out type game. In my opinion, the team who turns the ball over will be the team to lose. Seattle’s defense has been playing better as of late, particularly in their pass rush. If they can force a fumble or put enough pressure on Purdy to force a miss throw resulting in an interception, they will get one step closer to pulling off the big upset.