The Seattle Seahawks travel to Candlestick Park on Thursday night to take on the San Francisco 49ers in a matchup that is a lot more attractive now than when the NFL revealed its schedule back in April.
The Seahawks sit at 0-2 in the division, with road losses to the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams already this season. If the NFC West continues to be as tough as it has been through six weeks, Thursday’s game with San Francisco can be looked at as a must-win.
Seattle is winning with solid defense and a consistent running game, a recipe that is eerily similar to this week’s opponent.
The Seahawks boast the league’s fourth-best defense in terms of yardage (294.7 YPG) and are second in points allowed at 15.2 per game. And Marshawn Lynch leads a rushing attack that averages 131 yards per contest.
The 49ers—although coming off a surprising 26-3 home loss to the New York Giants last week—are still one of the league’s most dangerous teams.
As successful as the Seahawks have been playing within their identity, San Francisco sets the example for the entire NFL in how to play mistake-free, clock-control football.
Led by Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, the 49ers defense ranks first in total yards (275.8) and third in points allowed (15.7 ppg).
A balanced attack featuring Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and two run-savvy quarterbacks in Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick also leads the league in rushing at 176.8 yards per game. What is even more impressive is that San Francisco averages six yards per attempt on the ground, which also leads the league.
No one knew how important this game would be at the start of the season. But with both teams at 4-2, at least a share for first place in the NFC West and a jump on the head-to-head season tiebreaker is on the line.
Here is one bold prediction for each team in Thursday night’s matchup:
Seahawks Offense Falls Flat, Fails to Score Double Digits in Loss
Seattle is coming off an improbable 24-23, come-from-behind victory over the New England Patriots this past week.
The Seahawks weren’t able to get anything going on the ground or stop Tom Brady and Co. for much of the game either. However, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson led the charge, completing 16-of-27 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns—two of which occurring in the final eight minutes of the game.
The 49ers defense will spend a lot of energy keeping Lynch at bay in the backfield, in addition to having their very athletic front-seven contain and frustrate the rookie quarterback.
San Francisco should be able to control this game from the outset. If Seattle falls too far behind, don’t expect another comeback this week—in fact, don’t expect much at all.
Who wins this game?
49ers Defense Records 5 Sacks, 3 Turnovers in Decisive Win
San Francisco’s defense is dominant enough as it is; but coming off last week’s loss to the Giants, look for this unit to take a no-holds-barred approach with the Seahawks on Thursday night.
Seattle has done some nice things on offense this year, utilizing a strong rushing attack and minimizing Wilson’s exposure at quarterback. But the Seahawks only average 18.3 points per game and have yet to face a defense quite like the 49ers—especially one looking to put last week’s loss in the rear-view mirror.
San Francisco will focus on the point of attack, which should limit Lynch’s ability to break big runs. If they get out to any kind of a lead, it will fall on Wilson’s shoulders again this week. The extra pressure will be too much this time around.
The 49ers begin a four-week stretch of games with NFC West opponents on Thursday night, so look for the defense to set the tone against the Seahawks.