With an up-and-down, yet overall impressive road win by the San Francisco 49ers over the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football, it appears that two NFC West squads have their ducks in a row for the playoffs. The second one is, of course, the Seattle Seahawks: the team best equipped to knock off the 49ers in the playoffs.
Seattle has won three straight, including two on the road, which is interesting for a team with one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. Its last two wins were by a combined margin of 91 points.
Seattle’s core is built around defense and a running game like San Francisco’s—which also had a two-game stretch during which it won by a combined margin of 76 points—and sees the 49ers twice a year. The familiarity makes for a different type of matchup, which is why San Francisco beat Seattle by just seven points at home on a short week early in the season.
Those conditions included three elements that favored a veteran-laden squad over one headed by a rookie, and the Seahawks lost by the only touchdown that they allowed. We’ll get a second preview of what could happen between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle with a more experienced Russell Wilson under center in Week 16.
But the best chance for the Seahawks to defeat the 49ers in the playoffs would be in Seattle, which essentially has no shot to happen. Seattle would have to roll into San Francisco and play the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick rather than Alex Smith.
San Francisco is likely to snag the No. 3 seed, trailing the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons in the standings. It would begin by facing off with the New York Giants at home on Wild Card Weekend, perhaps taking the game as a unit motivated by revenge. Seattle (No. 5 seed) would have to win at Dallas (if the Dallas Cowboys can beat the Washington Redskins in Week 17) to advance to the divisional round.
Given that the Seahawks already embarrassed the Cowboys, it would be a tougher game in Dallas. Seattle could still come away with the W.
San Francisco’s next matchup would be with the Packers in Green Bay, where the 49ers have already won this season. Meanwhile, the Seahawks would visit the Falcons and have a realistic chance of the “upset” win on the road based on their contrasting styles.
That would leave the two NFC West playoff entrants with a date in San Francisco—probably resulting in the grittiest possible matchup in the conference. If the 49ers can take that one, they would have the upper hand in the Super Bowl.
The 49ers manhandled the Patriots for the better part of the game on the road, which seems to be a taller task than doing so at a neutral site like New Orleans.
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