When the 49ers and Seahawks get together, you know it’s going to be a battle. While the Seahawks have outscored their opponents by a total of 108-17 over the past two weeks, they may not have a chance to win the division crown even if they beat San Francisco this week.
Credit the 49ers for a big victory in New England, and a win at home against the Cardinals Week 17 should be all they need to win the West. Still, a victory over the Seahawks should keep him in the hunt for the second seed in the NFC, giving them a bye week.
The key in this matchup may not have to do as much with the play of young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick but more the health and talent they play against.
San Francisco’s star defensive end Justin Smith suffered an elbow injury and was unable to finish the game against the Patriots. Clearly a key piece to the 49ers' front seven, Smith is unrelenting in his pursuit for the football and helps clear space for Aldon Smith in his pursuit to the quarterback.
While Seattle has a definite advantage when playing at home, we should be concerned about its health and depth at the corner back position and up front.
Fantasy owners considering playing the Seahawks defense or possibly 49ers offensive players against them need to keep an eye on defensive tackle Alan Branch’s availability after suffering an ankle injury. Good news for Frank Gore is Branch is out, but if Richard Sherman is suspended on Friday, Michael Crabtree could be a WR1 option.
Fellow corner backs Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant are recovering from hamstring injuries, so the Seahawks could have some problems stopping the 49ers' passing game.
This contest should be another close, hard-hitting game between two teams destined for the playoffs. Look to both as worthy starters this week, but if Sherman, Thurmond and Branch are out, you might want to consider another option over the Seahawks.
What Did We Learn From Week 15?
- The Broncos are rolling on defense allowing just one team over 100 yards rushing in the past nine weeks. In fact, Denver has even moved up to No. 1 in the league against the run after Tampa Bay gave up 149 yards on the ground to the Saints last week.
With Peyton Manning running the offense, you can count on Denver building a lead early, forcing its opponent to abandon the run and allowing the Broncos to do what they are truly best at, and that is making quarterbacks uncomfortable. Totaling 42 sacks and 16 interceptions on the season, Denver is one of the better big-play defenses to start in fantasy leagues, and it should have another big game against the Browns this week.
- Atlanta had another terrific defensive performance at home as they shut out the Giants. While some in the media may build up the Falcons as an easy team to beat in the playoffs, we should pay more attention to their defense's recent success at home.
Unfortunately the Falcons play on the road this week in Detroit. That said, Matthew Stafford is struggling, and his lack of talent in the passing game outside of Calvin Johnson is slowing the offense down. Consider the Falcons a low-end starting option this week.
Sean’s Week 16 Watch List
- While the Bears were struggling against the running game heading into last week's showdown with the Packers, Chicago held up well against their ground attack. This week the Bears head out to Arizona to play a Cardinals team that surprised many with its high-scoring victory over the Lions.
Don’t expect a shutout in this game, but I believe the Bears will turn things around and pick up a victory, while they deliver fantasy owners a top-five performance.
- Take the good with the bad if you’re a fantasy owner with the Texans defense this week. Sure, Houston will face the best running back in football, arguably having his best season as a pro, but it also faces Christian Ponder. With Jonathan Joseph finally rounding into shape after battling a hamstring ailment, expect Houston to have a field day anytime Minnesota takes to the air.
Unlike recent games against the Packers, Bears and Rams, I expect Houston to build a lead on Minnesota and force Ponder to throw the football through the second half of the game. Adrian Peterson will have his yards, but you should be repaid with sacks, fumbles and interceptions from Ponder’s poor decision making.