Since Colin Kaepernick got his first start against the Chicago Bears, he has gone out of his way to prove that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh made the right choice in staying with him at quarterback over former incumbent Alex Smith.
Kaepernick is fresh off his most signature win of the season to date—a win on the road against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Although his victory over three-time champion Tom Brady was impressive, his upcoming contest against rookie Russell Wilson will be his biggest challenge and the determining factor of how far he can truly lead the Niners into the playoffs.
When Alex Smith was left on the bench in favor of Colin Kaepernick, the No. 1 argument in Smith’s favor was that he had the playoff experience from last year. Could Kaepernick take this team—one expected to contend for a title this season—deep into the playoffs?
This weekend’s game against the 9-5 Seattle Seahawks will be a good test of Kaepernick’s moxie in the face of a hostile environment. CenturyLink field is arguably the toughest stadium for visiting teams in the NFL.
The crowd noise reaches an average noise level of 112 decibels—18 shy of a Boeing 747—and have reached peaks of 137 decibels, resulting in a league-high 2.36 false starts per game by opposing offenses.
It’s the highest rate in the NFL since 2005.
Seahawks fan enthusiasm has gone as far as triggering a seismic event during a playoff game during the 2010 season. Couple that with the NFL’s third-ranked pass defense and 28 total takeaways—fifth in the NFL—and you present a very tough challenge for a guy with only five starts in a very short career.
Kaepernick will have to adjust to calling plays from the field as the noise level will certainly make getting play calls from the sideline difficult. With the NFC West title on the line, the Niners will be playing for a coveted home playoff game as well as maintaining their No. 2 playoff seed.
In addition, the Seahawks are undefeated at home this season and will look to snap a four-game losing streak to San Francisco, including a Week 16 loss to Niners in 2011—their last home defeat.
The future starts now for the 49ers, and Colin Kaepernick appears to have the tools and abilities to join the ranks of some of the great quarterbacks in 49ers lore. Like many of his predecessors, his success will be judged upon his playoff success.
On Sunday night, we’ll get a taste of what’s to come.
Follow Walt J as he comes to you on his blog “Live From AREA 49″ with his rants on the world of sports from the fan perspective. Whether it’s picks against the spread, fantasy football tips, or sheer frustration with your team, AREA 49 has a place for you. Follow him on Twitter at @a49_waltj and @area49sports, and on Facebook.