The 49ers will need a big game from Colin Kaepernick to defeat the Seattle Seahawks.
The San Francisco 49ers battle division rival Seattle this week in a much-anticipated game for both teams.
The Seahawks have a three-game lead atop the NFC West with a record of 11-1. The 49ers, with a record of 8-4, are currently the second Wild Card team if the season ended today.
Seattle defeated the 49ers 29-3 in the second week of the season and are riding high after their 34-7 thrashing of the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. If the Seahawks play as they did on Monday, no team will be able to beat them.
However, this game is in San Francisco, and the 49ers need the win to solidify their wild-card spot. It is very unlikely they will be able to catch Seattle, even if the 49ers win on Sunday.
Seattle has played very well at home but has been less effective on the road. They average nearly 33 points per game in Seattle, while allowing only 14. On the road, the Seahawks average only 24 points per game, while allowing 17.
The point differential is also of note. Seattle averages nearly 19 points per game over their opponents at home, versus only seven on the road. The Seahawks' only loss came on the road to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 by a score of 34-28.
At this point in the season, Seattle has proven they are they better team, but that does not necessarily mean they will win this game.
The 49ers have a lot to prove this Sunday, while the Seahawks just came off a Monday night game against the Saints. That added incentive, plus the extra day of rest and home-field advantage, will tilt the balance towards the 49ers in this contest.
Let's take a look at five bold predictions for the upcoming game.
Frank Gore has not had much running room of late.
The Seattle defense slammed the door on Frank Gore in their first meeting of the year. Gore carried the ball nine times for only 16 yards.
The 49ers fell behind in the game and largely abandoned the run. Colin Kaepernick rushed for 87 yards on nine carries, most of which were scrambles.
In Gore's last three games, he has not rushed for 50 yards. The issue does not appear to be Gore slowing down but the offensive line not being able to open the same holes for the running game.
In addition, with the problems the 49ers were having in the passing attack, opposing defenses were crowding the line of scrimmage.
Although left guard Mike Iupati should return to the lineup this week, left tackle Joe Staley will miss the game with a knee injury. The absence of Staley forces the 49ers to move right guard Alex Boone to the left tackle spot. This shuffling will hinder Gore's productivity.
The 49ers are likely to feature their passing attack against the Seahawks now that Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham have returned to the field.
Look for another tough game for Gore as the Seahawks will be focused on shutting him down.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting of these two teams.
Marshawn Lynch's bruising style has punished the 49ers defense. In the first meeting earlier this year, Lynch carried the ball 28 times, rushing for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Although Lynch only had 3.5 yards per carry, his ability to move the chains wore down the 49ers defense.
Seattle controlled the ball, and Lynch was the main reason why. The Seahawks had a big edge in time of possession with 36:43 compared to the 49ers with 23:17.
In 2012, Lynch also dominated the 49ers. His stats for the two games last year totaled 214 yards on 45 carries and one touchdown.
However, the 49ers defense has played well against the run of late, and there will be a target on Lynch. If the 49ers hope to win this game, the first order of business will be to contain Lynch.
Michael Crabtree made this 60-yard play against the Rams.
The San Francisco 49ers' arsenal of receivers is better than it's been the entire season. Both Crabtree and Manningham have returned from injury and will combine with Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis to form a quartet of professional receivers.
The Seahawks will also make it a priority to stop Gore, which means more space for the 49ers receivers to get down the field and make plays.
The Seattle corners have stymied the 49ers receivers by playing a tough, in-your-face style of press coverage. In past games, the 49ers receivers have had trouble getting off the line. This means we will likely see more motion from the 49ers.
Expect Crabtree, Boldin and Davis to combine for at least 12 receptions.
Colin Kaepernick needs to have a big game against the Seahawks.
In the earlier meeting between these two clubs, Kaepernick threw for only 127 yards on 13-of-28 passing. His accuracy and effectiveness must be there for the 49ers to win.
Kaepernick was the 49ers' most effective runner in their first meeting as he rushed for 87 yards on nine carries. Expect him to, once again, be the 49ers' leading rusher.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh minimized the running plays for Kaepernick early in the season, as they did not want to risk injury.
As the season is nearing its end, Roman and Harbaugh have allowed Kaepernick to use his legs more. This is when Kaepernick is at his best and can use his athletic ability to make plays.
Kaepernick and the Seahawks' Russell Wilson are two of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Although I rate Wilson a bit higher in general, playing in San Francisco gives Kaepernick the edge in this game. Wilson is much better playing at home in Seattle.
A 200-yard passing game along with 50 yards rushing is likely for Kaepernick this Sunday. If he accomplishes this and the 49ers do not lose the turnover battle, they will win this game.
Walter Thurmond returns an interception against the Vikings.
The Seattle Seahawks have lost both Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner to suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Browner is out for a year, while Thurmond is now serving a four-game suspension. Both players are cornerbacks and have been replaced by Byron Maxwell. Jeremy Lane moves up into the nickel back role.
With the healthy return of Manningham and Crabtree, to go along with Boldin and Davis, look for the 49ers to have all four in the game at the same time. This is when the loss of Browner and Thurmond will be felt the most.
The Seahawks will also drop their linebackers quickly into the passing lanes, which could also allow the 49ers running backs to make some key plays in the passing game. This also gives Kaepernick more room to run if he's flushed out of the pocket.
Expect this to be a close, hard-fought game with the losses of Browner and Thurmond tipping the scales to give the 49ers the advantage.