When the Seattle Seahawks play the San Francisco 49ers, it’s a big deal. Not only are they two of the NFL’s best teams, but they also legitimately hate each other and aren’t afraid to say as much. Entering the season, many saw this as a game that would decide the NFC. While that isn’t the case, there are still many things that make this a game worth watching.
San Francisco needs the win to stay ahead in the race for the second NFC wild-card spot, while the Seahawks would clinch the NFC West crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference with the road win.
The hatred alone makes this an entertaining matchup, but here are the things you should be keeping an eye on throughout the game.
Who Covers Vernon Davis?
Even with Michael Crabtree healthy, Vernon Davis is the most dangerous receiving threat on the roster.
His freakish combination of size and speed make him a matchup nightmare than the Seahawks will have to game-plan for. Davis is tied for third in the league with 10 receiving touchdowns, and his ability to stretch the field and work the seams create problems for any defense.
In the past two matchups, safety Kam Chancellor has spent a lot of time covering Davis, and it’s worked out well for Seattle.
If the Seahawks can contain Davis like they have in the past two meetings (both of which were wins), they'll like their chances of beating the Niners.
Battle on the Ground
One of the reasons that these teams hate each other so much is due to their shared approach to the game. Both play a physical brand of smashmouth football that emphasizes running the ball and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.
The team that finds more success on the ground will probably leave Candlestick Park with a win.
In their last two meetings, it has been Marshawn Lynch that has won the battle of the running backs. Lynch has scored five touchdowns in his last two games against San Francisco, and he’ll be looking to get into the end zone multiple times again.
Frank Gore, on the other hand, has hit a bit of a slump.
He's picked up only 121 yards in his last three games combined (average of 40.3 yards per game) and ran for only 16 yards in the Week 2 game against Seattle.
One reason for Gore's slump is the injury problems on San Francisco's offensive line.
The availability of starting left tackle Joe Staley and starting left guard Mike Iupati is uncertain, and their absence would be advantageous to the Seahawks defense.
Physicality Outside the Numbers
The physical play of these teams isn’t reserved for the trenches. Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin both use their strength to create space and make tough, contested catches.
Their opponents on Sunday will be the Seahawks secondary (or the “Legion of Boom” as they like to be called). Brandon Browner won’t be suiting up for Seattle, but there is plenty of depth in Seattle’s secondary.
Head coach Pete Carroll likes to use the size of his defensive backs to play press coverage and disrupt the timing of the offense, so we’ll see a lot of wrestling going on as the receivers try to get off the line of scrimmage.
Both teams want to run the ball effectively, but the team that can make big plays in the passing game will have a tremendous advantage in the slugfest.
In a critical NFC game, these three factors will play a huge role in determining the outcome of the NFC West clash.