Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
If the Saints lose at Philadelphia, then it will be San Francisco and Seattle in the divisional round.
Let’s face it: If the 49ers are going to get to the Super Bowl, it is very likely that they’re going to have to go through the most hostile environment in sports today (either in a divisional matchup or an NFC title showdown).
CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., home to the NFC West rival Seahawks, is the loudest, nastiest and easily most intimidating battle prism in the NFL.
There is the most cranked-up crowd, and the architectural design of the stadium bounces the sound waves back down onto the field, giving it that extremely loud decibel level each week. Frankly, the environment is more intimidating than the team itself, and that’s saying something.
That is the first and perhaps most treacherous obstacle the 49ers will have to overcome to win. They can’t allow the setting to derail their game.
Because after that, they still have to match up with a very talented football team that, above all else, has the defense to shut them down. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom will have the house rocking, bringing psychological warfare to the 49ers receivers.
Outside of getting in the head of the opponent, Seattle's ability to take away receivers and provide the front seven with enough time to kill the play has been an effective formula.
And against the 49ers, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that quarterback Colin Kaepernick and this power O-line have also proven to be susceptible to a big, strong, aggressive pass rush. This particular attack will feature a gaggle of weapons, too, including Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons and the uber-powerful Red Bryant.
They will all be humming.
And offensively, of course, the Seahawks have Russell Wilson behind center, who escapes, creates and distributes the ball better than anyone.
There is not one particular target the 49ers can lock onto in the passing game because Wilson sees the field so well, the ball can be going anywhere at any time, and that places a lot of strain on a defense over the course of a game. And on top of that, they have to respect the threat of tailback Marshawn Lynch.
With this game—the noise, the hatred and the talent—there is always the risk of it getting out of hand early.
Then again, it’s the 49ers that are riding the NFL’s longest win streak heading into the postseason, not Seattle.
The Seahawks just visited Candlestick Park and lost to the 49ers, and then the Arizona Cardinals visited CenturyLink and took down the big, bad Seattle team at its own house where it had been proclaimed unbeatable. So anything can happen at anytime.
Not to mention it’s the postseason, where the unorthodox seems to take precedence.
If anything, the ‘Hawks should be on upset alert. The 49ers have the talent, familiarity and hot streak to pull off the road win.