When the San Francisco 49ers travel up the West Coast to play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship, the entire NFL will be focused on the defensive struggle and which team earns a spot in the Super Bowl.
As if a guaranteed spot in the NFL Championship wasn’t enough to make this a special event, the fact that these two franchises are bitter rivals in the NFC West and have played twice this season already adds even more tension.
With each franchise taking one of the previous regular-season matchups—the home team has been victorious on both occasions—the rubber match will determine which organization is more worthy of the Super Bowl stage.
Here is all the vital viewing information for Sunday’s NFC Championship, a full preview and the predicted final score.
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
When: Sunday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: FOX Sports Go
San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
The Seattle Seahawks are almost unbeatable at CenturyLink Field this season, losing only once to the Arizona Cardinals in the waning stages of the season after home-field advantage had been locked up.
San Francisco’s recent history in Seattle doesn't help the team’s case, losing each of the last two games that Kaepernick has played against the Seahawks in their stadium, but the 49ers proved they can be victorious against their foes as they were in the 19-17 win in Week 14.
The key for both teams is defense. With each unit ranked in the top five in terms of yards and points allowed per game and predicated on a hard-hitting mentality, the fierce play on the field will result in one of the chippiest games football fans witness all season.
These division foes don’t like each other, and the stakes will only add more animosity to the rivalry. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis told Jeff Darlington, via NFL.com, about how his team describes the matchup with Seattle:
A battle. A brutal battle. It will be sparks, flames, you name it. It's going to be tough, and we know that. We have to go back to Santa Clara, look at film and correct some of the things that we need to correct from our last match.
Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin agrees:
Wouldn't want it any other way...— Doug Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) January 12, 2014
The defensive struggle will undoubtedly be a stalemate, and the biggest difference in this game will be which of the offensive units can step up consistently throughout the conference championship.
While Seattle boasts an impressive rushing attack led by running back Marshawn Lynch and dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson—the duo helped the team rush for 174 yards on New Orleans in the second round—San Francisco allowed just 95.9 yards per game in the regular season, the fourth-best average in the league.
Who ya got?
San Francisco has kept the ball on the ground when possible, rushing for an impressive 126 yards as a team against the vaunted run defense of the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round, and that should open up the opportunities for Kaepernick to succeed through the air.
In what will be the toughest defensive battles of the year, the 49ers will hold off the Seahawks using Kaepernick and the rushing attack to earn their way back to the Super Bowl.
Predicted Final Score: San Francisco 17, Seattle 13
*All stats via NFL.com.