The 2014 NFC Championship is going to be one of the most exciting games of the season, featuring two longtime rivals that have separated themselves from the rest of the field and proven to be the class of the conference.
This showdown will feature the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers clashing for the third time this season, this time with a Super Bowl appearance on the line.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll commented on the teams involved during a radio appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle, according to ESPN’s Terry Blount:
I think it's the matchup that everybody wanted like to see. We don't mind it one bit and they don't mind it, either. It'll be a great one…These are the two teams everyone was talking about early in the year, so it's interesting how accurate all the [predictors] were. There's not a better matchup you could find right now in the NFC. We're thrilled about it.
These NFC West standouts each defended their home-field advantage during the regular season, but now the series shifts back to Seattle for this win-or-go-home affair. Will the Niners finally be able to oust the Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest, or will they fall short in the conference championship for the second time in three years?
Let’s take a look at where you can catch the game and highlight the best bets you can make on it, plus check out my prediction on the outcome and more.
When: Sunday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Weather: High of 50 degrees, low of 40 degrees. Southwest wind at 3 miles per hour. 20 percent chance of rain.
*Spread and total information via ScoresAndOdds.com
Betting Line: Seahawks -3.5
This is a tough line, but based off the last two games these enemies played in Seattle, it’s hard to bet against the Seahawks.
They have outscored the Niners by 55 points in that span, putting up 71 points and conceding just 16. It’s an impressive number, especially considering that the San Francisco defense has ranked atop the league during both matchups.
The “12th Man” has proven to be the 49ers’ kryptonite, and we’ve yet to see anything that indicates a change in that. It’s going to make the difference in this one, especially since the teams are so evenly matched.
Over the last two seasons, San Francisco has gone 23-8-1 while the Seahawks finished 24-8-0. The Niners won the division last year, while Seattle pulled through in 2013 to secure the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Offensively, both teams are relatively evenly matched. The 49ers put up 25.4 points per game on average this past season, while the Seahawks were just 0.7 points ahead with 26.1 points per game.
Defensively, the Seahawks have an edge. They conceded a mere 14.4 points per game in 2013 and ranked atop the NFL in that category. The 49ers' scoring defense was stout—allowing just 17.0 points per game—but wasn’t on the same level as the team's rival.
If this game were played on a neutral field, it would be too close to call. However, the fact that it is in Seattle is the difference-maker and the main reason why you should back the Seahawks. Lay the points and go with the chalk in the NFC Championship.
This under is brutally low, meaning Vegas expects a back-and-forth, defensive-oriented slugfest.
While that tends to happen when these teams meet, the total has gone over in the last two Seattle-based contests.
Remember, the Seahawks shellacked the 49ers at CenturyLink Field back in September, ripping off a 29-3 win to go just over the set total of 31. The previous December saw even more offense, with Seattle defending its home field with a 42-13 obliteration of its NFC West rival. The ‘Hawks went over the total of 40.5 with their own scoring prowess.
The Seahawks offense wasn’t exactly transcendent in the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints—mustering up just 23 points on the day—but it should be able to find a way to score against a familiar foe.
Don’t expect San Francisco to shy away from the end zone either, although it’s recently been tough for the club to find paydirt in this stadium.
Take the over and consider parlaying it with the Seahawks line. You shouldn’t be disappointed at the conclusion of this epic championship tussle.
Prediction: Seahawks 24 – 49ers 17