The San Francisco 49ers will look to become the second team in four seasons to win three consecutive road games en route to a Super Bowl berth on Sunday, Jan. 19, in Seattle.
However, unlike in their previous road wins over the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers, the Niners will be 3.5-point underdogs against the top-seeded Seahawks in this weekend's NFC Championship Game. The narrow betting line is hardly surprisingly, though, as the two teams split their regular-season meetings.
While the Seahawks blew the Niners' doors off in front of the 12th Man in Week 2, San Francisco's two-point home win in Week 14 and current eight-game winning streak have it turning heads in this matchup as well.
Below, we'll get you set with everything you need to know ahead of kickoff.
Date: Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Line: Seattle (-3.5) over San Francisco
*according to Covers.com.
Bitter Rivals Meet for Third Time
There'll be no surprises when Seattle and San Francisco line up for the third time this season on Sunday in Seattle. Although the two rivals will have had a week to prepare for each other, both play a physical brand of football that focuses on running the ball effectively and shutting down the run on defense.
Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman perfectly summed up the mentality of both teams coming in, per ESPN.com: "Long story short: They know us, we know them. We got to go there. We all know the history. But this is the Super Bowl."
The following stat from ESPN Stats & Info shows just how successful the 49ers have been at slowing down Seattle's running attack and one of the league's top running backs in Marshawn Lynch:
.@Black_Majic12 Marshawn Lynch vs 49ers this year: 0.9 yards after contact per rush against all others: 2.1— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 16, 2014
Oddly enough, the Seahawks averaged exactly 3.7 yards per carry in both meetings with the 49ers this season. However, the difference was in the approach. Seattle ran the ball 47 times in its 26-point win at home in Week 2, as opposed to just 23 times in its Week 14 loss.
Meanwhile, San Francisco averaged roughly five yards per carry in both games.
Therefore, the running game will be paramount in determining which side advances to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Defense Will Dominate
As already mentioned, both Seattle and San Francisco are defensive-minded teams that pride themselves on being able to get stops and force turnovers.
To put their defensive dominance into proper perspective, let's break down how they fared against the rest of the league during the regular season:
|Team||Yards (Rank)||Points (Rank)||Takeaways (Rank)|
|Seahawks||273.6 (1st)||14.4 (1st)||39 (1st)|
|49ers||316.9 (5th)||17.0 (3rd)||30 (6th)|
While Seattle ranked No. 1 in almost every key defensive category, both teams ranked inside the top five in total defense and finished in the top three in scoring defense. Not to mention, both teams ranked inside the top eight against the run and pass.
Which team will win the NFC?
What's more, both teams are allowing exactly 15 points per game this postseason.
The Seahawks shut out the New Orleans Saints through the first three quarters in previous round, while the 49ers shut out the Panthers in the second half of their NFC divisional-round victory.
Although both quarterbacks and offenses will be under immense pressure to make plays and score points in this game, the two defensive units will ultimately decide the game. And given how stout they've been of late, the first team to score 17 points will likely be marching on.
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