It may seem boring and predictable, but the two best teams in the NFC will clash in the championship round as the Seattle Seahawks and the deafening "12th Man" play host to the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 19 at CenturyLink Field.
After a 13-3 record in the regular season and a first-round bye, the Seahawks predictably made their way to the NFC title game with a 23-15 win over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round. The 49ers went 12-4, which was only good enough for the No. 5 seed, but have extended their win streak to eight on their path so far.
One half of a championship weekend ripe with revenge storylines (Peyton Manning looks to atone for his regular-season loss to Tom Brady in the AFC), the 49ers are back at CenturtyLink Field for the second time this season—their first visit was a humbling Week 2 29-3 loss.
Bettors do not have an easy task ahead when it comes to this matchup, which goes twofold for the offenses involved. Expect a traditional defensive struggle.
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
When: Sunday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
|San Francisco 49ers||+3 (Even)||+150||Over 40 (-110)|
|Seattle Seahawks||-3 (-120)||-170||Under 40 (-110)|
Let's just go ahead and start with a quote from San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, who perfectly encapsulates how this violent rivalry with minimal offense will unfold in the title game, per NFL Media's Jeff Darlington via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:
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.
Much like Davis' five catches for 41 yards and a score in two games against the Seahawks this year, Kaepernick and Wilson will yet again be held under 200 passing yards, a mark both signal-callers have failed to surpass against each other this season.
Credit goes to the elite defenses for those numbers. Both units bring eye-popping totals to Sunday's action:
|Team||Points Allowed Per Game||NFL Rank||Yards Allowed Per Game||NFL Rank|
|San Francisco 49ers||17.0||3rd||316.9||5th|
While the 49ers have been great, the Seahawks clearly have an edge. The table does not even show other areas where Seattle leads the league, including takeaways (39), red-zone percentage (36) and total QBR (29).
Much of the credit here goes to the secondary. The safety pair in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor allowed a league-best 2,752 passing yards and second-best 16 passing touchdowns, while assisted by corner Richard Sherman, the No. 6 overall player at his position in the NFL this season, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Simply put, the San Francisco offense will once again fail to make any significant gains offensively. The defense will also fail to stop Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, who has routinely owned the 49ers defense more than most, per ESPN:
Individual 100-yard rushers allowed by the 49ers (last 3 seasons): Marshawn Lynch - 3. Everybody else - 2.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 16, 2014
Which team wins?
Detractors may point out that Lynch was held to 72 yards and a score in a Week 14, 19-17 loss. But that is a much better line than most tally against San Francisco, especially on the road. A much better gauge of Lynch's performance Sunday can be taken from the aforementioned Week 2 win, where Lynch rumbled for 98 yards and two scores.
By the way, that is ultimately the deciding factor. The Seahawks have lost at home just once since December of 2011. The organization has gone out of its way to ensure only Seattle fans are in attendance, which 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh understands and salutes, per Fox Sports:
Jim Harbaugh says he "respects" the Seahawks decision to limit ticket sales for the NFC championship to certain areas http://t.co/WpFnAU8ecA— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 15, 2014
The Seahawks defense will suffocate the 49ers offense, especially when backed by a historic home-field advantage. Wilson and the Seahawks will advance to the Super Bowl with a shot at either Brady or Manning.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, 49ers 14