In what could wind up being the best Championship Sunday in NFL history, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks will do battle at CenturyLink Field for the chance to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
This game will be a dogfight right from the opening kickoff. These two teams have played stellar games over the past couple of seasons, and their hard-nosed styles of play will create a hard-hitting matchup. Expect a low-scoring affair with nearly every drive having more meaning than the last.
Offense will be at a minimum in this one, and it will be up to the game's stop stars to dictate the outcome. Without the efforts of several players on both sides, it will be difficult for either team to break away.
Both teams have legitimate title aspirations. Unfortunately, only one will advance. Here's how the top stars from this contest will perform with their seasons on the line.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
|Cmp %||Pass Yards||TD/INT||Att||Rush Yards|
Colin Kaepernick hasn't really been dynamic this postseason, but he's done just enough to win against the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers. He'll try to be at his best against Seattle, but it won't be easy.
In his career against Seattle, Kaepernick is just 2-2 with two touchdowns and five interceptions. He has completed just over 50 percent of his passes and has compiled a meager 546 passing yards in those four games. He does have 148 yards on 26 attempts on the ground, however.
Colin Kaepernick has only had 1 multi-INT game in his NFL career. Amazing. Although that one time did happen in #Seattle.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 19, 2014
For Kaepernick, it won't be his overall numbers that dictate the success of his offense. Sure, an efficient Kaepernick who completes upwards of 60 percent of his passes would be ideal, but his ability to make plays with his legs and keep the chains moving is what really counts.
Receiver Anquan Boldin talked about his QB's comfort level this postseason, per the Associated Press via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
He's comfortable. It's not a new situation for him. Last year was his first time in the playoffs. This year, he has an understanding of what it's like, because anytime a guy is in the playoffs for the first time, it can be tough.
If he can get up toward 200 passing yards and 50 rush yards with a touchdown or two, then the 49ers will be in great position to win. Factor in Frank Gore's production on the ground and kicker Phil Dawson's efficiency, and the Niners should be fine.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
|Att||Rush Yards||Rec||Rec. Yards||TD|
Marshawn Lynch has been decent against the Niners in his career, averaging 4.49 yards per carry over eight games. With seven total touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving) against them, it's clear that he is a threat to find paydirt in this one.
Lynch was also dynamic against the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round, racking up 140 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. It's no secret that he can go "Beast Mode" on any given Sunday, and he'll be doing his best to do the same against San Francisco.
Even if the yardage isn't there, it's safe to bet that Lynch will end up with a score. He led the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns this season, and his motor in short-yardage situations is unparalleled. His history against the team also supports the prediction of him scoring.
Getting past the box against the Niners won't be easy. They are an aggressive front that hits hard and knows how to tackle effectively. If Lynch can slip past the defensive line and get into a footrace with the linebackers and secondary, then the results will likely end in his favor.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Boldin resurrected his career in his first year with San Francisco this season. His game against Green Bay in the Wild Card Round wasn't indicative of the type of season he posted. His game against Carolina was, however.
The Panthers had no answer for Boldin. He recorded eight catches for 136 yards, and while he didn't find the end zone, he was invaluable in setting up scoring drives for his team. Carolina's defensive backs couldn't handle him in one-on-one coverage, and he was able to carve their zone coverage to pieces.
Seattle's secondary is far superior to Carolina's, though. This will make it a rough go of things for Boldin. While he still might near the seven-catch mark, it will be tough for him to pick up yardage. Seattle's secondary hits hard and is good at tackling in the open field.
It'll be interesting to see if star corner Richard Sherman matches up against Boldin or Michael Crabtree. He usually covers the other team's best receiver, and given Boldin's game against Carolina, that very well might be him.
Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
|Deflected||INT||INT Yards||Rec. Against|
It's not easy to predict the final stats for defensive players—especially cornerbacks—but it's easy to predict the impact that Richard Sherman will have on this contest. He led the NFL with eight interceptions and has posted a total of 20 picks in his first three seasons.
Sherman is your typical lockdown corner. His assignments generally don't produce all that well for two reasons: His talent level makes it difficult for receivers to find space, and most quarterbacks usually just avoid his side of the field all together.
Sherman won't be jumping routes all that often against Kaepernick, because the quarterback is skilled enough to make him pay if he wrongly does so. Also, the run game of Kaepernick should keep Sherman honest enough that he might not get too many chances to jump in front of a pass.
Even still, Kaepernick can be erratic in the pocket at times. A corner as good as Sherman will surely capitalize on those few opportunities if they present themselves.
Here's what the lines of a few other stars in this one might look like. While not as important to the outcome as the aforementioned players, the following will also impact the game in some way.
|Russell Wilson||18/31, 230 Yards, 2 TD, 25 Rush Yards|
|Frank Gore||24 ATT, 83 Yards, 1 TD, 2 Rec, 15 Yards|
|Bobby Wagner||12 Tackles, 1 Sack, 4 QB Hurries, 1 Pass Deflected|
|Michael Crabtree||8 Targets, 5 Rec, 85 Yards|
|Vernon Davis||8 Targets, 6 Rec, 70 Yards, 1 TD|