Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers look to build on last week’s win over Jacksonville as they travel to Seattle to take on the struggling Seahawks in an NFC West showdown.
Like the Seahawks, the 49ers currently sit below .500, but the 49ers still have the luxury of having the tiebreaker over the Cardinals, having defeated them in week one.
San Francisco has had an up and down year, resulting in a 5-6 record, but have certainly shown promise and have only been blown out once, against Atlanta.
Seattle, on the other hand, is a team that has lost hope for the playoffs. They are still struggling to find an identity and to defeat a quality opponent. All of their four wins have come over opponents with losing records.
It has been a year full of injuries, but there have been some bright spots. Justin Forsett has stepped up in Julius Jones' absence and outperformed the starter when given the chance. Still, coach Jim Mora and the Seahawks insist that Jones will be the starter this week as he is healthy enough to return.
I understand not losing a job due to injury, but Forsett has produced better almost every time he has been given the opportunity. On 40 fewer carries he has only nine fewer yards and is averaging 2.0 yards per carry more than Jones.
Forsett deserves a shot at the starting role. We can hope to at least see split carries. The jury is still out on Forsett, but Jones has proven that he does not have staying power as a starter in the league.
After missing the first five games due to holdout, the 49ers have been quick to work in play-making rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree who is currently third on the team in catches.
Comparing these two teams on paper, it looks like it should be a close match-up. Being in Seattle, it should certainly be closer than the 49ers' 23-10 victory in San Francisco, if for no other reason than starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is playing this time.
The Seahawks come in with an offense that has shown potential, ranked 21st in production and putting up 20.3 points a game. This is still an offense that lives and dies by the pass, ranked 15th in the league, and the performance of Hasselbeck is going to be an important key to the game.
With a healthy corps of wide receivers and the patchwork offensive line getting some time to gel together, the Seahawks need to be aggressive throwing the ball.
Going up against that passing attack is going to be the 28th-ranked pass defense. The 49ers will look to jam the wide receivers to knock off the timing of the routes, as Seattle’s pass offense is dependent on timing, as well as bring the pressure at that much-maligned Seattle offensive line to make Matt throw before he is ready.
While the 49ers don’t have a strong pass defense, it is still going to be important to establish the run for the Seahawks. There is a bit of a running back controversy in Seattle with Jones being named the starter despite Forsett outproducing him. It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks handle it.
The easiest solution is to give both running backs the ball a lot. This makes a running back controversy much easier to sort out than a quarterback one.
This doesn’t sound like a great plan with the 28th-ranked rushing offense in the league, and you call me hopelessly optimistic, but there is potential in the Hawks' running game.
Forsett has had bad games too, but there is a lot of potential in his hard running style, and even with Jones back he should get the bulk of the carries.
They will be facing an uphill battle, however, against the 49ers' tough fifth-ranked rushing defense. Still, balance is always important, and while the passing game will be what wins the game for them if they can pull it off, establishing a solid running game just makes that easier.
The 49ers made a switch at quarterback going into week seven, giving Alex Smith another shot at the starting role. He has responded well completing 62 percent of his passes with a 16-10 touchdown interception ratio. Smith has already had four 200-plus yard games compared to the one for Shaun Hill.
With San Francisco adding Crabtree and starting to use the spread formation, it has boosted the team's passing attack. This is the offense Smith ran in college and is more comfortable with, so this is a passing attack that has potential to be more effective than its 28th ranking in the NFL.
The Seahawks will defend against the pass with the 25th-ranked pass defense. The return of Marcus Trufant has helped some, but the Seahawks need to get more pressure on Smith if they want to contain this passing attack.
The running attack for the 49ers is spearheaded by talented running back Frank Gore. Gore has been banged up a bit this year but is still his consistent self, averaging 5.0 yards a carry. The last two games he has produced less than 100 yards, but that is as much a product of increased throwing by the offense as anything else.
While the pass defense for the Hawks hasn’t been great, neither has the rush defense. It is better, ranked 18th in the league, but still has had trouble. A big match-up will be Seattle’s linebacking corps against Gore, especially David Hawthorne, who is in due to injuries but has performed quite well.
Like past weeks, I once again call for the Seahawks defense to step up and carry this team. Hopefully that works out better this week.
This looks to be a close game, and either team could take it. The first game was not close, but with Hasselbeck the Seahawks should be able to move the ball, at least through the air, against the 49ers defense. The 49ers offense has potential to be explosive but is not consistently so.
Both teams feel they have a lot to play for. The Seahawks are still playing for pride to prove that they aren’t really this bad, while the 49ers are still fighting for a winning season.
When taking into account the Seahawks' propensity to play much better at home and the 49ers still finding their identity as a young team, this feels like a game where Seattle sneaks in and pulls off a close victory.
If for no other reason than Seattle historically tends to win just enough games to not get a great draft pick.
Seattle 21, San Francisco 18