Seahawks vs. 49ers: Seattle Needs Big Division Win Before Tough Stretch

Michael DulkaContributor ISeptember 10, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 12:  Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers runs after a catch as Lawyer Milloy #36 of the Seattle Seahawks defends during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on December 12, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks travel south for a divisional game against the rival San Francisco 49ers and Pete Carroll's 'Hawks need to leave the Bay Area with a big win before a tough four-game stretch takes them into their bye week.

After playing the 49ers, the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh to play the defending AFC champs, then return home for the Arizona Cardinals, followed by the Atlanta Falcons before going back on the road to play the New York Giants at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

The Seahawks will have a chance to exhale at this point with an early Week 6 bye week. In the opening five weeks of the season, the Seahawks have two winnable games, two near-impossible games, and a fairly tough matchup in New York.

The Seahawks cannot afford to lose this game against the 49ers. With an opening day loss, the Seahawks would be extremely fortunate to enter the bye week with two wins. In the event of a loss to the 49ers, the Seahawks will most likely reach their bye week at 1-4 or 0-5.

A team with a new quarterback, a new wide receiver, a rebuilt offensive line, a second-year head coach, and a running back entering his first full year with the team could fall victim to a slow start. The Seahawks absolutely cannot afford a slow start this season. 

Entering last season as divisional favorites, the 49ers struggled mightily as the Mike Singletary era came to a hideous end. The team finished strong, but there are many questions that remain coming into this season.

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 11:  Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson #7 of  the Seattle Seahawks gives the ball to teammate runningback Marshawn Lynch #24 against the San Diego Chargers during their  NFL preseason game on August 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Di
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The lockout hurt the 49ers more than most teams as new head coach Jim Harbaugh was unable to implement his offensive system. Alex Smith will once again be the team's starting quarterback for opening day, but has lacked the consistent play needed to help his team compete. Many believed Colin Kaepernick could win the job, but failed to do so as he has struggled adjusting to the NFL.

During the preseason, the 49ers offensive line looked atrocious, leaving whichever quarterback was in the game exposed to sacks and big hits. Plenty of times, it would not have mattered if Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees was in the game.

The Seahawks defense needs to create pressure on Smith, as he has shown a weakness to make mistakes while facing pressure. If the Seahawks defensive line can get to Smith, interceptions will be available for the defensive backs. 

On offense, the Seahawks will need to streamline their gelling time and put together some long drives. The pressure will be on Tarvaris Jackson to make plays and avoid turning the ball over, while Sidney Rice has to become a factor down field for Jackson.

Marshawn Lynch may struggle to get big yardage in this game, but he needs to come up big in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. Lynch must become Jackson's safety valve in check-down situations with the loss of John Carlson

Last season, the 49ers owned the sixth-best rushing defense in the league, but the 24th best pass defense. The game will be placed into Jackson's hands to make some plays, but more importantly, to take care of the ball.

The Seahawks need to come out of this game victorious and focus on getting a Week 3 win in Arizona.

Getting to the bye week with two wins could be huge for the Seahawks as their schedule eases up the remainder of the way.