The bite of an NFC West Thursday Night Football showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers isn't as strong as it should be with both teams sitting on a combined four wins.
The bark, though, will tell anyone who listens these teams are much better than their records indicate.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers have two wins on the season but over the last few weeks have seemed to discover the passing game again. Russell Wilson and Co. haven't seemed to figure out much of anything yet, with their two wins coming against the bottom of the NFC North barrel.
Coincidentally, these two rest at the bottom of the NFC West barrel, the only way out what might be a season-saving Thursday win. Here's a look at the critical showdown.
When: Thursday, Oct. 22, at 8:25 p.m. ET
Where: Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California
Television: CBS, NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL Game Pass
Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):
- Over/Under: 42
- Spread: Seattle (-6.5)
Team Injury Reports
|Bobby Wagner||LB||Day to Day|
|Bruce Ellington||WR||Day to Day|
|Reggie Bush||RB||Day to Day|
Injury reports courtesy of ESPN.com.
Avoiding the Collapse
Weeks of collapses have the Seahawks in a precarious position—their 2015 campaign is in danger of caving in on itself.
Starting out 0-2 wasn't a big deal. It was almost expected thanks to a tricky road encounter against the divisional foe St. Louis Rams before a trip to play the Green Bay Packers. The team's last two losses, though, were the direct result of fourth-quarter collapses.
In Week 5, Wilson and Co. took their collective foot off the gas and allowed 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points to eventually lose in overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals. Last weekend, the Seahawks returned home and wound up losing by four thanks to 13 fourth-quarter points allowed, the final touchdown by the Carolina Panthers coming with just 32 seconds left.
Head coach Pete Carroll spoke about what the situation means for his team, per ESPN.com: "To be where we are right now, it puts us in a position of tremendous adversity for a team. It calls on you a lot of stuff, but it calls on us to believe in the guys in the locker room and believe in what we're doing and hang together until we get things right."
Wilson isn't the problem with his 68.9 completion percentage with seven scores—but a line having already allowed 26 sacks is, as are the spotty contributions from a once-proud defense.
If Seattle wants to save the season, better basics in the trenches and composure when it matters look to be the main areas of improvement needed on a short turnaround.
Taking to the Air
Despite the 1-1 mark over their last two, the 49ers look like a much better team now that Kaepernick and his weapons have gotten it going through the air.
Kaepernick has four touchdowns to no picks in that span with the improved approach quite obvious—spam the ball to veteran wideout Anquan Boldin. The 35-year-old has seen 21 targets in those two games, turning the looks into 209 yards and one score.
The only problem with this upward trend? Seattle's strong secondary knows it's coming. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle provided a staggering look at Kaepernick's performance against the Seahawks compared to other opponents:
No kidding. In six career starts against the Seahawks, Kaepernick is 1-5, has completed 53.3 percent of his passes and thrown three touchdowns and nine interceptions. Passer rating: 54.1. Against the rest of the NFL, Kaepernick is 30-15, has completed 60.9 percent of his passes and thrown 60 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Passer rating: 94.0.
It's not a good sign to say the least. If Kaepernick is to once again compensate for a defense that has in part helped let up 30 or more points three times already, he's going to need to overcome the past, not just the present.
It's interesting Las Vegas feels so strongly about this one given the fact San Francisco is at home and Seattle has experienced such trouble as of late.
Still, Kaepernick's track record against the Seahawks is difficult to ignore, as is the defense.
Wilson's taking good care of the football when the line actually gives him time, which shouldn't be a major issue against a defense that has generated just nine sacks and will have to account for Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.
Look for Kaepernick to once again struggle after a brief two-game trip to efficiency. Seattle can and will control the pace of this one and close out a game late for the first time in what will feel like a long time.
Prediction: Seattle 24, San Francisco 20
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.