The Seahawks travel south to kick off their 2011 season on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks won the NFC West last season with just seven wins, four of which came against division opponents. Like the Seahawks, the 49ers were extraordinarily active this offseason. They added several big-name players, including big-play receiver Braylon Edwards, safety Donte Whitner (who I had hoped the Seahawks would sign), and safety Dashon Goldson.
Pete Carroll is familiar with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh from their time as rival head coaches in the Pac-10. Carroll’s USC teams dominated the conference in the early part of the decade, but had trouble with Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford teams. Harbaugh inherited a team that had gone 1-11 the year before, and won 12 games and the Orange Bowl in his fourth year with the team (2010), and beat Carroll two of the three times their teams faced.
This, however, will be Harbaugh’s first game in charge of an NFL team, and the Seahawks will be eyeing a win to begin their defense of the NFC West title. The 49ers scored the fewest points of any NFC team in the preseason, and Harbaugh, known as a sort of offensive guru, will be under the careful scrutiny of the 49er faithful. Fortunately for us Seahawk fans, I think the Seahawks have what it takes to win against the 49ers on the road.
The Seahawks run defense is greatly improved from previous seasons, and when the 49ers have beaten the Seahawks, running back Frank Gore has been a beast. I think he’ll have a good game, but won’t single handedly beat the Hawks like he has in days past. Instead, I think the Hawks will force the 49ers’ long-tenured and often maligned quarterback, Alex Smith, to win the game. Smith is startlingly inconsistent, and can go from looking like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league to throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns last year against the eventual champions of the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles. Though Smith has some pretty good receiving targets in tight end Vernon Davis, and receivers Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree, he has not proven that he can make enough good decisions consecutively to lead multiple scoring drives every game. I think the new-look Seahawk D will stuff the run and play conservatively against the pass, and force Smith to make a ton of short throws in a row to beat them.
I optimistically hope the Hawks hold the 49ers to under 20 points. If they can, AND if they can get a solid running game going, I think T-Jack will be able to lead the Seahawks to a win. No, Jackson is not a pro-bowl caliber quarterback (though I don’t think Seahawk fans would mind if he made the pro bowl this year), but I think he can play the “I’ll make less interceptions than you game” with Alex Smith and win. Carroll SHOULD and likely will try to get Jackson out of the pocket on rollouts or have him throw lots of quick, short passes to simplify the reads he has to make (when a quarterback rolls to one side or the other, they are probably only looking at a half of the field).
I expect it to be a close game, but it will eventually come down to Smith vs. Jackson. Whichever of the two can convert on more third downs and pressure throws will likely lead their team to victory. I think it will be Jackson. I think the Seahawk defense is better than the 49ers’ is (though if you’re a fan of football in general, pay special attention to 49er star linebacker Patrick Willis – he’s fun to watch), and I just don’t think Smith is good enough to beat the Hawks.
I don’t normally like making predictions, but I’m feeling inspired. Seahawks 21-16.
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.