A 2nd straight Sunday night contest for the Red and Gold to play in.
This one, however, has the San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) visiting the hostile CenturyLink Field to play the Seattle Seahawks (9-5) for the 2nd time this season. The first meeting between these two teams happened back in week 7 with San Francisco winning a smash mouth football game 13-6.
While they are still favored to win the division being 1.5 games up on the Seahawks, this Sunday’s game is still very important to the 49ers as to maintain their spot for the #2 seed in the NFC along with the bye week in the postseason that comes with it. The Green Bay Packers (10-4) are just a half game behind San Francisco and could possibly pass them in week 16.
“I think it’s always a big, emotional game every single week,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We’ve always taken that approach that the next game is the biggest game at least of the season.”
It doesn’t help that Seattle is currently on a three game winning streak while scoring at least 50 points in each of their last two games. The 49ers, meanwhile, escaped from New England with a 41-34 win and are currently on a two game winning streak.
While San Francisco looked like the better team in their first meeting against Seattle, a lot has changed in the two months following that gruesome Thursday night game.
The most notable is, of course, Colin Kaepernick now being the starting quarterback for the 49ers. Kaepernick had perhaps his biggest game of the season this last weekend vs. the Patriots throwing for 216 yards, 4 touchdowns, and one interception. He throws accurately with a 65.6% completion percentage this season and has a QB rating of 101.3. He also can run pretty well with 379 rushing yards along with 5 rushing touchdowns.
Despite all of what he has done so far this season, Kaepernick might have his toughest game yet having to go into perhaps the toughest stadium to play in and get a win over the surging Seahawks.
“The Seahawks are hot team right now,” Kaepernick said. “Their defense is playing great. Their offense is putting up points. So we have to be ready.”
That passing defense of Seattle has been solid being ranked 3rd in the league allowing 197.6 passing yards per game. They are tied for 11th in the NFL (with 49ers and Vikings) in sacks with 35 as a team with their top pass rushers being the Defensive Ends Chris Clemons (11.5 sacks) and Bruce Irvin (8 sacks).
The Seattle secondary, however, might be slightly easier for Kaepernick than Alex Smith in week 7. Seahawks CB Brandon Browner is out due to a suspension and fellow CB Richard Sherman could join him depending on how his appeal of his suspension goes this Friday. The various receivers of Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, and Mario Manningham might benefit from this while Vernon Davis most likely still gets most of the attention from the secondary and the linebackers.
As for quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, he has gotten better. Since that week 7 loss, Wilson has a passer rating of 111.3 with a completion percentage of 66.2%, 13 passing touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions thrown. Wilson also turned a lot of heads this last Sunday against the Bills when he ran for 92 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.
Wilson, however, had one of worst performances of the season when he played the 49ers on that Thursday night. He went 9/23 with 122 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception thrown. Despite this, Harbaugh might’ve been impressed with Wilson’s performance back in week 7.
“He was good against us the first game, and we went into that game seeing a very good quarterback – a very accurate quarterback, a very mobile quarterback who can hurt you running the ball and throwing the ball,” Harbaugh said during a conference-call interview. “He had a real good command of the offense. That’s continued and he has been good.
“I really felt like in the first game we played them, he threw some beautiful passes. Fortunately for us, they were dropped. But his accuracy, his play, was right on the money.”
As for what Wilson goes up against, the 49ers took a hit statistically this last week in pass defense going against Tom Brady but they are still the 5th ranked pass defense in the NFL (201.9 yards per game). While Aldon Smith and the pass rush should give Wilson trouble like they did last time (2 sacks), the pass defense could be greatly affected if injured Justin Smith isn’t able to play. However, Jim Harbaugh on his radio show Tuesday said he expects the Defensive Tackle to play.
“Everybody affectionately refers to Justin Smith around here as ‘The Cowboy,’ ” Harbaugh said. “I expect we’ll see The Cowboy. Knowing what I know of Justin Smith and the situation, I think The Cowboy will be around, saddled up … roping and riding. If it’s humanly possible, The Cowboy will be out there, roping and riding.”
If Justin doesn’t play, however, the edge might go to Seattle. The nation saw how essential Justin Smith was to San Francisco when he came off the field in the 2nd half against New England. Tom Brady got more time to throw in the pocket and the Patriots almost managed to defeat the 49ers despite being down by 28 points in the 3rd quarter.
Justin Smith is also why Aldon Smith has 19.5 sacks this season. While Aldon is certainly one of the best edge rushers in the league, it’s Justin Smith that works offensive linemen the most on that blind side giving Aldon the chance to score big hits on the quarterback.
The good news for the 49ers is that Seahawks WR Sidney Rice might not play Sunday either. A knee injury seems to be troubling him as he hasn’t practiced Wednesday or Thursday like Justin Smith. Rice leads the Seahawks in receiving yards (734) and also has 7 touchdown catches this season.
The running game of San Francisco’s, however, might have more of an advantage this time around. The 49ers have the 2nd ranked rushing attack in the league and while they have taken a hit since losing 2nd string back Kendall Hunter, the Seahawks run defense has also gone down statistically. They were fifth in the league in rush defense entering week 7. They are now ranked 10th in the league allowing 106.3 yards per game on the ground. They are still tough but have taken a hit there.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s rushing attack is right behind San Francisco’s being ranked 3rd in the league with 160.7 rushing yards per game. That ground game has improved as it was 7th in the NFL entering week 7.
What can we expect this Sunday Night? Expect more smash mouth football from these two running teams with the deep ball trying to be thrown by both teams this time. However, Seattle seems more likely to come out on top considering they are playing at arguably the best place to call home and that the 49ers haven’t been able to win three games in a row this season.
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Written by Daniel Trucios