For those who prefer to state the obvious, this is the perfect confrontation. San Francisco and Seattle play in the same division and have no use for each other. The coaches have problems with one another predating their NFL days, yet the styles they employ while different, are remarkably similar.
San Francisco Offense vs. Seattle Defense
Colin Kaepernick hit the wall and suffered a sophomore slump at midseason, averaging just 133.5 yards passing over a four-game period. However, the return of Michael Crabtree changed everything. In Kaepernick’s still brief career as a starting quarterback, he and Crabtree have a connection and with him back in the fold this generates more opportunities for Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis.
That extra option in the passing game has made Kaepernick a better passer and with is renewed confidence, coach Jim Harbaugh has loosened the reins and allowed him to rollout more, giving him a pass/run option and the former Nevada product is especially adept at running or throwing when he goes to his left.
While this is wonderful for 49ers fans, the fact remains San Fran is still a run-first offensive team behind a physical offensive line and Frank Gore. All NFL football handicappers and sportsbooks are aware the Niners were third in rushing and prefer to bludgeon the opposition.
Unfortunately, this does not work so well against Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks have held 17 opponents to 14.5 points a game (almost 35% below their average). Seattle is big and athletic everywhere in the front seven and the Legoin of Boom secondary has no equal, being called the best last line of defense in decades in some circles.
If the defense has any weakness, they will have problems with the straight ahead run game, where being athletic is less useful compared to brute strength. This is how the 49ers offense prefers to play.
NFL Football Playoffs Edge – San Francisco by three points
Seattle Offense vs. San Francisco Defense
Several weeks ago, Seattle was a lock to reach the Super Bowl as long as they had the home field advantage. However, that perception has gone from “lock” to “most likely” because of Russell Wilson and the offense.
For those making NFL picks this weekend, it is impossible to ignore the Seahawks are only averaging 20 points a game in their past five contests.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is coming off a career-worst 103 yards passing. He’s passed for fewer than 110 yards in two of the last three games and Seattle has averaged only 145 yards passing in its last five games.
What opposing teams have done is focus on keeping Wilson in the pocket and not letting him spin-out to open areas and dare him to be accurate with the chaos surrendering him. Wilson’s confidence and accuracy has slipped noticeably, particularly on slant passes and the opposition has tightened their coverage on the Seattle receivers who are not creating much separation.
This is why the offensive line, Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin are so important. If the O-Line makes holes for Lynch, the Seahawks have down and distant edges, which give offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell more options. Harvin, if healthy, becomes the wild card, because nobody really knows exactly how he can be utilized and he’s difference-maker.
The San Francisco defense might not have as many athletes or quite as much speed as their division counterparts; nevertheless, this is an intimidating relentless group, who can contain the opposition like the Indiana Pacers. What you notice about the 49ers defense is their intelligence and how seldom they are out of position and like Seattle, everyone is a lockdown tackler.
NFL Football Playoffs Edge – Seattle by two points
Understanding the Intangibles
For the most part, these teams are mirror imagines of one another. The betting odds suggest a close battle, though Seattle has mental aspect in their favor having won the last two games decisively at Century Link Field by 26 and 29 points.
Seattle’s offensive problems are a concern and though the San Francisco is playing a third consecutive road game, they have maximum confidence on an eight-game winning streak.
The Niners are 0-5 ATS in past five meetings and have the same spread record at Seattle since 2009, if they can absorb the Seahawks best punch in the first half like they did at Carolina, they will be in the game.
NFL Football Playoffs Edge – Seattle by three points
NFL Pick – Seattle by two points