Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
Back on April 18th, the National Football League released its full slate of games for the 2013 season. What I like to do when the schedule comes out is go week by week and reveal game by game. As the games were revealed in week 2, both the 49ers and the Seahawks had not been scheduled. Then I got to Sunday Night Football. The Seahawks pull the first of two games against San Francisco here in week 2 in a crucial early season divisional battle. With the Falcons favored over the Rams in one of Sunday’s early games, the Seahawks could be playing for a sole possession of first place in the division, and a one game lead over the 49ers. The Seahawks are coming off a 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco is also coming off a victory; a 34-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. There is a lot to be mentioned so let’s get down to it.
Even with the 12th Man behind the defense, it is crucial that the Seahawks be as healthy as possible to add to our powerful home field advantage. Cliff Avril has been practicing with the first-team unit this week and his presence should bolster a Seahawks pass rush that only sacked Cam Newton once last week. Avril will take O’Brien Schofield’s place as our starting “Leo” defensive end. On third down, Avril, Schofield, and Benson Mayowa will be featured in our blitz package. I am both nervous and excited about our pass rush. Being at home with the crowd noise will help but we need to jump off the ball better than last week. I don’t expect to see many sacks this week but I do expect us to have more than one. In the secondary, Brandon Browner has been nursing a pulled hamstring and is questionable again this week. My prediction is that Browner will miss his second straight game and Walter Thurmond will start once again this week. Like last week I am fully confident in Thurmond to do his job well. Our run defense will also be a focus of mine. The Seahawks defense held San Francisco running back Frank Gore to a mere 28 yards rushing last season and Gore has not ran for more than 100 yards against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field since 2006. In the 6 games against the 49ers at home dating back to 2007, where Gore has ran for less than 100 yards, the Seahawks have a record of 4-2. If our run defense shows improvement from last week and can stuff Gore at the line of scrimmage and eliminate yards after contact, we will force third downs and will have a better chance to force San Francisco to punt.
The million dollar question on offense this week is this: which receiver will be the leading receiver and/or the star of the game? Last week Jermaine Kearse caught the game winning touchdown pass and Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks in receiving yards. This week at home I think we are going to try to profoundly display our most explosive receiver. Not Percy Harvin obviously, but Golden Tate. Last week Tate lined up for two plays in the backfield; the spot that Harvin will most likely line up in when healthy. I think the Seahawks will open up the playbook this week to highlight Tate among our other offensive weapons. Russell Wilson will considerably more read-option plays then last week and there will be some sort of trickery at some point on Sunday Night. A lot of experts think that the 49ers will win this game because of their explosive offense and stout defense able to stuff a “weak” and “rusty” Seahawks offense. Sunday Night is our night to show the country that we just had a bad game offensively last week. I am not expecting the productivity of last season’s game, but don’t be surprised if our offense bounces back similarly to how we played Dallas in our home opener last season after struggling week one in Arizona.
The San Francisco 49ers come into town with an offense that played exceptionally well last week and a defense that is still incredibly talented but gave up 28 points at home. The big question coming into the 2013 season for San Francisco was who would step up to be the playmakers at wide receiver after Michael Crabtree was lost to an Achilles injury. Last Sunday the answer may have been found in Anquan Boldin. Boldin was traded to the 49ers from Baltimore during the offseason and made an immediate impact last week, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. If the Legion of Boom can shut Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis down, the 49ers may be low on options at wide receiver. Kyle Williams could be the X-Factor and is my offensive man to watch of the 49ers this week. Williams caught 3 passes for 36 yards last week and was the leading receiver when you take out Boldin’s numbers and Davis’s numbers. If the Seahawks are effective in containing these two guys, Colin Kaepernick could have more of an impact than head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman originally intended him to. Kaepernick will run more than he did last week and he may be forced to in order to keep drives alive.
The Seahawks always try to test new players. When the 49ers lost safety Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay during free agency, they used their first round draft pick this past year on Eric Reid from LSU. With Reid still learning the ways of playing in an NFL defense, this could be the 49ers main weakness this week. Russell Wilson may try to go deep down the middle to test Reid and if the Seahawks are successful, they will keep trying to stretch the field to pick on Reid. In regards to the 49ers front 7, there is one huge difference between who played last year and who will play this year. Nose tackle Justin Smith is healthy after missing last year’s week 16 matchup with a triceps tear and his absence was absolutely noticeable in the running game. The Seahawks ran for 176 yards. With Smith back it will be harder for the Seahawks to run the ball this week. The Linebacker corps is still the strongest unit of the San Francisco defense. Russell Wilson must be aware of the personnel on the other side of the ball because Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith will make the Seahawks pay if they can get into a groove.
One underlying note this week is to keep an eye out on chippy play and personal foul penalties. These two teams hate each other so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some players getting in each other’s faces to try to draw a late flag.
One final note, as I broke back in July the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “loudest crowd road at a sports stadium” this week. The first official attempt will be on the 49ers first offensive play of the game. If you are reading this and will be in attendance on Sunday Night, do NOT forget to yell, clap, whistle, etc. As loud as it is at a Seahawks game, not everybody screams when the Seahawks are on defense. If we can get close to 100 percent vocal participation from the 12th Man, I think we have an excellent chance to break this record.
Random Thoughts: Is it really supposed to rain on Sunday Night??? I have never been to a home opener with rain in the forecast. If it does rain though consider us to have an advantage. We played the 49ers in the rain last year and they struggled holding onto the ball… The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week… John Parry is the referee this week… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC… I’m taking my buddy Alan this week. This is the second time he has been to a 49ers/Seahawks game with me. The first time was Monday Night Football in 2007… Praying to God alcohol enforcement doesn’t come up and ruin my Seahawks/49ers gameday again this season… On a similar note, undercover Seattle police officers are going to be in 49ers apparel this week. I guess I’ll just stick to booing. I don’t want to risk getting myself in serious trouble… With a 5:30 kickoff, it is still up in the air how we are going to spend our time before the game. Probably bouncing around the bars and checking out a tailgate or two… I’ve noticed ticket prices for this game are dropping on the secondary markets. Sellers are starting to realize their initial asking prices were too unreasonable for people. If you don’t have tickets but want to go to the game, I would suggest checking StubHub or NFL ticket exchange right now (49ers fans, ignore that)… I hope the Seahawks give away towels this week. It’s primetime. Towels would look awesome during pregame.
Prediction: Russell Wilson will throw for another 300+ yards this week along with two touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch will not break 100 yards rushing but will score his first touchdown of the season. Colin Kaepernick will get off to a fast start but the Seahawks defense will figure out how to slow him down later on in the game. The Seahawks will win their 9th straight home game, take sole possession of first place in the NFC West, and get ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 2-0 record.
Seahawks 30, 49ers 20
It will be a long night after the game, but check back on Monday for my 49ers/Seahawks game review. Whether watching on TV or you are lucky enough to be in attendance, enjoy the game everybody! Go Hawks!