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49ers/Seahawks Preview

22 Dec

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Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:20pm

When the 2012 schedule was released back in April a lot of people circled September 24th’s game against Green Bay and October 14th’s game against New England on their calendars as “must-see” games. I definitely saw those games as big games but this week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers was the game I looked at and got the most excited about. I had thoughts of two incredibly talented teams playing in week 16 with playoff implications and possibly the NFC West division title on the line. Although the division lead is not on the line at this time, the Seahawks have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win. The matchup is so intriguing, the National Football League flexed this game into Sunday Night Football two weeks ago making it the game of the week. The 49ers are 10-3-1 and beat the AFC East champion New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football last week by a score of 41-34. The Seahawks are 9-5 and are coming off an impressive 50-17 win over the Buffalo Bills in Toronto last week. San Francisco leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 14-13. In their last meeting back in week 7, the 49ers beat the Seahawks 13-6 in a defensive duel on Thursday Night Football. 9 weeks have passed since that October night at Candlestick Park and the Seahawks are a completely different team, especially on offense. Here is what I will be looking for on Sunday night.

Since installing a heavy zone-read look, this will be the toughest defense Russell Wilson and the zone-read will have faced all season. The biggest reason why is because San Francisco runs a similar offense. San Francisco’s defense will be practicing against as close to an accurate simulation of the Seahawks as humanly possible. Russell Wilson needs to make sure that the momentum carries over from the past two weeks. If he gets rattled in the pocket, he needs to take a deep breath and improvise. My concern is that if Wilson is flushed out of the pocket, the speed of the 49ers defense will catch Wilson behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in decent sized chunks of yardage lost. Russell Wilson will be the single reason that determines how effective our offense is this week. Marshawn Lynch could have a big impact but the run defense is the bread and butter of the San Francisco defense. I think using a plethora of receivers this week will benefit the offense. If Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Anthony McCoy, and Zach Miller can each catch a couple of passes, the offense will be highly effective. Spread the wealth this week Russell, and don’t be afraid to take shots down the field.

On defense this week, the Seahawks will be playing the cornerback shuffle once again. Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant have been held out of practice all week with injuries but Richard Sherman will be available after having his Adderall suspension ruling delayed until at least next week after his appeal on Friday. If Thurmond and Trufant are both inactive, our starting cornerbacks Sunday night will be Sherman and Jeremy Lane. Lane started last week and was tested early. He passed the tests Buffalo threw at him and he solidified the confidence Coach Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has in him. The defensive line is also banged up this week. Defensive tackle Jason Jones was placed on injured reserve this week, taking away a significant interior pass-rush threat. Greg Scruggs will see an expanded role at defensive tackle this week. The 49ers have a good offensive line but at home, the pressure put on a quarterback is significantly amplified. Add-in the primetime factor and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 5 or 6 sacks of Colin Kaepernick this week. Look for Chris Clemons to have an impact as usual but also have an eye on K.J. Wright this week. Wright is most effective in coverage but I predict he will have a sack early in Sunday night’s game.

The San Francisco 49ers have also seen significant changes in their offense since our matchup in October. For starters, Colin Kaepernick is the new starting quarterback after replacing a concussed Alex Smith in week 10. Kaepernick is 4-1-1 since week 10 and the 49ers have used a similar offensive scheme as the Seahawks. What is most impressive about Kaepernick in my mind is his arm strength. He is not afraid to sling the ball down the field. This was evident last week as he threw three touchdown passes of 24 yards or more; a 24-yard pass to Randy Moss, a 27-yard pass to Delanie Walker, and a 34-yard pass to Michael Crabtree. Add in the fact that he can take off and run provides an extra threat to the Seattle defense. The Seahawks must focus on play-action looks this week. The 49ers do a good job at disguising runs and throws and anything is fair game at any time. Like the Seahawks, San Francisco also has a wide variety of weapons at the running back and receiver positions. Expect Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis to all get involved in this game evenly. We held San Francisco to 13 points on the road in week 7. Although the 49ers average close to 27 points per game on the road, coming into CenturyLink Field, it is very possible to think they may struggle.

I have to be a realist. As much as it hurts me to admit, the San Francisco 49ers have the best defense in the league. The San Francisco defensive line is my main focus this week. It may seem obvious, but the man the Seahawks MUST contain this week is Aldon Smith. Smith is tied for first in the league with 19.5 sacks on the season; 3 shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record. Smith will mostly line up against Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung. Okung has done a decent job shutting down edge pass-rushers this season but Smith will be Okung’s toughest challenge to date. Aldon Smith had one sack against the Seahawks in their first meeting. One thing to note is the health of nose tackle Justin Smith. With San Francisco leading New England 31-3 last week, Justin Smith left the game with an arm injury. Without Smith on defense in the second half, the Patriots scored 28 unanswered points and nearly came back to win. Early indications from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area point to Justin Smith being unavailable this week for San Francisco. This is where the Seahawks must take advantage. If Marshawn Lynch can do some damage up the middle, the 49ers will have a difficult time on defense.

We have played the San Francisco 49ers once already this season in primetime. This week it is our turn to remind the country that we have the best home-field advantage in the National Football League. As a fan, late season games are also more fun in primetime because the sun sets well before the game even starts. Ever since this game was flexed into Sunday Night Football a couple of weeks ago, I have been picturing what the scene will look like during pre-game and I can see it now: the Sea Gals performing to their annual Christmas routine, the San Francisco 49ers being introduced to a chorus of extremely loud boos, the bone-chilling bass that gets blasted over the public address system, the long pause between team introductions while SNF is on a television commercial break, the warning that the 12th Man is now live to the nation on NBC, the blasting of “Bittersweet Symphony” over the PA as we are welcomed to CenturyLink Field by PA announcer Randy Rowland, the epic pre-game video played right before the Seahawks are about to run on to the field, and the majestic green and blue fireworks that shoot off as the starters are introduced onto the field. The 12th Man will be going absolutely nuts during this sequence and I absolutely cannot wait.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys this week. Pant color is TBD (most likely blue)… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week. I’ll be sure to set my DVR… The referee this week is Bill Vinovich. Vinovich has been absent from the sidelines since 2006 due to personal health reasons. He will be working with Bill Leavy’s crew… No pre-game giveaway this week. I’m disappointed that rally towels will not be given out. I thought this would be a big enough game to do towels… The starting defense will most likely be introduced this week since the offense was introduced against Arizona two weeks ago. I could see the offense being introduced though, since NBC would want to get a good shot of Russell Wilson running out of the tunnel… The people around me better be ready for a heavy Skittles shower, I plan to break my personal record for most Skittles brought (and thrown) when MoneyLynch scores. Please don’t let me down beast!… Sunday night’s halftime show: Mattress racing. #KillMe… There are rumors floating around Twitter about who will be raising the 12th Man flag before the game. I have heard it may be Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or Shaun Alexander. I would be content with either of those choices but I think Alexander would be more epic… Sunday will be a 5-hour energy kind of day. My wake-up call will be set for 6am, a mere 11 hours before kickoff… For the second consecutive year I will be playing for my fantasy football consolation bracket championship. AKA, the “I don’t give a crap bowl”… This will be the 3rd primetime game between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle since I’ve been a season ticket holder. The first was in 2006 on Thursday Night Football when San Francisco dominated the Seahawks 24-14 in the midst of a monsoon (later known as the Hanukkah Eve Storm). The second was a 24-0 shutout win by the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in 2007… When the 49ers beat the Patriots last week, I was upset because that meant this week’s game would not be for the NFC West lead. However local sports radio has lifted my spirits because of the Seahawks playoff scenario generator. If we had been in position to win the division and did in fact win it, we would most likely host a wild-card game and then play the Packers in Green Bay in the divisional playoffs. That may be the hardest scenario for the Seahawks. If the Seahawks get the 5th seed which they are positioned to do, they would play on the road against the NFC East champion in the wild-card round, and then most likely play Atlanta at the Georgia Dome in the divisional playoffs. Although the former gets us a home playoff game, the latter is the easier path to the NFC Championship game in my opinion. With the momentum the Seahawks currently have, it may be for the best that we have to travel throughout the playoffs which actually gets me pretty excited.

Prediction: This will be a drama-filled game. No team will completely dominate the other and the scoring and stats will be pretty even. It will all come down to the last play of the game. With the Seahawks holding a 21-20 lead with 5 seconds left, San Francisco’s David Akers will line up for a 45-yard field goal. The kick will have the distance but will sail wide left, sending the Seahawks to the playoffs and the CenturyLink Field crowd erupting into complete pandemonium.

Seahawks 21, 49ers 20

I apologize if I do not publish my 49ers review on Monday since it is Christmas Eve. If I do not have the time Sunday night or Monday, expect my review to be posted on Wednesday afternoon after Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody. Thanks so much for reading. Go Seahawks!

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Seahawks/49ers Preview

17 Oct

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers

Site: Candlestick Park (San Francisco, California)

Kickoff: 5:20pm

The Seahawks conclude their road slate of division games on Thursday night against the defending NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks enter the game with a 4-2 record and are coming off a thrilling 24-23 victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday. The 49ers are also 4-2 and are coming off an embarrassing loss to the New York Giants 26-3 in what was a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 13-13. Here is what I will be looking for down in San Francisco on Thursday night in this crucial game.

This biggest key for Russell Wilson this week will be limiting turnovers. The Seahawks will be going up against the best defense they have faced all season and much like the guys we have on defense, the 49ers have a lot of talented weapons that can do everything from rushing the passer, stopping the run, and intercepting passes thrown into the secondary. Honestly, I expect Wilson to struggle this week. Wilson always preaches preparation and how being prepared translates to how well he performs on the field. The Seahawks have only had 4 days to prepare for San Francisco, and I don’t think the factors of this game such as limited preparation, travel, and tough opponent are in Wilson’s favor. I think Wilson will take chances down the field like he did last week but he will not have the same success rate. I will predict Russell Wilson will throw for one touchdown and one interception against this tough 49ers defensive unit.

I hope the Seahawks will try to establish the running game early and if Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin are unable to get things going consistently, Russell Wilson will be forced to throw more than the coaching staff would like him to. If Lynch can put up numbers like he did in the first couple weeks of the season, our offense will be in good shape. I get this feeling that Lynch is due to burst out and run for a couple gains of at least 40 yards. It may be tough this week but I would never count it against him. There was a drive against New England where the Seahawks used Robert Turbin for four straight plays. I do not know if it was a package specifically designed for Turbin or if we were just giving Lynch a rest but I liked switching up the personnel. I think if the Seahawks use Turbin in a more expanded role, we can confuse the 49ers defense and we will have more success running the ball in this game.

Something that I think needs to be preached that may be overlooked by other fans is the fact that this game is a primetime game on the road. Why do Seahawks fans love going to Sunday Night, Monday Night and Thursday Night games so much? It is because we are the only game going on at that time, we are being broadcast all around the country, and we want to prove to the rest of the country that we have the best fans and the best home-field advantage in the National Football League. This time however, the Seahawks are on the road which means it is the “49er Faithful” that has all of these things on their side. To be effective on the road in primetime, we need to make a statement early. Whether this means we convert a big play or we score we need to keep the 49ers fans silent early and often. If we can do this, we will have an even greater chance of coming home 5-2.

The San Francisco 49ers have gotten off to a strong start this season after a surprising 13-3 campaign in 2011. At the forefront is the 49ers defense led by middle linebacker Patrick Willis and pass-rush extraordinaire Aldon Smith. San Francisco is giving up an average of just under 16 points per game and has given up an average of only 9.7 points in their last three games. If the Seahawks offensive line has trouble pass blocking, especially since James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan will play left guard and right guard respectively, the 49ers may have their way with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. I think a successful game for the Seahawks would be to limit San Francisco to three sacks or less. To be honest, I think a more reasonable estimate and prediction would be that the 49ers will sack Russell Wilson 5 or 6 times on Thursday night. The man I will be keeping the keenest eye on this week will be NaVarro Bowman. Bowman leads San Francisco in tackles with 60 on the season, averaging 10 per game. As an outside linebacker, Bowman does an exceptional job of scouting out where the play is developing, especially when the Seahawks line up in packages sporting slot receivers or multiple tight ends. If we can get Bowman stuck in traffic, the Seahawks could put together decent sized chunks of yardage on their drives.

The San Francisco offense is the biggest question mark in my eyes. Quarterback Alex Smith is having another solid season so far, completing 67.7 percent of his passes and throwing 4 more touchdowns than interceptions (8 touchdowns, 4 interceptions). I think the biggest threat on offense for the 49ers is their cornucopia of wide receivers. Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Randy Moss all have the potential to make big plays but the man I am scared most of is their offseason acquisition Mario Manningham. Manningham will most likely line up against Richard Sherman this week and because of all of the chatter that Sherman has stirred this week, I would not be surprised to see Smith try to test him by throwing to Manningham. Having said this, I have full confidence that the “Legion of Boom” will be able to handle the 49ers receivers. Smith will complete passes and make solid gains from time to time, but I fully expect the Seahawks secondary to make sure that there are no gains of 25+ yards this week.

One more brief note, 49ers kicker David Akers has been struggling recently. If the 49ers are stuck in long field goal range, Akers may not be as effective. The Seahawks must take advantage of these opportunities and the field position given to them, especially if Akers struggles.

Random Thoughts: This will be my second Seahawks road trip of the season. I have seen 5 straight road losses live… The weather is supposed to be nice on Thursday night with a game-time temperature in the mid to high 70’s. Even though it’s a night game maybe I’ll come back home with one of my famous redhead sunburns… Candlestick is the worst stadium I have ever been to. Having said this I am tagging along for the Jaguars/Raiders game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland on Sunday with my best friend Josh, so maybe that opinion will change soon… Let me make this point very clear. If there is one thing I hate more than the San Francisco 49ers it is the fans of the San Francisco 49ers. They are hands down the rudest fans in the NFL; at least that I have witnessed and dealt with live. I expect way more drunks in the stands at the Stick on Thursday night since they’ve had all day to drink in the parking lot… My weekly uniform prediction: I have heard rumblings on Twitter that the Seahawks are going to wait to wear their grey alternate uniforms until December. With this in mind, my guess is white jersey/grey pants… If I don’t make it back home assume I’m in a San Francisco hospital recovering from stab wounds or gunshot wounds. Another person got hurt attending a 49ers home game last week. I am astonished these incidents keep on happening. For as sad as they are it is almost laughable to me that security cannot do the one job they are trained to do… If you have not seen the hilarious picture of Richard Sherman trash talking Tom Brady after last week’s game here it is:

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I looked at this picture and laughed out loud for a good while. Something about Sherman’s facial expression cracks me up. Just another reason why he is my favorite Seahawk… I’ve got a dinner bet on this game. Although I love to cook it’d be nice to actually win a bet for once. Your move, Seahawks. Help me out here… Hopefully I can get on national NFL Network broadcast this week. That would be pretty cool. Keep an eye out for me ;).

Prediction: I am 1-1 seeing the Seahawks play live in San Francisco. Here are the scores of the games I’ve seen:

2007: Seahawks 23, 49ers 3

2011: 49ers 33, Seahawks 17

This game will be a defensive duel. The Seahawks have been in every game at the end all season long and that will not change on Thursday night. One of the primary reasons why the Seahawks struggled in San Francisco last season was they could not put pressure on Alex Smith and force him to commit turnovers. The winner of the turnover battle wins this game and with this being a defensive duel, there will be multiple turnovers. At the end of the day the Seahawks win the turnover battle 3-2 and come home with sole possession of first place in the NFC West.

Seahawks 16, 49ers 10

I will not have access to a computer until late Sunday night when I get home from the Bay Area. Expect two posts early next week. I will post my review of the Seahawks/49ers game most likely Monday afternoon. Also, just like I did with my trip to Arizona last month I will chronicle my weekend in San Francisco in a detailed post. It will surely be a must-read. Look for that post most likely on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. Thanks for reading everybody. Go Seahawks!

“SEATTLE SEAHAWKS GINGER FROOOO!!!”- Drunk 49ers fan at Candlestick in awe of my afro from last year’s game.