Going into Christmas Eve the San Francisco 49ers will head to the northwest to face off against a divisional opponent in the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have caught fire lately winning 5 of their last 6 games. It is an important game for the Niners due to the scenario they are in, if the Niners win and the New Orleans Saints lose to the Atlanta Falcons, the Niners will earn the second seed in the NFC playoffs and the first round bye that comes with it. But it will not come easy. Every football fan should know by now that Seattle is one of the toughest places to play in the league. Last season the Niners suffered a blowout lost to the Seahawks in Seattle which was the start to an awful season. This season the two have shown lots of improving since their week 1 showdown, with the Niners winning 33-17. Here are some keys to the rematch.
Seahawks Special Teams
In the first meeting the Niners were comfortably ahead after the first half. Later the Seahawks would begin a comeback to cut into the Niners lead. The Niners would then pull away due to two returns for touchdowns by WR Ted Ginn Jr. It is hard to believe the same will happen this time around, especially when Ginn is listed as questionable for the game. The Niners did a great job moving the ball on the Seahawks, but like always struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone which kept the Seahawks in the game. It is going to be important to score touchdowns this week to keep the crowd out of the game. We do not need the crowd (also known as the 12th man) causing too many false start penalties.
RB Marshawn Lynch
A reason why the Seahawks have been so hot is because of Marshawn Lynch. Known as Beast Mode, Lynch has scored at least 1 touchdown in 10 straight games and been racking up yardage in the process. But here is a “bold” prediction for everyone, Beast Mode will not make it 11 straight. The Niners are yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season which is just remarkable. Believe that the Niners know that Lynch wants to be the first to score a rushing touchdown but the Niners will most likely shut him down making the Seahawks one dimensional. Something the Niners do to all their opponents. It will be vital for the Niners defenders to wrap up after every tackle on Lynch since he is known for being difficult to take down.
Taking Care of the Ball
The Niners lead the NFL in turnover differential and for good reason. The Niners ball hawking defense forces many turnovers and the offense play virtually mistake free football. QB Alex Smith has only thrown 5 interceptions this entire season. We cannot afford to do the opposite this week. As I alluded to earlier, the Niners cannot give the crowd any reason to get excited and cause a mini earthquake in the stadium. During the Seahawks hot steak, the defense has done a great job in forcing turnovers and gaining momentum in the development. No turnovers should equal a Niner victory.
A Niner win will be instrumental to locking down the first round bye. Even with a Saints win, it would mean the Niners would need a victory against the St. Louis Rams the following week to assure the second seed, in which I like the Niners chances of winning that game, obviously. The only thing that makes me nervous going to Seattle is the fact that the Niners are coming off a very short week. They played on Monday and five days later they are playing on a Saturday away from home. It’s going to be gut check time for the Niners. I do have confidence that the Niners will pull off a victory in a close affair. The Niners defense will have to come up big again and I see final score being 19-13.
Lastly, LB Patrick Willis had limited practice on Thursday to test out his injured hamstring. His status is uncertain for the game. I personally have a hard time believing the Niners will risk putting in Patrick unless he is surely 100 percent. I do not expect to see him on Saturday, but hopefully I am wrong. Let’s expect a great game by the Niners. GO NINERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!