San Francisco 49ers (11-3) vs. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
Kickoff: Saturday, 1:15 PM (PST)
Here are five things to watch for in the divisional matchup between the 49ers and Seahawks:
All the 49ers need is another dominate performance by the defense and they win. Yes, the Seahawks have an emerging offense that has contributed to the team scoring at least 30 points in the last three games, all wins. The 49ers defense led by Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Carlos Rogers dominate teams by physically pounding the offense on each play and pressuring them into mistakes. Against the Steelers the defense recorded its fifth game this season with 10 or fewer points given up and did give up a touchdown. The Seahawks can expect the same dominate performance from the defense especially if Willis is able to play.
Carlos Rogers and the secondary will be hunting for interceptions all game and should be able to cover the Seahawks receivers eliminating the passing game. A consistent pass rush like they had against the Steelers will go a long way in stopping QB Tarvaris Jackson from making any big plays down the field. The Seahawks offense may be without WR Doug Baldwin who might miss the game with an ankle injury.
The 49ers defense plays its best against the run and they may be facing their toughest opponent yet this season, Marshawn Lynch (1,011 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns). Lynch is a good candidate to ruin the 49ers streak of not giving up a rushing touchdown this season. In the three games the 49ers went up against Lynch they have held him to zero touchdowns and he only rushed for 33 yards in the season opener. Lynch has a streak of his own, 10 straight games with a rushing touchdown, which the 49ers D will end on Saturday.
The Beast, Aldon Smith
Rookie sensation Aldon Smith is unblockable. With 13 sacks this season Smith is 1.5 sacks away from the rookie record set by Jevon Kearse in 1999. Smith has a great chance of breaking the record as the Seahawks will be without LT Russell Okung who is out for the season with a torn right pectoral muscle. His replacement is Paul McQuistan who will have trouble against Smith’s quickness and strength. Smith is only on the field on passing downs but his stat line at the end of the game looks like a starter. Expect another big game from The Beast.
Ted Ginn (ankle), Braylon Edwards (knee) and Patrick Willis (hamstring) are listed as questionable for the game. Ginn will not play as he has not practiced this week, and between Edwards and Willis, Edwards is the more likely to play. The short week after playing on Monday night and then on Saturday did not help the 49ers heal their injuries. Willis and Edwards were limited in practice this week which means they are a game-time decision. If Willis is not 100% he should not play as it will rain before and most likely during the game making the field wet and slick. Jim Harbaugh does not want to aggravate Willis’ hamstring making him miss the rest of the season and playoffs if he rushes him back too soon.
The 12th Man
The Seahawks fans get so loud at the stadium they call themselves the 12th man. Too bad the 12th man can’t help score on the field against the 49ers D but they could cause miscues for Alex Smith and the offense. With the weather conditions calling for cold and rain combined with the crowd noise, the offense could have a few false starts and delay of games. The 49ers have experience playing in loud stadiums on the road with games against the Lions inside their dome and against the Ravens this season. Seahawks fans will be pumped because they are not only facing off against a division rival who has reclaimed the NFC West title from them but the team still has a chance at the playoffs.
49ers Control Own Playoff Destiny
All the 49ers have to do is win out the last two games and they have the second seed in the NFC playoffs. With a Saints loss to the Falcons and a win against the Seahawks, the 49ers clinch the second seed this weekend. A true playoff team would be able to clinch the second seed controlling their own destiny. These last two games will go a long way in showing who the 49ers really are and what they are made of.