Less than twenty-four hours separate us from the highly anticipated face-off between the San Francisco 49ers and the visiting Seattle Seahawks. Both teams are good, either could end up playing for the Lombardi Trophy in New York this February. Sunday, however, is one game.
San Francisco has Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham back, while Seattle has been rolling on all cylinders. Look for both teams to come out with a tenacity reserved for these types of rivalry games. As Patrick Willis said Saturday: “It’s a game that we have to have.”
Determination can help lead to victory, but when two teams are both undoubtedly obsessed with beating the other, other factors will decide the outcome. Look for the 49ers to be dialed in on Russell Wilson, keeping him in the pocket as much as possible. This will limit his ability to make something out of broken plays, thus limiting an unusually important aspect of an NFL offense.
On the flip side of the ball, Seattle will need to defend more than just the rushing game. Though I expect the Seahawks to hold Frank Gore and defend Crabtree and Colin Kaepernick fairly well, look for the 49ers change of pace running backs to gain some critical yards, especially LaMichael James, both on punt returns and on some specially designed plays.
Of course, if either defensive line clearly wins the battle up front, that team should end up with an extra victory. I expect both offensive lines to hold up, even if they struggle. James and Bruce Miller, the 49ers’ third-leading receiver, could very well be difference makers, as they should be more open than in previous outings.
Final Prediction: 49ers 27, Seattle 16