Week 17 versus Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, January 1 at 4:25 p.m. ET
The 49ers close out their 2016 regular season with a New Years Day matchup against the Seahawks, although this rivalry seems nothing like it used to not long ago.
This game could be an interesting one for a number of reasons. We’ll assume the Niners won’t be in the playoff picture, but it’s entirely possible Seattle is competing for a playoff berth and/or better seeding in the postseason.
So, in all likelihood, this won’t be a meaningless contest like we saw at the end of 2015.
We’ve already touched on the plusses and minuses of the Seahawks this year — a bad offensive line, an up-and-coming running back (Thomas Rawls) to replace retired Marshawn Lynch, quarterback Russell Wilson chatter and changes within the defense.
But the Niners, at least, have home-field advantage and won’t have to battle this NFC West rival up north.
Why the 49ers Win
San Francisco can pull off a victory here if it can keep it a low-scoring, scrappy game. It’s hard to expect the Niners to win in a shootout, based on the notion Seattle’s defense will still probably be pretty good, and last year’s Seahawks offense ended up being pretty explosive.
So this means pressure up front and ensuring Wilson isn’t able to evade the 49ers pass-rushers and extend plays.
Oh, and Rawls won’t be allowed to gouge the Niner defense like he did last year.
If the 49ers offense plays smart, turnover-free football, they stand a slight chance.
Why the 49ers Lose
Well, the Niners haven’t beaten the Seahawks in a while, and home-field advantage has meant nothing to San Francisco in this divisional showdown over the last two seasons.
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Simply put, Seattle is still too good for the 49ers to handle at this point. The separation between the two franchises may be a little less in 2016 than it was a year ago, but the Hawks still have more weapons with which to work.
49ers quarterbacks force passes, which wind up as turnovers, and the Niners defense eventually breaks down because of long-term exposure to a Seattle team looking to get momentum into the playoffs.