The San Francisco 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week 10. And despite the relatively close records, the Niners are notably superior than their NFC West rivals.
For those still hanging onto the idea the San Francisco 49ers “haven’t played anybody” this season, despite their 8-0 start and being the final undefeated team remaining in the NFL, their Week 10 prime-time bout on Monday Night Football against the 7-2 Seattle Seahawks should provide a lot of answers.
The Niners old a 1.5-game lead and are two games up in the loss column in what’s turning into a tough NFC West. Based solely off the records, Week 10 will be head coach Kyle Shanahan’s toughest contest of the year.
That said, San Francisco is superior to Seattle in a number of key ways.
Yes, the two losses the Seahawks have suffered — Week 3 versus the one-loss New Orleans Saints and Week 7 against the two-loss Baltimore Ravens — were against top-tier competition.
As far as the remainder of Seattle’s wins, they’re not exactly of the dominant variety.
Six of the Seahawks’ seven victories this season have been by one score or less. And out of those six, three could have been decided differently by a mere field goal. In total, Seattle’s scoring differential is a mere plus-2.0 — good for 12 best in the league through nine weeks.
In contrast, the Niners own a plus-16.6 scoring differential, which ranks second.
Out of all San Francisco’s victories this season so far, two have been decided by one score or less — Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 49ers’ Week 9 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football.
Seattle’s abilities to win these close games, albeit barely, is something I discussed with KNBR 680’s Mark Willard last week:
One of the reasons why the Seahawks are winning games in the manner they are is due to quarterback Russell Wilson, who is playing at an MVP-caliber level. Without him, Seattle is likely no better than a .500 team, at best.
Wilson is there, of course, and the Niners have to figure out a way to contain him. That will be a storyline to watch, as Wilson takes on a San Francisco defense allowing an average of 4.3 yards per pass attempt — good for second best in the NFL this season.
One of the ways head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad will attempt to do this is by running the ball. The Seahawks are allowing an average of 4.7 yards per rush this season, which ranks 23rd best. In contrast, and despite the Niners having a tougher time running the ball in Arizona, Shanahan’s ground attack is still averaging 171.1 rush yards per game.
It’s an advantage playing right into San Francisco’s favor.
Currently, the Seahawks are the only team in the NFC West capable of threatening the 49ers’ hold on the division. A win on Monday Night Football would give the Niners a massive boost in the standings, plus the added bonus of a tiebreaker, should the two teams somehow end up with an identical record by the conclusion of Week 17.
Based off the raw numbers and stats, San Francisco is in excellent position to do so.