Predicting 49ers final 5 games to make a playoff run
Week 15: 49ers @ Seahawks
Thursday, Dec. 15 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Of all the games left, this one may have the most say in terms of who eventually wins the NFC West.
That it is coming down to Seattle and San Francisco again is certainly a surprise, given that many pundits expected the Seahawks to be one of the worst teams in the league this year. And yet, here they are, fighting for a playoff spot and possibly even the NFC West title.
And while it isn’t guaranteed that the winner of this game will win the division championship, it certainly would go a long way. A 49ers loss means the Hawks would have a chance to equal the Niners’ division record, as each team would be 4-1 with one division opponent left to play.
But if the Niners win and run their NFC West tally to 5-0, and perhaps more pivotally, 2-0 against Seattle, it would make it complicated for the neon-clad team from the Pacific Northwest to catch San Francisco.
While Seattle’s offense, led by quarterback Geno Smith, has cooled down some after a hot start to the season (save for their Week 2 loss to the 49ers), they are still among the league’s best in points scored (fifth) and total yards (ninth), including fifth in average yards per pass attempt (6.9), and ninth in average yards per rush (4.8).
According to Football Outsiders, they are a significantly better passing team (fifth, 31 percent) than a rushing team (20th, -7.9 percent) in spite of the emergence of rookie running back Kenneth Walker III, who has carried the ball 138 times for 649 yards, good for 4.8 yards per carry. Most of that damage has been done since being inserted into the starting lineup in Seattle’s Week 6 win over Arizona.
The silver lining here is that the 49ers, as previously noted, are the NFL’s best rushing defense, so it will be up to the Seahawks to figure out how to keep that train rolling against a strong defense.
As for the other side of the ball, Seattle’s defense isn’t very good, although it has shown flashes of improvement. Still, the Hawks have given up 304 points (28th in the NFL), 4,595 yards (30th), and are actually giving up a tick more yards per attempt than their offense is averaging (4.9), leaving them 28th in the NFL by that metric.
On top of that, they’ve faced the second-most rush attempts in the league, which means teams find success and keep pounding the football.
Only two teams haven’t eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground against Seattle, the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants in Weeks 7 and 8, respectively, but there’s no reason to think the 49ers can’t have similar success as they did in Week 2 when they ran for 189 yards.
Yes, this is a short week that includes travel, but if the Niners can find success on the ground again, this should be another victory, even if it ends up being closer than Week 2.