This 49ers rival is poised to regress massively in 2023

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers and Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers and Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The 49ers may be kings of the NFC West, but if this rival team falters in 2023, the Niners may face little-to-no challenge to retaining the division crown.

For the better part of 10 years, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves looking up at the Seattle Seahawks as the top squad in the NFC West.

The script was supposed to flip entirely heading into 2022, especially after the Hawks dealt their franchise quarterback, Russell Wilson, to the Denver Broncos and headed into training camp with a roster that many viewed as one of the worst in the NFL.

After all, who was convinced that quarterbacks Drew Lock or Geno Smith could be at the helm of a dangerous Seattle team?

No one, which is probably why Smith ended up taking home Comeback Player of the Year honors after he led the Seahawks to a surprising 9-8 record during the regular season before ultimately falling short against the Niners in the Wild Card round.

San Francisco, after years of watching the Seahawks dominate the division through the 2010s, now finally seems to be the best of the west after securing the NFC West title last season and heading into 2023, particularly with the Los Angeles Rams‘ horrific Super Bowl defense a year ago and the Arizona Cardinals seemingly scuffling their way through the post-head coach Kliff Kingsbury era.

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It appears the Hawks are the 49ers’ lone challenge again heading into the new season.

But, according to one CBS Sports analyst, even Seattle appears poised for a significant regression.

CBS Sports predicts 49ers NFC West rival Seahawks will regress in 2023

An easier path to a divisional crown is always a welcomed thing, and in 2022, it meant the Niners got at least one home playoff game (they ended up securing two).

On top of that, San Francisco swept the NFC West by defeating the Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals to boast a 6-0 division record.

Perhaps it’ll be more of the same in 2023 if CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr is right.

Kerr listed the Hawks as one of five teams to take a major step in the wrong direction this upcoming season, and here was his rationale:

"Can Smith have the same impact on this offense as he had in 2022? He did have 12 turnovers in his last nine games (Seattle went 3-6 in that stretch), so it’s worth wondering if he can recapture his form from the first half of the year.The Seahawks will have to improve a run defense that was 30th in the NFL in rush yards allowed and 26th in yards per carry allowed. They’ll also need to improve the third down conversion rate (20th in NFL) and red zone conversion percentage (28th in NFL), as too many points were left on the board."

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Much of Kerr’s analysis rests on Smith, as well as other statistical factors. And while Kerr admits there are young cornerstone pieces in Seattle, such as cornerback Tariq Woolen and running back Kenneth Walker III, it was Smith’s play that ultimately put the Seahawks in a playoff spot.

Smith, a free agent in 2023, is envisioned as likely returning to the Hawks where he resurrected his otherwise insignificant career.

Can he resurrect the first half of 2022, though, when Seattle’s offense was one of the best in the league?

If not, Kerr’s prediction could come true, and the 49ers wouldn’t mind that whatsoever.

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