By Sam McPherson
The once-strong division rivalry between NFC West teams in San Francisco and Seattle has fizzled of late, with the Seattle Seahawks winning six straight games now against the San Francisco 49ers. However, that doesn't mean this Sunday's season finale between the two organizations at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara will lack any drama. The 49ers would love to win and make sure the Seahawks do not get a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs in January.
San Francisco is coming off a nice comeback win on the road against the Los Angeles Rams, a victory that snapped a challenging 13-game losing streak. With confidence, momentum and home-field advantage in this game, the 49ers certainly will give the Seahawks a tough time knowing what is at stake for the NFC West Division champs.
Seahawks Season Record
Seattle has a 9-5-1 record after losing at home last weekend for the first time all season. The Seahawks have been struggling with some injuries lately, and it's hurt them in the win-loss column. Seattle has lost three of its last five games, and the team doesn't have a lot of good mojo heading into the playoffs. Whether or not the Seahawks earn that first-round bye is tremendously important for their Super Bowl chances.
Since beating Buffalo, New England and Philadelphia to start November, Seattle has lost to Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Arizona since in ugly fashion. Big wins over bad teams from Carolina and Los Angeles recently have not given the Seahawks the kind of momentum they want heading into the postseason.
Seahawks On Offense
The inconsistency of the Seattle offense is reflected in the scoring column: Five times, the Seahawks have been held to 12 points or less this season, and five other times, they have scored at least 31 points. It's been a hit-or-miss proposition for Seattle this year when it has the ball. Much of this has to do with injuries to key players, and the Seahawks lost another player last week (wide receiver Tyler Lockett) to a broken leg. Things aren't getting better in Seattle.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is relatively healthy, though, and that's a good start for any offense. His 92.4 QB rating is the worst of his career, but that merely emphasizes how good he has been throughout his five years in the league. However, the Seahawks have churned through several running backs this year in an attempt to replace the retired Marshawn Lynch, and none of them have stepped up to the task, really. That hurts any QB's effectiveness.
Seahawks On Defense
Losing safety Earl Thomas to a broken leg has hurt this defense. Since he's been out of the lineup, Seattle has given up 38 points to the Packers and 34 points to the Cardinals. The Seahawks did hold the punchless Los Angeles Rams to just three points, and perhaps that's the best comparison to the 49ers offense. Still, it's clear Seattle's defense can be exploited by the right offensive personnel and schemes.
It would be foolish to underestimate the defensive talent that is still on the Seahawks roster. Linebackers K.J. Wagner and Bobby Wright still rival any LB duo in the NFL, and safety Kam Chancellor is frightening sight for most opposing QBs. Oh, and cornerback Richard Sherman may still be hated in San Francisco for his postgame rant against the 49ers almost three years ago, but he's still one of the best CBs in the game when covering the opposing team's best WR.
Seahawks Players To Watch
Offensively, Seattle wants to establish the run against the 49ers, so if RB Thomas Rawls is able to run free early, it's a bad sign for the San Francisco defense. Rawls has been injured frequently this year, and his ineffectiveness on the field has hurt the Seahawks. Also, the 49ers must cover tight end Jimmy Graham, who is having his best season since 2013. For the Seattle defense, if defensive end Cliff Avril is in San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick's grill all day, it will be hard for the 49ers to score against the Seahawks.
Seattle still has something to play for, even though an Atlanta win or a Detroit win would relegate the Seahawks to a lower playoff seed. However, the Falcons play at the same time against the Saints, and the Lions play the Sunday Night Football finale against the Packers. Since Seattle just won't know anything firm at kickoff, look for the Seahawks to beat the 49ers by a similar score to what they beat the Rams by a few weeks ago. Seattle will beat San Francisco, 24-10, while hoping no one else on the team gets hurt.
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