Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are locked in a rubber match to decide who goes to the Super Bowl.
The Seattle Seahawks meet the San Francisco 49ers for the third time this season and have taken all measures to make sure their visitors feel most uncomfortable with the ban of ticket sales to the state of California. After convincing victories at Lambeau Field and Bank of America Stadium, the 49ers can lay claim as the NFL’s road warriors.
Do the 49ers have the steel reserve to withstand what may be the loudest crowd in sports history this Sunday?
The San Francisco 49ers will not allow themselves to be intimidated by the Seattle Seahawks chatter and definitely not by their fans. If any team can stand toe-to-toe with the Seahawks, it’s the reigning NFC Champions.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is steadily returning to the player who turned heads in the second half of last season. While the team struggled with injuries and chemistry, there was talk of defenses having figured Kaepernick out. The Niners have won eight straight and have done it with balance and precision.
The balance comes in the form of receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree along with tight end Vernon Davis. Something has to be said about Boldin — who is the NFL’s Mr. Postseason. His 1,179 receiving yards may be the most deceptive stat among any player remaining in the postseason. Last week against the Panthers, Boldin caught eight passes for 136 yards and took Carolina’s secondary completely off their mental game. Crabtree is a great complement to Boldin because he can run intermediate routes and get behind the secondary as well. Crabtree is also very effective in the red zone. Despite less than flattering numbers this postseason Vernon Davis does have two touchdowns and is focal point of the Seahawks linebackers and secondary.
Frank Gore’s ability to sustain drives by moving the chains is the precision within San Francisco’s offense. If Gore can get the Seahawks secondary to concentrate on him for a split second as a runner or receiver, the results could be staggering.
The focus of the 49ers defense is to keep Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson moving North and South. Navarro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis have enough to keep Wilson corralled. The difficulty comes in Seattle’s offensive line and running back Marshawn Lynch — who has gashed the Niners defense for 170 yards on 48 carries in their two meetings this season. Glenn Dorsey, Ray McDonald and Justin Smith have to be effective at the point of attack. Corners Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers have to stay with receivers Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate when things break down in the pocket. Eric Reid and Donte Whitner have to bring the hammer when Seattle’s receivers venture into their zone.
Russell Wilson doesn’t have the gaudy numbers like many of his contemporaries, but when it comes to wins, the second year signal caller is near if not at the top of his class. In Seattle’s 24 wins over two seasons, Wilson has passed for 56 touchdowns and only 19 interceptions. He takes his share of sacks (77 over two seasons, 44 this season), but has remained healthy — starting 32+ games. What makes Wilson dangerous is he doesn’t have to do anything out of the ordinary to be successful. All Pete Carroll is asking for is mistake-free football from his quarterback. Wilson doesn’t have to drop back 35 times to get results. Seven to ten scrambles for positive yardage are just as welcome.
Running back Marshawn Lynch will match the 49’ers aggression with every ounce of anger in his 5’11”, 245 lb. frame. Against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional round, Lynch wrecking-balled the visitors for 140 yards on 28 bruising carries. Lynch seems to turn it up as the opposition weakens — something the 49’ers are concerned about. Pro Bowl center Max Unger anchors an effective front.
Seattle’s receivers don’t receive much pub, but they are deceptively good. Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate have combined for over 1,600 yards and 10 scores. We know that’s a season’s worth of stats for Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, but it lends credence to the team concept players have bought into. Tight end Zach Miller may spend much of Sunday helping out tackle Russell Okung, but look for No. 86 when Seattle is in the red zone. Third receiver Jermaine Kearse is a nice complimentary piece and will get his share of looks if Percy Harvin W(concussion) is unable to play.
Three-fourths of Seattle’s secondary was elected to the Pro Bowl as well as being first or second team All-Pro. Richard Sherman is the physical and verbal motor of the game’s best secondary. Kam Chancellor’s ability as a deep cover man is only matched by his willingness to inflict punishment in coverage or against the run. Safety Earl Thomas is a throwback who just happens to be the NFL’s best safety. The Seahawks defensive line is underrated, but disruptive. Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are non-starters, but lead the team in sacks with 8 and 8.5 respectively. If it were not for guys like Luke Kuechly and Patrick Willis, Seattle’s Bobby Wagner’s name would be mentioned among the games best.
The Seahawks have what it takes to win, I’m just not sure they’re experienced enough at certain positions to overtake the 49’ers.
Prediction: 49’ers 24 – Seahawks 23