We are only a few days away from seeing which teams will be sending some of their players to nice, warm, sunny Hawaii and which team will be flying out to cold and gloomy New Jersey. Normally you would think a trip to Hawaii is more rewarding then visiting the Garden State, but both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have their bags packed with winter wear. The Super Bowl is only a few weeks away and this Sunday will determine if the 49ers or Seahawks will represent the NFC in the championship game.
Winning at CenturyLink field is not an easy task, but it is something the San Francisco 49ers must do if they want to return to the Super Bowl. They are currently the hottest team winning 8 straight, but the 12th man is not easy to overcome. Since Pete Carroll took over this group, the Seahawks are 26-8 at home and have only lost once in Seattle over the past 2 seasons. There are not that many teams that can beat the Seahawks at home, but I believe the 49ers are the best equipped to do it.
Each season the two teams host each other at home as they play in the NFC West. Being part of the same division also means tensions building between the two teams. These are two teams that do not like one another and the head coaches bring over some bad blood from their college days of coaching. This year Seattle gave the 49ers a beat down at home during week 2 and they went blow for blow in their week 14 game where the Niners came out on top.
The 49ers have the luxury of knowing what it is like to play in Seattle. They will have practiced a variety of ways to make the crowd a non-factor this week. Twelfth man or not, Seattle is deservedly the number one seed in the NFC. They are the most complete team outside of the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks defense led by cornerback Richard Sherman wreaks havoc on opposing quarterbacks whether it is through the air or the ground. On offense Russell Wilson is a duel threat quarterback who also has a pro bowl running back in Marshawn Lynch to hand the ball off to.
The 49ers also have a sound defense and a quarterback, running back combo that can do damage. But since the playoffs have started, the 49ers look like a team with one thing on their mind and that is winning at all cost. Each week this team has come out and owned their two opponents. Granted they started off slow against the Carolina Panthers last week, but when they came out for the second half they shut the Panthers down.
If the 49ers plan on winning this game they will need to have a big game on the ground. The Seahawks pass defense was the best in the league during the regular season. Although Drew Brees was able to have a big game against the Seattle secondary, they were able to make New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham a non-factor. Colin Kaepernick will have more than one weapon to throw to, but I don’t expect the secondary to allow two big games through the air.If the Seahawks defense had any weakness, it is their run defense. Fortunately for the 49ers that’s their game. Kaepernick is his most effective when he uses his legs to pick up yards. Although San Francisco running back Frank Gore is no longer the player he used to be, he can still be effective between the tackles. The 49ers have rushed for 146.5 yards so far in the postseason and ranked third during the regular season averaging 136.8 yards per game. With Kaepernick at quarterback, you can collapse the pocket, but he can still scramble and turn a busted play into a Sports Center top 10 nomination with his legs.
On the other side Seahawks running back Lynch will also be looking to go beast mode on the 49ers defense. The San Francisco 49ers front seven have done a decent job holding the Packers and Panthers to only a 108.5 average on the ground. Look for them to have an extra player in the box and send a multitude of blitz to make Wilson and Lynch ineffective.
This will be another game that will come down to the wire. If the San Francisco 49ers are able to pull off the upset against the Seahawks and the 12th man, they will look like a team of destiny. If history has shown us anything, the past three Super Bowl champions won a majority of their games while on the road. Will the 49ers be the fourth consecutive team to do it?