By Jerrell Richardson
Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Players To Watch: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman
What a difference a year makes
The NFC West’s miraculous turn around from the laughing stock of the league, to arguably the best division in football, was complete after the Seahawks and 49ers playoff success last year. During the regular season, the two teams split their season series, with the home team holding serve each time, so Seattle has to feel that they have the upper hand heading into this one. But the 49ers have plenty to be confident about after an offensive outpour against the Packers, and don’t forget, San Francisco owes Seattle one.
When Seattle has the ball: Advantage 49ers
The last time the Seahawks saw the 49er defense they scored 42 points, ran San Francisco out of the stadium, and as a result, felt that they were the best team in the division. Seattle has a smash mouth running game, spear headed by Marshawn Lynch, who is one of two wild cards in this game. He rushed for over 100 yards the last two times he faced San Francisco, and the Bay Area-born running back has been Seattle’s answer to the vaunted 49er defense. Even with him in his home stadium, and with an endless supply of Skittles, it’s hard to imagine Lynch running wild for the third straight game against such a talented and proud 49er group. However, it is not out of the question, and the outcome of the game may rest on how well he plays, as if Lynch is contained, Seattle is left with an average passing game.
Russell Wilson has had modest success in his two career games against San Francisco. In his first game, he completed nine passes and was able to do very little as his team lost. The second time around, even in a rout, it was not as though Wilson was lighting up the secondary. During the 42-13 blowout, Wilson had less than 200 yards passing and threw a pick. There is no denying the skill set of Wilson, but for all that he can do well, Wilson is still an undersized quarterback that if facing pressure in the pocket, will struggle. Aldon Smith and Justin Smith were far from 100 percent the last time these two teams faced, and will look to bottle up Wilson.
It will ultimately come down to Marshawn Lynch, as Russell Wilson is no Aaron Rodgers, and his arm or legs will not be enough to keep up with San Francisco.
When San Francisco has the ball: Advantage Seattle
Despite gaining close to 500 yards in the opener, San Francisco can’t expect to post similar numbers this week. The Seattle defense was the stingiest in the league a year ago, allowing 15.3 points per game, and match up well against the 49ers. Seattle is fast, physical and led by Cornerback Richard Sherman have a swagger about them that at times make them downright scary and intimidating. However, this is not the same offense that Seattle shut down in 2012, and as Colin Kaepernick said after their first win, intimidation is not the best game plan against San Francisco.
As good as Michael Crabtree is, he was outplayed, and completely taken out of both games a year ago, by the physical play of the Seattle Secondary. This time around, San Francisco has an answer in the form of Anquan Boldin, who the team doesn’t have to worry about being out muscled or intimidated on the football field. Sherman and the rest of the secondary will have no problem keeping up with Boldin, but as he has shown in the past, Boldin doesn’t need a whole lot of separation to make plays. The 49ers have a wild card of their own in Colin Kaepernick, who continues to prove that he can win games with his legs or arms. Seattle will have to hope that Kaepernick struggles in both phases, as he can beat them with either.
Despite the new look of the 49er offense, the edge still goes to a defense that carried the Seahawks last year to the playoffs. Seattle is going to have the crowd behind them and will match the speed of the 49ers. It will be on the 49ers to match the physical play of Seattle, or suffer another embarrassing loss.
Early season must-win for Seattle
Very little separates these two squads. They are two teams that can run the ball, play defense and are well coached. Although this is only Week 2, the outcome could have a lot to do with eventual playoff positioning, so its importance can’t be ignored. With all of these things considered, the pressure still rests solely on the home team’s shoulder pads. Seattle is coming off a win in which they were less than impressive and playing at home where they are seemingly invincible. A loss would put some doubt in the minds of this team, and could point to the victim of the dreaded sophomore slump as one Russell Wilson.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.