By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers definitely play better at home, and they have the Seattle Seahawks right where they want them now: Desperate for a win heading for the turf of Levi’s Stadium. Coming off a nice victory against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday that all but drove a stake into the Ravens’ playoff hopes, the 49ers now can do the same to the hated Seahawks while also perhaps enhancing their own postseason aspirations. That’s something no one saw coming.READ MORE: Coyote Likely Behind ‘Suspicious’ Animal Deaths In Citrus Heights, Police Say
The Arizona Cardinals lead the NFC West with a 4-2 record, and both San Francisco and Seattle trail by two games. It may only be Week 7, but it’s already shaping up to be a second straight game for the 49ers where they can get some revenge on a past tormentor by burying them in the standings. The home-field advantage of Levi’s Stadium is clear for San Francisco now, and that is going to give the Seahawks all they can handle on Thursday night.
The Seahawks are 2-4, thanks to two overtime losses this season on the road. They’ve outscored their opponents by nine points, however, as the four losses have come by a combined 20 points. Seattle started 0-2 with road losses in St. Louis and Green Bay, and then the Seahawks won their next two games at home over the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. However, another road loss in Cincinnati and a rare home loss on Sunday (to the Carolina Panthers) have hurt Seattle badly. In both recent losses, the defense has coughed up second-half, double-digit leads.
Seahawks on Offense
Part of the issue in Seattle has been the health of running back Marshawn Lynch, which has crippled the Seahawks offense and its ability to grind out wins with the lead in the second half of games. The former Cal running back has missed two games and has just 182 yards this season. Without that ability to move the chains, quarterback Russell Wilson has been forced to throw more—and defenses know it. New-addition tight end Jimmy Graham hasn’t helped as much as figured. He leads the team in receiving yardage, but Graham has been quiet in doing so.
Wilson is still very good, completing 68.9 percent of his passes. However, the Seahawks offense isn’t maximizing its potential when Wilson has to throw the ball 30 times a game like he has been this season. The offensive line is weaker than in the past, and that’s hurting Seattle in all phases of the offensive game plan right now.
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The defensive collapses in the last two games (and in the opening game, when Seattle gave up the tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation) have made it clear that the Seahawks aren’t what they have been. After two straight Super Bowl appearances, the team seems tired and worn out. That can happen in football where deep postseason runs bring lots of fatigue, both mental and physical. Seattle is still fourth in total defense, but the edge is off the “Legion of Boom” as multiple teams this season have taken advantage of the Seahawks late in games.
Seahawks Players to Watch
It really comes down to Lynch on the offense for Seattle. He is what makes it all work: His ability to grind out yards has made everything else work for the Seahawks since they acquired him in 2010. However, his injury issues and the deterioration of the once-strong offensive line have hurt Seattle in 2015. Surely, the Seahawks coaching staff knows this and will continue to make adjustments as necessary.
Defensively, the Seattle squad still is formidable. Safety Kam Chancellor is back in the fold after missing the first two games, and Richard Sherman is still Richard Sherman. The Seahawks have too much talent to continue blowing leads, and they have too much talent to surrender a lot of points early. It takes perfect execution and fortune to beat them, despite the four losses Seattle already has this season.
The Seahawks are 0-3 on the road, although two of those losses came in overtime to quality teams. The other loss was a 10-point defeat at Lambeau Field, a place where all good teams go to lose. Meanwhile, the 49ers are 2-1 at home, outscoring opponents at Levi’s by eight points total. In many ways, Seattle resembled Baltimore in its slate of close losses and desperation mode. However, the Seahawks have more talent than the Ravens do, and their familiarity with the 49ers minimizes the surprises S.F. can throw at them.
Over the last eight matchups between these two NFC West rivals, dating back to 2011, the 49ers have won three times by a total of 11 points—and Seattle has won five times by a total of 86 points. San Francisco hasn’t beaten the Seahawks since a two-point win at Candlestick Park in December 2013. It’ll be that kind of game, a close and hard-fought battle, if the 49ers are to beat Seattle on Thursday night.MORE NEWS: North Highland Family's Home Hit By Thieves After 4 Die In Wrong-Way Crash In Sierra
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.