SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The return of Beast Mode. A division title on the line. Possible home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Those are the intriguing storylines of the juiciest matchup of the NFL’s final week of the regular season as the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks square off in a Sunday night showdown that will have a postseason feel.
The 49ers (12-3) travel to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (11-4), with the winner capturing the NFC West. San Francisco would clinch home-field advantage throughout by winning, while Seattle could host until the Super Bowl with a victory and losses by both Green Bay and New Orleans.
“We know this is going to be a hostile environment, ‘Sunday Night Football,’ so, can’t wait for it,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said.
The loser of this matchup would enter the playoffs with an NFC wild-card berth.
“It’s a very special week for us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s the last week of the season, playing for everything, for a division and all that. We’re very fortunate to be in that situation. It is what we aim for. It’s always what we look toward and we always wonder if the chance to do something like this is going to happen at home or on the road.
“We’re thrilled we’ll be here.”
CenturyLink Field will have a familiar face coming back “home” in running back Marshawn Lynch, who re-signed with Seattle on Monday after injuries to Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny left a void in the Seahawks’ backfield.
“It’s a great feeling to be back,” Lynch said in a 15-second news conference with reporters.
Never one to be chatty off the field, Lynch made his marks — literally — with his tough, physical “Beast Mode” style of running. The 33-year-old Lynch hasn’t played since midway through last season with Oakland but is expected to play for Seattle on Sunday in the team’s biggest game of the season.
“Only one person can pull this off and that’s No. 24,” linebacker K.J. Wright said of Lynch, who played for the Seahawks from 2010-15. “Back in the building, it feels good. When I heard the news I was like, ‘Perfect.’ He’s just the ultimate teammate, cool dude, just ballin’. I’m glad to have him back.”