There’s no denying that the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 13 showdown with the division rival Seahawks is the biggest game of the year (so far) for both teams. There’s also no denying that the loser will have their work cut out for them the rest of the way. Still, the season won’t be over for the loser, as a lot can still happen between now and Week 17.
The Arizona Cardinals look like they’re in a good place at 9-2, but they have games left with both Seattle and San Francisco, making the division still very much in play. Also, with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles having to play each other twice, and the Detroit Lions struggling, both the Hawks and Niners will still be in play for at least a Wild Card spot regardless of the outcome in Week 13.
Having said all that, the winner will still obviously be in much better place than the loser come Friday morning, and both teams will be up for the latest chapter in this rivalry.
It was a hard-nosed, old-school football game when the Niners and Seahawks matched up in the 2013 NFC Championship game.
San Francisco looked on the verge of doing the impossible, as they were poised to upend Seattle in their own building when they took a 17-10 lead late in third quarter. Things unraveled from there however, as Colin Kaepernick turned the ball over three times in the fourth quarter, including an interception in the endzone with seconds remaining.
The Seahawks would go on to rout the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, while the 49ers had to endure a third straight season of getting close but not being able to climb the mountain.
Players to watch
When the 49ers have had success against the Seahawks in the Jim Harbaugh era, it’s because they’ve been able to control the game on the ground. That’s why Frank Gore will play such a crucial role this week.
The 49ers are 2-0 against the Seahawks at home since Russell Wilson took over as quarterback, and in each of those wins Gore has eclipsed 100 yards (131 in 2012, 110 in 2013). The 49ers will have to commit to him, even if they are getting stonewalled early on.
It’s hard to keep your eye’s off of Richard Sherman given the fact that he draws so much attention to himself, but the real key to the Seahawks defense might be the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Without Wagner, the Seahawks gave up 100 yards or more on the ground three times in five weeks, including 190 to the Kansas City Chiefs. In Wagner’s return in Week 12, they held the Cardinals to only 64 yards on the ground. He could be the perfect remedy to help counter the 49ers’ rushing attack.
Game changing factor
The home team has won each of the last five meeting in this rivalry. The last road win by either team took place on Christmas eve of 2011, when the Alex Smith-led 49ers used a late David Akers‘ field goal to pull one out 19-17.
If history holds true, the Niners will have an advantage playing at home, especially on the short week.
Stats to know
While they haven’t necessarily been as dominant as in previous years, both defense are still formidable and the strength of these teams.
The Seahawks rank in the top 10 in points allowed (7th, 218), total yards (1st, 3265), yards per play (4th-T, 5.0), fumble recoveries (10th, 8), passing yards per attempt (10th, 6.1), and rushing yards per attempt (4th, 3.5).
Not to be outdone, the 49ers also rank in the top 10 in many major defensive categories, including, points allowed (10th, 225), total yards allowed (2nd, 3301), yards per play (4th-T, 5.0), turnovers (3rd-T, 22), interceptions (1st, 16), and passing yards per attempt (5th, 5.6).
Despite the good numbers elsewhere, both units have struggled to get sacks this season, as the 49ers are tied for 22nd with 22 and Seahawks rank 29th with 16.
San Francisco appears to be on the upswing in that department though, as the return of Aldon Smith and emergence of rookie Aaron Lynch have helped them add seven to their overall total during the last two weeks.
Given the history between these two NFC powerhouses, all signs point to the home team being able to prevail. This will be the case here as well, as the 49ers defense should be able to keep the score low enough for San Francisco to squeak by.
Photo: Getty Images
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