Who will emerge victorious as the Seahawks and 49ers clash in a bid to win the NFC West
The Seattle Seahawks (11-4) and the San Francisco 49ers (12-3) close out the regular season at Century Link Field in a huge NFC West matchup, with the victor crowned NFC West champions.
A victory for the 49ers ensures the NFC goes through San Francisco, whilst defeat puts the 49ers in the thick of the action come wildcard weekend. As for the Seahawks, a defeat for the Green Bay Packers coupled with a win over the 49ers would result in a first-round bye. Should the Packers win then the third seed is the best the Seahawks can achieve.
The third overall rushing attack has been decimated by injury with Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise and Rashard Penny all placed on injured reserve. The result, a desperate move to rehash the backfield duo of Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. Lynch ended his tenure with the Raiders in 2018 after being placed on IR with a groin injury. As for Turbin, the 30-year-old spent three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts during which he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. Can the duo succeed against a run defense that’s surrendered an average of 111 yards per game (17th overall)?
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has put together an MVP calibre season after orchestrating numerous game-winning drives at the depth despite the frailties of the offensive line. Wilson has thrown for 3877 yards, 29 touchdowns along with just five interceptions, four of which have come during the last six games. During last Sunday’s 27-13 defeat by the Arizona, Cardinals Wilson was sacked six times, completing 51.61% of his attempted passes for just 169 yards (both season lows).
Tyler Lockett’s telepathic connection with Wilson has been the downfall of many a foe during 2019. Lockett has been targeted on 22 occasions during the last three games, however, the 5ft 10” 182lb wideout reeled in just 1-of-7 targets for 12 yards against the Cardinals. During the first encounter between the two Lockett was held to 26 yards. Unlike Lockett rookie D.K Metcalf had some success against the 49ers defense with 70 yards off six receptions. Metcalf has cleaned up the few early campaign drops that thwarted drives and has totaled 70 yards or more during three of his last six games.
Outside of the Seahawks main weapons Lockett and Metcalf, Malik Turner and tight end Jacob Hollister will look to expose any holes in the number one overall pass defense. Turner was on the field for a season-high 51% of the offensive snaps last Sunday but remains questionable due to a concussion. Hollister has seen 23 targets during the last four games and reeled in 5-of-6 for 64 yards last week.
From a defensive standpoint linebackers, Bobby Wagner (152 tackles) and K.J Wright (126 tackles) have the task of slowing down the 49ers second overall rushing attack that’s averaging 145 yards per game. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney dominated proceeding during the first encounter (sack, a forced fumble and five QB hits) and the Seahawks will be hoping the 26-year-old can overcome a core muscle injury. Beyond the bigger name brands of the defense, Rasheem Green has caught the eye with three forced fumbles, four sacks, three tackles for a loss and five quarterback hits.
The 49ers have evolved as a team with each passing week, through the first part of the season the defense carried the load complimented by an astute rushing attack. After which Jimmy Garoppolo steered the defense through some uncharted waters with more than helping hand from stud tight end Geroge Kittle. Kicking field goals have been a league-wide issue throughout 2019 and Robbie Gould’s game-winning clutch moments could prove to be an invaluable resource heading into the playoffs.
The Seahawks have their work cut out
Despite the 34-31 win over the LA Rams Garoppolo was far from perfect as the 28-year-old completed just 59.26% of his passes (16-of-27 for 248 yards, 1TD, 2INT). What you don’t see in the stat line is the clutch moments at the games close, with Garoppolo completing two 3rd & 16’s to set up the game-winning field goal.
Another of those with an uncanny ability to place the team on his shoulders and produce breathtaking moments of physical prowess is tight end, George Kittle. The fifth-round selection of the 2017 draft has firmly established himself as a dominant force in both the passing and rushing attack. Kittle has been targeted a minimum of eight times during the last three games, resulting in 270 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Second-round selection Deebo Samuel has flashed on numerous occasions throughout his rookie campaign. The 49ers have added another wrinkle to the offense by utilizing his skillset as a rusher. Samuel rushed for 28 yards off three carries along with 31 yards receiving against the Rams, however, the 23-year-old is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury.
Veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders numbers over the last three games are far from mindblowing (227 yards, 1TD) yet the 32-year-old consistently helps move the chains with ease during critical situations. Keep an eye on Kendrick Bourne, the 24-year-old undrafted wideout has featured in at least 53% of the team offensive snaps during the last three games.
For the majority, the likes of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Deforest Buckner spring to mind whilst salivating over the 49ers defense, personally the play of linebacker Fred Warner (117 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 9 passes defence and 4 QB hits) has been the highlight of 2019 season. Warner’s pick-six last Sunday galvanized the 49ers on both sides of the ball as they rallied for what could turn out to be a crucial win. As mentioned the trio of Bosa, Armstead and Buckner have combined for 26 sacks, 35 tackles for a loss and 51 quarterback hits.