With Super Bowl XLVIII fast approaching, we are now down to the final four teams: the Conference Championships. Perhaps the biggest game of the entire postseason thus far is the game on Sunday night that pits the San Francisco 49ers against the Seattle Seahawks, which is possibly the biggest rivalry in all of football today. Although other games have had great talent facing off against great talent, on Sunday night we will see an element of the game that will it make that much more enjoyable- the element of hatred.
In this year’s previous two matchups, the two teams have combined for 39 total penalties, 360 total penalty yards, and 9 personal foul penalties. Not only are these two of the most talented teams in the NFL, but the coaches hate each other, the players hate each other, and the fans hate each other. Combine all this with a winner-take-all game, this one is destined to be a great one.
Despite being 3.5 point underdogs, many still expect the 49ers to win this game or at least put up a good fight. The 49ers are by far the hot team coming into this weekends game, as they have won 8 straight games dating back to late November. Perhaps the reason for this recent success is the reemergence of Colin Kaepernick who, after starting this season off poorly and was under sever scrutiny, has bounced back to reclaim his quarterback ability.
During San Francisco’s 8 game win streak, Colin Kaepernick is averaging 277.5 total yards per game and has amassed a whopping 12-1 touchdown to interception ratio. And you guessed it, that one interception came against the Seattle Seahawks. Kaepernick has also added 2 more touchdowns on the ground during this span, and his ability to extend plays with his feet have never been better.
However, one cannot discuss the 49ers without praising their defense. San Francisco ranks in the top 5 in the NFL in total, rushing, and scoring defense. Also, last time these two teams faced off the 49ers’ D was able to hold Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch to just 76 yards on 20 carries, a below-average 3.6 yards per carry. If the 49ers can nullify Seattle’s run game again and force Russell Wilson to throw the football, the 49ers might have what it takes to pull off the upset despite being at Seattle.
On the other hand, the Seahawks are the favorite to win this game and their home field advantage might have everything to do with that. Although in the Harbaugh-Carroll era Jim Harbaugh does have a 4-2 record against Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have one the last two at home by a combined score of 71-16. Assuming the loud and energetic Seattle fan base will be in attendance for Sunday’s game, they should yet again create havoc for the opponent, giving Seattle a huge advantage.
Although the 49ers have won their past 8 games, the Seahawks are almost just as hot. Pete Carroll’s crew have won 10 of their last 12, including 16 of their last 17 games at home. The Seahawks are streaking, and Marshawn Lynch is coming off probably his best performance of the year in a 140 yard, 2 touchdown game in the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints. If BeastMode can come back with another stellar performance, Seattle may be able to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII.
When it is all said and done, this will be a very low scoring matchup. Two of the top defenses in the NFL are facing off against each other, and two young, mobile quarterbacks are at the helms. Neither offense is necessarily elite, meaning that whichever defense plays better will likely win the game.
The best shot for the 49ers to win is to stop Marshawn Lynch from being productive on offense. If they can force Seattle to throw the football and play away from their strengths, the 49ers will have a good chance to win on the road.
The best shot for the Seahawks to win is to force turnovers. In the two teams’ first meeting this year, the Seahawks forced 5 turnovers and went on to win 29-3. In December, however, Seattle forced just one turnover and ended up losing for just the second time that season. Bearing all this in mind, the official prediction for Sunday’s game is…
San Francisco 49ers: 17 Seattle Seahawks: 16
One thing is for certain though: despite whoever comes out on top it is sure to be an awesome, hard-fought game, especially when a chance to compete in Super Bowl XLVIII is on the line.