Written by: Peter Vandeventer | @PeteVandeventer
Monday - The Seahawks travel down to San Franciso to face the undefeated 49ers. Here we are, halfway through the season and both squads sit at (or near) the top of the NFL--what year is this, 2013? The 49ers are riding off of a strong defense and a very productive run game. The Seahawks are practically the opposite as the offense is carrying the team so far. Pete Carroll’s normally stout defense and strong running game are the Seahawks of past, while the 49ers have incorporated much of that same philosophy.
The 49ers have had a complete turnaround as they’ve doubled their wins from 4 to 8 and look the part of a playoff team. Seahawks haven’t been as dominant as the 49ers but still are looking at the winter months with 6-wins and will likely start to hit their stride like the Seahawks always tend to do.
Injuries to Watch
Duane Brown, T
Jadeveon Clowney, DE
Joey Hunt, C
Josh Gordon, WR
This could be bad news for the Seahawks if half of these guys don’t play. Seahawks are banged up along the trenches currently and that’s not a good look when going against a strong DL that has Buckner, Ford, and Bosa. Duane Brown looks to be the most likely to not play along the OL as he hasn’t practiced all week, look for Jamarco Jones (also on the injury report) or George Fant to step up in his place if he is a no go. Defensively, the Seahawks will have their hands full against a strong 49er offense, and they might be without their best pass rusher (which really isn’t saying much). Jadeveon Clowney has yet to practice this week and will leave the Seahawks DL without even more star power. The unit needs to step up this week cause they haven’t produced much of anything thus far this year. Also, expect Gordon and Diggs to make their Seahawk debut this week and hopefully add more playmaking ability to both sides of the ball.
Robbie Gould, K
George Kittle, TE
Kyle Juszczyk, FB
Mike McGlinchey, T
Joe Staley, T
The 49ers are relatively clean on the injury report as they’ve had a decent amount of rest since their last game on Halloween. But the few injuries they have are even more important than the Seahawk injuries. The 49ers might not be without their best offensive weapon, George Kittle, as he hasn’t practiced this week. Kittle is every part of a playmaker and a loss like that could really leave a hole in the offense. Along with Kittle, Robbie Gould has yet to practice this week. So it looks like the 49ers will be even more aggressive than they already are, so that’s fun. The 49ers hope to have a few key injuries back this week with Kyle Juszczyk, McGlinchey, and Staley all looking like they have a real chance to play. Kyle is such an important part of the offense for them and having him back will give them an extra fold in the playbook. They also hope to get back their tackles which doesn’t bode well for the Seahawks DL but I imagine they might be a little rusty so this could still be a good thing.
Seahawks Receivers vs 49ers Secondary
The Seahawks receiving corps looks to be one of the best in the league right now and they have to go up against a secondary led by former Seahawk, Richard Sherman. Russ and Lockett have practiced against Sherm for a good number of years so they understand more than most how smart and deceptive he is in coverage. The receivers will look to try and stretch the field more against this secondary and try to utilize the athletism and speed of Lockett, Metcalf, and Gordon. The issue here won't be the ability to make plays but whether the offensive line can hold up long enough…
49ers Defensive Front vs Seahawks OL
Speaking of the offensive line, the Seahawks will have to face one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Bosa, Ford, and Buckner all have great pass rush abilities and it will test the offensive line that might be without its leader, Duane Brown. If the Seahawks are without Brown, I hope to see Jamarco Jones get a shot at tackle as he did a really nice job filling in against Aaron Donald and the Rams. Expect the Seahawks try to get the short game going early and get the defensive line moving laterally cause if you give Bosa or Ford enough time, they will eat up the offensive line and make Monday terrible for Russ.
Seahawks Pass Rush vs a healthy 49ers OL
The Seahawks need a pass rush, there is a lot of blame going around about how terrible the secondary has been (which isn’t perfect by no means), but the DL was supposed to be the strength of the Seahawks team this year. The secondary is rotating and playing a lot of young and new players and any form of pressure on the QB would relieve some of the pressure on the secondary. Against the 49ers, the Seahawks could possibly see the return of both starting OT and be without Clowney. A few players to watch for are Ziggy Ansah (still battling back from injury), Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson, and Jarran Reed to step up. Reed is just getting back into the flow after being suspended to start the season and any form of interior pressure is needed to throw off Jimmy G’s timing.
Ken Norton vs Kyle Shannahan
Shannahan is one of the best offensive minds in the entire league and will be going against a Seahawks D led by Ken Norton Jr. and Pete Carroll. This defense is known for sticking to the basics. You will see Cover 3 for most of the game, and they will line up in their base defense with 3 LBs for a large portion as well. It will be a true test to see if simplicity is better than whatever you want to call Shannahan’s offense. With a healthy Quandre Diggs, one would hope the Seahawks will switch out of base defense more. Ken Norton and Pete Carroll need to adjust in-game though, Kyle Shannahan’s offense is so complex that they can’t afford to be playing catch up all game. Vs Atlanta, the Seahawks defense failed to adjust and nearly lost the game.
Most Important Matchup
Russ vs 49ers
Russ is MVP of the league right now, he’s been insanely accurate while also maintaining a high level of risky passes. Schottenheimer’s variation of the Air Coryell offense is perfectly set up for Russ as it allows him to use his great football knowledge and run the offense. Russ will need to make sure to limit mistakes, whether it’s a bad pass, taking an unnecessary sack, or simply losing track of the play clock. If Russ can control the game and do what he does best then the Seahawks have a great shot to win. Seattle will need to get the running game going early on so it will limit the pressure Russ will see later on in-game.
Game prediction: Sea 37 - SF 35