Written By: Peter Vandeventer | @PeteVandeventer
It’s week 17 and the NFC playoff picture is still wide open, so that means chaos will ensue. And a major reason for that is the battle out west between the Seahawks and 49ers.
The Seahawks sit at 11-4 while the 49ers are 12-3. Both teams have a shot at a first-round bye while the loser will be on the road to start the playoffs. The Seahawks have a much harder road to a bye as they have to win along with the Packers and Saints lose. It’s a lot simpler for the 9ers because, if they win, they get the 1st seed along with the bye.
As if it was possible to stress the significance of this game any more than it has thus far this week.
In Week 10, we saw injured players (or the lack thereof) come into play, and it’s a safe bet that it will this week too.
49ers Injury Report:
Julian Taylor (ACL) - IR
JT was the starting NT for the 49ers before his injury and adds to an already depleted defensive front. This is, of course, is good news for Seattle as they will try to control the game by running the ball downfield with Lynch and Turbin. In Taylor’s place, the 49ers added Kevin Givens from their practice squad.
Dee Ford (Hamstring) - Out
Ford being out hurts the defense even further, especially on the pressure front as he has 6.5 sacks this season and provides a lot of speed off the edge. But don’t get too comfy because the 49ers have a plethora of pass rush talent with Bosa, Armstead, and Buckner… all of which have over 6 sacks.
Jaquiski Tartt (Ribs) - Doubtful
Tartt is a key defensive playmaker for the 49er defense and has grown into a leadership role for that defense during their run this year. Tartt was a key player in the first matchup as he forced a fumble on DK Metcalf near the goal line to prevent a score.
In his place, the 49ers will start Marcell Harris who has been starting the past few weeks for the injured Tartt. 49er fans don’t seem to happy about this news but Harris has continued to improve as he’s got more time on the field. Targeting the weak link in the secondary might cause him to make a few mistakes which he seems to be inevitable at some point in the game.
Seahawks Injury Report:
Quandre Diggs (Hamstring) - Questionable
It was a surprise to see Diggs given the ‘Questionable’ tag by the team so it gives me hope. But the worst-case scenario is that he won't suit up. If so then the Seahawks will likely play with the duo of McDougald and (Lano) Hill. I don’t trust the defensive coaching staff to make the right decision and put a playmaker like Marquise Blair onto the field but instead, favor seniority. With McDougald and Hill at safety, the backend of the defense is extremely slow and could give the 49ers some chances to get some quick players into space. Kenyan Drake (4.45 40-yard dash) ran right by Lano Hill and we might see the same happen with the fast 49er backfield of Coleman (4.39 40), Brieda (4.38 40), and Mostert (4.42 40) all vying for touches.
Hopefully, the Seahawks make the decision to start Blair alongside McDougald if Diggs isn’t able to go. Someone needs to step up to make plays and Blair is the best shot at that.
Malik Turner (concussion) - Out
Malik’s injury will open things up for the receivers behind Turner. Maybe we’ll see a few snaps for John Ursua or maybe a few targets at Jaron Brown--whatever happens, don’t expect it to be as productive as the connection that Turner and Wilson have developed the past few weeks.
Duane Brown (Knee) - Out
Brown had knee surgery earlier in the week and will be out 2-3 weeks. In the meantime, Seahawks will decide between Jamarco Jones (started vs. Arizona) and George Fant. Fant has more experience but neither has really done a whole lot of work to separate from the other. Whoever it is, will have to go against Nick Bosa.
Seahawks DL vs 49er OL
Healthy Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney alongside surging Rasheem Green is going to be fun to watch in this matchup against the 49er OL that had issues in the first matchup. Clowney hasn’t played in two weeks as he was dealing with an illness and his core issue--but he is back. The Seahawks missed his presence in previous weeks and
haven’t had consistent pressure from any of the other lineman.
In week 10, both starting tackles for the 49ers were coming off of injuries so they weren’t necessarily in the flow of the games yet. That’s why this week will be the real test. It’s no secret that Jimmy G can get a little lazy with the ball and that has led to fumble and interception issues. If the Seahawks defensive line could make their presence felt and disrupt Jimmy G enough then expect a long day for the 49er offense. But if the 49er OL were to be able to limit the Seahawks pass rush--which many teams have been able to do--then this might be a long day for the Seahawks defense.
Seahawks Run Game
The year is 2013 2019, Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin are suiting up for the Seahawks in a division title game against the stout 49er defense.
This game (and season) gives me vibes of the old days and if that means anything, then that means that the run game is going to be even more important.
After the loss of Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and CJ Prosise, the Seahawks were down to Travis Homer. This is what led to the addition of two familiar faces. Marshawn, who hasn’t played football in 14 months made the decision to come back because he felt that he had unfinished business which is pretty scary if you ask me. Marshawn could’ve left the game and just lived off of his Beastmode brand but he came back to punish defenders and have one last ride in the blue. Turbin was with the Colts in 2018, hasn’t gained traction in the league since he left Seattle. Both backs are back in Seattle and want to bring the physicality that made them such a lethal combo.
The 49er defense has been hammered with injuries over the past couple of months, but they still have key members like Bosa, Warner, Buckner, and Jimmie Ward. No doubt will this game be a fistfight and both sides will give everything they can.
The Seahawks offensive line has been terrible in pass protection but the run game has been pretty good. Iupati, Fluker, Ifedi, and 6th man Fant all have been extremely physical for the Seahawks and have created lanes for Chris Carson all year so another back shouldn’t change things up too much.
Yes, George Kittle is the whole matchup.
Kittle didn't play in the first matchup and that was huge. But here we are in week 17 with a healthy George Kittle.
Seattle has performed poorly against TEs all year long and have given chunk plays to players like Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Zach Ertz, and Austin Hooper. Though most of those players have had career years, they still don’t hold anything to the production that Kittle has put up this year. He does a lot of things really well and can put a strain a Seahawks defense.
Who do you guard Kittle with? Old KJ Wright would be a disaster, Wagner has taken a step back, and McDougald hasn’t proven much when tasked with TEs. An intriguing name to watch is Akeem King who has the length to play a TE and has a successful reputation at guarding TEs. Mychal Kendricks is likely also gonna be in coverage with Kittle and has the speed to do so which is one part of the equation. Maybe Kendricks can overcome some early season woes that have got to him at times.
The best way to approach Kittle is to throw a couple different looks at him and Shanahan, you don’t want those two to have the chance to scheme a play up knowing what coverage their most dangerous weapon will face.
Seahawks Pass Protection
Over the past 5 seasons, the Seahawks have implemented a turnstile design on the offensive line when it comes to pass protection. Russ has shown that he is one of the best QBs in the game when he is given any sort of pass protection but the issue is that he rarely is given protection.
Russ still leads the league in sacks within 2.5 seconds of the snap and that needs to change this week. If they have to shake up the starting lineup then so be it. Start Pocic over Hunt, start Haynes at OG, or Fant gets more snaps at LT.
To win Sunday, the Seahawks offense will have to be driven off of the run game but they need to have a productive pass game that goes off of the run.
Bosa and Dee Ford were held to .5 sacks in Week 10 so I would recommend trying to emulate a game plan similar to that.
The battle for the NFC West is going to be fought in Seattle on Sunday Night on a likely rainy day. Pete Carroll vs Kyle Shannahan. Sherman vs Lockett. Staley vs Clowney.
Wagner vs Jimmy G. Bosa vs Wilson. However you want to frame the matchup, it’s going to be exciting and could be another game of the year atmosphere.
The Clink will be rocking and will carry a playoff atmosphere. whichever team that comes out on top will have the momentum going into the playoffs and will try to carry that as far they can. And who knows, both teams might meet again in the playoffs.