Richard Sherman returns to Seattle as the 49ers look to slow Seahawks' momentum
Seattle (6-5) is coming off of a dramatic 30-27 win over the Carolina Panthers down in Charlotte last Sunday. Sebastian Janikowski’s 31-yard field goal on the final play of the game put the Seahawks right into the middle of the NFC Wild Card race. The balance of the Seahawks came to the forefront as they rode the arm of Russell Wilson and the efforts of the wide receivers to get themselves open en route to the ever-so-critical win. Wilson threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, including a 35-yard scoring strike to David Moore on 4th-and-3 that tied the game at 27 with 3:26 left. Tyler Lockett had another big-time performance with five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, San Francisco (2-9) couldn’t slow down Tampa Bay on offense as the Buccaneers cruised past the 49ers 27-9 at Raymond James Stadium last Sunday. Jameis Winston had his way with the San Francisco secondary as he threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Tampa Bay was able to limit Nick Mullens to 221 passing yards as the 49ers did not do a good enough job of finishing drives. Dante Pettis and Matt Breida were bright spots offensively as Pettis caught four passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Breida was efficient with his touches, running for 106 yards on just 14 carries.
It didn’t help San Francisco’s cause that linebacker Rueben Foster was arrested at the team hotel on Saturday night and charged with one count of domestic violence. (Foster was subsequently cut by the 49ers and claimed on waivers by the Redskins.) Those types of distractions are the last thing this franchise needs as the 49ers work to get themselves back on the right trajectory for the future.
San Francisco at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday Dec. 2, at 1:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -10
Three Things to Watch
1. Richard Sherman vs. Seahawks' receivers
Unfortunately, the local Seattle sports media has been way too preoccupied with whether or not Seahawks fans are going to cheer or boo Sherman. It’s unfortunate because the boo or not boo debate is overshadowing the University of Washington’s quest to get back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000 in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night against Utah. The real intrigue is going to be on the field once the game starts when you’ll see Sherman going up against Doug Baldwin or potentially Tyler Lockett. Sherman has responded well post-Achilles injury this season despite having a tough outing covering Mike Evans and the rest of the Buccaneers wide receiving corps last week. Look for Sherman to do everything he can by bouncing back in Seattle. But at the same time Baldwin and Lockett would love nothing more than to get in the end zone and bust out one of their epic touchdown celebrations in front of Sherman.
2. Seahawks' defense vs. San Francisco offense
Seattle's secondary should fare just fine against Nick Mullens as he doesn’t have the arm strength to beat the Seahawks' defensive backs deep. Consequently, you should see the entire secondary be able to get away with playing aggressively with more press coverage and dare 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan to throw it downfield. Also, the Seahawks need to win the battle up front against San Francisco’s offensive line to slow down the running game. The 49ers rank fifth in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 134.9 yards per game. You can expect San Francisco to try and establish the run to set up tight end George Kittle in the play-action passing game and try to neutralize linebacker Bobby Wagner, which is easier said than done.
3. Seattle’s dominance over San Francisco
The Seahawks have won 10 out of the past 11 meetings against the 49ers, including the last nine in a row. Thus, it will be interesting to see how San Francisco’s responds if Seattle can put up some points in the board early in an effort to try and break the game open. If the 49ers can survive the first half and keep the game within one score, then they will have a shot to pull off the upset. For the Seahawks, it will be very important for their offensive line to set a physical tone against the San Francisco defense to get the running game going to set up Russell Wilson and the passing game. Turnovers are going to be huge for the Seahawks in this game as they can really get the crowd rolling with an early takeaway or two.
The months of December/January have been very kind to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll as they are 26-13 in regular-season games in those months during his tenure. This game also kicks off a stretch of four of the last five at home for Seattle, which gives the Seahawks a huge edge in the race for one of the NFC Wild Card spots. Look for Seattle to withstand an early punch or two from the 49ers but pull away in the second half for a comfortable win.
Prediction: Seahawks 34, 49ers 17
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.