It's do or die time for the Seattle Seahawks (4-5) after losing a critical NFC West Showdown last Sunday 39-32 to the Arizona Cardinals. Following last week's defeat, the Seahawks fell to three games behind Arizona in the NFC West race and two games out in the NFC Wild Card race. The cure for Seattle is a visit from the San Francisco 49ers and Blaine Gabbert, who are coming off a bye week and will be looking to pull off the upset. This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season as Seattle won the Week 7 matchup at Levi’s Stadium by a score of 20-3.
Prior to its bye week, San Francisco (3-6) showed a little bit of a pulse in a 17-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers still were pedestrian at best offensively against the Falcons with 318 yards of offense, but they were able to grind out just enough rushing offense on the ground to keep Atlanta at bay defensively. Also, Blaine Gabbert did what he needs to do in order for San Francisco to win games down the stretch. Gabbert, completed 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns passes but he had two interceptions. It is going to be beyond critical for Gabbert to not throw interceptions against the Seahawks' defense on Sunday.
San Francisco at Seattle
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: Fox
Spread: Seahawks -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Where is Russell Wilson at mentally?
Wilson has not lived up to being the second-highest paid quarterback in the NFL in 2015. There have been too many times this season when Wilson has been off target with passes that he normally would complete. That begs the question where his focus truly is. It's one thing to take some time off during a bye week to rest and recover, but Wilson’s vacation to Mexico with girlfriend Ciara was highly publicized and a really bad look considering how poor the offense played as a whole in the first half on Sunday night. It's on Wilson to step up his leadership and produce like the second-highest paid quarterback in the NFL.
2. What about Marshawn Lynch’s Health and Lack of Production?
Despite the rash of nagging injuries, Lynch has not produced at a level worthy of his $8.5-million-dollar salary cap hit this year. Lynch has only rushed for 417 yards in the season with 122 of those against San Francisco in Week 7. This is a fork in the road moment for Lynch. If he does find a way to play despite being questionable with an abdominal injury - he needs to produce. If Lynch can't go, Thomas Rawls will be counted on step in and take care of business with the running game as the season is slipping away too quickly for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks for them to keep waiting on Lynch to get right physically.
3. Will the Seahawks Defense Bounce Back?
Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals pretty much had their way with the Seattle defense, as Palmer threw for 363 yards with relative ease. The Seahawks as a whole have been playing pretty well since the return of Kam Chancellor. However, the ridiculous inconsistency of the Seahawks' offense is going to wear even the most talented of defenses like Seattle has. The 49ers are not elite whatsoever offensively, so it will be incumbent upon the Seahawks to set the tone early by forcing turnovers and not allowing big plays. Seattle has already allowed 30 plays in the passing game of over 20 yards or more in comparison to the 32 they allowed during the entire 2014 season. Another glaring issue as Earl Thomas pointed out earlier in the week is that the overall chemistry of the defense - especially in the secondary - is not the same this season. The Legion of Boom has yet to display anywhere near the level of intimidation this unit showed against the opposition from previous seasons.
If there ever was a Sunday for the Seahawks to get right, it's this Sunday against the 49ers. Blaine Gabbert at quarterback for San Francisco should deliver multiple turnovers for the Seahawks, and without running back Carlos Hyde, Seattle should be able to force the 49ers to be one dimensional all afternoon long. Offensively, for the Seahawks it simply comes down to executing better and actually playing with discipline in the trenches. Will Seattle put it together offensively for four quarters and put up 30 points on the San Francisco defense? The odds are the offense will make enough big plays to score about 24 points and seal a comfortable win for the Seahawks on Sunday. However, with two tough games on deck - Pittsburgh visits Century Link Field next Sunday and a road trip to Minnesota awaits the following week - it is going to take significant improvement in order for Seattle to go on a run towards the playoffs.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, 49ers 9
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow him on Twitter @smwhittum.