Normally, when you have a pair of 2-4 teams battling on "Thursday Night Football" it would have the makings of a pillow fight that would no one nationwide would tune into watch. But when the 2-4 teams are the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers you have a situation of two desperate teams and fan bases that despise each other with a passion. Thus, for that alone this game on Thursday night has the potential for non-stop entertainment.
The beat goes on for the Seahawks as they blew another fourth quarter lead last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Seattle led Carolina 23-14 but could not hold on, as Cam Newton threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen with 32 seconds left to put the visitors ahead for good at 27-23 to push the Panthers to 5-0 on the season. Last Sunday was another example of how Seattle has not been the same since the Super Bowl collapse and it’s crystal clear that this team clearly has a mental complex right now with finishing games. Head coach Pete Carroll can talk all he wants about the season not being over, but the reality is at 2-4 this team is going to have to go on a ridiculous run just even to be a Wild Card team in the NFC.
For San Francisco things are actually starting to look at least somewhat encouraging as the offense has gotten better play out of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers were able to put 25 points on the scoreboard in a 25-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. Kaepernick, took advantage of a suspect Raven secondary by completing 16 of 27 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Look for the 49ers to try and attack a Seattle secondary that has not lived up to its lofty reputation so far this season.
Seattle at San Francisco
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network
Spread: Seahawks -6.5
Three Things To Watch
1. Can Seattle's offensive line finally play a complete game?
The Seahawks' offensive line continued to cement its status as the worst in the NFL in regard to pass protection during the Carolina game. The Panthers sacked Russell Wilson four more times, bringing the grand total of sacks allowed by Seattle to 26 on the season. Mercifully for the Seahawks the 49ers have only sacked the quarterback nine times. So this will be a perfect opportunity for the offensive line to get into a rhythm and actually protect Wilson enough to ignite the offense. With the Seahawks on a pace to have Wilson sacked 70 times this season it is truly put up or shut up time for offensive line coach Tom Cable and his underachieving charges.
2. Chemistry of the Seahawks' defense
Some of the collateral damage from Kam Chancellor’s hold out reared its ugly head at the end of the Carolina game. There was a clip from FOX that caught Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman pointing fingers at each other after the final last touchdown. On the surface it’s probably not the biggest deal, but in the long run it is something to watch as there definitely is not the same level of chemistry with the defense across all levels compared to previous seasons. One thing you could always count on during Seattle's back-to-back Super Bowl trips was a defense that played together and with incredible passion consistently for 60 minutes. So far this season even with Chancellor back in the fold, something just seems off with this defense across the board and it has resulted in this dubious streak of blown fourth quarter leads.
3. Seahawks' running game
This has to get going for Seattle if the defending NFC champions are going to have any chance of winning on Thursday night let alone go on a run to the playoffs. The 49ers have done a nice job against the run this season and it’s going to be very important for the Seahawks to get Russell Wilson going with the read option and keep trying to feed Marshawn Lynch the ball to get him rolling. Lynch had a pedestrian 54 yards on 17 carries against Carolina last week. It is easy to understand why the Seahawks did what they did as far as meeting Lynch's contract demands headed into this season. However, the reality is you are slowly seeing signs of typical running back decline with Lynch as he is 29 years old and has had a tremendous amount of wear and tear physically. So it's also fair to say that the Seahawks may have ridiculously overpaid for a running back that is on the down side of his career.
This game is going to be typical Seattle-San Francisco physical slugfest with a little more offense than expected for both teams. The Seahawks should not have much of an issue getting pressure on Kaepernick, which will keep them in the game once again heading into the fourth quarter. But, with the train wreck that is the Seattle offensive line there is no reason until proven otherwise to pick the Seahawks to win any game right now. Look, for the 49ers to find a way to get their third win in front of countless fans disguised as empty seats and drop the Seahawks to 2-5, which would be stunning considering the preseason expectations for this team.
Prediction: 49ers 23, Seahawks 20
— 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 @scottwhittum.