Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium will bring together two football teams going in opposite directions. The Seattle Seahawks (6-4) are coming off a 34-31 loss last Monday night at CenturyLink Field against the Atlanta Falcons. While, the San Francisco 49ers (1-9) are coming off a bye week, which was preceded by a 31-21 home victory over the New York Giants. These two teams met back in Week 2 in Seattle and the Seahawks needed some late fourth-quarter magic to escape with a 12-9 win.
Some of the same old issues plagued Seattle in the loss to Atlanta, as costly turnovers by quarterback Russell Wilson and huge penalties always occurred at the most inopportune times. The lack of a running game not involving Wilson also continues to be a problem as Mike Davis got some things going in the first half only to suffer a groin injury. Thus, look for even more of an Air Raid-type of offensive approach as it is too late in the season to expect someone to emerge at the running back position. Defensively, Byron Maxwell held up alright at cornerback against Matt Ryan so that is an encouraging sign. But, the lack of a pass rush was a problem as Sheldon Richardson picked up the Seahawks’ only sack.
For the 49ers, they are looking to build off of their best performance of the 2017 season. San Francisco had 474 yards of total offense in the Week 10 win over the Giants, putting together a balanced attack. C.J. Beathard completed 19 of 25 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and interception, while also running for a score. That type of efficiency in the passing game will give the 49ers chances to win games the rest of the way. They also did a nice job of turning New York into a one-dimensional offense as the Giants were unable to dominate the line of scrimmage (5.0 ypc, 3 sacks allowed).
Seattle at San Francisco
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 26 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seattle -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Russell Wilson against an aggressive 49ers defense
Wilson should see plenty of heat from the San Francisco pass rush as teams really have no justifiable reason to respect the Seahawks’ running backs. Now, Wilson does have an outstanding passer rating when facing the blitz of 115.9. Clearly, Wilson will not be fazed by an aggressive blitzing mentality should that be the strategy 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh employs. If Wilson can work his voodoo of extending plays with his legs, it will stress the San Francisco defense but it is going to be important for him to take care of the football. Also, there is the issue of a depleted secondary that could get exposed if the defensive line can’t get to Wilson. Consequently, the trio of Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson could produce some strong numbers on Sunday.
2. Kyle Shanahan’s play calling
Expect San Francisco’s first-year head coach (above, right) to dare the Seahawks’ defense to try and beat the 49ers with their pass rush and stay aggressive with his play calling for the offense. Running the football is still a viable option against Seattle’s defense as Carlos Hyde had a season-high 124 rushing yards against the Seahawks back in Week 2. Hyde should get his shot early and often to try and replicate that performance on Sunday afternoon. Marquise Goodwin should see plenty of targets in the passing game as San Francisco needs to be able to create explosive plays in the passing game to keep Seattle on its heels. If the last couple of games have proven anything it’s that the Seahawks are vulnerable against the pass with the right amount of patience from whoever is calling the plays combined with the proper execution by the offense. A secondary that’s been ravaged by injuries and is missing two members of the Legion of Boom certainly doesn’t hurt the opposition’s cause either.
3. Seahawks special teams
Tyler Lockett was very explosive in the return game last week, averaging 39.4 yards per kickoff return and being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Seattle also recovered a muffed Atlanta kickoff that gave the Seahawks the ball at the Falcons’ 11-yard line and led to a touchdown. Look for continued aggressiveness on special teams, but one thing they need to avoid is Pete Carroll losing his mind like a Kardashian sister and call fake punts or fake field goals at the wrong time. Trailing 24-17 late in the second quarter, Carroll called for a fake field goal with the ball inside the red zone (17-yard line). That mistake cost the team dearly as a 52-yard field goal was needed at the end of the game to try and force overtime instead of settling for three at the end of the first half on what would have been a much shorter attempt.
All the ingredients for an upset by the 49ers are in place on Sunday. Seattle is coming off a short week and has to travel in a week that has also been impacted by the Thanksgiving holiday. The first quarter and a half are going to be very vital for both teams as the Seahawks need to start fast and break San Francisco’s will early. The 49ers need to keep the game close as long they can and find a way to steal it late with a key turnover. This game will go down to the wire and this time Russell Wilson will do just enough damage in the passing game to get Seattle back on track, but it won’t come easily.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, 49ers 16
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.