The battle for first place in the NFC West will be on the line this Sunday, as the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) stroll into Century Link Field to take on the Seattle Seahawks (1-1). A battle of two .500 teams, there will be no love lost, as this game will undoubtedly be a defensive struggle down in the trenches.
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Last week, the 49ers endured their first loss of the season at the hands of the Carolina Panthers (1-1). This week, they will look to bounce back in the win column by facing a very suspect Seahawks squad. A team that lost 3-9 to the Los Angeles Rams, what should the Forever Faithful expect in their Week 3 matchup against their division rivals?
While Vegas heavily favors the Seahawks with a point-spread of -9.5, I’d have to respectfully disagree and take the 49ers to not only cover, but win outright. Sure, the 49ers have not beaten the Seahawks on the road in recent memory. You would have to go back to the 19-17 win on Dec. 24, 2011. However, these are two different teams in two different eras.
The Seahawks no longer have Beast Mode at their disposal. The player who simply killed the 49ers defense with his punishing north-south running style, is no longer the team’s security blanket. Yes, I’m talking about former Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch.
In Lynch’s last five home meetings against the 49ers (including playoffs) he was an absolute animal. Shredding the 49ers defense both on the ground and through the air with a total of 118 carries for 516 rushing yards, and 6 touchdowns, while adding an additional 8 catches for 87 receiving yards and 2 more touchdowns, you can see where the 49ers problems lied.
However, Lynch is no longer on the team, and the Seahawks will have no choice but to roll the dice on four-year veteran RB Christine Michael. At 5-10, 220, Michael should not be overlooked. He was a player who had first-round talent, but due to his off-field behavior and ACL injury while at Texas A&M, the stock on Michael dropped him into the second-round (No. 62).
Last year at CenturyLink Field, it was Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls who had a career day, rushing for 209 yards on 30 carries (1 touchdown) while adding three catches for 46 yards and 1 touchdown by air-mail. The guy was a fantasy football stud. But again, this is a very different team from a year ago.
Gone are Pro Bowl LT Russell Okung and RG J.R. Sweezy. This is huge on so many different levels.
The Seahawks winning formula is simple. Run the football and protect an early lead with a stingy defense. In order for that to happen, they need to be able to move the chains. I don’t anticipate Michael getting much real-estate to work with as he goes up against a very stout 49ers defensive line.
A unit that has been coached up extremely well by DLC Jerry Azzinaro, look for DE Quinton Dial, DE DeForest Buckner and DE Arik Armstead to do their part up-front- by holding Michael to under 85 rushing yards.
Michael should get some nice yardage up the A and B gaps since the 49ers defense is thin at the ‘will’ inside linebacker spot. But not much after that as the 49ers outside linebackers will be setting the edge with backside containment flushing plays back inside (where help lies).
This will then make the Seahawks offense one-dimensional, forcing Seahawks QB Russell Wilson to beat them with his arm/legs. Good luck with that, as the 49ers secondary will be using plenty of man-coverage on the outside allowing FS Eric Reid to roam closer to the line of scrimmage (essentially eliminating the short-yardage passes).
If the 49ers secondary can limit Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham, while winning their one-on-one battles outside, they should be in perfect position to win the game.
But this is a team sport, and the 49ers offense will need to do ‘just enough’ to pull out a hard-fought road victory.
In QB Blaine Gabbert’s last meeting at CenturyLink Field, he was pretty solid, completing 22 of 34 passes for 264 yards and 1 touchdown. The 49ers offense will need at the very minimum, that type of production from Gabbert due to the stingy Seahawks rush defense.
The x-factor to the 49ers winning the game, is Gabbert. Can he deliver accurate intermediate throws down the seams and on the posts? If he can do that, Gabbert will have success. If you remember, he was extremely poised the last time he played at C-Link (rallying the team back from a 17-point deficit), so to think he won’t have the same type of pocket presence this time around would be naive, especially since the 49ers offensive line is 10 times better than the last go-around.
In what I anticipate to be a low scoring affair, look for the 49ers to come out on top when its’ all said and done. A team that is vastly underrated, look for the 49ers to win despite being heavy underdogs, as I see them winning 20-17.
Sakamoto: 34-16 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 41, I would take the under. In a game where the Vegas predicts a Seahawks blowout, I foresee the 49ers keeping it close in a defensive struggle.
Sakamoto: 31-19 (ATS)
With the 49ers being -9.5 point underdogs, I would take the 49ers.
Fantasy Football (54/155)
2016: 4 of 6
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks.
TE Vance McDonald
WR Tyler Lockett
RB Christine Michael
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