If you told me a month and half ago that the San Francisco 49ers (2-4) would have the same record as the Seattle Seahawks (2-4) through the first six games, I probably would have signed up for it. What I wouldn’t have expected, was that both teams would be in the basement of the NFC West. That is indeed the reality of the situation though, as the bitter rivals head into their first clash of the season on Thursday night.
Both teams seem to be headed in different directions at the moment, and the 49ers might just be getting their feet underneath them (at least offensively) following a rough stretch early on. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are struggling to put teams away and have issues on both sides of the ball. A win here for either team will go a long way towards making them a legitimate playoff contender, while a loss could send the other reeling.
One of the NFL’s best rivalries has been pretty one-sided of late, as the Seahawks have won five of the last six meetings. Last season, the 49ers struggled to get anything going offensively in either matchup, losing 19-3 in Week 13 and 17-7 in Week 15.
Seattle used the ground game to pace their offensive attack, running for a combined total of 309 yards over the two contests. That was more than enough to support a dominating defense that dropped QB Colin Kaepernick 10 times overall.
As for the Niners, the numbers were brutal to look at. Kaepernick threw for 121 yards and 141 yards respectively, and the only San Francisco player to break 38 yards receiving in either game was FB Bruce Miller, who had 56 in Week 15. WR Anquan Boldin especially struggled, catching three balls for 18 yards the first time around, and then followed that up with three for 23. Ugly stuff.
Players to Watch
After a dismal start to the season, Kaepernick has put together back-to-back stellar games. Over the last eight quarters, the embattled signal caller has thrown for 602 yards and has four touchdown passes with no interceptions. Not coincidentally, the Niners offense has moved the ball with regularity and is (finally) putting points on the boards. Kaepernick’s struggles with Seattle are well documented, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue his strong play against a team that’s been his Kryptonite.
After looking out of place for most of the season, it appears as if TE Jimmy Graham is finally starting to gain some chemistry with QB Russell Wilson. Graham broke out in Week 5, securing 8 of the 12 balls thrown his was for 140 yards. Graham was only averaging 4.5 targets and 40.8 yards per game prior to his breakout performance. Look for the Seahawks to try and build on this, getting Graham involved early and often.
Game Changing Factor
The Seahawks are finding ways to lose right now, and if not for a gift call from the officials against the Detroit Lions, they’d be 1-5. The once feared defense has looked very mortal so far, and that could have something to do with S Kam Chancellor missing time due to a hold out and still getting his feet underneath him. The offensive line is also struggling, allowing a sack on 12.6 percent of the Wilson’s dropbacks (26 total). On a short week on the road, it might be tough for Seattle to get all of this cleaned up.
Stats to Know
The 49ers’ pass defense has to improve. The team has given up a league worst 1,837 yards through the air (306.1 per game), and is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.6 percent of their throws. If you take away Week 1, they’re actually allowing 332 yards a game. Part of the reason the secondary is struggling so badly is the due to the lack of pressure upfront. The 49ers only have 9 sacks on the season, and five of them came in Week 1. OLB Aaron Lynch is the only player on the team with more than one sack to his credit.
I don’t think the 49ers are as good as the Seahawks, and I’m not sure they would beat them on a regular week. But these Thursday night games can be tough on the road teams, and the 49ers have enough momentum right now to pull off an upset. It probably won’t be the prettiest thing in the world, but I can see San Francisco pulling the upset.