You know, the one good thing about jam-packing the entire final month and a half full of meaningful games: it’s impossible to “look ahead” to your next week’s opponent.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to the 2014 NFL season. It started A LOT later than it usually does, but with this – the first showdown between the Seahawks and the 49ers – we can now say that the season has officially started. Can you BELIEVE the NFL opted to roll with a 16-week exhibition season prior to starting the regular season this year? THANKS
Maybe it’s the rush of caffeine to my head, maybe it’s a clogged artery or two doing a little happy dance, but I am PUMPED UP about this game tonight! Truth be told, I’m fairly excited for all the games on today’s slate; this might be the best Thanksgiving for football we’ve had in decades. But, tonight, at 5:30pm, when we kick off Round 1 of the two most physical teams in football – the most bitter and hated rivalry in the game today – I’m hopefully going to be at least two Jager shots into my evening, with a pitcher of beer in front of me, and some of the rowdiest Seahawks fans in the city over at Buckley’s in Bell Town. I’ve been dreaming about this game for weeks! Since we all caught wind of the schedule earlier this year and automatically sought out the first 49er game of the slate.
As for the game itself, I wouldn’t mind watching the Seahawks stomp all over the 49ers, dealing them a crushing blow from which they’ll never recover (Seahawks kill 49ers on the road, come back in two weeks to roll comfortably at home, resulting in the 49ers missing the playoffs, resulting in Jim Harbaugh being let go, resulting in the 49ers hiring the current Stanford head coach, resulting in a long, slow decline into mediocrity for a once-proud franchise as Harbaugh takes over the Oakland Raiders and never appears in a playoff game ever again). But, for some reason, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy.
For a while now, you could say the Seahawks and the 49ers are the same exact teams, and you wouldn’t be too far off. Nothing changes in that comparison, except now, these teams are the same for all the wrong reasons. Both teams have been obliterated by injuries (though, to be fair, a number of them – on both sides – are starting to trickle back into health). Both teams still have strong defenses, but aren’t as dominating as they’d been the last couple years. Both teams still rely heavily on the run (though, I will say the Seahawks are far superior in this department this season). And both teams have young, mobile starting quarterbacks who have taken significant steps back in their development (for whatever reason) up to this point in the season.
As a fantasy owner in a league with a 2-QB setup, I know all too well FIRST HAND of the struggles of Colin Kaepernick. He tends to start off games very hot, and then does absolutely nothing but bumble around for the following three and a half quarters. The fact that this team still manages to win in spite of his mediocrity is a testament to – I dunno, their coaching? Their experience? Their will to never give up? I have no clue. This team should be spoken about in the same breath as the Chicago Bears right now, but somehow they’ve found ways to get the job done.
On the flipside, Russell Wilson is gritting games out by the grit of his gritty grit grit #Marklar. He’s not quite RGIII-bad with his pocket presence, but he’s on that spectrum to be sure.
I don’t know how you peg this game as anything but a low-scoring affair. The Seahawks are the 49ers are the Cardinals are the Rams. What are the Seahawks going to do against a dominating front seven in Santa Clara? Unless we’re talking about injuries to their big men, probably not much. A positive to put in our hats would be the fact that the Redskins, last week, with Alfred Morris, were able to run all over them. If they can do that with him, the Seahawks should be able to do better with Beastmode. Especially when you consider James Carpenter will be back and starting (pushing Alvin Bailey to our 6th O-Lineman spot, in the event we want to go jumbo on their asses).
So, maybe bank on some improved interior running compared to last week. Also, probably bank on Russell Wilson not getting around to the edge quite as often. Yes, the 49ers are missing some linebackers, but their replacements aren’t too shabby, and their secondary is playing improved ball over last year. I like the Seahawks to grind it out on the ground; here’s to hoping the passing game finds its gear and gets going.
Defensively, I like the Seahawks to continue their strong effort against the run. The 49ers are a little beat up along the offensive line, and with Bobby Wagner back, we’re still pretty stout in this department.
In the passing game, Michael Crabtree has somehow gotten even MORE mediocre than he was last year, if that’s even possible. The real guy to fear is Anquan Boldin. I wouldn’t mind this being a game where Richard Sherman shadows Boldin a little more than he does Crabtree, though it would be nice to reenact The Tip. That’s a show we can CERTAINLY take on the road!
The key to this game, above all else: getting home. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin are the keys to this game. It’s not enough to just pressure Kaepernick; he’ll get out in space and make us look like assholes in the process. No, if we’re not going to try to simply harass him in the pocket, then we’ve GOT to bring him down for losses! I want him leaving this game wondering just how in the Hell they’re going to come into Seattle in two weeks and come away with a victory (here’s a hint: they won’t).
It’s been too long since the Seahawks have gone into San Francisco and come away with a victory. Thankfully, as has been pointed out by countless people on Twitter this week, we’re not GOING to San Francisco to play the 49ers. We’re doing so in Santa Clara. They’ve proven without a shadow of a doubt that theirs is no home field advantage, going 3-2 on the year, with embarrassing defeats to the likes of the Bears and Rams (and but a narrow victory over the Redskins last week). Let’s go out there today and drag them down to .500.
Nail, meet coffin. This game is as big as it gets for the victor.