There is NO love lost between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawaks as these two heated division rivals prepare for battle in this weekend’s NFC Championship Game. Sure, Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh used to be the gold standard for vitriol and pure hatred in the NFL, but you’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think the Seahawks and 49ers is the best (and ugliest) rivalry in the NFL. These two teams are so similar in style and quality, that whomever makes it out alive, will have unquestionably earned their ticket to the Super Bowl.
Who has the edge?
Although Seattle has only played one playoff game to San Francisco’s two, it’s still clear that the 49ers have been the stronger team for the last month or so. They finished the regular season with six consecutive victories and then impressed on the road in the first two rounds of the playoffs on the road against Green Bay and Carolina. While Seattle earned the right to have a first-round bye and two home games in the postseason, there’s no denying they’ve been skittish of late. They lost to Arizona in Week 16 at home, even though Carson Palmer through 4 INT’s. And last week against New Orleans, the Seahawks defense shut down Drew Brees and company for most of the game, only for the Saints to have a chance to tie late in the 4th quarter.
Given that fact, we still know the narrative surrounding Russell Wilson’s bunch at Century Link Field – they’re tough to beat. It’s loud, hostile, and apart from that dud against the Cardinals, Seattle is lights out when they play at home. Furthermore, they have owned the 49ers the past few seasons when they play with the help of the 12th man. Earlier this season in Seattle (Week 2), the Seahawks annihilated Colin Kaepernick’s bunch 29-3, despite Wilson only completing 8 passes. Much of that had to do with Kaepernick’s 3 INT’s, but it was equally due to Seattle establishing their dominant run game and defense early and often.
And it will be Marshawn Lynch and the best secondary in the NFL that the Seahawks will have to rely upon to beat the monster the 49ers have become. A lot has been made of Wilson’s inability to put the team on his back recently, relegated to the dreaded “game manager.” While there is credence to Wilson’s struggles, that isn’t to say he won’t come out and play like one of the best QB’s in the league and vault the Seahawks into the Super Bowl. He may have to, given how equally matched the two defenses are.
This matchup may come down to which quarterback makes more plays in the end. If the defenses and running games essentially cancel each other out, will it be Wilson or Kaepernick that steps up in the big moment? It could be argued that Wilson’s job will be slightly tougher; his weapons aren’t as explosive as Kaepernick’s. And Percy Harvin has officially been ruled out with a concussion after finally making it back last week against New Orleans.
Can Wilson do what he did in last year’s divisional round playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons? Seattle looked down and out for most of the game, but Wilson led the Seahawks as they stormed back to take the lead with under two minutes, only to have Matt Ryan and his offense squeak out a late field goal to advance. If Wilson elevates his play above game manager-level, Seattle will be tough to beat.
However, we don’t really know if he’s capable of that right now. His confidence looks shaken, and the 49ers bring a rugged attitude and the best linebackers in the game to Seattle.
This game is going to be an absolute war. These two teams genuinely hate each other, and they had a knock-down, drag-out cage match in Week 14 at Candlestick that ended in a 19-17 victory for the 49ers. I give the slight edge to San Francisco. They are playing with a great confidence about them, and they might be one of the only teams that can still play their own game in front of Seattle’s crowd. Look for Kaepernick to make a play with his legs late in the 4th quarter that will propel his team to its second straight Super Bowl.