When the Seattle Seahawks travel to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers, first place in NFC West will be on the line (8.25pm ET, Thursday).
With both teams tied atop the standings, this game could be pivotal not just for the division lead but for playoff implications as well.
While the Seahawks have benefited from a bit of good luck this season, what the team has done behind one of the league’s best defenses and the contributions of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson cannot be overlooked. Not to mention, the Seahawks started the season with one of the hardest schedules of all 32 NFL teams and so far have handled it successfully winning four of six games.
The 49ers meanwhile started the season looking exactly how a Superbowl contender should. They scored back-to-back eight point victories over Green Bay and Detroit and then after a loss to Minnesota, absolutely dominated Buffalo and New York scoring 79 points to the opponent’s three.
With the division so close and both teams facing daunting schedules to conclude their season, there is no doubt that this game will have pivotal implications on which team ultimately wins the NFC West.
Did the Replacement Referees Change the Course of the Season for the Seattle Seahawks?
This is kind of a loaded question but certainly one that both Seahawks and Green Bay Packers fans have been thinking. In an extremely controversial call, one that many believe was the cause for the end of the referee lockout, Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson was credited with a touchdown on a play that clearly looked to be an interception.
For the Packers, this gave them their second loss of the season and staked them to a 1-2 record. The Seahawks on the other hand saw their record reach 2-1 after the Green Bay game. Now at 3-3, the Packers are looking at an uphill battle just to make the playoffs. The Seahawks meanwhile at 4-2 are looking strong to reach the postseason for the first time under head coach Pete Carroll.
Now while this call may have cost the Packers a win and given the Seahawks one they otherwise shouldn’t have gotten, it should be known that the final score of the game was 14-12. This means the Seahawks held what was, no doubt, the league’s best offense last year to just 12 points. They kept Aaron Rodgers, who threw nearly 50 touchdowns last year, to just 223 yards through the air. The Packers managed just four field goals.
Looking at the stats from the game, yes the Seahawks did benefit from a last minute call, but at the same time, the Packers really did not put themselves in a position to win the game. Part of the reason for this? The league’s second best overall defense.
Comparing the Defenses
Last year, it was the 49ers who took the NFL by storm with their knockdown dominant defense, reminiscent of the old Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1980s. They had a great secondary and with the dominant Von Miller getting to the quarterback, had one of the league’s best blitzes as well.
This season, the story has still been focused on defense for the Niners, but it is the defense of the Seahawks that has really taken the league and teams like the New England Patriots and Packers by storm.
To compare 2012 defenses specifically, we can take a look at individual stats and rankings. Take for example the biggest indicator of a good defense that being the amount of points they surrender to the opposition.
- San Francisco opponent’s PPG: 15.7 (3rd)
- Seattle opponent’s PPG: 15.5 (2nd)
As you can see, it is a relative tie in this category, testament to how good both of these defenses have been. In fact, across the board, these teams have very similar rankings in terms of specific defensive categories.
- San Fran Defense Stats: YDS (275.8-1st), PASS YDS (183.2-2nd), RUSH YDS (92.7-9th)
- Seattle Defense Stats: YDS (294.7-4th), PASS YDS (224.7-13th), RUSH YDS (70-2nd)
It is because of the stingy defenses of these teams that the over/under for this game is just 37.5 points. It is also because of these defenses that both teams have had success to the tune of a 4-2 record. While I expect both defenses to hold up Thursday night, the story will be more about the offenses and which can breakthrough. And as it always is, the offenses start and stop through the quarterback throwing the ball.
Alex Smith vs. Russell Wilson
Not to reiterate what most in the sports media circle have said, but on the season, Niners quarterback Alex Smith really has been one of the best signal callers in the NFL. He started his season with great stats, leading his San Francisco offense 25.3 points a game and a passer rating that was the best of all 32 league quarterbacks.
The rose colored glasses that were viewing Smith’s season however turned back to reality as the San Francisco quarterback was brought down to earth and had his weaknesses exposed against a dominant New York Giants’ defense. While I still think Smith is a top ten QB, the 49ers offense has to at least be a little worried that Smith might not be as much of a lock as they once thought.
Then there is Russell Wilson. With all the hype surrounding rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Wilson and his season have really fallen by the wayside. While Wilson may not have the stats to back up his season he does have the record. After all, as a Facebook meme states, all he’s done is beat Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tom Brady.
These victories mean something. Wilson and Seattle have had one of the toughest schedules to start the season and they have come through it with flying colors. Part of this is due to Wilson and his ability to lead comeback drives, maybe as good as anybody in the NFL this season.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Picks Conclusion
With two dominant defenses taking the field, the game could and very likely will be a highly-contested affair. San Francisco, helped along by home field advantage, is favorite (-330 on the moneyline) and has to concede a large-looking 7.5 points to their opponents on the point spread.
- Bet on Seattle +7.5pts on the spread @ -105 with Bovada. It is -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook at the time of writing. Non-Americans bet with Bet365.
- Despite the defensive prowess, the sportsbooks’ betting lines may have underestimated the total points here. So go over 37.5 points @ odds of -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook or Bovada. Those sportsbooks are for USA residents only so other nationalities are advised to wager with Bet365.