Thursday, January 16, 2014

NFC Championship Preview: 49ers at Seahawks

By Jackson Safon

The Seahawks have made it one step further than they did last year and are now one more step away from the Super Bowl. It wasn’t as easy as many thought it would be against the Saints, as the second half left many ‘Hawks fans giving their chairs the death grip. The Saints battled back for much of the second half and were one bonehead play from Marques Colston away from having a chance to tie the game. Now it is onto the 49ers. This seems like how it was meant to be. I don’t throw out words like this all that often but it almost seems like destiny. These are the two best teams in the NFC and arguably the two best teams in the NFL so it is more than right that they are the last two teams in the NFC. These teams know each other very well so expect it to be a battle from the get-go. In playoff games and in rivalry playoff games especially, there is no true way to predict what will happen. Rushing yards, passing yards, turnovers, field position, special teams, defense, and much more. Every single thing will count in this game so there is no true way to predict how it will go or what will be the keys. Even so, I will do my best to compare the two teams and go from there.

Russell Wilson vs. Colin Kaepernick
I know it isn’t what many Seahawks fans want to hear but right now, Colin Kaepernick is playing better than Russell Wilson. Harass me if you’d like (we love comments here at the sports soup). But in all seriousness Colin Kaepernick has played outstanding football as of late and Russell Wilson has done quite the opposite. Wilson played better throughout the regular season, but we are in the playoffs now, and Kaepernick is 4-1 in his playoff career with his only loss being last year’s Super Bowl. I wholeheartedly expect Russell to turn it around and rebound off his poor performance, but as of this moment Kaepernick is the better quarterback.
Seahawks: 0 49ers: 1

There's no doubt Colin Kaepernick is playing better football than Russell Wilson right now.
Associated Press

Running Backs:
Marshawn Lynch/Robert Turbin vs. Frank Gore/Kendall Hunter
Gore is getting old and Lynch is arguably the best running back in the NFL. He is the league leader in forced missed tackles in a league with Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and LeSean McCoy. Lynch’s hands are also supremely underrated. Edge goes to the ‘Hawks.
Seahawks: 1 49ers: 1

Wide Receivers:
Golden Tate/Doug Baldwin/Jermaine Kearse vs. Michael Crabtree/Anquan Boldin
I do not expect Percy Harvin to play after getting a concussion in the early parts of Saturday’s game against the Saints and neither should you. It is possible yes, but unlikely, and if you think this way then him playing will be a happy surprise. That leaves the receiving corps of the Seahawks back to where it started, with some quality players but players that at times have trouble getting separation from defensive backs. Compared to the two elite receivers the Niners have in Crabtree and Boldin, they just don’t stack up. Crabtree and Boldin complement each other perfectly and are both extremely dangerous in their own ways. I am significantly more scared of both of those players than I am of any Seahawks receiver. Seahawks: 1 49ers: 2

Tight Ends:
Zach Miller/Luke Willson vs. Vernon Davis/Vance McDonald
Vernon Davis is an absolute monster. He is the most physically gifted playmaker the 49ers have on a team with Crabtree and Boldin. Davis is the fastest receiver the Niners have and is the same height and 18 pounds heavier than Kam Chancellor. Dude is big. As for Vance McDonald, he is the player that the Seahawks actually wanted to draft, but his evaluation was just too high so the ‘Hawks decided to pass and get Luke Willson a few rounds later. I much prefer this value but in terms of pure talent McDonald likely beats out Willson. Niners in a LANDSLIDE. Seahawks: 1 49ers: 3

Offensive Line:
As I explained last week, the Seahawks seem to have an above average offensive line. Max Unger and Russell Okung are both pro-bowlers, and Breno Giacomini is a versatile and skilled tackle opposite Okung. Additionally, Michael Bowie has been thrust into the starting left guard role and really flourished, showing much better skills than James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan. All that being said, the 49ers have one of the better offensive lines in all of football. Joe Staley at left tackle and Mike Iupati at left guard make up arguably the best left side of an offensive line in football, perhaps only rivaled by the Patriots’ left side. Their center Jonathan Goodwin and two right side of the line players in Alex Boone and Anthony Davis are all above average as well, and their run-blocking skills are just superb. Nod goes to the Niners.
Seahawks: 1 49ers: 4

Defensive Line:
Ooh baby this is a fun category to compare. The 49ers defensive line is headlined by Justin Smith, the most dominant inside defensive lineman in football (except when Vince Wilfork is healthy). Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey are the other two linemen in the 49ers 3-4 defense and they are fantastic players as well. But as I said last week, the Seahawks have the best and deepest defensive line in all of football. You want run stoppers, here’s Red Bryant, Tony McDaniel, and Brandon Mebane. Pass rushers you say? Well BAM, here’s Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, and Cliff Avril coming at you. To add even more depth, I didn’t even list Jordan Hill and Clinton McDonald who are both promising young inside defensive linemen. Seahawks with ease. Seahawks: 2 49ers: 4

Michael Bennett has been the third best player on the Seahawks' defense this year.
Charlotte Observer/Getty Images

This will be the closest one yet. I am smiling as I write this because both teams have so many unbelievable young players at the different linebacker positions. Let’s start with the hometown Seahawks. Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, and Malcolm Smith have been the starters the past few games with K.J. Wright out. Irvin is a pass rushing extraordinaire, Bobby Wagner has been playing at an All-Pro level, and Malcolm Smith has been playing out of his mind in replacement duty. Plus, there is a pretty decent chance that K.J. Wright makes it back this week. That is a very high quality linebacking corps. But the 49ers. Man they are loaded. Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman are two of the best inside linebackers in football. Aldon Smith is one of the best pass rushers in football. And lesser known Ahmad Brooks is just as good as all of them. Never mind Dan Skuta who played unbelievable in backup duty when Aldon Smith was not with the team. The Seahawks linebackers are great, but the 49ers linebackers are the best.
Seahawks: 2 49ers: 5

I’m sure you already know the members of the Seahawks secondary so let me detail the Niners defensive backs. Eric Reid is one of the best young safeties in the game and Donte Whitner tried to change his last name to “Hitner” so that should tell you enough about him. The cornerbacks are the weak spot of their secondary however. Carlos Rogers is a very good player, but their right corner has been a revolving door with Tarell Brown, Eric Wright, and Tremaine Brock all getting time. Their unit is good but not as good as the L.O.B. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are both DPOY candidates. Kam Chancellor is an animal at strong safety. Byron Maxwell has been the best corner in the entire NFL if the sample size is lowered to 500 snaps instead of 1000 (when it is Richard Sherman). These guys are the best there is. Plain and simple. Seahawks: 3 49ers: 5

Richard Sherman might have to make a play in this one for the Seahawks to win.
FOX Sports

Special Teams:
I’ve said it all year but the Seahawks have the best special teams unit in the NFL. Hauschka is a money kicker, Jon Ryan has a cannon of a leg, and Golden Tate is an electric punt returner. The missing piece to the puzzle was Percy Harvin returning kicks, but that seems to be off the board at this point. No matter, the 49ers just don’t have enough to compete in this category. Seahawks: 4 49ers: 5

Coaching (I added this one, not sure why I left it out before):
Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh. Rivals in college and rivals in the NFL. Both guys are very high energy and seem to have a knack for coaching up strong defenses no matter where they are. I know that Harbaugh is a much more annoying character but that doesn’t make him less of a coach. I’m going to call this one a wash. Seahawks: 5 49ers: 6

The Niners have the edge in simple X’s and O’s position comparisons, but that doesn’t mean they are the better team. They are the better team right now, but position comparisons aren’t what proves that. If you have watched both teams recently, it is pretty clear that the ‘Hawks offense is in the dumpster, and if it doesn’t turn around the 49ers will win the game. Plain and simple. The 49ers are playing very high quality football right now and are the better team at this moment. It will be a great game no doubt and I just get the feeling that whichever quarterback has a better game, will lead his team to a victory. Hopefully and nervously predicting a Seahawks victory 20-19.

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1 comment:

  1. Great bowl champions always had some of best 49ers players. Teams win when they have good players who can throw, run and catch. Without it, its quite difficult for any team to win.