(SportsNetwork.com) - The Seattle Seahawks are closing in on their second NFC
West title in four years and are doing so in more impressive fashion this time
Owners of the best record in football, the surging Seahawks look to lock up
the division on Sunday against a San Francisco 49ers club that isn't ready to
give up the crown just yet.
The 11-1 Seahawks locked up a playoff berth with a convincing 34-7 home win
over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, their seventh victory in a row.
They are off to their best start in club history and have won 18 of their last
20 games overall.
Seattle is looking to win its eighth division title in club history and first
since taking the NFC West in 2010 despite a 7-9 record. However, the Seahawks
shocked most by beating New Orleans 41-36 in the wild card round before losing
The Seahawks have rolled by most of their competition this season, ranking
second in both points scored and allowed this season. They have not lost since
Oct. 6 at Indianapolis and their 5-1 record on the road is tied for the most
road wins in team history with the 1984 and 2005 clubs.
A victory over San Francisco, the defending NFC champions and winners of the
past two NFC West titles, would also give Seattle a first-round bye. The
Seahawks should have plenty of momentum after Russell Wilson threw three
touchdown passes and the defense held Saints quarterback Drew Brees to just
147 yards on Monday night.
"I said yesterday after we practiced that I thought it was the best week of
practice we had this year," said Wilson. "That preparation was big and I
really think it showed up tonight."
Wilson finished the game with 310 yards through the air with touchdown passes
to Zach Miller, Doug Baldwin and Derrick Coleman.
Seattle is three games ahead of San Francisco for first place in the division
and two games ahead of New Orleans and Carolina for the best record in the
"Great night for us, big win on Monday night for fans and all of our
followers," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. "The noise was a factor and
we got to play the way we wanted to play."
After having three of their previous four games at home, the Seahawks are
visiting the 49ers and New York Giants over the next two weekends.
San Francisco kept the pressure on Seattle with a 23-13 win over the St. Louis
Rams on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick amassed 275 yards and a touchdown without a
turnover for the 49ers, who have won two straight and seven of their last
Anquan Boldin made nine catches for 98 yards in a win that put the 49ers a
game up on Philadelphia and Arizona for the conference's second wild card.
"I don't think we've played our best football yet," Boldin said. "I still
think we have some things that we have to clean up. I do think we're getting
better each week."
Niners wide receiver Michael Crabtree, returning from a torn Achilles that
sidelined him for the season's first 11 games, had two catches totaling 68
yards in limited duty.
"It means a lot just to be out there and help contribute to the win," Crabtree
San Francisco is one of five teams this season to have not allow a 100-yard
rusher, though Seattle back Marshawn Lynch came two yards shy in a 29-3 win at
home on Sept. 15. Lynch scored three touchdowns and Kaepernick was picked off
The Seahawks have won two straight over the 49ers, but both of those came at
home and they have lost four in a row in San Francisco.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Niners and Seahawks have quarterbacks with similar styles as both Wilson
and Kaepernick can move the ball down the field with their arms and extend
plays with their legs.
Wilson is 14-0 at home in his career and his 22 wins through his first two NFL
seasons are tied for the most in the Super Bowl era. He has thrown for 1,672
yards and completed 64.9 percent of his passes, connecting with his receivers
for 22 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
Wilson is also second on the club with 456 rushing yards, averaging 5.7 yards
per carry while scoring once.
"I think that Russell Wilson is a good quarterback," said Niners linebacker
Patrick Willis. "He's definitely establishing himself as one of the better
quarterbacks in this league and it's great competition to play against him two
times a year. Certainly this Sunday, we've got to make sure that we try to
keep him contained and just get after him."
San Francisco was able to sack Wilson four times in the first meeting this
season while holding him to 142 yards on 8-of-19 passing with a touchdown and
interception. Wilson also ran for 33 yards in the win.
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who has five sacks in his past four games, sacked
Wilson once and fellow linebacker Aldon Smith got to the Seattle quarterback
Brooks leads the Niners with 8 1/2 sacks, while Smith has 6 1/2 sacks on the
San Francisco seems to go as Kaepernick goes. He has a 123.1 passer rating
over the two-game win streak and including playoffs, the Niners are 10-0 when
Kaepernick starts and has a passer rating of 100-plus.
"I think they're both very talented quarterbacks," Niners coach Jim Harbaugh
said of Kaepernick and Wilson. "Two great young quarterbacks. And they both
throw really well from the pocket, too. They stand in there and deliver. Their
timing and accuracy, they're very good at that."
Once could argue that Wilson has been doing more with less, though the
Seahawks rank third in football in rushing thanks to Lynch (970 yards, 9 TD).
Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin are Seattle's leading receivers and both have
caught four TD passes.
Seattle acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin to give Wilson another threat, but
he has appeared in just one game this season. He did not make his season debut
until Week 11 due to offseason hip surgery and then was unable to play versus
the Saints because of his hip.
Carroll is hopeful to have Harvin for this game as well as cornerback Brandon
Browner, who is day-to-day after being sidelined since suffering a groin
injury on Nov. 10.
Browner's return would boost a defense that ranks first in total yards and
passing yards allowed. That despite Walter Thurmond currently serving a four-
game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Seattle's secondary will have to focus on shutting down Boldin, Crabtree and
Vernon Davis, who last weekend became the third-fastest tight end to reach 50
career TDs, doing so in 115 games.
Having a healthy Crabtree back will open up the field for the rest of the
receivers and perhaps help Kaepernick improve on his 57.8 completion
percentage and 88.9 passer rating.
"It's always good to have these two (Boldin and Crabtree) at your disposal, on
the field, to make plays," said Kaepernick.
Boldin agrees as he leads the Niners with 61 catches and 822 yards. He also
has caught five of Kaepernick's 15 touchdown passes this season, with the
other 10 going to Davis.
"You know, it's about time he gets double-teamed now," noted Boldin of
Crabtree. "It feels good. Like you said, when you have a guy like that on the
other side it definitely relieves pressure off of you. It frees you up to just
go out and play ball. It's good to have him back."
Boldin is 13 yards shy of becoming the 30th player in NFL history to reach
11,000 career receiving yards.
San Francisco, which ranks seventh with 130.8 rushing yards per game, is
hobbled along its offensive line. Guard Mike Iupati has missed the past two
games with a knee injury, while stud tackle Joe Staley left after one series
versus the Rams with a right knee ailment.
This fierce rivalry has gone the Seahawks way the past two meetings, with
Seattle outscoring San Francisco 71-16.
That leaves the 'Hawks something to prove as they try and show they can beat
the Niners on enemy field. But the ultimate success has come by taking things
one game at a time.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for us and every week brings really, the
kind of mentality that we've been practicing for championship games and here
we are," said Carroll. "So it kicks us right in the same mode that we've been
in, which is what's comfortable for us."
Another NFC West title is probably out of reach for the Niners, but they can
still make a statement this Sunday and grab more control over a potential wild
"We've talked about it the last couple of weeks that every game we play from
here on it out is important," noted Willis. "It's important to where we go to
get into the playoffs and that's what we're trying to do is just be able to
get into those playoffs and once we get in, then I feel like anything can
Yes, anything can happen but it is tough to go against the Seahawks right now,
even on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 17, 49ers 13
The Sports Network