This Thursday Night Football game may pit two teams going in opposite directions. The San Francisco 49ers, who if anyone was asked last week would be thought to be the class of the NFL, now have doubters. Following an embarrassing 26-3 loss at home, the 49ers host a Seattle Seahawks squad that just beat the Tom Brady led Patriots in a 24-23 nail bitter. Many are wondering if rookie Russell Wilson can be consistent enough to lead Seattle into the postseason, and now the 49ers are going to have their will tested. This game will be one of the most telling of the NFL season.
As said, Seattle is riding high after a season-changing win over one of the elite teams in the NFL, the New England Patriots. Russell Wilson continued his stellar rookie play by completing nearly 60% of his passes and tossing three touchdowns in their win at home. Although, the one issue Seattle has developed this season is inconsistency. Yes, they are 4-2, and have impressive victories over the Cowboys to add to the Patriot victory on Sunday. However, the Seahawks could easily have a sub-500 record. Of course, there is the controversial victory over Green Bay that should have been recorded as a loss due to a grave mistakes by the replacement referees. As well, the Seahawks beat a weak Carolina team by 4 that included a late mishap by Cam Newton at the goal line that saved them the game. The Seahawks two losses have come against two divisional foes, the Cardinals and Rams, both who have exceeded expectations this season. Marshawn Lynch is going to have his work cut out for him against this stout Niners defense, who rarely let up big rushing games. Therefore, Russell Wilson must continue his phenomenal play to keep the Seahawks great play up, and to take full control of the very competitive NFC West. Which Seahawks team will show up at Candlestick Park? The team that can not get their offense going and get some breaks at the end of the game to win, or the team that has taken the NFL by storm with their great and balanced play?
San Francisco 49ers:
Sunday may have been another reality check for Jim Harbaugh and his team. After falling to Minnesota in week 3, the 49ers went on the next two weeks to beat the Jets and Bills by a combined 79-3. This victory proved their dominance of the NFL, and that they are without a doubt one of the best squads out there right now. The 49ers tried to keep their momentum going Sunday, against the Giants, but not only lost that game, they were decimated. With no offense being produced, and Ahmad Bradshaw running over their defense, the 49ers would fall to the team that beat them in the NFC Championship the year before 26-3. Now it is gut check time for San Francisco. With Alex Smith keeping his 2011 form up until last week, how will he respond from his first poor outing of the 2012 season? As well, the 49ers boast the number one rush offense in all of football, so how can they bounce back from only an 80-yard effort on the ground against the Giants. The 49ers still have an excellent game manager in Smith, an elite running game, with Frank Gore as the catalyst and Kendall Hunter, and even wildcat quarterback Colin Kaepernick chipping in; the 49ers offense is still in good shape. However, they must bounce back, and it will be difficult with the Seahawks allowing the fourth least amount of total yards a game. The 49ers offense may be in some trouble, but the 49ers defense should be expected to bounce back strong after their first poor showing dating back to last season. Still with the least amount of total yards allowed on average, Patrick Willis and this strong defense will shut down the Seahawks consistently. How will the secondary fair though, the group that got burned by Giant defenders all day Sunday. It is not time to panic in San Fran yet, but a loss in this one, and they have lost their leverage in the NFC West.
What to Watch:
Colin Kaepernick: A welcoming revelation in the 49ers locker room has been the play of second-year pro, Colin Kaepernick. The former Nevada quarterback, who is commonly compared to the infamous Tim Tebow, has played several sets for the 49ers this season in the wildcat formation. With his big-play ability Kaepernick can open up a defense with his arm, and his legs. Expect Jim Harbaugh to design several plays for the hybrid quarterback, for this Seahawks defense will give Alex Smith trouble, so Kaepernick will be brought in to spread this defense out.
Marshawn Lynch: “Beast mode” ran into to trouble against a solid Patriots rush defense, who allows nearly 83 yards again. Up until last week, Lynch has played as good as any running back in the entire league, and was on his way to cementing himself as an elite NFL running back. Although, Lynch only had 41 rush yards against New England, and now he is going up against the fierce Niners defense, he may just perform the same way in this one. Having the best rush defense in the entire league, the Niners are going to make life hell for the running back. Lynch is the Seahawks offensive foundation, gets the ball rolling for Russell Wilson who capitalizes on Lynch’s power running. So, with running being an issue, can the 49ers defensive unit shut down the run enough to were Russell Wilson can’t play the game effectively and put the rookie under to much pressure? This very well could happen, so a large burden falls on Lynch to beat the odds and dominate the 49ers stout defense the way Ahmad Bradshaw did on Sunday.
Seattle Wide Receivers: Now the game may be getting started with Marshawn Lynch, but as seen on Sunday, the game ends with the wide receivers. Young players like Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, and Golden Tate have all stepped up in many ways to make life as easy as possible for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. None of these players are treated like superstars, but they have been playing like one of the best wide receiver cores in the league for Pete Carroll and company. In every win, you can credit big plays from the receivers to a piece of their victory. If Marshawn Lynch can open a hole in the secondary for Seattle, expect one of these receivers to find it, and exploit that hole.
This is the toughest game to predict yet, for the 49ers are still one of the best in the NFL, but could the short week after a blowout loss be a recipe for a loss at home—absolutely. To add to bad timing, the Seahawks are coming off a major victory over another great team in the Patriots. Which Seahawks will show up though, the one that can not move the ball against the St. Louis Rams, or the one last Sunday? In a big, prime time matchup, the safe way is the right way. In one of the best games to date, in the end I see the 49ers rebounding at home, and moving on while the Seahawks come back to earth a little bit.