— San Francisco’s remaining schedule after this game includes: Oakland (A), Seattle (A), San Diego (H), Arizona (H). Even if they split with the Seahawks, they have a decent shot at 11-5. Seattle’s run includes: Philadelphia (A), San Francisco (H), Arizona (A), St. Louis (H). It’s going to be tough to catch the 49ers — let alone the Cardinals — without a win on Thursday. In fact I’d go as far as saying the 49ers would be in a better position to cope with a home defeat than Seattle would a road loss. San Francisco gets a rematch in Seattle, two home games to finish and the only other road game is against the 1-10 Raiders. If the Seahawks lose tomorrow, they might have to beat the Eagles and Cardinals on the road to make the post-season. Those two teams are 12-0 combined at home this year.
— The Seahawks are having to live without Max Unger and Brandon Mebane but injuries might be hampering San Francisco more at the moment. They’re without their starting center (rookie Marcus Martin currently features) and Jonathan Martin is the right tackle in place of Anthony Davis. On defense they’re fielding two impressive stand-in middle linebackers — but how can you not experience a drop off when you lose Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman? What’s more Aldon Smith has only just re-entered the fray and Glenn Dorsey remains out too. In comparison, Seattle’s as healthy as it’s been in a long time.
— San Francisco has done a fantastic job containing Russell Wilson in every game since 2012. Here are his rushing totals in every meeting with the Niners: 2013 NFCCG (0 yards), 2013 road (2 yards), 2013 home (33 yards), 2012 road (10 yards), 2012 home (29 yards). No team has done a better job keeping him isolated in the pocket, taking away the read option looks and preventing him finding space on the bootleg to extend plays. There are rare instances where he’s succeeded (eg — the evasive scramble before a downfield bomb to Doug Baldwin in the NFCCCG) but at Candlestick they’ve particularly done an exceptional job keeping him in the pocket. The Niners seem to struggle against a perimeter attack and Seattle can work throws to the outside and use their tight ends over the middle with Bowman and Willis both absent (both excellent in coverage). But it’ll be a job well done if Wilson continues his terrific year running the ball on Thanksgiving.
— The red zone’s been an issue all year for Seattle. The Seahawks lost in San Francisco a year ago because of this problem. With the game evenly poised, Golden Tate ran back a long punt return deep into 49er territory. Seattle went conservative on the play call — two Lynch runs up the middle and a soft Wilson bootleg to the left with Kearse running to the corner of the endzone (a play that might as well be called ‘Spider-2-Y-throw it away’). They kicked a field goal offering San Francisco the chance to drive for the game winning kick themselves. A touchdown would’ve made life interesting. Even in the NFC Championship game — Seattle’s failure in the red zone prevented a fourth quarter waltz (although ‘the tip’ was more entertaining). The Niners average 21.7 PPG this year. In their last two home games they scored 17 and 10 points against Washington and St. Louis respectively. In four defeats Seattle averages 22.5 PPG. In seven wins they average 27 PPG. It could be as simple as this — high 20’s wins it, low 20’s doesn’t. That was the case in KC — even with the Chiefs destroying the Seahawks with the run.
— Pete Carroll came out fighting this week. He didn’t pull any punches when referring to the number of flags his team has received recently — even making further reference to how penalized USC were after their first National Championship under his leadership. Last year penalties significantly hurt the Seahawks in San Francisco. Richard Sherman suffered a ticky-tacky call to convert a big third down. Michael Robinson’s phantom ‘hands to the face’ penalty turned a big run for a first down by Marshawn Lynch into a 2nd and 25. Jeremy Lane was also bizarrely flagged on a special teams play for a good block. The Seahawks are averaging eight penalties a game — good for 4th most in the league. The Niners aren’t far behind with seven flags per game. Penalties could be a big factor again tomorrow.
— Colin Kaepernick loves to throw to the perimeter. They basically ran the same concept against Washington last weekend and it cropped up in the Seattle game last year. Anquan Boldin runs a very simple 6-7 hitch and Kaepernick does a good job delivering the ball on time. It’s harder to defend than you’d imagine — the timing between QB and receiver is excellent. When the 49ers keep it simple like this, Kaepernick thrives. He has terrific arm strength and he’s not inaccurate. Throw in some running plays and his ability to avoid pressure and he really is “Great with a capital G”. The Niners did a good job at Candlestick keeping things in control. The games in Seattle were different — Kaepernick faced pressure and was unable to go to his first or second read. He runs with the ball loosely until he decides to tuck and run. We’ve seen him fumble way too many times trying to avoid pressure. He also makes careless decisions under duress. With or without pressure — the stats speak for themselves. At Century Link he has a 2/6 TD/INT ratio. The Seahawks must rush the passer as well as they did against Arizona.
— Is there any type of revenge factor at play? This is the first meeting since the NFC Championship game. It’s also the first meeting since Richard Sherman’s infamous post-game interview, the choking sign he made to Kaepernick and all the fuss that followed. It’d be tempting to go after Sherman. It could also be reckless. The first battle with Michael Crabtree will be interesting.
— Let’s hope Aldon Smith doesn’t line up too often against Justin Britt. Nobody’s talking about it within the team, but Britt has struggled all year in pass pro. He misses Zach Miller’s support as a blocker. He regularly whiffs on assignments, makes the wrong decision or just gets beat. Smith is a phenom — a generational talent. Without all the off-field stuff he’d be well on his way to setting every pass-rushing record in the league. He is incredible. His get-off is so good half the time he looks like he’s off-side. You watch in slow motion and you realise how great he is. Add in his length, ability to disengage blocks and the speed he has to finish. He’s one of the greats. And he’ll eat Britt for lunch if they’re not careful.