This week the San Francisco 49ers will be flying north to Washington where they will face the Seattle Seahawks. It will be a great game that surely no one expected just a few short weeks ago. These two teams were simply headed in opposite directions. With the Seahawks winning five of their last six games and the 49ers coming off a huge win against the Steelers, Saturday will undoubtedly be huge.
Saturday's game will carry important playoff implications for both teams. While the 49ers have taken the NFC West title, they will have to stay ahead of the New Orleans Saints if the want to secure the number two seed in the playoffs. For Seattle, the playoffs have already started. Unfortunately, they put themselves in a huge hole early on in the season. After clawing back in the second half of the year they find themselves at 7-7 and in the hunt for a wild card spot. There is no better way to make a statement then to beat the 11-3 49ers.
The quarterbacks for both teams are definitely not on par with Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, but they are doing what is being asked of them. They are playing mistake-free football. Alex Smith's career leading up to this year had been littered with mistakes, losses and ridicule. Since Jim Harbaugh took over, Smith has had a complete turnaround. He's only thrown five interceptions this season and that's a big reason for the 49ers success. Yes, Tarvaris Jackson had a rough start to the season throwing nine picks in his first seven starts. But, ever since the Seahawks started their midseason push, Jackson has only thrown three interceptions. That is a far cry from the first half of the year.
For both the 49ers and the Seahawks, the running game has been the engine that's driven their offenses. San Francisco's Frank Gore has been a workhorse over the course of the entire season and rookie Kendall Hunter is a great compliment for the running game. On the other hand, outside of Seattle, Marshawn Lynch is quietly have a great year. He has been carrying this team on his shoulders all season and his success is flying under the radar. That's exactly where head coach Pete Carroll wants him to be.
When it comes to defense, the 49ers are scary good. They are ranked number one in takeaways and points allowed. Two huge statistics. But let's not forget they have not allowed a rushing touchdown all season and they have held all opponents to under 100 yards rushing in every game. Who wants to run against this stellar defense even if they could? Seattle's defense has been a tremendous reason for their late season winning. Ranked 11th in the league in overall yards, this defense is keeping the team in games. While statistics may not be a strong point for the Seahawks they are getting hot late in the season. In the last three games they have outscored their opponents 99 to 41. Their is no denying that the Seahawks are rolling right now.
A win on Saturday is essential for both teams, however, only one will walk away happy. For San Francisco, it's all about getting a first round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs. Both of these are crucial benefits that any team wants heading into the postseason. For Seattle, this is strictly do or die. The playoffs have officially started for them and if they continue to grind, scrape and claw deep into the post season, then watch out because they will be a force to reckon with. Both of these teams are good and they have developed a formula to win late in the season with good defense, a solid running game and mistake-free football. Expect either of these teams, if not both, to be a burden to opponents in the coming weeks.