2014 NFL Playoffs: What Is The Key To Victory In The NFC Championship Game?

By Matthew Evans
Seahawks 49ers
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The best rivalry in the present day NFL will present the third and final act of their show, as the San Francisco 49ers will make the trip up the west coast to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 6:30 pm. ET for a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII. The 49ers took out Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday to earn their spot in the NFC Championship Game, while the Seahawks held off Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.

These two clubs are very evenly matched, having split their four games over the past two seasons with the home team winning each game. While it would be easy to say that, because of the recent history between the two, Seattle should win the game, that is not entirely accurate in this case.

The Seahawks are 16-1 at home since Russell Wilson took over the quarterback spot at the beginning of last season, but the club has been struggling at Century Link as of late. That only loss came just three weeks ago at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, despite Arizona throwing four interceptions.

The key to that victory is also the key to this game — Arizona dominated the time of possession. The Cardinals held the ball for more than 37 minutes, limiting Wilson and company to only 51 offensive plays. The Seahawks were not able to establish the flow offensively that they wanted and subsequently fell.

In the four meetings between Seattle and San Francisco over the last two seasons, the team who has won the time of possession battle has also won the game. San Francisco possessed the ball for 32:28 and 31:01 during their wins; Seattle possessed the ball for 36:43 and 35:09 during their wins. With both teams using a run-first mentality, it will come down to which offensive line is able to open holes for either Marshawn Lynch or Frank Gore to keep the chains moving.

While both teams should be confident, the 49ers have been playing better football as of late; they are currently on eight game winning streak, including a win at Candlestick Park over these Seahawks. The running game has been superb for Jim Harbaugh, as they are averaging 135.5 yards per game on the ground over the course of the streak. Colin Kaepernick has played smart; while completing only 60 percent of his passes, he has 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions.

The hype is already beginning between the two fan bases, as we are one week away from this huge clash of NFC West rivals. Can San Francisco make a return trip to the Super Bowl to try and avenge the loss to the Baltimore Ravens, or will the Seahawks and Pete Carroll live up to the expectations of the 12th man? One thing is for sure, this will not be a game to miss. Seattle has opened as a 3.5-point favorite in Las Vegas according the oddsmakers.

Matthew Evans is a soccer writer for RantSports.com, “Like” him on Facebook, Follow him on Twitter, or add him to your network on Google

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