49ers vs. Seahawks: Who Has the Edge in Key Positional Battles?
49ers vs. Seahawks: Who has the Edge in Key Positional Battles?
Two sworn enemies now stand one step away from the Super Bowl, but who will get the best of their divisional foe when the San Francisco 49ers travel north to play the Seattle Seahawks in a game that is sure to get chippy? The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry has turned into the best rivalry in all the NFL in the past few years, and this weekend it will reach its climax when a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line. The NFC Championship game has more storylines than a soap opera, and drama is sure to be afoot when two teams with pure hatred for one another meet in the unfriendly confines of CenturyLink Field.
The 49ers' path to the Championship game has been a long journey with many ups and downs. San Francisco began the season with a victory over the Green Bay Packers and were launched into the greatest team of all time debate after an astonishing performance by quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Anquan Boldin. The following two games resulted in losses to what would be playoff teams, and the 49ers got back on track by beating several mediocre teams in the middle of the season. In Weeks 10 and 11, the 49ers suffered back-to-back losses once again each in a one-possession game. The 49ers were somewhat relieved after the loss in Week 11 because Michael Crabtree was on his way back from injury and the team was ready to make a run down the stretch. San Francisco is currently on an eight-game winning streak and are unbeaten with Crabtree this season. The 49ers are now poised to make a return trip to the Super Bowl with only the Seahawks standing in the way of destiny, but can the 49ers end recent road woes at Seattle and deliver a win in the raucous environment?
The Seahawks dominated early in the season going 10-1 before the team's bye week, and the team has been heralded as the best in the NFL. But Seattle has had some trouble in the second half of the season. The Seahawks went just 3-2 in the team's final five regular season games, and the dramatic drop-off in Russell Wilson's output had fans worried going into the playoffs. In the first 11 games, Wilson's average quarterback rating was 62.2, but in his last six games he's recorded an average QBR of 42.6 on a scale of 0-100. In the divisional round of the playoffs, Wilson had a 25.9 QBR and passed for just 103 yards. The Seahawks are more than capable of winning in large part to the defense, but if Seattle wants to go to the Super Bowl Wilson needs to step it up in the game against the 49ers. The Seahawks have lost one game at home in the last two years, but it was a divisional opponent that beat Seattle at CenturyLink Field in Week 16. Can Seattle hold on to a great season and inch their way into the team's first Super Bowl in years?
This game features some of the best playmakers in the game and two of the best defenses the sport has seen in a long time. All the positional battles heavily favor one team or the other in this game, but who has the better team all-around? Who has the edge in the Battle in Seattle?
Greg Douglas is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.
The quarterback battle features two young dual-threat quarterbacks who will be linked together through history. While one quarterback is playing his best football of late, the other has been in a steady decline since late in the season.
Colin Kaepernick has improved throughout the season and should now be considered among the best quarterbacks in the league. While some players wilt under the pressure, Kaepernick has thrived and become a playoff quarterback. While some quarterbacks are built for the regular season, others are built for the postseason. In his five career postseason games, Kaepenick has averaged a total QBR of 81.8 and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season.
Russell Wilson has been through a turbulent season and now finds himself up against one of the best defenses in the league. In his three postseason games, Wilson has an average QBR of 50.9, and this marks the first time he will play in a game of this magnitude. Can Wilson rebound and deliver a performance that will send the Seahawks to the Super Bowl or will he fade under the bright lights?
Edge: Colin Kaepernick (49ers). While many people would take Russell Wilson as their franchise quarterback, they could not be more wrong to think that in this game. Colin Kaepernick has the hot hand right now, and experience gives him the edge in this matchup.
Running Back Battle
The running back battle features two veteran workhorse backs that will hope to make an impact in this high stakes game.
Frank Gore has carried the load in San Francisco for years but has had little success in Seattle in recent years. In his last two trips to Seattle, Gore had 58 total yards combined and has failed to make an impact on those games. On the other hand, Gore did seal the victory over Seattle at home when he broke a long run late in the game. If Gore was ever going to have a breakout performance at Seattle, this would be the game to do so.
Marshawn Lynch has revived his career and has become one of the best backs in the game. Lynch has had the 49ers' number this season and has rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns in the two games against San Francisco this season. The 49ers feature the fourth-ranked rush defense and will look to contain Beast Mode at the site where he already has several memorable runs.
Edge: Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks). Gore has struggled in recent visits to Seattle, and Lynch will have to carry the offense in order to win this game.
Wide Receiver Battle
The wide receiver battle pits some of the best receivers in the game against some undervalued pass catchers.
The 49ers have two wide receivers and a tight end that could all be the No. 1 receiver on any other team. Anquan Boldin has had a great season from start to finish and had over 130 receiving yards in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last week. The team has been undefeated since Michael Crabtree's return to the lineup, and he had his first breakout game of the season in the playoffs where he had over 120 receiving yards against the Packers. Vernon Davis is capable of getting a touchdown any time the team gets in the red zone and is always one of the fastest players on the field.
The Seahawks do not have any players that jump off the screen, but they do have solid targets in the receiving game. Golden Tate has just under 900 yards on the season and five touchdowns, but his ability to get behind defenses is what makes him lethal. Doug Baldwin has over 775 receiving yards and five touchdowns on the season, and he provides a big target for Wilson. Percy Harvin could be the difference maker in the game if he plays and would provide a big lift to the Seahawks receiving corps.
Edge: 49ers. The 49ers have proven that their receiving corps is among the best in NFL, and the loss of Harvin drastically hurts the Seahawks in this game.
The defensive battle features playmakers all over the field and two of the best collective defenses in the game.
The 49ers rank seventh in pass defense and fourth in rush defense, but it is the players that make this defense what it is. NaVorro Bowman is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL today, and his ability to tackle in the open field just adds to his value as a pass rusher. Carlos Rogers possible return from injury this week will make a huge impact on this game. The addition of Rogers would complete the secondary and make it virtually impossible to beat the 49ers deep.
The Seahawks pride themselves on their defense as the team has created the legion of boom. The Seahawks have the best secondary in the game which is why the team ranks No. 1 in pass defense giving up just 172 yards a game through the air. The Seahawks' rush defense ranks seventh, but the speed of the Seahawks' front causes fits for opposing running backs.
Edge: Seahawks. The 49ers might just have a better overall defense, but the secondary of Seattle makes up for the defensive front's miscues.
Special Teams Battle
The special teams battle features two of the better kickers in the league and several deadly kick return players.
The 49ers have come a long way in this department from seasons past, and Phil Dawson has been automatic throughout the season. Dawson has not missed a kick in the playoffs this year and might have a long day of work if the 49ers' offense stalls. LaMichael James is an unheralded player that provides a spark in the return game, but can he break a long return in what will be a close game?
The Seahawks have always been electrifying on special teams, but the loss of Harvin in the return game this season has brought Seattle back to earth. Steven Hauschka has been vital to Seattle's success this season, but can he continue to make long field goals in this type of game?
Edge: 49ers. The loss of Harvin as a kick returner this season has hurt the Seahawks, and Dawson has been automatic throughout the season.
Prediction: 49ers win by a field goal. The 49ers have been here before and know what it takes to win at this level. The 49ers are the team in the best form going into championship weekend and will finally find a way to win in Seattle. Colin Kaepernick is the difference maker in the game and leads a game-winning drive late in the game.