49ers at Seahawks: Do the 49ers Hold the Edge at Quarterback?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, the two young signal-callers who will lead their respective teams this Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, are two of the best young quarterbacks in the game. Kap has come on of late while Wilson has struggled. Do the 49ers have an edge here?

When you have one of the biggest games of the year being contested by two teams, arguably the two best teams in football, there are numerous angles being covered, re-covered and flogged to death. The two young quarterbacks in this weekend's NFC Championship Game, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, have been labeled as the next generation of quarterbacks since the end of last season, the breakout season for both signal callers.

A key to this weekend's matchup will be who can get things going through the air. It's no secret that Seattle has the best secondary in the game. But will Russell Wilson and the lack of a passing attack make Tramaine Brock and Eric Reid look like Richard Sherman and Co?

Early in the season, during a brutal stretch punctuated by a complete lack of weapons in the passing game, Kaepernick had some statistically dreadful outings, none worse than his Week 10 performance against Carolina. 91 yards on 50% passing, with an interception sprinkled in for good measure, is about as bad as you can get. The national news media was awash with stories about Kap's regression. Some of us around here were guilty of it as well.

But fortunes have changed and so has much of the discourse about Kaepernick. Riding an 8-game winning streak and having won two consecutive road playoff games, Kaepernick is now touted as being clutch, undefeated on the road in the playoffs and the early season concerns have vanished.

Russell Wilson, after an incredible start to the year, is not playing well down the stretch. He's not playing Gabbert-like, but the early season magic has worn off. Seattle's passing game has been stuck in neutral since their Week 13 dismantling of the visiting Saints. That game moved them to 11-1 and cemented the Seahawks as the team to beat in the NFC and in the NFL.

Since then things have been different. The defense has been stout as always and Marshawn Lynch has been next to unstoppable. But the passing attack has not surpassed 200 yards (including sacks) and the Seahawks have gone 3-2 while struggling to move the ball against good defenses. Wilson's play is definitely a factor. His game against Arizona in Week 16 was the lowlight of the season.

Here are some stats on the two quarterbacks. We've got game logs, beginning with the Week 14 SF-SEA showdown, totals during that stretch, season and playoff totals.

You'll notice that both PFF and Total QBR have differing opinions on the performance of the two, most notably over the course of the season. The two sites agree that Kaepernick has been better of late, but PFF has Wilson miles ahead over the season. I tend to prefer PFF's grades myself, though I did find their season grade for Kap a bit on the low side. I also don't understand how they graded Kap negatively in the Carolina game.

Nothing will ever be perfect. So in perfection's place, we have this hodge-podge of all the different stats I could mix together in one table.

Kaepernick

WK Opp Result Comp Att Pct Yds Avg TD Int Sck SckY Rate Rush Yds Avg TD Total QBR PFF
14 SEA W 19-17 15 29 51.7 175 6 1 1 2 20 67.5 9 31 3.4 0 41.5 -0.6
15 @ TB W 33-14 19 29 65.5 203 7 2 0 2 14 108.8 4 42 10.5 0 93.4 2
16 ATL W 34-24 13 21 61.9 197 9.4 1 0 3 17 108.6 6 51 8.5 1 77.2 3.1
17 @ ARI W 23-20 21 34 61.8 310 9.1 2 0 2 18 111.2 4 24 6 0 68.6 0.8
18 @ GB W 23-20 16 30 53.3 227 7.6 1 1 3 13 75.3 7 98 14 0 88.8 1
19 @ CAR W 23-10 15 28 53.6 196 7 1 0 1 7 87.8 8 15 1.9 1 71.9 -0.3
Home Stretch 6 - 0 99 171 57.9 1308 7.6 8 2 13 89 38 261 6.9 2 6
Season Totals 12 - 4 243 416 58.4 3,197 7.7 21 8 39 231 91.6 92 524 5.7 4 68.6 2.7
Playoff Totals 2 - 0 31 58 53.4 423 7.3 2 1 4 20 81.3 15 113 7.5 1 82.2 0.7

Wilson

WK Opp Result Comp Att Pct Yds Avg TD Int Sck SckY Rate Att Yds Avg TD Total QBR PFF
14 @ SF L 17-19 15 25 60 199 8 1 1 2 21 81.9 1 2 2 0 48.1 -2.3
15 @ NYG W 23-0 18 27 66.7 206 7.6 1 1 4 29 86.3 8 50 6.3 0 49.1 0.9
16 ARI L 10-17 11 27 40.7 108 4 1 1 4 19 49.6 2 32 16 0 11.5 -2.2
17 STL W 27-9 15 23 65.2 172 7.5 1 0 4 14 102.1 5 -1 -0.2 0 26.4 2.1
19 NO W 23-15 9 18 50 103 5.7 0 0 3 0 67.6 3 16 5.3 0 25.9 0.1
Home Stretch 3 - 2 68 120 56.7 788 6.6 4 3 17 83 19 99 5.2 0 -1.4
Season Totals 13 - 3 257 407 63 3,357 8.2 26 9 44 272 101.2 96 539 5.6 1 58.9 23.2
Playoff Totals 1 - 0 9 18 50 103 5.7 0 0 3 0 67.6 3 16 5.3 0 25.9 0.1

There are numerous ways to gauge a quarterback's effectiveness. Some people like old-school stats like TD to interception ratio and yards per attempt. Others like ESPN's Total QBR or PFF grades. Some still, prefer good old-fashioned wins and losses. Whichever way you slice it, Colin Kaepernick has been far more effective than his counterpart over the home stretch of the season. If the Seahawks defense and Lynch do their part, Wilson won't have to be amazing, but if he plays as he has in three of his last five, Seattle will have a hard time covering for him.

Other Notes:

  • Seattle was held to 13, 10 and 13 first downs in 3 of their last 5 games (@SF, ARI, NO). Two of those games are at home…all three teams have top-10 defenses.
  • Russell Wilson was graded negatively by PFF four times this season. Two of those games were against the 49ers.

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