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49ers vs. Seahawks: Aldon Smith is the X-Factor on Thursday Night Football

We discuss why San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith is the X-factor for his team on Thursday Night Football.

Brian Bahr

The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to take on the Seattle Seahawks tonight on Thursday Night Football. A year or two ago, your general NFL fan would be cursing such a primetime match-up, but not this season. These are two teams above .500 fighting for supremacy in their division and a right to call themselves a title contender.

Both teams feature top-5 defenses and growing offenses, so it could easily be a stalemate this evening.

The 49ers and Seahawks will have both game planned to put their best pass rushers in the most advantageous position. Not only do teams typically like to get after the quarterback, but in this match, Russell Wilson and Alex Smith could be pinpointed as soft spots that should be attacked.

Therefore, the 49ers pass rush must be present tonight.

And someone in particular that needs to show up is linebacker Aldon Smith. The 49ers second-year player and first-time starter has been held without a sack in his past two games. It'd be terrific for San Francisco if he can get back on track tonight in a crucial division game.

Smith has 4.5 sacks on the season, which has him outside the top-10 in that category (15th) and 5.0 out of first place.

The 49ers will need him to be a presence this evening, especially against chasing down the mobile, strong-armed quarterback Russell Wilson. San Francisco's ability to get him rattled will help them win this game. After all, Wilson is a rookie. To have a strong, athletic pass rusher like Smith breathing down his neck all night would be a tremendous edge for the 49ers.

QB pressures and sacks put offenses at a disadvantage and lead to more three-and-outs and turnovers. By any means necessary, Aldon Smith must be a factor in the Niners defense tonight.

Additionally, causing the Seahawks offense to stall will allow Alex Smith and the Niners to operate at their own pace. They won't be panicked into faulty play calling, and can maintain balance offensively.

Aldon Smith's impact won't only affect the defense, but it could have a ripple effect on the rest of the game.

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