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49ers vs. Seahawks: The return of Justin Smith

The 49ers return to Seattle to face the Seahawks for the first time since their embarrassing 42-13 loss. It's safe to say their defensive front will be improved this time around with Justin Smith back on the field.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers will be looking for some measure of revenge this Sunday when the travel to face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. The 49ers were manhandled on national television last season, as they struggled in all phases of the game.

One notable aspect of that game was the absence of Justin Smith. The 49ers all-world defensive lineman suffered a triceps tear the week before against the Patriots, and missed Week 16 and 17. He returned for the playoffs, but even then the defense still suffered a significant set-back. Smith won't talk about it since it was "last year", but we know the issue was prevalent.

It is entirely possible the 49ers were going to lose that game, even with Justin Smith in the lineup, but I think we can all agree it would have been a heck of a lot closer. Ricky Jean Francois was an able substitute, but he was no Justin Smith. There's no shame in that, but that's just how it was.

This year, the 49ers head back with Smith in the lineup, and Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey replacing Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois. The 49ers defensive front is improved, and we'll get to see what they can do in as tough a matchup as they could see all year. They'll be dealing with the always tough Marshawn Lynch, and then the always slippery Russell Wilson.

There are no guarantees heading into this game other than having Justin Smith in the starting lineup. I can live with that.