Fooch's Note: This article is posted on BOTH Niners Nation and Field Gulls, so there will be a mix of fans. Treat each other respect, or don't say anything at all.
Yesterday, Danny Kelly from Field Gulls posted a look at under-the-radar players to watch in Sunday's game, featuring a couple contributions from yours truly. Today, I am posting a look at why each team will win on Sunday, with a look at offensive and defensive reasons. I am providing a couple reasons the 49ers will win, while Danny is providing his thoughts on why the Seahawks will win.
Why the 49ers will win
I was way off last week in suggesting the 49ers would win because of their overall rushing attack. Not so much. That being said, facing a stronger Seahawks secondary, I really do think the 49ers need to establish a more consistent, balanced attack on Sunday. The 49ers did rush the ball 34 times, but it was not particularly effective until later in the game.
The 49ers showed they could win with Kaepernick playing a more traditional QB role, but the Seahawks secondary is much better than last week's banged up Packers secondary. Whether it be Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter or some combination of both, I don't know that the 49ers can win if they get a similar rushing effort as last week. The 49ers will win this game if they can gash the Seahawks defense for closer to the 5.1 yards per carry they averaged last year.
The 49ers will win this game because they contain Marshawn Lynch, and they're able to keep Russell Wilson in front of them. Lynch has shown he can bounce off tacklers at will, while WIlson is incredibly elusive in the pocket. When they are able to run wild, all hell breaks loose.
It's a lot easier said than done, but the 49ers have the kind of athletes that can contain Lynch and Wilson. The key will be execution. If the 49ers tackle as sloppily as they did last Sunday, this could be a long evening for them. While the Packers are a good team, the 49ers should have won that game by a fairly sizable margin. Instead, they gave up opportunities to build momentum. The offense was partially to blame at times, but poor tackling by the defense cost them big time. The Seahawks have plenty of weapons to beat a technically sound 49ers defense, but with Justin Smith back in the saddle, and a potentially more fundamentally sound safety in Eric Reid (who Seattle will certainly attack), sound tackling could be the difference in what should be a close game.
Why the Seahawks will win
To start off, I think this will be a close game and by no means am I 'guaranteeing' a Seahawks victory. That said, if Seattle wins, offensively, I think it'll be because they challenge and test rookie safety Eric Reid in the pass game. We all know that the Niners have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and a savvy, elite group of linebackers. The San Francisco front-7 is as tough as they come and while Seattle actually has had some success running on the Niners over their past several matchups, I wouldn't necessarily say that trend will continue this week. Because of this, Seattle will likely lean on their play-action game to create momentum on offense, and Reid, while admittedly excellent in Week 1, is probably the weak link just going by the experience factor. Seattle loves the 'big play', especially at home, and Russell Wilson has never been afraid to attack downfield.
In order to create these explosive plays, Seattle will need to isolate and target the rookie safety and hopefully exploit his lack of experience. To do that, first and foremost, they'll have to be sound in their play fakes, protect up front, particularly against the Smith Brothers of Justin and Aldon, and they'll likely have to get Russell Wilson outside the pocket moving around. Wilson's ability to throw accurately outside of the pocket is a good way to take a strong defensive line out of the action and makes it hard for a secondary to defend because they also have to account for Wilson's ability to run.
On defense, the Seahawks will stick to doing what they always do: trying to stop the run and trying to stop the explosive play. The matchup with Anquan Boldin will be a very interesting one. Obviously, Boldin was a major focal point in San Francisco's offense last weekend and if Seattle can clamp down on him even marginally better than Green Bay did, it'll theoretically force Colin Kaepernick to look elsewhere. You can only hope this will negatively effect his accuracy and timing with some of his lesser-favorite receivers, though at this point I'm done hoping that Kap will somehow start regressing back to earth. He's obviously a major talent and Seattle has their hands full trying to contain him.
The crowd noise should help boost Seattle's pass rush, though they're still possibly shorthanded with both Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril trying to get back on the field (it's unclear if either will be 100% in this week's game). Bruce Irvin is still suspended, so getting to Kaepernick and containing him within the pocket is going to fall on the shoulders of guys like O'Brien Schofield, Benson Mayowa, and Mike Morgan if Clemons and Avril are limited in any way. That will be pretty interesting to see.
Overall though, I'd say Seattle will try to keep everything in front of them, limit the big play, and hope the clamp down in the red zone. This is what they were able to accomplish with Cam Newton, so they'll try to do that again in Week 2.