The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks get going later tonight, and I thought we would wrap up our cross-blog content with Field Gulls by looking at reasons why each team will lose. Kenneth Arthur provided some thoughts on the Seahawks, while I handled the 49ers. I like the "reasons why each team will lose" discussion because it forces us to consider the weaknesses of our team, rather than just pounding our chests about how good our teams are.
Why the Seahawks will lose
I think the most obvious obstacle for Seattle is the location. The home team has won the last five meetings in this series and the Seahawks especially have had a significant homefield advantage. Seattle has outscored the Niners by a combined 55 points in their last two regular season games at home, but lost the last five games in San Francisco. I can only hope that Santa Clara is more forgiving.
From just a matchup standpoint and a weakness on the field, there's no question that these are two of the best defenses in football and the 49ers now have the number one pass defense in the NFL by DVOA, per Football Outsiders. That's huge because man I did not expect that from the San Francisco corners a year ago. Clearly, Eric Reid is a special player and the addition of Antoine Bethea was major, so Seattle's fluttering passing offense may run into brick wall on Thursday. That's the big thing, they need to pound the football successfully on the ground and hope to gain enough respect from the 49ers defense to hope they sneak one or two big passes behind their defense and get a couple explosive plays. Now Marshawn Lynch is banged up and even sat out a series or two against the Cardinals.
So of course I'm worried about the Seahawks ability to score on offense. They'd do themselves a huge favor by forcing a couple turnovers or getting a big return and neither of those things have come nearly as often as they did a year ago. The loss of Golden Tate is being felt in a big way on both offense and special teams. His absence in the series for the first time in the Harbaugh-Carroll rivalry will be significant, I think.
I have a lot of respect for guys like Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, but if Seattle loses this game, I don't think it will necessarily be because of those guys. The team that wins this game will catch a big break from a play made by a defensive or special teams player, I think. This is gonna be close and it's just gonna take that one moment one way or another that tilts the field to either the Niners or Hawks.
Why the 49ers will lose
The 49ers have won three straight games, and all three wins have come primarily due to the defense keeping the team in games. The offense has done just enough to get the victories, but the defense has stepped up in a big way. The primary strength has been against the pass. I was prepared to write off DeMarco Murray's big Week 1 performance as an anomaly given his season, but two of the last three weeks have seen Alfred Morris and Mark Ingram have 100+ yard performances.
The 49ers defense has the advantage against a very inconsistent Seahawks passing attack, but Marshawn Lynch continues to be the guy that 49ers fans fear the most. He is dealing with some injuries, and then there is the nonsense with Pete Carroll, but I don't really consider that to be some kind of advantage for the 49ers. If the Seahawks give Marshawn Lynch the ball, his issues with Pete Carroll and the front office are meaningless.
On the other side of the ball, my biggest concern is turnovers. The 49ers had been doing a fairly good job of maintaining possession of the ball, but in recent weeks, there have been problems. Colin Kaepernick threw his first interception in some time last week, but even more concerning is the running back fumbles. Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde have both coughed up balls, and when the offense turns the ball over like that, victories are going to be difficult. My biggest concern is turnovers, and that is what could cost the team.