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49ers-Seahawks preview: Matchups to watch

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The 49ers are once again sizable underdogs against the spread. There are a handful of interesting matchups that could swing this Week 3 game.

The San Francisco 49ers head into the Pacific Northwest Sunday to face the Seattle Seahawks in a Week 3 matchup. The game kicks off at 1:05 p.m. PT, and the 49ers are a sizable underdog, with the line currently at Seahawks -9.5. Considering the Seahawks offensive struggles, people are not feeling comfortable with them getting enough points for the cover.

There will be plenty to watch on both sides of the ball. I thought we’d pull up a few potentially key matchups for the game. Some of these are player vs. player, but given the team nature of football, these are often going to be position unit vs. position unit, or position unit vs. player. What other matchups will you be watching?

Blaine Gabbert vs. the Seahawks defense and his own receivers

David Neumann broke down Blaine Gabbert’s accuracy issues in great detail. Suffice to say, he faces a tall task going up against a Seahawks secondary that remains among the best in the NFL. The Seahawks offense is atrocious right now, but their defense is doing plenty, giving up 19 points in two games. Gabbert has to deal with that, as well as his own issues finding receivers on a consistent basis. I just don’t see how this turns out well with any kind of consistency.

NaVorro Bowman, Eric Reid, others vs. Jimmy Graham

The Seahawks offense is struggling, and Graham has had his own woes in coming back from a torn patellar tendon. He saw an increase in production in Week 2, and will look to build on his three receptions for 42 yards. I think Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett will be the more likely targets, but Graham will be someone to watch.

Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner vs. Russell Wilson

We’ve discussed over and over, just how awful this Seahawks offensive line is right now. It opens the door to significant opportunities. Plus, we get to add in a gimpy Russell Wilson. He has made so many miraculous plays over the years, even as the 49ers have sent ridiculously athletic players at him. They have invested first round picks in Oregon defensive tackles each of the last two seasons. The entire defensive front is needed for this game, but the combination of size, speed, and overall athleticism between Armstead and Buckner has a chance to be on full display in this game.

Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek vs. Seahawks linebackers, safeties

If Blaine Gabbert and his wide receivers continue to struggle, I suppose it’s going to be up to the tight ends and/or running backs to help this offense do something. McDonald has a touchdown in each of the 49ers first two games. I don’t think that streak will last forever, but maybe he’s the guy who can make something happen against a Seahawks defense that has dominated the 49ers lately.

Carlos Hyde

This isn’t even so much a specific matchup as just Carlos Hyde. If the 49ers are going to spring a road upset, they need something more from Carlos Hyde. Ricky Watters suggested Hyde grew impatient after his fumble last week, and did not let his blockers set up. The 49ers offensive line has been strong in pass protection, but struggled in the ground game. Hyde and his blockers need to be gelling if the 49ers are going to get their ground game going against a top notch Seahawks defense.