Well, that was fast! On the heels of the 49ers' blowout victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday, a quick turnaround has them geared up and ready to square off with the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football with a chance to lock up the NFC West title.
DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the 49ers slated as 3.5-point favorites over their divisional rival, with the over/under at 43 and the money line at -175. Here are some things to watch for in the game.
Avenging the last decade of horrors in Seattle
There is no way around it. Seattle has been the site of nightmares for the 49ers for over a decade. The 49ers have lost 10 of the last 11 games they’ve played in Seattle, with seven of those losses coming by double digits. Their average margin of defeat in those ten games is 15.6 points.
However, what the 49ers do have in their favor is that their lone win over that span also happened in a game where the 49ers traveled to the pacific northwest with a chance to secure the NFC west title. Plenty of players on the roster remain from that epic showdown from week 17 in 2019. That might be an invaluable mental edge as the 49ers attempt to lock in a home playoff game in an extremely hostile environment.
Obviously, this is not the same Seahawks team that gave the 49ers fits for years, and I will get to why that’s obviously important here in a moment. But this is the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored. Outside of their triumphant victory in 2019, this team has not been able to get it done in Seattle.
Four different 49ers head coaches and five different starting quarterbacks have made the trip up to Seattle since 2012, and there is only one victory to show for it in those eleven trips. Now Brock Purdy will become the sixth as he makes his first career road start in one of the toughest venues for opposing teams in the entire NFL.
It cannot be overstated how big of a message a 49ers win would send. It would not only lock the 49ers into a playoff spot, but it would also be the first time since 2011 that the 49ers swept their hated rival in the regular season.
This is a Steve Young ripping the monkey off his back kind of situation, but on an organizational level. This kind of win reestablishes that the 49ers are the powerhouse franchise steeped with tradition and glory among the all-time greats in this league.
These are the kind of games where you retake your spot as the big brother within your division and become the hunter rather than the hunted. This is where the tide turns, and the 49ers have a chance to kick start their own decade of dominance through the NFC West by exorcising the demons that have haunted them in this venue for the last ten years.
But enough about the battles in years past. Let’s focus on this current iteration of both teams, where the 49ers dominated their way to a 27-7 win back in Week two.
Dominating the trenches on both sides of the ball
I will never allow myself to come to the conclusion that any win will come easy for the 49ers when they play that team, especially in that stadium. But the more and more I look at this on paper, the harder it is not to feel confident about their ability to win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Seattle’s run defense has been especially putrid for the last few weeks, but they’ve been a well-below-average team throughout the season. The Seahawks have allowed their opponent to rush for over 100 yards in 11 of their 13 games this season, and one of the two games they kept an opponent under 100 shouldn’t count because it was against the Chargers, who seemingly decided to throw the ball 50 times a game no matter what.
Here is where Seattle’s run defense currently ranks this season:
Rushing yards allowed - 31st
Rushing touchdowns allowed - 30th
Rushing yards per attempt allowed - 28th
They simply are not good up front and run the risk of getting mauled by a 49ers ground game that just ran for over 200 yards against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, Seattle does have a pair of rookie tackles who have impressed in their debut seasons but who struggled mightily the last two times these teams faced off. In their Week 2 matchup, Nick Bosa had seven pressures and two sacks, and the 49ers were able to pressure Geno Smith on 43 percent of his dropbacks in that game.
This 49ers defensive line is better and deeper than it was in week two, and if they are able to get out to an early lead, it could be a long night for Smith and the Seahawks offense trying to slow down a pass rush that has a green light to tee off on the quarterback.
Who’s going to win third down?
This is a question that can be asked every week, but in the case of this matchup, Seattle represents polar opposites on both sides of the ball. Their 43.2 percent conversion rate on offense ranks them among the top ten this season, while the 44.9 percent conversion rate they are allowing on defense puts them in the bottom five in that category this season.
The 49ers' offense been extremely efficient on third down since Purdy has taken over as the starter, converting 52 percent of the third downs when Purdy attempts a pass. Here are Purdy’s numbers when he attempts a pass on third down over the last two games:
Brock Purdy when he attempts a pass on 3rd down in the last two games:
15-17 (88% completion percentage)
7.5 yards per attempt
137 passer rating
Purdy has shown he can keep drives alive and cap them off with points as well. Since coming in during the first quarter of the 49ers' week 13 win over the Dolphins, the 49ers have scored on 47 percent of the drives that Purdy has been under center. That number changes to 50 percent if you removed the final drive against Miami when Purdy kneeled three times in victory formation.
To put that number in perspective, the Kansas City Chiefs currently rank first in the league in that category, scoring on 48.5 percent of their drives. The 49ers' offense has been operating at elite efficiency since Purdy took the reins, and there is no glaring reason to believe that cannot continue this week against Seattle.