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3 keys to a 49ers victory: Can San Francisco sweep Seattle for a 2nd-straight year?

The 49ers are seeing their division foe for the second time in three weeks.

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers continued their second-half success with a dominant 42-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13, extending their winning streak to four games ahead of a Week 14 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

It’s the second of two matchups between the two sides, as the 49ers beat the Seahawks 31-13 at Lumen Field on Thanksgiving, which bridged the gap in the NFC West. Now, the 49ers stand three games ahead of the Seahawks, while holding the tiebreaker heading into Week 14.

The 49ers come into the matchup with some health concerns. Defensive tackle Arik Armstead, wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, and tight end Ross Dwelley were all ruled out, while guard Spencer Burford, running back Elijah Mitchell, and cornerback Darrel Luter Jr. are doubtful.

As a result, Javon Kinlaw and Jon Feliciano are expected to start at defensive tackle and right guard, respectively, while Deebo Samuel could reprise his role as the team’s kick returner.

Heading into the game, the 49ers are seen as 13.5-point favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with the over/under placed at 46 points.

Here’s what you need to know about the 49ers’ opponent on Sunday.

Opponent Preview

The Seattle Seahawks have seen stretches of success, as well as some bumps in the road en route to a 6-6 season thus far.

Entering Week 9, the Seahawks actually held first place in the NFC West at 5-2, but have lost four of their last five games, including three straight, to fall to 6-6 on the season, and are currently outside of the NFC playoff picture.

The Seahawks enter Week 12 with a few injury concerns, as running back Kenneth Walker, running back Zach Charbonnet, quarterback Geno Smith and linebacker Jordyn Brooks are questionable.

Seattle actually has a negative point differential on the season, as they’ve allowed 24.2 points per contest, while scoring 22 a game.

They bolster one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL, going for just 93.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 27th, as well as 4.1 yards per carry.

However, Kenneth Walker’s status is more promising than during Week 12, where he was doubtful, as the running back seems primed to make his return from an oblique injury.

But, his backup, Zach Charbonnet, is also questionable, which means that Seattle enters this game with a banged-up running back room.

Seattle’s defense isn’t great statistically either, as they rank 23rd in the NFL, allowing 353.7 yards per game, which leads to the 25th-ranked scoring defense, as they give up 24.2 points a contest.

The Seahawks do have some momentum on the offensive end coming into Week 14, as they were able to score 35 points on the Dallas Cowboys, with D.K. Metcalf going for six catches, 134 yards, and three touchdowns in a monster performance.

Can they make it a closer game against the 49ers, or will we see another blowout in San Francisco’s favor?

Keys to the Game

Geno Smith: Quarterback Geno Smith comes into the game dealing with various injuries, as he’s dealing with a groin injury sustained in practice this past week, while also recovering from lingering arm and elbow issues.

But, how Smith plays, and more importantly, who he targets will be an important factor in deciding the outcome on Sunday.

While Smith found D.K. Metcalf for six catches, 134 yards and three touchdowns last weekend against the Cowboys, it’s important to note how he equally distributed the ball to his weapons.

Jaxon-Smith Njigba saw a team-high 11 targets, catching seven passes for 62 yards, while Tyler Lockett caught five balls for 47 yards on eight targets. Mix in three catches for 43 yards to tight end Noah Fant and you have a balanced aerial attack.

That wasn’t the case against the 49ers, as Smith frequented D.K. Metcalf, with his nine targets being more than what Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba got combined.

The Seahawks aren’t going to be able to stop the 49ers offense without forcing turnovers, which means their best bet of staying competitive is via their offense.

To do so, they’ll need to spread the ball out, as Charvarius Ward proved capable of locking down Metcalf on an island.

Can the 49ers prove capable of locking down the entirety of Seattle’s passing corps? That’ll be a key on Sunday, as well as Geno Smith’s decision-making.

Fast start: Over the past four weeks, the 49ers have been dominant, defeating opponents by a margin of over 20 points a contest.

That continued last week, where the 49ers overcame a six-point deficit to ultimately win 42-19 over the Philadelphia Eagles.

While it wasn’t the case last week, a key for the 49ers during their winning streak has been starting fast.

They’ve led by at least six points at halftime in each of the four games, and by double-digits in two of the four games before sealing the deal in the second half.

Additionally, the 49ers have gotten strong quarterback play from Brock Purdy in those scenarios, as the strong starts have allowed their offense to remain balanced, keeping San Francisco in control of the pace of the game.

The 49ers rank fourth in the NFL in first-half points at 15.6 a game, which has improved to 17 over their last three games, good for third in that stretch.

If they can start fast against Seattle in Week 14, it’ll allow the 49ers to keep control of the pace and force the Seahawks to be even more one-dimensional than they usually are.

Getting to the quarterback: Pressure on the quarterback was an integral piece of the 49ers’ formula for success in Week 12, where they sacked Geno Smith 12 times and pressured him 25 times.

Nick Bosa led the charge with nine pressures and two sacks, while Javon Hargrave posted 1.5 sacks, and Arik Armstead posted a sack.

It’s even more impressive that the 49ers recorded such numbers when Smith recorded a 2.54 seconds time to throw mark in Week 12, the fifth-best of the week.

If the 49ers can make Smith uncomfortable and force him to get the ball out quickly, they can disrupt the Seahawks offensive gameplan, which can help out their coverage.

On the flip side, Brock Purdy was sacked just once in Week 12, while the offensive line allowed 12 pressurres.

As a result of the good protection, Brock Purdy had 3.41 seconds per pass to throw, the third-best mark of Week 12, which allowed for seamless offensive production, even with the ill-advised interception.

The 49ers have a clear advantage in the pressure category. If they can produce like they did in Week 12, it should create a havoc against Seattle’s best weapon: their offense.