Russell Wilson played only six NFL games the last time the Seahawks faced the San Francisco 49ers (Oct. 18). His inexperience showed as he completed just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Wilson, who finished that game with a season-low 38.7 passer rating, did not complete a second-half pass until the fourth quarter as San Francisco won, 13-6.
Wilson’s stat line would have looked a little better if his receivers hadn’t dropped five balls, and the Seahawks might have beaten the 49ers if they had been able to successfully diagnose San Francisco’s second-half trap plays. The Seahawks were steamrolled for 175 yards, 131 of those by veteran Frank Gore.
So the rematch looms — the Seahawks started out as 2½-point favorites, now down to 1 point — with all manner of playoff implications, It’s remarkable how similar the Seahawks and 49ers are after 14 weeks of play. First, those implications.
San Francisco qualified for the playoffs after weathering a Tom Brady second-half assault Sunday, and needs one win, over Seattle Sunday or Arizona a week later, to claim the NFC West. The Seahawks, one win away from guaranteeing themselves a playoff berth, can still win the division, but would need victories over the 49ers and St. Louis Rams, plus two San Francisco defeats, to clinch the top spot.
If all goes as expected for the final two weeks, Seattle will claim a No. 5 seed and become the NFC’s top wild card entrant. That’s where the Seahawks stand now. If the playoffs started today, Seattle would travel to Washington, D.C., to face the Redskins, the NFC’s No. 4 seed.
As for the similarities between San Francisco and Seattle, the 49ers have scored 357 points, the Seahawks 350. The 49ers have allowed 218, the Seahawks 219. San Francisco ranks second in rushing yards and 26th in passing yards. In the same categories, the Seahawks rank third and 27th.
San Francisco is ranked second in yards per game allowed, the Seahawks third. The 49ers are No. 3 against the run, Seattle No. 10. The 49ers are fifth against the pass, the Seahawks No. 3.
San Francisco has outscored its opponents by 139 points, Seattle its foes by 131. The difference would have been one point if Leon Washington hadn’t had an 82-yard punt return for touchdown nullified by penalty against the Bills.
Since the Oct. 18 meeting, much has changed, notably at quarterback. San Francisco benched Alex Smith second-year man Colin Kaepernick, and Wilson no longer posts 38.7 passer ratings.
The 49ers have a run of dominating performances since the first meeting, while the Seahawks have surged so dramatically that they have resurrected the 1950 New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams — the last teams to score 50+ points in back-to-back games. After scoring 110 points in their first six, the Seahawks have tallied 108 in their past two.
Still, Sunday’s game, as most games, will be decided by the unpredictable: turnovers/takeaways, penalties and whichever team wins the most individual matchups. Although those key variables can’t be factored into a prediction, we ask for a prediction anyway, understanding the following:
Seattle is 6-0 at CenturyLink Field, but San Francisco is 5-2 on the road and has the ability to shut up the loudest crowd, proving it again at New England. Seattle will need to stop Gore, who twice has rushed for more than 200 yards against the Seahawks and more than 100 two other times.
Sunday’s game figures to be a low-scoring affair, but who really can tell?