Crowd won’t be enough for Hawks vs. streaking 49ers
By Jim Moore
The Seahawks are one game from the Super Bowl and I’m not trying to be a hater, I just don’t think they’re going to make it to New York.
There’s a difference between wanting them to win, which I do, and thinking they’ll win, which I don’t.
I’m in the camp with those who feel like their sputtering offense will play a part in preventing them from beating the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game Sunday at Century Link Field.
I’m also in the camp with those who think the 49ers might be just a little bit better than the Seahawks at this very moment — not over the course of the season, and certainly not four months ago when they were whipped here 29-3.
The 49ers are on an eight-game winning streak, the last seven of which have come since wide receiver Michael Crabtree returned to action from Achilles tendon surgery on Dec. 1. (AP)
I look at the 49ers and see a team that has won eight in a row and is four points away from having a 15-game winning streak.
They have come together, winning two playoff games on the road, against the Packers on the really frozen tundra and against the Panthers, a team that beat them in San Francisco two months ago.
They are unbeaten since Michael Crabtree returned. They have a quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who has a 102.2 rating over the past five games with nine TDs and one interception.
I also see a team that is playing in its third consecutive NFC Championship game and think the experience will be of value on Sunday.
By picking the 49ers, it pretty much guarantees a Seahawks’ win. That’s the prevailing thought anyway — listeners and readers recall the Monday night game when I picked the Saints, and the Seahawks ran them out of town, 34-7.
But I’m 9-7-1 this year in predicting outcomes of Seahawk games against the spread, which means I’m not a loser every week, though it’s nowhere near last year’s mark of 15-3.
Though there’s nothing to worry about with the league’s best defense, I’m concerned about the offense. Marshawn Lynch will probably run for 85 or 90 yards, but the Seahawks need to get more out of Russell Wilson and their receiving corps.
You could give Wilson a pass for his subpar 9-for-18 performance against the Saints last Saturday because of the weather, but he hasn’t been up to his standards for the past five games.
It’s one thing or another — he’s a little off with his throws, he’s not being consistently protected by the offensive line or the receivers aren’t getting open.
Plus Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell have gotten conservative with their play-calling, wanting to hold on to the football above all else.
I get their thinking to a point. But it also reduces the margin for error and puts too much pressure on their defense.
I keep wondering what happened to the offense that was hell on wheels last year down the stretch. And what happened to the offense that allowed Wilson to run more than he has this season.
More coverage previewing Sunday’s NFC title game between the Seahawks and 49ers.
|“The Pete Carroll Show” | Blue 42 | Cold Hard Facts||• O’Neil: Errors may decide NFC championship||• O’Neil: Stopping the 49ers starts with Frank Gore||• Henderson: Taking a closer look at the 49ers||• Henderson: Russell Okung vs. 49ers’ Aldon Smith||• O’Neil: How the rivalry became so heated | Timeline||• Moore: Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh deny animosity||• Henderson: ‘No better matchup,’ Pete Carroll says|
Isn’t it time to run some more read-option plays and let Wilson use his legs and add a much-needed component to a sputtering offense?
There’s a part of me that thinks Wilson will snap out of it on Sunday. He said he loves to be challenged. Think back to the times when he’s been criticized before — for not converting third downs or making plays in the red zone; he always comes through.
But if he doesn’t — and there are also reasons to think that he won’t — will the defense play well enough to help the Seahawks win a low-scoring game?
There won’t be a Percy Harvin to help Wilson out — the offensive-life injector has been ruled out with a concussion.
And what about the 12th man and their impact? It’s important for the Seahawks to get an early lead so the doubts and demons can clutter 49er minds again — we all know that San Francisco has been outscored 71-16 in its last two games at the Clink.
The Seahawks could also have an edge in the punt-return department. They almost set an NFL record with their coverage unit while Golden Tate gives them a threat to take it to the house every time he fields a punt.
The betting line has not budged all week — Seattle has remained a steady 3½-point favorite. I would’ve thought the line would be 1½ or 2, maybe even 2½ or 3, but 3½?!?!
A buddy of mine texted me and said the 49ers and 3½ is “the best bet in the history of forever.”
I tend to agree. But the thing is, anytime a line looks too good to be true, it probably is. When you think the guys in Vegas are way off, they’re right on.
Again, I’ll be pulling for the Seahawks. I’d love to see the Legion of Boom tangle with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.
But in a head-over-heart prediction, I’m taking the hot team to beat the home team.
Prediction: 49ers 24, Seahawks 16.
Season record against the spread: 9-7-1.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website jimmoorethego2guy.com and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.