By Jim Moore
Good luck trying to figure this one out. The guys in Vegas can’t even come up with a favorite, currently listing Sunday night’s Seahawks-49ers game as a pick-’em.
Looking at the matchup, you can see why. They’re similar teams from the same division, as you know, relying on good rushing attacks and solid defenses. They also feature two quarterbacks who aren’t alike in stature, but Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick certainly have a resemblance in style.
The Seahawks have averaged roughly 3.5 offensive touchdowns per game since they managed only two field goals during a loss to the 49ers in Week 7. (AP)
Because it’s a toss-up, I’m looking even harder for reasons to side with one team over the other, and naturally slanting the analysis toward the Seahawks:
• Seattle has an edge in the kicking department. Steven Hauschka is 22 for 25 on field goals while David Akers is 25 for 35. Akers’ job could be in jeopardy if he has another inconsistent game, and hopefully he’ll succumb to the pressure Sunday.
• Defensive lineman Justin Smith might not play because of an elbow injury. This guy’s an ironman who has made 185 starts in a row. Consider some of his numbers this season – 77 QB pressures and 52 QB hits. If he doesn’t play – Smith hasn’t practiced this week – it has to help the Seahawks.
• Ted Ginn Jr. burned the Seahawks last year with a punt return for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown in Week 1, but he’s been fumble-prone and shaky this season. Hopefully that will continue Sunday in the din of CenturyLink Field.
• The Seahawks have a much more potent offense than they did when they met the Niners in San Francisco in October, losing 13-6. Wilson has been fantastic ever since, and I’m guessing he’ll want to atone for his worst game of the year.
• The Seahawks are unbeaten at home.
But when you look at it from the 49ers’ point of view …
• San Francisco also has a more explosive offense now that Kaepernick has replaced Alex Smith. I was hoping he would struggle on the road, but he hasn’t – the Niners are 2-1 with Kaepernick at quarterback, winning at New Orleans and New England and losing in overtime at St. Louis. He did have a horrible pitch against the Rams, but he’s been mostly terrific. Maybe the 12th Man will rattle him; he’s never played in a stadium like this.
• The Seahawks’ defense allowed an average of 3.3 yards per carry through the first six weeks but have allowed an average of 5.3 yards since, last in the league. I stole that nugget from Mike Sando’s NFC West blog at ESPN.com, and it worries me more than anything else when you consider that Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards against the Seahawks in October.
• The Niners are 5-0 in prime-time games this year and 5-2 on the road. They’re also 10-3-1 overall and have incentive – they need to win to get the No. 2 NFC playoff seed over 10-4 Green Bay. The No. 2 seed is a much bigger deal than the No. 3 seed because you get a first-round bye.
• Jim Harbaugh is 3-0 against Pete Carroll. You’d expect the Seahawks’ coach to break through at some point, but can you expect the breakthrough Sunday night? We’ll see. Until it happens, Harbaugh has the edge.
• Aldon Smith leads the NFL with 19.5 sacks. How do you stop him? You start with Russell Okung and then hope that Wilson will be nimble enough to avoid him.
The 49ers have the slightly better team, but I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: if I’m going to blather on and on about the Seahawks being Super Bowl contenders, I have to ride them to the finish, and you’ve gotta love ’em at home.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, 49ers 21
Season against the spread: 11-3