Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers
The final game before the Super Bowl will take place in the loudest stadium in the league and the world in CenturyLink Field in Seattle with the divisional battle for the NFC between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. There is no love lost between these two sides and a battle is expected when the game starts.
Discipline could be a key factor in this game. San Francisco forced the Carolina Panthers into a lot of penalties after the whistle, leading to the 49ers getting more first downs after penalties on third down and keeping their offence on the field. Seattle are one of the most penalised teams this year so they will have to keep their discipline so as to not undo the inevitable good work by the defence.
Crowd noise is always a big factor in Seattle and usually leads to the away team using an unwanted time out on offence.
San Francisco have been in great form,winning 8 games in a row including a win over the Seahawks in Week 14. They have been impressive in their two road wins in the playoffs in Green Bay and Carolina and will certainly have earned a return to the Super Bowl if they come through Seattle. San Francisco have, like the Seahawks, a very solid defence. The 49ers have been beaten convincingly in their last two visits to Seattle, getting beaten 29-3 in Week 2 of this season and 42-13 last season. If the 49ers are to advance they will need to improve considerably on this. Colin Kaepernick has performed very well in his playoff performances in the past two season. He has not performed in Seattle and this will be a big test of his ability.
Seattle have the best defence in the league and lead the league in interceptions, points allowed and yards allowed. The Seahawks have held the opposition to less than 20 points in their last 6 games. They will look for more from the offence where Russell Wilson has not been at this best in recent weeks. The Seahawks will look to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch and run the ball often. Lynch ran for two touchdowns in last weeks win against New Orleans. He also ran for a franchise post season record of 140 yards. The Seahawks are 3-0 in playoff history when Lynch runs for 100+ yards so the importance of the run game for the Seahawks cannot be overstated. Wilson is also capable in the run game so expect to see Seattle run the ball often.
This game may come down to the small details. It is unlikely that it will be a one sided encounter like the 49ers last two visits to Seattle. Both sides have dynamic quarter backs and solid defence. The Seahawks defence are more than capable of a Pick 6 which could be crucial in this game. Defence wins championships and it is here where Seattle have the edge, which may be enough to take them to the Super Bowl.
Verdict: Seattle Seahawks