On Thanksgiving night the best rivalry in the National Football League will fire up once again when the San Francisco 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium. They will bring identical 7-4 records into the game, and with Philadelphia taking on Dallas earlier in the day a 49ers victory will push them into a playoff position due to holding the tiebreaker advantage.
A lot has been made of the 49ers recent struggles on the road in Seattle, but the Seahawks have been even worse in San Francisco. The Seahawks last road win against the 49ers came on October 26, 2008, their first game under the great Mike Singletary.
With that as a backdrop here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.
1) Can Colin Kaepernick get it together against the Seahawks? - To say that Colin Kaepernick has struggled against the Seahawks would be an understatement. The 49ers quarterback has a career completion percentage over 60, but against Seattle it drops to around 52. To make matters worse he has thrown 17 interceptions in his career and seven of those have come in his four starts against Seattle. The 49ers will need a clean game from their signal caller to come out with a win.
2) Will Frank Gore carry the load? - In the 49ers three losses to Seattle since 2011 Frank Gore has averaged under 9 carries per game and gained only 2.2 yards per carry. In the four 49ers victories Gore carried the ball just over 19 times per game and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. In the 49ers last two home victories over Seattle, Gore has carried the ball 33 times, averaged 7.3 yards per carry, and his 51 yard burst late in the fourth quarter set up the game winning field goal.
3) Can the 49ers defense contain Marshawn Lynch? - Lynch has been in "Beastmode" quite often against the 49ers. Lynch has eclipsed 100 yards in four of his last six games against San Francisco, and missed making that five of six by only 2 yards when he went for 98 in week two a year ago.
The 49ers defense has allowed three backs to eclipse 100 yards already this season.
4) Will Vernon Davis show up? - Davis has been able to haul in only 8 passes for 84 yards and 1 touchdown in the 49ers last five matchups with Seattle. So far this season the 49ers tight end has averaged under ten yards per reception and only one touchdown on 21 receptions.
If Davis can't get it going, it will be important for Kaepernick to be able to get the ball underneath to the 49ers running backs. Seattle will often give up the short underneath throw and force the offense to work its way down the field and then stiffen up in the red zone. The 49ers worked this to near perfection in the first meeting of 2012 when they went 8-8 for 77 yards and a touchdown.
5) Make Russell Wilson beat them from the pocket? - Russell Wilson can beat you in a variety of ways, and keeping him in the pocket does not guarantee success. Wilson's touchdown throw to win the NFC Championship game came from the pocket. This is more about limiting his ability to beat you with his legs.
The only quarterback to face pressure more than Wilson this season has been Robert Griffin III. Unlike Griffin, Wilson does a very good job of moving around and keeping the play alive. On the season Wilson has carried the ball for 644 yards. To put that in perspective, Wilson is only 40 yards behind Frank Gore.
The 49ers defensive front must maintain their pass rush lanes, force Wilson to play from the pocket, and knock him around if they are to be successful on Thursday.
49ers 16 Seahawks 14