The San Francisco 49ers wrap up Week 10 with a prime-time Monday Night Football bout against the Seattle Seahawks, which could carry plenty of implications in the 2019 playoff picture.


One could argue the San Francisco 49ers' Week 10 matchup against the 7-2 Seattle Seahawks presents the toughest challenge head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. have yet faced this season.

Still undefeated entering this contest, the Niners will look to improve their lead over the second-place Seahawks in the NFC West, and winning on Monday Night Football would go a long way in doing so. San Francisco owns the second-best point differential in the league heading into this game at plus-16.6, while the Seahawks rank 12th with a plus-2.0 differential. Simply put, Seattle isn't steamrolling opponents like it used to during its Super Bowl runs earlier this decade.

Yet the Seahawks still find ways to win, and the 49ers are going to have to figure out how to stop that trend.

Here are five matchups and focal points the Niners must win if they want to end the night with a 9-0 record.

No. 5: Third-Down Conversions


Red-zone scoring and third-down conversions are usually a pretty good indicator of which teams win or lose during any given week, and there are some notable similarities and contrasts between San Francisco and Seattle.

Defensively, the 49ers have been awesome against other team's offenses on third down, allowing opponents to convert a mere 27.5 percent of the time, which is within the top three in the league. The Seahawks, however, are in the middle of the pack on offensive third-down conversions, getting a first down on these plays 39.6 percent of the time -- 16th best entering Week 10.

Flipping the script, Seattle is allowing opponents to convert on third downs 34.7 of the time, just a few percentage points behind the Niners' defensive number.

Shanahan's offense is converting nearly 49 percent of its third-down tries, however, which is a shade behind the league-leading New England Patriots' standing in this category.

No. 4: Emmanuel Sanders vs. Seahawks Secondary


With tight end George Kittle (knee) doubtful for Monday's contest, the 49ers will have to rely heavily on newly acquired wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to provide the aerial offensive output.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Sanders has quickly developed a rapport with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, boasting an impressive 11 receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his two games so far with San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are allowing an average of 6.9 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 24th best in the league.

No. 3: 49ers Run Defense vs. Chris Carson


The Arizona Cardinals backed up what a number of teams have already figured out this season: San Francisco is vulnerable, defensively, against the run.

Through eight games, the Niners are allowing an average of 4.7 yards per rush, which ranks 22nd in the league. Arizona managed 153 yards on the ground in Week 9, and it backed up a trend that has otherwise stood in contrast to the 49ers' otherwise stout defense.

Losing linebacker Kwon Alexander, one of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's best run defenders, to a season-ending pectoral injury hurts, too.

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With Seahawks No. 1 running back Chris Carson averaging 4.4 yards per rush in 2019, this particular bout will be one to watch. Especially if Seattle wants to control the offensive tempo and keep San Francisco's pass-rushers honest.

No. 2: 49ers Ground Attack vs. Seahawks Run Defense


On the flip side, Shanahan will likely try a similar approach against a Seahawks defense, which has also been susceptible to giving up significant rushing gains over the course of the year.

Combined with the strong possibility Kittle will be out, the 49ers would be wise to use their ground attack a bit more than they have in recent weeks -- an approach made easier by the healthy returns of fullback Kyle Juszczyk, left tackle Joe Staley and possibly right tackle Mike McGlinchey from their respective injuries.

Seattle is also allowing 4.7 yards per rush, meaning running backs Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman could be in line for a big day. Plus, controlling the ground game and the clock helps San Francisco keep the Seahawks' No. 1 weapon, quarterback Russell Wilson, off the field.

No. 1: Containing Russell Wilson


Without Wilson, the Seahawks are likely no better than a three- or four-win team this deep into 2019.

So far, Wilson is playing at an MVP-caliber level, and his 2,505 pass yards rank third best in the NFL already entering Week 10. And his 22-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is easily the best in the league, too. And out of his nine starts this season, Wilson has seen a passer rating below 100 just once -- Seattle's Week 7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Containing Wilson will be the focal point here, as it's highly likely he'll do damage against a still-elite 49ers pass defense, which is allowing 138.1 pass yards per game this season.

That said, the Niners haven't faced a quarterback of Wilson's ilk this season yet.

Wilson's two favorite receiving targets, wide receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, will be players to watch, too. But the focal point remains on Wilson, and how the 49ers handle him will have a direct impact on the game's outcome.

The 49ers and Seahawks kick off on Monday at 8:15 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium.
  • Peter Panacy
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.