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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports


Previewing 49ers vs. Seahawks

Oct 31, 2020 at 3:21 PM


This is the game that we have all had circled since the schedule was released, as the 49ers head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks for the first time since their Week 17 thriller to close out the 2019 season. The Seahawks sit at 5-1, holding onto the top spot in a loaded NFC West, a division that does not have a team with a losing record. The first-place Seahawks have been propelled by MVP-caliber play from their star quarterback Russell Wilson, who is currently leading the league in touchdown passes as well as passer rating. Wilson is leading an offense that is pacing the league in points and yards per game, which is a noticeable change from the Seahawk teams of the past that were known for playing elite defense and establishing the run on offense.

Just two years ago, the Seahawks threw the ball less on early downs than any other team in football, yet in 2020 they are airing it out at the highest rate in the league in those situations. This shift in philosophy has frequently put the Seahawks in a favorable position as they have attempted the fewest third downs on offense of any team in the league thus far, largely because of the success Wilson and the offense have had throwing the ball on first and second downs. Injuries at the running back position will likely cause Seattle to continue with this trend, as its depth in the backfield would be incredibly thin if Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde are unable to suit up this week. Although the Seahawks offense has the fewest third down attempts, it is second to last in the league in converting those third down opportunities at a clip of 33.9%, which is only better than the 0-7 New York Jets, who are at 29.8%. The 49ers on the other hand possess the 7th best third down defense in the league, holding opponents to a 35.8% conversion rate in those situations.

This makes the game plan for the 49ers defense crystal clear: it must find a way to slow the Seahawk passing attack on first and second downs, and force Seattle into unfavorable third downs where defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can get creative with the pressure he brings. The Arizona Cardinals found success with some disguised pressures they dialed up against the Seahawks in their week 7 victory over Seattle, and I expect the 49ers will attempt to mirror some of those same concepts when they get the Seahawks in third and long situations. Regardless of the barrage of injuries the 49ers have accumulated, they are still fielding an elite defense that currently ranks 4th in total defense, 3rd in passing defense, and 9th in rushing defense, while maintaining a top 10 ranking in Defensive DVOA. The superb play of this defense despite the key players it has been missing cannot be swept under the rug, as it is a true testament to the depth the unit possesses and how well coached it is by the defensive staff led by Saleh.

The defense had done a tremendous job keeping the team afloat through a tough stretch of games early in the season, but the offense has turned in an admirable performance in recent weeks and picked up the slack on its end. The 49ers will unfortunately be without starting wide receiver Deebo Samuel as he deals with a hamstring injury he suffered last week vs the New England Patriots, a significant loss considering the spark he had given the offense during its recent resurgence.

On a positive note, if there was a defense you would want to face while missing a player of Samuel's caliber, the Seahawks would be at or near the top of that list. Seattle is currently dead last in the league in yards allowed per game, and is on pace to shatter the NFL record for yards allowed in a season by a defense. While Seattle's defense has been extremely vulnerable through the air, it has defended the run much more effectively, currently ranked 12th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. This does not mean that the 49ers will have to alter their run first approach, but it does mean that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a major opportunity to silence his doubters as he may be tasked with carrying the offense this week with his arm, something he was able to do on multiple occasions in 2019.

On paper this game seems like it will come down to the battle of the top 5 49ers' defense versus the top 5 Seahawk's offense, but I'd argue the 49ers' offense vs Seattle's defense is where this game will be won or lost. If the 49er offense is able to establish the run and set up a successful play action attack, I believe it has the firepower to hang with Seattle's dynamic offense. Ideally, the lower the score, the better I like the 49ers' chances to pull out a win due to the advantage they have on the defensive side of the ball, but I'm not totally sleeping on their ability to win a shootout like they did in New Orleans last season.

Final Score Prediction

49ers 30 - Seahawks 24

I never like to bet against Russell Wilson and was very close to picking Seattle here, but I believe this 49er team is on a roll and the defense is good enough to give the offense a shot to win it.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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