For the most part, I’ll spare the statistics, because as I said in my earlier post, I’m not going to be able to give numbers and matchups that aren’t already out there.
We all know Seattle has home field advantage, but many people don’t truly appreciate how much playing in CenturyLink Stadium benefits the Seahawks. Since the beginning of last year – AKA the beginning of the Russell Wilson era – the Seahawks have gone 16-1 at home (yeah I know what I said about stats, but come on, that’s unbelievable).
Seattle fans are notoriously loud already, and this game could be the loudest yet. This is not only because their team is playing for a Super Bowl berth, but also due to the unusual policies concerning ticket sales enacted by CenturyLink earlier this week. Tickets were available Monday morning for the NFC Championship game, but only to those who live in Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, or the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia (the Broncos have done something very similar to this as well). Obviously their intent is to keep San Fran fans out of the stadium.
Controversial? Maybe, but my NFC Championship Preview isn’t the place for an ethics discussion (because I said so).
Bottom line: the place is going to be rocking, and I think it will affect the Niners – Colin Kaepernick in particular. Although he has had some rushing success in his two games at Seattle (118 yards total), Kaep has struggled throwing the ball. He has completed 32 of his 64 passes for 371 yards – which comes out to be around 5.8 yards per attempt – and has only one passing touchdown versus four interceptions. I’m a Kaepernick fan, but those struggles can’t be ignored.
While this all this suggests Kaepernick might get rattled and cost his team the game, I’m not completely convinced that this is how it will play out. Yes, the noise will be a factor – a HUGE factor – but in his young career, Colin has proven that he is the kind of player who can handle the pressure that comes with big games like this. So I expect to see Colin take the field on Sunday night as confident as he seems to be in those Beats commercials.
It’s pretty for Kaep easy to keep the right state of mind though when you’re handing the ball off more than you’re forced to drop back and pass against the biggest, baddest, most ball-hawkingest secondary on the planet. The Seahawks know this, and I believe Bobby Wagner and a fully healed KJ Wright will be bringing the heat early and often, daring Kaepernick to test his luck through the air. It will take a great deal of stress off of Seattle’s offense if they can keep San Fran’s ground game in check — including Kaepernick tucking and running on designed passes.
Speaking of tall orders, Russell Wilson is going to have his hands full if the front seven of the 49ers takes away the running game. The offensive line for Seattle is impressive, but not as good as the group they’re facing. I think the 49ers are going to give Marshawn Lynch a very tough time, in hopes of putting Wilson on the spot.
Essentially, I believe that San Francisco and Seattle will come in with very similar gameplans. Both will try to force the other’s young quarterback to try and make plays against a staunch defense. The only differences I see are that the Seahawks have a better secondary, and the 49ers have a better set of lineman and ‘backers.
Here is what it comes down to: the 49ers may have an easier time forcing the ball into Russell Wilson’s hands, but if the Seahawks somehow manage to contain Gore and Kaepernick on the ground, Kaepernick will be given the near-impossible task of throwing on the Legion of Boom in their own dojo.
So to wrap things up, CenturyLink Stadium is going to be very loud, each team is going to target the opposing quarterback, CenturyLink Stadium is going to be very loud, Kaepernick hasn’t had success in Seattle thus far in his career, and CenturyLink Stadium is going to be very loud.
Wilson and Kaepernick both put together impressive games, but Seattle’s D forces one big turnover that makes the difference.
Seattle wins, 20-13.
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