The Seattle Seahawks (9-4) and San Francisco 49ers (7-6) met on Thanksgiving, sharing the same record and hoping to gain ground in the NFC West race. Just two weeks later, the defending champs have a chance to end their rivals’ playoff hopes with a victory in Week 15.
Seattle was dominant in the first matchup between the two teams. Even though the Seahawks are much better at home, they managed to get a 19-3 road victory, limiting San Francisco to just 164 total yards of offense.
The loss was the first of two in a row for the 49ers, and now their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. Trailing both the Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals (10-3), San Francisco doesn’t have a realistic chance to win the division. They are two games behind in the race for the wild card, and a loss could officially knock them out of the postseason race.
San Francisco’s visit to Seattle might rank as their most difficult challenge of the 2014 season. Las Vegas betting odds have the 49ers listed as 10-point underdogs, marking the first time they are getting more than a touchdown, all season. Not only is San Francisco struggling with two straight losses, but Seattle is playing their best football of the year.
After losing three of their first six games, the Seahawks finally look like the team that beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. They’ve won six of their last seven games, including three consecutive victories against winning teams. In addition to their win over San Francisco, Seattle beat Arizona, 19-3, and left Philadelphia with a 24-14 win last week.
Having allowed 20 combined points in their last three games, including 14 points to a team that had averaged nearly 37 points per game at home, Seattle’s defense is looking like the NFL’s best. The Seahawks rank first in passing defense (190.4 yards per game) and third in rushing defense (84.1 yards per game). Only the Detroit Lions surrender less than the 18.1 points per game that Seattle allows.
Colin Kaepernick could have an especially difficult time on Sunday. The quarterback had his worst game of the season against the Seahawks, posting season lows with 121 passing yards and a 36.7 passer rating. It was the only game in 2014 in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass.
Through 14 games, Kaepernick has not looked like the quarterback that led the 49ers to the 2013 Super Bowl. He ranks 26th in completion percentage (60.6) and 23rd in passer rating (85.1), while failing to crack the top 15 in passing yards or touchdowns.
It’s not just Kaepernick’s passing game that has been substandard. The player who set a rushing record for quarterbacks in his first ever playoff game has not been nearly as dangerous with his legs. After rushing for four scores and averaging 5.7 yards per carry in 2013, Kaepernick’s average has dropped to 4.7 yards per attempt with no rushing touchdowns in 2014.
Despite their struggles on offense and the resurgence of Seattle’s defense, San Francisco’s defense could give them a chance to keep the game close. The team hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in any of their last six games. The over/under is the lowest on the Week 15 schedule at just 38 points.
Seattle has struggled to move the ball, at times, but the team’s offense has been much better at home. They are averaging nearly 29 points per game at CenturyLink Field, which would give them the No.6 scoring offense in the NFL. The Seahawks average almost a touchdown less on the road.
Russell Wilson had a stretch of poor games in the middle of the season, but he seems to have found his groove. He’s posted a passer rating of at least 98.2 in each of the last four games, throwing for six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Prediction: Seattle over San Francisco, 24-10