After meeting in last season’s NFC Championship, and starting this year as the Super Bowl favorites in the conference, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are out of the playoffs entering Week 13. On Thanksgiving, the division rivals will meet in a contest that will go a long way in determining the NFC playoff picture.
The game is very important for both teams, considering their upcoming schedules and their standing in the NFC West. At 9-2, the Arizona Cardinals lead each team by two games in the division, and a wild-card berth is the most likely route for the Seahawks and 49ers to make the postseason.
Seattle might have the better chance of winning the division, considering they beat Arizona on Sunday and have one more matchup with the Cardinals. However, it won’t be easy for the Seahawks to get the 11 wins that might be required to make the playoffs, since they entered Week 12 with the most difficult remaining schedule.
San Francisco is at a disadvantage in the division, having already lost to the Cardinals. They are favored to end the holiday with a victory, laying 1.5 points at home to the Seahawks.
The two teams have been mirror images of each other in the past few seasons. Led by young quarterbacks, strong running games and elite defenses, Seattle and San Francisco have won their games in very similar ways.
Who has the advantage on Thanksgiving?
The location of Thursday’s game could have a major effect on the outcome. Seattle is well-known for having the NFC’s best home-field advantage, and they’ve gone just 2-3 on the road. In the last two years, the rivals have split their head-to-head, regular-season matchups, with the home team winning by an average of 16 points per game.
Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have both struggled at times in 2014, but the Seattle quarterback faces the tougher task on Thursday. The 49ers might have the NFL’s best pass defense, ranking first in opposing passer rating (74.1), tied for first in opposing completion percentage (57.2) and second in passing yards allowed per game (207.2).
Wilson has moved the Seattle offense effectively by using his legs, totaling 644 rushing yards, but he hasn’t been the consistent passer that he was in 2012 and 2013. Four times in 2014, Wilson’s passer rating has been 77.5 or less, and he’s thrown for more than 211 yards just twice.
Opposing quarterbacks have been terrific in San Francisco’s losses, throwing 11 touchdowns and two interceptions, including Peyton Manning’s nearly perfect 157.2 passer rating. In the 49ers’ victories, the other teams’ quarterbacks have thrown just seven touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Wilson has completed 50 percent of his passes for 321 yards, one touchdown and two picks in two career games at San Francisco.
Few teams have been able to stop Seattle’s rushing attack, but the 49ers could have success in limiting the Seahawks on the ground. San Francisco ranks seventh in opponents’ rushing yards, and no team has come close to totaling 169.6 rushing yards against the 49ers, which is what Seattle averages per game.
Since the return of Aldon Smith, the 49ers defense has performed even better. In the last two games, San Francisco has recorded seven sacks and five interceptions, allowing 11.5 points per contest. Thursday’s over/under is just 40 total points.
The 49ers aren’t likely to light up the scoreboard, and haven’t done so all year, totaling more than 28 points just once. Kaepernick hasn’t made many mistakes, throwing an interception in just four of 11 games, but he hasn’t posted a passer rating of 100.0 or more since Week 6.
PREDICTION: San Francisco over Seattle, 20-13