The San Francisco 49ers (7-4) and the Seattle Seahawks (7-4) are set to go head-to-head on Thanksgiving at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
This was a matchup that many penciled into their mental and physical calendars when the 2014 NFL schedule was first announced. But after some lackluster first halves, this isn’t looking to be the clash of divisional (and conference) leaders as many expected. That said, there is still plenty on the line for these NFC West teams as they are both currently on the edge of playoff contention.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The 49ers Offense Has Scored Only 1 Touchdown in the 4th Quarter
The 49ers first team offense has only scored one touchdown in the 4th quarter, and it took them until this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins to do so. Carlos Hyde scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 4-yard rush with 2:59 left in the game. The score made it 17-13 and put the Niners up for good. But this lack of late offense could be a real problem going up against the Seahawks defense, which ranks 1st overall in total YPG allowed (296.8) and has only given up six touchdowns in the 4th quarter this year.
2. Marshawn Lynch Loves Facing the 49ers
Marshawn Lynch is one of the game’s elite running backs, and he seems to be just a little bit more elite when he faces the Niners. In 2011, Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach and Vic Fangio became the defensive coordinator. At that same time, Darrell Bevell took over as the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Since that season, Lynch has averaged just over 105 total yards per game and scored eight touchdowns in six games. The Niners run defense isn’t as good as it has been in the past (they allowed just seven rushing touchdowns over the entire 2012 season) so stopping Lynch is going to have to be a priority for them to succeed.
3. 49ers Must Take the Ball Away
Easier said than done, of course, but the 49ers chances get much better when they win the turnover battle. The Niners rank third in total takeaways (22) this year and will need to find a way to put the pressure on the Seahawks, especially Russell Wilson, who is on pace to throw fewer (7) interceptions this season than in any previous year (10 in 2012, 9 in 2013).
4. When Wilson Runs, the Seahawks Win
Russell Wilson was never noted for his running ability coming into the NFL, but he has proven himself a threat with his legs over the last three seasons. This year, the Seahawks are 6-2 in games where Wilson runs the ball at least 7 times. They are 1-2 in the remaining three games. The Niners have given up the 7th-fewest rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks this season, making this a particularly interesting aspect of the matchup.
5. This Game Will Be Physical & Brutal
Perhaps obvious, but still worth nothing. These are two strong, physical teams built around shutdown defenses and power running games that also happen to very strongly dislike each other. Whether it is Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll or Richard Sherman vs. Michael Crabtree, there is a storied rivalry here, and it’s built on a history of bad blood.
This game should be an exciting one — hard hitting and close. This is reflected in the line, which has the 49ers as a 1-point favorite.
Teams: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Levi’s Stadium, NBC
Line: San Francisco 49ers (-1)