NFC Preview: Bitter-rival Seahawks stand between 49ers and return trip to Super Bowl
The Seahawks held off San Francisco to capture the NFC West title due in large part to their dominance at CenturyLink Field, where they are 16-1 over the past two seasons, including last week’s 23-15 victory over New Orleans. The teams have split the past four meetings, with San Francisco prevailing 19-17 at home on Dec. 8 to avenge a 29-3 beating in Seattle in Week 2. “We’re ready to go,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “We’re a different team than the last time we played them up there.”
TV: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, FOX. LINE: Seahawks -3.5. O/U: 38.5.
ABOUT THE 49ERS (14-4): Kaepernick threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score in last week’s 23-10 win at Carolina to improve to 3-0 on the road in the postseason, but he was intercepted three times and limited to 127 yards passing in the Week 2 drubbing in Seattle. One difference from the first meeting is the presence of wideout Michael Crabtree, who has 30 receptions in seven games since returning to the starting lineup following Achilles’ tendon surgery. Anquan Boldin had eight catches for 136 yards last week and tight end Vernon Davis caught his seventh touchdown pass in seven postseason games. Running back Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards against the Seahawks last month and has a pair of 200-yard games against Seattle, while a defense that has limited 10 of the last 12 opponents to 20 points or fewer puts its season-long streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher on the line.
ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (14-3): Quarterback Russell Wilson has been spectacular at home in his first two years, but his late-season struggles continued with a career-low 103 yards passing in last week’s win over New Orleans. Wilson has not surpassed 206 yards in his past five games and is averaging only 127.7 yards in his last three - numbers he could have difficulty improving upon with wide receiver Percy Harvin missing practice again Thursday due to a concussion suffered last week. Fortunately for Seattle, it has the luxury of leaning on running back Marshawn Lynch, who piled up 140 yards and scored twice a week ago to give him five touchdowns and three 100-yard performances in his last five playoff games.
1. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh is the first coach since the 1970 merger to lead his team to a conference championship game in each of his first three seasons.
2. The Seahawks have won six straight postseason home games, outscoring their opponents 174-109.
3. San Francisco is playing in its 15th championship game, tying Pittsburgh for the most all-time appearances.
PREDICTION: 49ers 20, Seahawks 19