Good morning. They weather is perfect down here in San Francisco. It’s expected to get up to 84 degrees today, and skies will be sunny and clear at game time. So weather should not be a factor today.
Here’s five keys for the Seahawks as they take on NFC West division rival San Francisco.
Big Boy football: The Seahawks are going to have to be physical, because I expect this game to be a knock-down, heavyweight fight with big hits all over the place. The Niners got whipped last week against the Giants, and are going to try and take over the game from the opening kickoff. So Seattle has to match that intensity early in the game, and then get into a rhythm and start making plays.
A heavy dose of Rice: Seattle receiver Sidney Rice did not play against the Niners last season because of injuries, and I think if San Francisco does have a weakness defensively, it’s in the secondary. I expect that Rice will have some good matchups because San Francisco’s linebackers will be so concerned with stopping the run. So like Seattle has done the past few weeks, expect Russell Wilson to take some shots down the field to Rice.
Avoid the turnover bug: In what I expect to be a low scoring game, possessions will be precious. The Seahawks have a -3 turnover differential on the road, so it’s no surprise they are 1-2 in those contests. Not only is it important for Seattle to take care of the ball on offense, but also to take advantage of opportunities the team has to get the ball on defense. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor have missed chances at game-changing interceptions this season.
A special night for special teams: The last time Seattle played down here, the difference in the game was two returns for touchdowns by Ted Ginn Jr. That can’t happen today. Seattle has been doing a great job covering kicks and punts so far this season, and that has to continue. Along with that, Leon Washington needs another solid game to help give Seattle’s offense good field position.
Make Alex Smith beat you: The Niners have the top running offense in the league, averaging 176.8 yards a game. But Seattle’s only allowing 70 yards a contest, which is No. 2 in the league. Something has to give, right? I expect Seattle will do a decent job against the run, which means San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith will have to make some plays in the passing game. Smith consistently made those plays last year, which is one of the reasons the Niners finished 13-3. But he did not do that last week against the Giants, when he was sacked six times and threw three interceptions.
Here’s my advance for today’s game. Pete Carroll had this to say about his team’s contest on the road this afternoon: “We need to play well on the road again. We did a good job in Carolina getting out of there with a win, and we need to do the right things and not make mistakes and put ourselves in difficult situations on the road.
“(The 49ers) are really good at home in making you do that, so it’s a big challenge for us. We’ve played much better at home than we have on the road. We’ve taken care of the football better and all of that stuff. We need to get that done in this game.”
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times offers some things to watch in today’s contest.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com says the Hawks-Niners contest is a chance for one of the teams to make a statement: “It’s going to be a dogfight brawl,” veteran linebacker Leroy Hill said. “And we know that.”
Jim Moore of 710 ESPN Seattle picks San Francisco over Seattle, 13-9.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports writes that they might not be household names, but after studying the Seahawks defense on tape, there is no denying the talent. Prisco: “Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is a force. He has brute strength and the lateral quickness of a man much smaller.”
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com expects a physical battle between two tough teams in Seattle and San Francisco.
Sportspressnw.com writes that Seattle faces its toughest test yet in this preview of the game.
John Breech of CBS Sports notes in his game preview notes that San Francisco under Jim Harbaugh have been impressive after losses. In four regular-season losses before Sunday, San Francisco outscored its opponents 93-11 in its following game.
Check out Michael Robinson mic’d up for the Patriots game last week in this video link.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com highlights Patrick Willis vs. Marshawn Lynch as one of his key matchups of today’s game.
Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee says San Francisco’s special teams units are missing Michael Robinson.