Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle was good enough to answer five questions for us. You can follow him on Twitter at @Eric_Branch.
1. Colin Kaepernick has not played well in CenturyLink Field. Why do you think that is and how do you expect him to play Sunday?
Reason 1: The Seahawks have the NFL’s best secondary.
Reason 2: The 49ers have not handled the noise well. Even in home games, they’ve had issues getting plays called in a timely manner and the din in Seattle has only exacerbated those clock-management issues. They’ve never found an offensive rhythm.
Reason 3: His supporting cast has been less-than-stellar. By the end of the 42-13 loss in 2012, Michael Crabtree was his only reliable target because Vernon Davis and Mario Manningham had exited with injuries. In Week 2, Anquan Boldin was his only available wide receiver with more than 38 career receptions. Kyle Wiliams, the No. 2 wide receiver in that game, was waived in November.
With Crabtree, Boldin and Davis available, I expect Kaepernick to offer a respectable-but-not-put-the-offense-on-his-back performance. Even in the 49ers’ win over Seattle in December, his passer rating (67.5) was his lowest in his past nine games.
2. When you look at the Seahawks, what’s the toughest thing for the 49ers to deal with from them?
Their secondary. In their past four meetings (1 start by Alex Smith, 3 by Kaepernick), the 49ers quarterbacks have three touchdowns, six interceptions and haven’t posted a rating above 75.0. That’s not very good. Runner-up selection: Marshawn Lynch. He’s accounted for four of the top six rushing performances against the 49ers in the Jim Harbaugh era.
3. And the reverse. Toughest thing for the Seahawks to deal with from the 49ers?
Frank Gore and their running game. It’s hard to call it a weakness, but Seattle’s run defense is obviously the area to attempt to exploit. In their past two wins against Seattle, the 49ers have done so successfully. Gore has 100-yard performances in both games and has saved his best for the second half: he’s averaged 86 yards in the final two quarters.
4. Despite what they say, do you think the rivalry between Harbaugh and Carroll is authentic?
I think they genuinely respect the other’s football principles and coaching chops. They both lead hair-on-fire teams fueled with a strong running game and nightmare defenses. Personally? They probably bug each other because they are, in many ways, alike: enthusiastic, smug, player’s coaches who still derive an unusual amount of pleasure from throwing a football around.
5. What’s your pick and why?
Seahawks 20, 49ers 16. I saw 42-13 and 29-3. At this point, I think the 49ers are playing better than the Seahawks, but I’m not convinced they can completely stop the CenturyLink snowball from rolling again. A critical fourth-quarter turnover will be the difference.