The schedule makers sure got this Week 16 NFC West matchup correct.
With two of the NFL's three best defenses squaring off on Sunday night, it won't be one of the most thrilling games, but it sure makes for one heck of an intriguing matchup.
The NFC West is now on the line.
Here's your complete guide to Sunday night's action.
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
When: Sunday, Dec. 23 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Game Rewind
Betting Line: Seattle (+1) via Bet Online Over/Under: 39 (Bet Online)
Both of these teams are playing extremely well right now, but I'm going with San Francisco here.
After seeing what they did against the Patriots, it's extremely hard to go against Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the 49ers staunch defense.
I think the SF defense gets after Russell Wilson and the Niners take this one.
For the over/under, these are two great defenses, but I'm going with the over.
Seattle is scoring points at will lately, but San Francisco hasn't had much trouble putting up points either.
With both offenses averaging at least 25 points per game, I'm rolling with the over.
What's at Stake?
This game has enormous playoff implications for both sides.
While both teams are seeded within the top six in the NFC, a Seahawks win would have them just a half game back in the division behind the 49ers.
A 49ers loss could also put their chances of a first-round bye in jeopardy, especially if Green Bay wins on Sunday.
The NFL Network's Rich Eisen highlighted the importance of this game on Twitter:
Big 49ers/Seahawks Sunday Nighter: 49ers win, they win the West. If the Seahawks win, they clinch a spot and the West can still be won.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) December 18, 2012
49ers Injury Report (via USA Today)
DE Justin Smith—Arm—QST
WR Mario Manningham—Shoulder—QST
Seahawks Injury Report (via USA Today)
WR Sidney Rice—Foot—PRB
DT Alan Branch—Ankle—QST
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start 'Em: Frank Gore
This isn't an ideal matchup for Gore—going against the Seahawks' 10th-ranked rushing defense–but Gore is a better option than anyone in the passing game for the Niners.
Believe it or not, Seattle allows more than 100 rushing yards per game and has allowed eight touchdowns on the ground, and Gore rushed for 131 yards against Seattle in Week 7, so there is hope for Gore owners.
I'm not expecting a 100-yard day by any means, but I think owners should be more than delighted with a solid 75 yards and a score.
Sit 'Em: Michael Crabtree
Crabtree is the leading receiver on this 49ers team but he'll have a tough time on Sunday night.
The Seahawks rank third against the pass. They have intercepted more passes (16) than they've allowed touchdowns (13), and Crabtree had just four receptions for 31 yards the first time these teams met this season.
I'd even be wary of starting an elite wide receiver against Seattle's D, and Crabtree certainly isn't an elite wideout in the NFL.
Sleeper: Zach Miller
Sidney Rice is obviously Wilson's go-to guy, but Zach Miller has been effective of late.
Wilson is looking for his big tight end in the red zone, as Miller has touchdowns in back-to-back games.
It's not easy to throw against the 49ers' fifth-ranked pass defense, but I like Miller as a sleeper pick on Sunday night.
What They're Saying
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the 49ers have moved up in the power rankings:
ESPN Power Rankings: 49ers jump to No. 1; Redskins crack top 10. espn.go.com/nfl/powerranki…— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 18, 2012
The NFL's Director of NFC Communications, Randall Liu, tweeted out this fascinating statistic about the Seahawks:
Liu (@RLiuNFL) December 18, 2012
49ers Player to Watch: Aldon Smith
Wilson has only been sacked 26 times this season—one of those coming from Aldon Smith—and he'll be on the lookout again on Sunday.
Smith is tied for the league lead in sacks with 19.5 and is coming off of his first game without a sack since Week 6.
He will be a big key for San Francisco, who will look to rattle the Seahawks rookie QB and force a few game-changing turnovers.
Chasing Michael Strahan's sack record, Smith is your 49ers' player to watch in Week 16.
Seahawks Player to Watch: Marshawn Lynch
In order to take pressure off of Wilson, Marshawn Lynch needs to run the football well at home.
He's No. 2 in the NFL in terms of rushing yards but is up against the third-best run defense.
Coming off of his eighth 100-yard rushing day of the season, Lynch will be the key to opening up the passing game for Wilson and Seattle's offense.
Lynch eclipsed the 100-yard mark when these teams met in Week 7, and he'll need another stellar performance to get the Seahawks to 10 wins.
Key Matchup: 49ers Defense vs. Seahawks Offensive Line
It sounds a little old school and cliche to be honest, but I really think this is the key matchup to watch.
Few defenses have been able to reach Wilson in the pocket, which is why Seattle has been so successful.
It's not just about sacks, though, as Seattle's offensive line will be crucial in getting pushes to spring Lynch for big gains on the ground.
If the Seahawks aren't able to run the ball effectively, they could be playing right into the hands of the 49ers' defense.
Prediction: 49ers 21, Seahawks 20
This is an extremely tough one to pick, but I'm going with San Francisco.
The Niners really proved their worth against New England, and I like Kaepernick and Gore to carry the offensive load.
San Francisco's defense does enough against Wilson and Lynch to culminate in a win for the 49ers.
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