The 2012 NFC West race was spectacular, in large part due to the Seattle Seahawks' emergence as one of the league's better teams. While San Francisco eventually proved to be the class in the entire conference, Russell Wilson and Co. played their part in making the 49ers earn their path to the Super Bowl.
Expected to improve on their 7-9 record in 2011, the Seahawks took a major step forward last season—finishing 11-5 and just a half game back of the 49ers.
It appears these two teams will be battling it out once again come September.
In the meantime, however, the offseason is ramping up in advance of the NFL draft. With the initial free-agency rush in the books, the Seahawks and 49ers are both making it clear of their intentions to build on last season's success.
Constructed on the same premise of playing a solid brand of defense and operating on offense with a consistent rushing attack and protecting the football, it is no surprise as to how similar Seattle and San Francisco really are.
Here is a quick glimpse at how the Seahawks and 49ers compared last season in some of the major statistical team categories (league rank):
While it may seem like a difficult task for these two teams to improve on these marks, the moves made this offseason are ones that could prove this to be the case in 2013.
Both the Seahawks and 49ers return the framework of rosters that stand up against any in the NFL. As each player relates to how these two teams operate specifically, there may be no better examples in the entire league.
When comparing the two rosters, it really is difficult to come away with any definitive answers as to which of these teams is currently in a better position. Both are set at quarterback for the foreseeable future, their rushing attacks are spearheaded by workhorses and their defenses are obviously the league's two best.
Seattle will enter the 2013 season with less turnover, though the additions of defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril will improve a pass rush that tallied 36 sacks last year—just two behind the 49ers, who feature one of the league's best sack artists in Aldon Smith.
Able to keep most of their core in tact, the Seahawks can build on their continuity and not worry about how so many new faces will fit in around the locker room. The 49ers, however, lost a handful of key players from last season's Super Bowl team—including Dashon Goldson, Isaac Sopoaga and Delanie Walker.
San Francisco has added Nnamdi Asomugha, Glenn Dorsey and Craig Dahl to play significant roles during the upcoming season.
The two biggest moves for each of these teams, however, focused on improving their respective passing attacks (Seattle finished 27th in the league and San Francisco finished 23rd). The Seahawks acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings, and the 49ers obtained wideout Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens.
Though very different types of targets, both will add a new wrinkle to each offense and provide Wilson and Kaepernick with another reliable weapon to spread the ball around to. While running the football will be their focal point on offense, it will be interesting to see how each of these moves affects the balance moving forward.
The key for Harvin will be staying on the field, as he played in just nine games last season—tallying 62 receptions, 677 yards and three touchdowns along the way. With Boldin—who helped the Ravens defeat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII with six catches for 104 yards and a score—it will be exactly where he fits in with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis returning as Kaepernick's main targets.
How quickly these two questions are answered could determine the early favorite in the NFC West.
There are still several months before the season starts, and the draft is less than three weeks away. Though there does not seem to be too many open roster spots, adding depth will be key to maintain the success from 2012.
When the new league year began back on March 12, it seemed that the Seahawks and 49ers were involved in a heavyweight boxing match—trading blow after blow with each and every signing or trade.
The 49ers struck first last year with a 13-6 win in Week 7, but the Seahawks exacted revenge by throttling San Francisco by 29 points in Week 16. On paper, these two teams are as equal as any, so there is much anticipation in advance of their 2013 matchups.
The ultimate comparison between Seattle and San Francisco will be at quarterback. Both first-year starters, Wilson and Kaepernick will need to prove that last season's success was no fluke.
It will be the consistency of Wilson up against the dynamic ability of Kaepernick that could ultimately decide the division.
The Seahawks were afforded the luxury of only adding pieces around their signal-caller, while the 49ers were forced to replace a lot of their key contributors. With so little separating the two teams across the board, less player movement could prove beneficial for Seattle moving forward.
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