SEATTLE – The good news?
The Seahawks will still have mathematical hopes for making the playoffs even if they lose to the 49ers at Lumen Field Sunday.
The bad news?
Those playoff hopes are already so small you basically need the Hubble Telescope to see them.
So, for Sunday, the bigger goal for the Seahawks is simply winning a game and feeling good about themselves again, even if just for a few hours.
Maybe the sight of the 49ers – not only a longtime rival but one of only three teams they have beaten this season (28-21 on Oct. 3) – will spur the Seahawks on.
Onto our keys to the game.
Matchup to watch
49ers DE Nick Bosa vs. Seahawks offensive tackles Duane Brown and Brandon Shell
Bosa, the second overall pick in 2019, is tied for fourth in the NFL with 11 sacks, getting at least one in all but three games this season. Bosa lines up on either side, and in the first game against the Seahawks got a sack when going against Brown. He had five pressures in that game, via Pro Football Focus, and got what was his second-highest pass rush grade of the season. Brown has steadied his play of late, while Shell has been up and down (he didn’t play in the first game due to injury with the since-released Cedric Ogbuehi starting) but didn’t allow any pressures Monday. Suffice to say the Seahawks’ already heavily challenged offense needs to limit Bosa’s damage to have a chance Sunday.
Player to watch
QB Russell Wilson
Before this season, Wilson had never lost more than two consecutive starts. Suddenly, he’s lost four in a row – the past three games after returning from a right middle finger injury and surgery, and the Oct. 7 game against the Rams in which he was hurt. Wilson had a 10-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio before he was sidelined but is at 2-2 in the three games since he returned – which doesn’t include the 2-point play on Monday against WFT. And he’s thrown for 7.97 yards per attempt or less in all three games since he returned after throwing for 9.31 or better in four of five games before he was hurt. In other words, and as the eye test has made as obvious as any stat, he just hasn’t been the same since he returned. A 49ers team allowing 5.3 yards per play, tied for sixth in the NFL, will be a tough test. But the Seahawks need Wilson to bounce back soon if the season is to avoid becoming a complete disaster.
Coaching decision to watchRun-pass percentage
This is another week that coach Pete Carroll has stressed the importance of trying to get the running game going to help the offense, one reason the team brought in 36-year-old Adrian Peterson to beef up an injury-riddled running back corps. The Seahawks are 14th in the NFL in passing-play percentage, throwing it 59.2% of the time. But that number has skyrocketed to 69.3% in the past three games since Wilson returned from injury. Being behind most of the time has been a factor. But they also have not been able to run it consistently enough to keep the ball for long. The 49ers are allowing 4.3 yards per carry, 18th in the NFL, but in their current three-game winning streak haven’t allowed more than 67 against the Rams, Jaguars and Vikings. Still, expect the Seahawks to give the running game a major shot Sunday.
Carroll used that word following Monday’s gut-wrenching loss at Washington when asked about the challenge keeping the team together in the face of the team’s hopes for this season realistically dashed. “We’re going to play for the pride of it,” Carroll said. “We’re going to play for the people that we are and we’re going to represent. I don’t know how else to look at it but that way.” Will the players? The reality is, most are also playing for their NFL futures and contracts down the road, and that pragmatism shouldn’t be underrated. But Carroll can also point to the end of the WFT game as evidence that the Seahawks won’t give up. Each week will present its own test of the team’s perseverance.
Player who could surprise
RB Adrian Peterson
That Peterson played just two weeks ago with Tennessee means that physically he should be ready to go Sunday, assuming he has enough command of the playbook. What can the Seahawks expect out of Peterson? That he has played only three games this season means he should have fresh legs – as fresh as possible at 36, anyway – and at this point, even a momentary spark to the running game would be welcome.
That’s the number of turnovers the Seahawks have forced this year, more than only the Jets and Jacksonville, who each have nine. That’s on pace to smash the team record for fewest turnovers forced in a season of 19 in 2016, and it hardly needs to be stated that a few turnovers setting the offense up in good field position could do wonders (a rush that hits the passer a bit more consistently would help in that endeavor). The 49ers have one of the more stark correlations between not turning the ball over and winning. The 49ers have lost only three turnovers in their six wins this year but suffered 12 in its five losses, including losing two in the defeat to the Seahawks in October – the only time this year Seattle has forced more than one in a game.
49ers 21, Seahawks 16
Not only are the 49ers surging and the Seahawks reeling, but this always felt like one of the tougher spots for Seattle, coming home to play on Sunday after a Monday night game on the East Coast. It’s hard to find many reasons to pick the Seahawks to win this one other than that they are due. And boy are the Seahawks due, having lost six of seven. But the 49ers have the motivation of suddenly being right smack in the playoff hunt and feeling like they gave one away to the Seahawks in the first meeting.