This matchup is yet another indication of how quickly things can change in the NFL. Just a few years ago, the Seahawks and 49ers was a potential NFC Championship preview but now both teams are trying to stay out of the NFC West’s cellar. The Seahawks have many of the same pieces from the last two seasons which both resulted in Super Bowl appearances (with one win of course), but something is just missing. Maybe it’s the lack of overall depth which the team had the previous years due to so many core players playing on their rookie deals. After the worst offseason a team has had in recent memory, the 49ers weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the Seahawks in the standings. But despite losing in a few blowouts on the road very early on, this has been a frisky team especially when at home. So in a rivalry game where all possibilities are in play, this one could come down to the wire.
For the Seahawks the good news is that Russell Wilson has been as consistent as ever up to this point. The bad is that the team isn’t doing a great job of protecting their big investment as Wilson has already been sacked 26 times through six games. When he isn’t pulling off his Houdini act in the pocket, Wilson has still been efficient both through the air and the ground. Against a young 49ers defense which has had struggles against the pass, there is a chance Wilson can pull off a few big plays with his improvisational skills fans have become used to.
The focal point of the Seahawks offense remains the running game. While Marshawn Lynch remains the heartbeat of the attack, it isn’t until he gets going where Wilson can get some favorable opportunities to look down field coming off play action or run the read option. This past Sunday was Lynch’s first game back from injury and while he was held in check by a stout Panthers defense, he showed some flashes of the “Beast Mode” we’re accustomed to. He should see a full workload tonight and despite the injury is safe to start in fantasy formats. Thomas Rawls impressed in Lynch’s place, but the hierarchy of carries is clear. He will probably only a handful of touches while Lynch is healthy.
If there’s one thing the Seahawks could take out of their tough loss it would be how Jimmy Graham seemed to click with Wilson. Graham finally had some chances to play to his strengths and made some big plays down the seams and racking up yards after the catch. It will be interesting to see how often Wilson looks his way tonight. Doug Baldwin is the second leading receiver behind Graham, but in this balanced attack that usually only has 25-30 throws a game, it is tough for receivers to have fantasy value. Baldwin should see six to eight throws his way while Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett and Ricardo Lockette will all be in the mix for targets. One of those receivers mentioned will end up having a solid day, but it’s too risky despite the matchup in fantasy formats.
It was only a few weeks ago where folks were talking about the possibility of Colin Kaepernick being benched for Blaine Gabbert, but he has bought himself a lot of time the past few weeks throwing for over 600 yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. While he still is far from a finished product, Kaepernick has looked more decisive in these recent games so “The Legion of Boom” will certainly be an interesting test for him after going against two teams who have had their fair share of injuries in the secondary.
Carlos Hyde has shown clear talent, but it has only been in spurts mostly out of his control. Between playing through injury and much of his workload being dependent on game flow, there are weeks where he may not have much of a role. But if this one is close, Hyde should see 20 or so touches. For fantasy purposes you’re starting him mainly for projected volume rather than the matchup. Reggie Bush figures to play and still remains likely to see work on third downs and obvious passing situations. He could see an uptick in touches in case the Niners are playing from behind.
Despite a hamstring injury, Anquan Boldin figures to give it a go tonight. Coming off consecutive 100 yard games, Boldin should see a fair amount of looks his way if facing off against Cary Williams or he’s in the slot. Eight to ten targets seems like a reasonable projection for him tonight. Torrey Smith despite the new digs is very much the same receiver we saw in Baltimore. His big play ability can really open things up and has delivered on occasion, but on a weekly basis is very inconsistent. There’s no idea of how much Kaepernick will want to test the Seahawks secondary vertically, so it may be best to sit Smith in fantasy formats this week. With the way the Seahawks have looked defending tight ends lately, Vernon Davis probably looks like an enticing option on paper. However Davis has only had 16 balls thrown his way up to this point, so he’d probably be best left on waivers in fantasy leagues.
While the Seahawks have been struggling and the 49ers have been playing tough at home, it is hard to pick against the Seahawks in this scenario. Sitting at 2-4, this is essentially a “must win” game for them if they hope to make yet another postseason run. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to replicate their success to that extent, but am confident enough to take them tonight. My prediction is Seahawks 24 49ers (+5.5) 17.