A tale of two different seasons comes to a head when the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers face off in Arizona on Sunday afternoon. Being a part of the 1:25 pm PT slate, this game has big-time postseason implications, as the Seahawks still have an outside chance to climb into the top seed for the NFC playoffs, getting them the lone first-round bye.
For Seattle to jump into the top spot, they need to beat the Niners, plus have both the Green Bay Packers lose to the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints lose to the Carolina Panthers. What makes this week tough to gauge is that all three of these games are included in the 1:25 pm PT timeslot, which means that all teams must run their top guys out there and not rest anyone.
For the Niners, their disastrous season is almost at its end, as injuries have ravaged this once-promising squad for head coach Kyle Shanahan. With their run-heavy scheme enduring injuries to their offensive line, running backs, and even quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, it has been an uphill struggle to produce on offense, relying on Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard to help pilot this team.
1. Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf earn more accolades in the history books
After his huge performance earlier this year against the Arizona Cardinals, wide receiver Tyler Lockett has taken a big-time backseat to D.K. Metcalf in terms of offensive appreciation, as Metcalf has taken off and Lockett has fallen back into the WR2/3 category. But Lockett has a great chance to enter the select company of a few historically great members of the Seahawks wide receiver core.
Needing only 36 yards on the day, the former Kansas State Wildcat would earn another 1,000-yard receiving season, becoming only the sixth member of Seahawks franchise history to have put up two consecutive 1,000-plus receiving yard seasons. With the types of injuries that San Francisco has in their defensive secondary, this total could be reached early on in the game.
For Metcalf, he has already crossed that 1,000-yard threshold and has his sights set on the franchise record for receiving yards in a season, which was set back in 1985 by the legend Steve Largent at 1,287. Metcalf only needs five yards on Sunday to pass Largent up in the record books, but if his first matchup against the Bay Area club this season is any indication of how this time will go (12/161/2), then he will be able to clear that record a new one that will be very tough for him or any other wideouts to match in the future.
Both receivers have a great chance at putting up 100-plus receiving yards on Sunday, as they will be “going for it,” according to head coach Pete Carroll.
2. Russell Wilson gets sat down—but only for good reasons
The early-season hype train for Russell Wilson’s MVP chances was full-speed ahead, but after a few games that were filled with middling results from the former Badger, that train was put away into storage with the hope that 2021 brings it out again.
For Wilson, he has always shined bright during certain moments of every season, putting the team on his back and producing astronomical numbers. But his low points seem to be big-time deviations from his peaks, and those falls hurt his MVP stock big time.
Thankfully for the Seahawks, their offense is built where Wilson does not have to be an MVP-caliber signal-caller, something that helps push workaround to their wide receivers and running backs. But on Sunday, Wilson will be set up perfectly to enter the postseason on a hot streak, especially against a struggling San Francisco secondary that just wants this season to end.
In their Week 8 matchup, Wilson put up a modest yardage and completion line, going 27-of-37 for 261 yards, but his four passing scores certainly were a great part of this game. Now, the rushing attack was missing Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, so DeeJay Dallas was handling the bulk of the carries, meaning that Wilson had more control over the playbook and was consistently thrown into important passing situations.
A 350-yard, four-touchdown day for Wilson certainly could be in the cards (and only needing three quarters to do it), especially if the Niners end up just rolling over in the second half and just let Seattle do whatever they want to them on offense.
3. Seahawks defense enters postseason as a threat
The biggest exploitable factor of this Seattle team is their defense, as they were consistently shredded through both the air and the ground, helping other teams have field days against them, even if Seattle ended up pulling out the win. But they have actually come to play in the second half of the year.
The turning point seems to be traced back to their last matchup against the 49ers, where they racked up a modest total of three sacks. But ever since then, they have led the league in that category, as their 34 sacks over the last nine games of the 2020 season have been a real boost to their defensive production.
Surprisingly enough, their defense is led in sacks by safety Jamal Adams (9.5), showcasing how big of a role he has filled since he was acquired from the Jets earlier this season. Six other members of the defense have three-plus sacks on the year, so they have been able to spread the fun around.
With offensive tackle Trent Williams having just been added to the Injured Reserve, plus guard Ben Garland already on IR and centers Hroniss Grasu and Weston Richburg out, this offensive line is going to have its hands full with a charged-up defensive line looking to make Beathard’s life a living hell.
Five sacks? Six? Seven? The possibilities are endless. But what we do know is that it will be a long day for the San Francisco line Sunday.
4. Seattle moves up but does not earn a bye
With Green Bay traveling to face the Bears in Chicago and the Saints facing the Panthers in Carolina, all three of the current top seeds in the NFC will be on the road to end their regular seasons, so anything could happen.
The Bears certainly can be a tough team and have been picking up where they left off when they opened the season on a long winning streak, and they are still fighting for their playoff lives. All they need to do is beat Green Bay and they earn one of the final NFC spots.
But the Chicago secondary is going to be down some of their top corners, and with how just out of this world Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers have been so far this year, that seems like quite the tall task.
For the Saints, their game against the Christian McCaffrey–less Panthers looks to not be too tough of an obstacle to deal with, especially with how well their pass rush has been working over opposing offensive lines this year. But, the big caveats will be Drew Brees’ efficiency and how he operates with a converted receiver as his starting halfback, as Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, and fullback Michael Burton have all been ruled out due to either contracting COVID-19 or being in close contact with someone who tested positive.
So, Ty Montgomery now becomes RB1 for this team for this week (and maybe more), which will put a bigger focus on Emmanuel Sanders and whatever healthy receivers are left.
These three teams do not have easy matchups to end their seasons with, but at least one of the teams above the Seahawks should win on Sunday, keeping Seattle from securing the coveted bye.