Monday Night Football is finally putting on a game people should cancel plans for just to make sure they’re able to watch.
When the season began, neither of these teams were favored to win even the NFC West, so schedule-makers shouldn’t be taking a bow. In fact, the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook had the 49ers at +180 to make the playoffs and the Seahawks at +135. They’re not in the business of giving away money, so few could’ve foreseen that the Week 10 finale would match two of the conference top-four. San Francisco (8-0 SU, 5-3 ATS) has already dominated once on the Monday stage and is the final remaining unbeaten. Seattle (7-2, 4-5) is off to its best start since opening 11-1 in 2013. The Seahawks, who ironically suffered their second loss that season at the Niners, went on to win the Super Bowl.
There’s a very good chance that one of these teams taking the field on what’s expected to be a clear, windy night in Santa Clara will end up in Miami for Super Bowl LIV.
The 49ers are the only team in the NFL besides the Patriots with a point-differential of over 100, having outscored opponents 235-102, an average score of roughly 29-13. Five of their victories have come on the road and they’ve only failed to cash three times after surrendering a late touchdown against Arizona last time out to let the Cards pull off a backdoor cover. The 25 points they surrendered on Halloween night were a season-high and more than doubled the output against them over their previous four October games that saw them give up just 23.
This will be a major test to see if that defense can rebound, especially since they’ll be going up against the MVP favorite Russell Wilson without LB Kwon Alexander, who has been lost for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn pectoral last Tuesday. Wilson is 24-5-1 in primetime games, making him the biggest winner among QBs in such games since the merger.
This is going to be an immense test for Jimmy Garoppolo too. The quarterback was injured last season and had mostly experienced NFL life through backing up Tom Brady, so he is really going through all these big games for the first time. Pete Carroll will have blitzes and disguised defenses up his sleeve to try and force turnovers and spark an issue back up that Garoppolo has only recently been able to overcome.
Seattle has dominated the regular-season series in winning 12 of the last 14 meetings – details at the bottom – but lost the most recent matchup last December in a game started by backup Nick Mullens. A Richie James 97-yard kickoff return helped San Francisco find its footing early and it eventually won at home 26-23 to snap a 10-game losing streak in the series. The 49ers are prepared to stop being regarded as a surprise and look to begin their ascent to previous heights.
The Seahawks are intent on making sure that doesn’t happen. Wilson’s ability to keep plays alive should prove handy against the conference’s stingiest defense, especially given the pass rushers they bring to the table. He was sacked three times in last season’s loss but will get a new toy to work with in Josh Gordon, who strengthens a receiving corps that has excelled due to the efforts of Tyler Lockett and rookie DK Metcalf.
Seattle has won five of six, but only one of its victories has come against a team with a winning record. The Seahawks are 4-0 on the road, but all of the games have been close and only one was an upset. This will be a proving ground for both teams, but my expectation is that we’ll be taking the 49ers and Seahawks seriously come January regardless of what transpires at Levi’s Stadium tonight. The divisional rematch will be played Week 17 at Century Link Field on Dec. 29. If the Seahawks are hoping to win the NFC West and compete for homefield advantage come playoffs, they’ll need to find a way to hand San Francisco its first loss here.