San Francisco 49ers (14-4 SU, 12-6-1 ATS) vs. Seattle Seahawks (14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS)
NFC Championship Game
Date and Time: Sunday January 19th, 2014. 6:30PM Eastern
Where: CenturyLink Field Seattle, W.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SF +3.5/SEA -3.5
Over/Under Total: 39.5
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The stage has been set for a colossal grudge match when the San
Francisco 49ers meet the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink
Field in the NFC Championship Game this Sunday. Luckily for 49ers fans,
San Francisco will roll into Seattle playing their best football of the
season. After scoring a win at Green Bay in one of the coldest playoff games
on record, the 49ers followed suit with another impressive 23-10 victory
over the Panthers last week. The win earned the 49ers their 3rd straight
NFC Championship appearance under Coach Jim Harbaugh and moved the team
one step closer to revenging last years Super Bowl loss to Baltimore. Even
though the 49ers are playing their best football of the season, they will
still be 3.5 point underdogs this Sunday when they go into the NFLs most
hostile environment and home of the 12th man at CenturyLink Field.
Normally I do not consider home field advantage very important in playoff games. Just do a little research and you will see plenty of road victories from the past few Super Bowl Champions. Its more about playing your best football when the time is right just as Green Bay did as a number 6 seed in 2010 along with both the Giants and Ravens as number 4 seeds the last two years. However CenturyLink Field appears to be an exception to the rule. Seattle has the luxury of having the proven loudest outdoor stadium in the world and they play their best football with the 12th man at their back. The Seahawks have won 16 of their last 17 home games and expect the crowd to be rampant with a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII on the line.
Of course the Seahawks have much more than just a loud home field advantage. Coach Pete Carroll has one of the most physical football teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball. The offense has a power running attack led by Pro Bowl tailback Marshawn Lynch. Lynch led the Seahawks in the win over New Orleans last week by piling up 140 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Lynch was the workhorse for the offense with 29 carries and he will likely be the focal point again this week. The Seahawks defense is also one of the most physical units in the league especially against the pass. Defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are vital components to the Seahawks top ranked pass defense that gave up just 172 yards per game during the regular season which was the lowest mark since the 2009 Jets pass defense.
The Seahawks have the talent on defense to really challenge the 49ers receiving corps led by the big trio of receivers Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and tight end Vernon Davis. Until this point, no defense has had an answer for the 49ers passing attack. Crabtree led the way with 8 receptions for 125 yards in the win against Green Bay. The Panthers defense put a safety over the top of Crabtree and kept two guys on him most of the game last week. However that only opened the door for Anquan Boldin who caught 8 passes for 136 yards to help lead the 49ers in their victory over the Panthers. Seattle matches up much better with the 49ers receiving corps and the outcome of this NFC Championship Game likely depends on who wins the match-up between the Seattle secondary and the 49ers receivers.
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The other x factor in the outcome of the NFC Championship Game will be the quarterback play by both teams. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has more wins the any quarterback in NFL history through their first two seasons at 26 total victories. Wilson is an escape artist that is nearly impossible to sack and can make plays with his legs as well as his arm. The Seahawks quarterback has thrown for 3,357 yards this season resulting in 26 touchdowns and just 9 picks. The 49ers have a similar dual threat passer with quarterback Colin Kaepernick who is undoubtedly playing his best football of the season. Kaepernicks legs helped capture the win at Lambeau with 97 rushing yards and he has been solid throwing the football as well over the past few weeks.
I would give the edge to Kaepernick as the more dangerous quarterback between the two. However, Seattles defense will make things very difficult for him this week as well. Likewise Wilson may find things much tougher this week as well. Do not expect Marshawn Lynch to run wild on the 49ers defense this week like he did against New Orleans. San Francisco is more physical up front and sported the 4th best run stop unit in the NFL during the regular season. Therefore that may put more responsibility on Russell Wilson to make things happen with his arm or possibly his feet. Wilson was rather shaky against New Orleans completing just 9 of 18 passing for 103 yards. It will be interesting to see how Wilson plays this week especially if he is needed even more. Ultimately, both quarterbacks will face difficult challenges this week and this game could easily be decided by the guy that is able to make the crucial plays down the stretch when it counts.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The opening total was released at 39.5 and is a good indicator of what type of game this will be. Both offenses will be challenged and defenses will be relied upon heavily. I could write a book on why I think the 49ers will win this game but I will spare you the time. Take the team playing their best football, take the quarterback that is playing better, and take the better coach. Take the 49ers +3.5!