What: 49ers at Seahawks
When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Century Link Field, Seattle
Three reasons I like the Seahawks
1. Having a first-round bye, plus home field advantage, should pay off for Seattle.
There are plenty of reasons to like the 49ers. They have played better than the Seahawks the past six weeks. Playmaking wide receiver Percy Harvin (concussion) is out for the Seahawks, and he would have been an asset in a game like this.
However, the 49ers have already endured two tough playoff games, beating the Packers and the Panthers. The Seahawks should be the fresher team, and they have the best home field advantage in football. At some point in the second half, I expect the Seahawks to control the line of scrimmage. And when that happens, look for running back Marshawn Lynch to lead a surge that puts the Seahawks over the top
2. The Seahawks can contain 49ers running back Frank Gore.
Over his last two games in Seattle, Gore has gained just 44 yards on 15 carries. Stop Gore, and you can make the 49ers one-dimensional. When that happens, quarterback Colin Kaepernick becomes less effective. Kaepernick has only thrown 11 interceptions over the past two seasons, but four of them have come in Seattle. If Gore is shut down again, I don’t think the 49ers will score enough to win.
3. Seattle’s secondary is the best in the business.
The safety tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor is outstanding. Richard Sherman may be the top corner in the NFL. Just ask him. And the other corner, Byron Maxwell, has done a superb job replacing the suspended Brandon Browner. http://mmqb.si.com/2014/01/16/richard-sherman-byron-maxwell-seattle-seahawks-nfc-championship/
There is a reason why the Seahawks ranked No. 1 in total defense, and No. 1 in pass defense. They are that good. The 49ers have a trio of superb weapons in the passing game – ex-Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and tight end Vernon Davis. But the Seahawks can blanket them, especially if the officials allow the Seahawks’ secondary to play physically.
Prediction: This is the NFL’s best rivalry right now, so expect a hard-hitting classic. But I expect the Seahawks to prevail, 23-20.