It’s difficult to remain objective living in a city with such astonishing and electric fan support for a team that is at least among the best in the NFL, but I’ve been able to do that for years and have remained so all season long. Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers is certain to be a hard-fought football game from start to finish. It’s the third game of the year between the two teams, and the rubber match, not only for this season, but for the life of the rivalry.
|San Francisco 49ers||Seattle Seahawks
If this were Monday or Tuesday I probably would have landed on a 49ers victory, but after further review, I remain convinced that Russell Wilson will do enough in the passing game, without the big turnover to disrupt things, to keep the 49ers from loading up big on Marshawn Lynch and to lead the home team to a couple of touchdowns and three or four drives into the red zone.
The Seahawks’ run defense is critical and they have done a good job on Gore this season with one big exception — the 51-yard run late in the game Week 14 that eventually led to the game-winning field goal by Phil Dawson, handing San Francisco the 19-17 win.
I do believe Colin Kaepernick will do some things through the air, but I don’t see a mistake-free effort at CenturyLink for him and the 49ers’ offense hasn’t done a whole lot versus Seattle, home or away, over the past two seasons, with those 19 points the most they’ve managed.
Wilson’s struggles are partially due to a misstep in mechanics, which is as fixable as anything that causes struggles, and even without Percy Harvin the Seahawks can get enough from Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to roll up 180-220 passing yards to support the running game and defense.
The return of K.J. Wright is huge for Seattle, as they disguise coverage on tight end Vernon Davis as well as wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The key matchup for the Seahawks’ defense may be Bryon Maxwell on Michael Crabtree, particularly on third downs.
It’s not likely to be a pretty game, and the special teams units could play a big role, but I do favor the home team here in a tight game that could come down to the final drive and will almost certainly be decided in the fourth quarter.
It’s been a special season for the Seahawks, and the fans in the region have made it that much more extraordinary. That should continue for another few weeks.
|New England Patriots||Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are the favorites at home, but there’s not much to like about their defense and Tom Brady isn’t going to crumble amidst the crowd and thin air, suggesting the Patriots will score some points. It’s always easy to say the key to a game is how well one team runs the ball and how well the other can defend it, but in this matchup it very well could be that simple.
If LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley can do enough on first and second down to help Brady keep the chains moving
on third down, Peyton Manning, by far the Broncos most important weapon, is kept on the sideline where he can’t hurt New England’s defense.
The same is true for the Broncos when they have the ball, but they generally control the clock with fewer runs to Knowshon Moreno and more passes from Manning to the likes of Eric Decker and Wesley Welker. In the coaching matchup, it’s easy to pick Bill Belichick, despite John Fox being a seasoned veteran and one that has won more than one might remember.
Manning has more weapons to throw to, but the Patriots have the slightly better defense and running game — often the deciding factor for road victors — so I like the visitors here in a back-and-forth game, but one that will easily outscore the NFC title game.
– Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
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