By Dave Thomas

Call it a must-win game or whatever you may like.

For the Seattle Seahawks, their Thursday evening match-up with the rival San Francisco 49ers on the road took on even more importance after this past Sunday’s 27-23 loss at home to unbeaten Carolina. It wasn’t just any loss; it was Seattle’s fourth loss of the season where it had blown a fourth quarter lead. As a result, a team that very easily could be 6-0 limps into Santa Clara Thursday evening against the other team with residency in the NFC West cellar.

When you took a look before the season began at the 2015 schedule, there is no doubt Seattle fans had this contest circled on their calendars. One of their old rivals, a Thursday night game in front of a nationwide audience, and an opportunity to possibly be riding a 5-0 wave or something close to it by late October. Instead, the Seahawks are in essence fighting for their playoff lives much earlier in the season than originally anticipated.

Niners Won’t Be A Pushover

Even though the mantra around the NFL is that no game is a lock, one looking at Seattle’s schedule may have dialed-up this week’s contest as potentially as close to a lock as possible. Sure, the Niners are an old divisional rival, but they came into this season with more question marks than whether or not Donald Trump can actually win the GOP nomination. A new head coach, several players taking early retirement and an up-and-down Colin Kaepernick at quarterback led many to believe San Francisco would be in for a long and painful season. After six games, the Niners are certainly not anyone’s choice to supplant Green Bay or Carolina as the top team in the NFC, but San Francisco is playing competitive football for the most part on a weekly basis.

So, what do the Seahawks have to do in order to leave the Bay Area with a win? For starters, Seattle must take the crowd out of the game. With a nationally televised game on Thursday Night Football, San Francisco will obviously be pumped up, plus toss in the fact that they’re playing one of their chief rivals.

Secondly, Seattle needs to establish its running game early, allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to then find his receivers and pick apart a questionable secondary (San Francisco overall has the 31st-ranked defense in the league).

Another key will be getting pressure on Kaepernick, who can look great at times and downright mundane at other times. Part of that pressure will need to come from guys like middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (missed the Carolina game with a pectoral injury) and secondary stalwarts Kam Chancellor (probable despite shoulder injury) and Richard Sherman (questionable with ankle injury).

With their season potentially on the line, expect the Seahawks to come out firing Thursday evening (5:25 p.m. Pacific, CBS/NFL Network) against a team that is also looking to escape the NFC West basement.

Probable:

Cliff Avril, defensive end (ankle)
Marcus Burley, defensive back (hand)
Kam Chancellor, strong safety (shoulder)
Frank Clark, defensive end (hamstring)
Tyler Lockett, wide receiver (hip)
Marshawn Lynch, running back (hamstring)
Tye Smith, corner (hip)
Bobby Wagner, middle linebacker (pectoral)

Questionable:

Justin Britt, offensive guard (hip)
Brock Coyle, middle linebacker (knee)
Demarcus Dobbs, defensive end (shoulder)
Garry Gilliam, tackle (ankle)
Jordan Hill, defensive tackle (quadriceps)
Patrick Lewis, corner (ankle)
Nick Moody, linebacker (ankle)
Richard Sherman, corner (ankle)

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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