Cleat Geeks

Thursday Preview: Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers

Thursday Night Football will be an NFC West battle between the Seahawks and the 49ers. This will only be the 34th meeting between the two teams; Seattle leads the series 18-15. Entering this season, I don’t think anymore would have guessed that this game would be between the two teams that are tied with the worst records in the division at 2-4. Even though the 49ers are in rebuilding mode with all of the changes this offseason, the Seahawks were built to compete for a Super Bowl for the third season in a row. Alas, this is the reality, and this is matchup on Thursday.

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The Seahawks have experienced their struggles so far this season, but they look to begin the turnaround Thursday. Their main source of their poor play has been the offensive line’s blocking, or lack thereof. Russell Wilson has been sacked a league-high 26 times so far this season, with four of them coming last week against the Panthers. With Wilson constantly running away from defenders in the backfield, plays do not get a chance to develop, and the offense struggles. The most talented receiving option for him is his tight end, Jimmy Graham. After struggling for most of the season so far, Graham caught eight of his twelve targets for 140 yards last week. That marked his season-high in all three categories. Another reason for their struggles is the absence of their lead-back, Marshawn Lynch. He returned last week and scored his first touchdown of the season, but still ran poor. Lynch’s average per rush this season is only 3.3 yards, which is the worst of his career. Yes he has been injured, but the majority of this blame rests on the offensive line’s shoulders. The defense in Seattle is also not what it has been in years past. They definitely have improved after the return of safety Kam Chancellor, but they still are not great. They only have three interceptions as a team this season, and one of them is actually from Chancellor. There are only three teams in the NFL that have less than them: Bengals, Packers, and Patriots. Strangely enough, all three of those teams are undefeated, and arguably the best three teams in the league.

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The 49ers have also struggled this season, but it was to be expected after all of the turnover on their team, especially the defense. After rough showings weeks two through four, the 49ers are starting to play better. They came out victorious at home last week as the defeated the Ravens 25-20. The main reason for their recent success has been quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He has back-to-back multi-touchdown games without throwing an interception, and he looks like a more mature quarterback. He isn’t forcing the ball downfield when nothing is there, he isn’t running around in the backfield, and he even isn’t staring down one receiver. Some of his success is of course due to the matchups (Giants and Ravens). When he is able to throw the ball and run the offense effectively, it opens up the game for running back Carlos Hyde, and it gives the defense time to rest. His ability to keep drives going will be the key for them on Thursday night.

 

Fantasy:

Richard Sherman, Anquan Boldin

The offense for Seattle has been a bit better the past two weeks, reaching 330+ total yards in both. At the same time, the 49ers gave up over 400 yards to the Ravens and over 500 yards to the Giants. In other words, Seattle should be able to move the ball. Seattle’s identity is obviously a run-first team. That being said, I think they come out of the gates trying to get Lynch going. He has struggled so far, but they know that if he is effective, the 49ers don’t have a chance. I think he will be moderately effective and gain around 60-80 rushing yards, and I think he will find the end zone for the second week in a row. The way teams are moving the ball against the 49ers is through the air, and I think this sets up a very nice game for Wilson. I think he will gain about 300 total yards with a couple of scores. I think the targets will be distributed pretty evenly between Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse.

There aren’t many fantasy options on the 49ers that you will feel comfortable starting. Could Kaepernick have another great game and make everyone around him better, yes. Will he? I’m not completely convinced that will play a full game like he has the past two weeks, but I think we’ll get glimpses. I think he will finished with pretty average stats, and gain around 220-260 total yards. If he is able to carve up this Seahawk defense, I would think Boldin benefits the most. Bolden has received 21 targets over the past two weeks, and he gained over 100 yards in both games. Torrey Smith continues to be a big-play guy, and I think it will be hard to get a big play on Seattle. The way teams have really hurt the Seahawks the past two weeks is with their tight ends. Last week Olsen gained 131 yards, and Eifert gained 90 the week before. Unfortunately, nobody has faith in Vernon Davis, and I think that includes the 49ers. Running backs have been alright against Seattle so far, so I think Hyde is an okay start, but I would call him a middle-value RB2.

 

Prediction:

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Games between these two teams are usually physical, and that should continue Thursday. This game comes down to two things: 1) Whoever brings the physicality while keeping their composure; and 2) Whoever can keep their quarterback upright. Overall, I think Seattle is a better team, but they struggle to finish games. I think the Seahawks will finish the game on Thursday, or at least escape with a win, as they defeat the 49ers 24-20.

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