Coming off an embarrassing performance against the NY Giants last week, the (4-2) San Francisco 49ers hope to get back on the winning track when the (4-2) Seattle Seahawks invade Candlestick Park for an exciting Thursday Night Football showdown.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST (5:30 p.m. PST) and like all TNF games this season, it’ll be broadcasted live on NFL Network.
According to this week’s Thursday Night Football predictions, the Niners should to take sole possession of first place in the NFC West when the clock hits triple-zeros. The only question is: Can Frisco cover tonight’s point spreads against a formidable Seahawks defense?
For starters, let’s begin by stating that the 49ers will enter this game as 7-point NFL odds 2012 favorites over Seattle (+7) and the OVER/UNDER is set at a total of 38 points.
For the Seahawks, they’re without question one of the most surprising storylines of the 2012 NFL season. Absolutely no one could have predicted that Seattle would find itself tied with SF and Arizona atop the NFC West almost halfway through the year.
“Improbable” would also be the word best used to describe Russell Wilson’s rookie season, as the former third-round draft pick has been every bit as good as advertised, if not better.
Through 6 NFL games, the 23-year-old signal-caller has completed 95 of 152 pass attempts (62.5%) for a total of 1108 yards, 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, earning a modest 85.6 quarterback rating for the season.
“I think I’m always comfortable no matter the situation, I think I’m just more experienced,” Wilson said after engineering a game-wining drive in the closing minutes of last week’s win over New England. “Being in those situations you have to trust what you see, you have to be quick with your decisions, but also believe in your decisions and just be decisive with the football.”
Having that said, in terms of the big picture and thus, for tonight’s game, it’s worth noting that statistically, Seattle possesses one of the worst offenses in all of football.
Before Thursday night’s kickoff, the Seahawks rank 28th in points per game (18.3), 29th in total yards (300.7), 31st in passing yards (169.7), and their best offensive area is running the football, where they rank a respectable 7th in the league (131).
From a defensive standpoint, there aren’t too many holes in this roster. With 6 games in the books, the Seahawks “D” ranks 2nd in points allowed (15.5), 4th in total yards (294.7) and 2nd at defending the pass (70.0).
However, one did say that this defense doesn’t have too many holes, right? Well, the one soft spot that the Niners need to exploit in order to come away victorious depends on the play of struggling quarterback, Alex Smith.
Going into this intradivisional matchup, Seattle’s defense ranks 13th in the league against opposing passers, yielding an average of 224 yards through the air.
If Smith can keep his poise in the pocket, find open receivers and one-on-one matchups, he’ll redeem himself and more importantly put his team in a position to win this ballgame.
But make no mistake about it, this game will be decided by defenses and special teams. Nevertheless, it will not take place the way most people envision it happening.
These teams are so evenly matched defensively that they’ll pretty much neutralize each other in that department.
Instead, one should be focused on which team wins the turnover and the special teams battle. Whichever team can gain an edge in either one, or both of those areas, will prevail.
Utilizing that same logic, if I was to try and choose a single party responsible for tonight loss, blame would unfortunately be placed on the key player with the least amount of NFL experience.
Rest assured that the 49ers secondary will be chopping at the bit every single time Wilson drops back to pass. That, in addition to the pressure that he’s likely to get from the second best pass-defense in the league, turnovers are almost inevitable.
Here’s the key for a San Francisco 49ers victory tonight: Pressure Wilson and force him into making mistakes, because in the end, he’s never faced a defense like the one the 49ers feature.
Because I believe this strategy will lead costly errors from Seattle’s young signal-caller, I like San Fran to cover tonight’s 7-point spread and send a message not only to the NFC West, but to the rest of the National Football Conference.
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