If you are looking for a grudge-filled, hard-hitting rivalry game, then look no further than the 49ers vs the Seahawks. Both teams do not like each other, and believe me that’s a serious understatement. The depth to which these two teams are rivals is like no other in the world of sport right now.
To begin with, both the Seahawks and 49ers both play in the NFC West division, in my opinion the toughest division in the NFL. A division which not only contains these two giant teams, but also the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams: another two teams you do not want to take lightly.
The next layer of the rivalry stands at the feet of the head coaches of both teams. Pete Carroll of the Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers have an intense personal rivalry which goes back to when they were both coaches in college football, Carroll was with USC and Harbaugh with Stanford.
There are clear similarities between the teams, but the way the rosters have been constructed couldn’t have been more different.
When Jim Harbaugh went to San Francisco to become the head coach, the team were flat out terrible. It wasn’t because they didn’t have good players, far from it, it was just a matter of adequately coaching and managing the talent. When Pete Carroll left his then successful programme at USC to join the Seahawks, he essentially went in and started from scratch with the help of General Manager John Schneider. This is made quite clear when you see the number of roster moves made by the team in the first season, over 200, and they continued to mould the team into a winning machine.
The system Carroll has introduced in Seattle is very much a hybrid of college and NFL football. The team’s star players are all lower round draft picks, each with chips on their shoulders. Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson are names likely to make an impact in this game.
Unlike the AFC Championship game, this game will match up two of the NFL’s premier young quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. To many in and around the NFL, Colin Kaepernick is the quarterback you want for your franchise. He has everything that you need in a quarterback in terms of physical capabilities; he’s tall, strong armed, and his leg speed gives him a dynamism that almost no other player in the NFL can match. With these abilities Kaepernick can change the course of a match very easily should the other team’s defence let him.
Russell Wilson is an underdog, though this will only drive him further to achieve greatness. The first thing people point at when criticising Wilson is his lack of height. At 5ft 11, that is nowhere near what ‘experts’ expect to have in a quarterback. What makes Russell Wilson a truly special player is his work ethic, the amount of work he puts into his game is outstanding; people who play any form of sport need to look no further than Russell Wilson for an example in terms of inspiration and motivation. The thing to watch out for in Wilson’s game is his escapability and his ability to improvise or to make things happen from seemingly ‘dead’ plays.
This is a massive game for both of these quarterbacks, so it will be interesting to watch how they handle the pressure and whether they can step up into the moment.
The key match-up in this game is without doubt, the play of the two defences. Whereas in the Denver – New England game there will be two mediocre defences facing off, in this game it will be two of the elite.
The Seahawks and 49ers have the two best defences in the NFL and how you order them is down to personal preference. For the 49ers, it is the linebacking group who control the defence and can play a huge role, look out for NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks and their leader Patrick Willis.
For Seattle it is the ‘Legion of Boom’, which is their secondary, consisting of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Walter Thurmond and Earl Thomas. Any one of these players can make a game changing play during the match which makes them a must see.
In my opinion however, the two most important players in this game are Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore, running backs for the Seahawks and 49ers respectively. The play of these two players will determine who goes on to win this match. If either team struggles to hold on to the ball for any period of time through running with it, it will put tremendous strain on their defence which could lead to a breakdown at any point.
The fact that the match is being held in Seattle changes the complexion of this matchup. The Seahawks are almost invincible on their home turf and the atmosphere that this game will generate will be like no other. Seattle being in the NFC Championship game would create an amazing atmosphere at Century Link Field anyway, but the fact they’re playing their biggest rivals will take it over the edge. In short, this game is a must-see.