Ok, let’s get this out of the way. St. Louis hates these two teams. They are not only two of the Rams’ NFC West rivals, they are the most despised of the Rams’ rivals. And seeing both fight for a spot in the Super Bowl does not make Rams’ Nation feel any better.
But it’s still going to be a great, nasty, personal game.
First, there are the San Francisco 49ers. They finished second this season in the NFC West and were lead by third year QB Colin Kaepernick. He finished the 2013 regular season throwing for 3,197 yards, 21 TD’s, and only 8 INT’s. For the first time in his career, Kaepernick in the postseason finally has a dependable group of receivers that are healthy and can throw to, which are spearheaded by Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, who missed most of the regular season with a torn achilles tendon. The strength the 49ers have on offense is their running game, not only from star RB Frank Gore, who is the franchise leader in rushing yards, but Kaepernick has shown time and time again how well he can run and scramble.
As for defense, the 49ers are lead by Ahmad Brooks, who has had 4 1/2 sacks in two playoff games this year. The key player to watch out for on the 49ers defense is LB NaVorro Bowman, who had the pick-six in the game against Atlanta that essentially put San Francisco in the playoffs.
But they have to face their toughest task yet…the Seattle Seahawks and the “12th man”.
If there is any defensive unit that is tougher than the 49ers’, it’s Seattle’s. Seattle’s defense ranked first in the NFL regular season in points allowed (14.4), yards allowed (273.6), passing yards allowed (172.0), INT’s (28), turnovers (39) and had the best turnover differential at (+20). Led by some of the best defensive backs in the league, such as Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, despite allowing New Orleans’ to throw all over the field last week, the Seahawks still came through and pulled off the win.
On offense, Seattle has second year QB Russell Wilson and veteran back Marshawn Lynch, who is still in his prime and able to break off big runs at a moments notice. Their receiving corps, however, is depleted. They have talented targets in Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, and TE Zach Miller, but the loss of Percy Harvin has hurt the team this season, as it gives Wilson one less talented target to throw to. Last week, Harvin was taken out of the game, not once, but twice, and is officially OUT this week with a concussion. As for Lynch, he ran 301 times in the regular season for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns, once again showing to be one of the NFL’s most dominating backs.
There is no love lost between these two teams. When they met in Seattle in week 2 on Sunday Night Football, Seattle and the “12th man” routed the 49ers 29-3 in a completely one-sided win.
But when the two teams met in San Francisco 12 weeks later, it was the 49ers, and a game-winning field goal by Phil Dawson, that reigned supreme, beating Seattle 19-17.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is the first coach since the 1970 merger to lead his team to the conference championship in each of his first three seasons, including the Super Bowl last year, where they lost to Baltimore. As for Seattle coach Pete Carroll, he has won two national titles while at USC, so both coaches have had varying degrees of success. Both coaches are known for being eccentric on the sidelines, and very outspoken about plays and calls.
While the Patriots/Broncos game could be a shootout, this game could very well be a low scoring affair. Seattle and San Francisco possess two of the best defenses in the National Football League, and neither offense has done anything spectacular thus far in the postseason. Wilson has struggled a lot lately throwing the ball, with a passer rating under 80.0%. If Seattle wants to win this game, Wilson will need to make better throws and not get caught under pressure against the strong pass rush of San Francisco.
As for the 49ers, running the ball and experience in the NFC championship will be keys to them winning this game. Seattle’s strong pass defense will be on lock-down on receivers such as Boldin and Davis, so while you will need to pass during the game, running the ball around the outside running lanes will be a critical aspect of the 49ers’ offense.
But the biggest factor of all for both teams is the home crowd in Seattle. It is well known that the crowd in Seattle is ruthless to visiting teams (they were against the Niners back in week 2) and expect them to be even louder (if even possible) today as Seattle attempts to reach their second Super Bowl in team history.
Tonight will be a physical match-up between in-division rivals with the biggest ticket at stake: a ticket to the Super Bowl. It’s going to be a great championship match-up between two young QB’s who have yet to reach the prime of their careers, but are definitely on their way. Flags will be thrown, scuffles will occur, and two of the most trash-talking teams’ in the league will surely try and pack a punch in the mouth of the opposing team.