The San Francisco 49ers are riding an eight-game winning streak and have posted back-to-back postseason road victories, but a return trip to the Super Bowl will hinge on overcoming a bitter rival and a venue that has been a house of horrors. The 49ers will visit the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, seeking to erase a pair of ugly defeats in their last two trips to the Pacific Northwest. Seattle has won the last two home matchups with the 49ers by a combined 71-16 score.
The Seahawks held off San Francisco to capture the NFC West title due in large part to their dominance at CenturyLink Field, where they are 16-1 over the past two seasons, including last week's 23-15 victory over New Orleans. The teams have split the past four meetings, with San Francisco prevailing 19-17 at home on Dec. 8 to avenge a 29-3 beating in Seattle in Week 2. “We’re ready to go,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. "We’re a different team than the last time we played them up there."
LINE HISTORY: Seattle opened as a field-goal home favorite and sharp action came in hard on the host, tacking a half-point hook on the line. The public money has sided with the red-hot Niners, however, and books are trying to stay at 3.5 by adjusting the vig on the Seahawks. The total opened at 41 points and action on the Under has pushed this number as low as 38.5. Books are bracing for wiseguys to come back on the Over if it continues to fall.
WEATHER REPORT: The forecast is calling for mostly cloudy skies and a 14 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the high 40s. Winds are expected to blow NNW, from corner to corner, but will only reach speeds of 1 mph.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: 49ers (-6.0) - Seahawks (-7.3) + Home field (-3.0) = Seahawks -4.3
KEY INJUIRES: 49ERS: Carlos Rogers CB - (Hamstring) Probable, Will Tukuafu FB - (Knee) Questionable. SEAHAWKS: Percy Harvin WR, (Concussion) Doubtful, K.J. Wright LB - (Foot) Questionable
WHAT BOOKS SAY: "Our bettors have been all over the 49ers in the playoffs. We’ve seen sharp money support the Seahawks at home all season and unlike last week, they’ve gotten the money more times than not. So this game and the line movement has been somewhat predictable." - Michael Stewart, CarbonSports.ag.
WHY SHARPS SAY: "It’s been four months since the Niners - disorganized at the time - went in to Seattle and got spanked. Since then, San Francisco has figured things out and playing on the road doesn’t seem to be all that much of an issue." - Covers Expert Art Aronson.
CHEERLEADER DEBATE: Niners or Seahawks?
Keeping Frank Gore in check will be key for Seahawks http://t.co/oPWku5kXJY— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 16, 2014
Pete Carroll vs. Jim Harbaugh never gets old: http://t.co/mGehlbg2cq— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) January 17, 2014
WHY BET THE 49ERS (14-4 SU, 12-6 ATS, 8-10 O/U): One difference from the first meeting is the presence of wideout Michael Crabtree, who has 30 receptions in seven games since returning to the starting lineup following Achilles' tendon surgery. Anquan Boldin had eight catches for 136 yards last week and tight end Vernon Davis caught his seventh touchdown pass in seven postseason games. Running back Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards against the Seahawks last month and has a pair of 200-yard games against Seattle.
WHY BET THE SEAHAWKS (14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS, 6-11 O/U): Seattle has the luxury of leaning on running back Marshawn Lynch, who piled up 140 yards and scored twice a week ago to give him five touchdowns and three 100-yard performances in his last five playoff games. The Seahawks' defense feeds off the raucous 12th Man crowd, ranking first in the NFL in points (14.4) and yards (273.3) permitted while also amassing a league-best 28 interceptions. The Seahawks have won six straight postseason home games, outscoring their opponents 174-109.
* Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Favorite is 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Home team is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 meetings.
* 49ers are 0-4 ATS in their last four meetings.
CONSENSUS PICK: San Francisco +3.5 (61%), Under 38.5 (67%)