Tale of the tape: San Francisco at Seattle
The NFC West has the honor of being the final game of Week 16, thanks to the NFL’s flex schedule. San Francisco and Seattle get bumped into primetime and we’ve got the betting breakdown for this divisional grudge match:
San Francisco’s scoring attack is on another level ever since Colin Kaepernick took over under center. The Niners are averaging over four points more per game with Kaepernick in place of Alex Smith – 28 ppg from 23.6 ppg – in the past six outings. San Francisco is coming off a 41-point effort in New England last week, getting four passing touchdowns from the former second-stringer.
Seattle is another team turning its offense around in the second half of the season. The Seahawks have exploded the past two weeks, scoring a combined 108 points in wins over Arizona and Buffalo. After putting up just 16.5 points per game in its first seven contests, Seattle is averaging 33.4 points over its last seven. Rookie QB Russell Wilson is blossoming into a scoring threat, posting a TD:INT ratio of 13-to-2 in that seven-game span.
Edge: San Francisco
The 49ers limited the Seahawks to just six points when they met in Week 7. San Francisco has the top ranked defense in the NFC, giving up only 15.6 points per game, but has softened a bit over the past six outings. The Niners are giving up over 19 points to foes during that span, however, one of those efforts was "limiting" New England to 34 points. A big part of that defense, DE Justin Smith, is questionable for Sunday after leaving with an elbow injury in the second half of last week’s game in New England.
Seattle is tied in terms of points allowed with San Francisco but has been weaker versus the run, giving up an average of 106.3 yards on the ground. The Seahawks defense gets a boost from the infamous “12th Man” at CenturyLink Field. They give up just 277.5 yards per game at home (323.8 ypg on the road), allow only 17 first downs per home game (19.5 per road game), and leak just 11.5 points per home game – over a touchdown less than on the road.
San Francisco sits eighth in the NFL in kick return yards (25.1) and 13th in average punt return yards (10.0), getting a recent boost from rookie speedster LaMichael James. On the other side of the ball, the Niners have been dismal defending kick returning, allowing foes to run back for an average of 27.2 per kick – second worst in the NFL. Punt coverage has been sharper, giving up just 6.9 yards per punt. Kicker David Akers is less-than reliable, going just 25 for 35 on FGs this season. Akers is also nursing a tender pelvis.
Seattle has been solid on kick coverage, giving up just 22.4 yards per kickoff and nine yards per punt. The Seahawks have given themselves great starting field position thanks to a return game that ranks fourth in kickoff returns (27.6 ypg), led by Leon Washington. However, the shifty back is dealing with an undisclosed illness and could be under the weather in Week 16. Kicker Steven Hauschka has been a steady foot, going 22 for 25 on FG attempts but don’t count on him for the big boot. He’s 1 for 4 on FGs of 50 yards or more this season.
Word on the street
"These specialists, sometimes they only get four or five opportunities a game. You've got to make the play. We've got to see him do it. We've got to see him make those plays." – 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh on the struggles of K David Akers.
"I'm anticipating we'll have him. We know nothing else at this point." – Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on the status of suspended standout CB Richard Sherman, who is appealing a four-game suspension after testing positive for Adderall.