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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 9:31 PM

The San Francisco 49ers game Sunday Night against the Seattle Seahawks that will have sports bettors glued to their TV sets isn’t just an important game in the NFC West race, or a potential playoff preview…it’s a game that matches the two most buzzworthy teams in the whole NFC, and arguably the entire NFL right now.

Seattle has been on fire, as rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has shown great leadership qualities on a team that’s also loaded on defense.

San Francisco just went to New England and knocked off AFC favorite New England, as their own inexperienced quarterback Colin Kaepernick continues to mature into a dynamic threat.


Sunday Night will bring a great test to BOTH of these young quarterbacks because BOTH will be facing great defenses. One thing about beating New England…they have a pretty soft defense. If you can control the point of attack, you have a chance to keep Tom Brady off the field. A few teams have proved that in recent postseasons. Seattle beat New England earlier this year as well.

Because there’s skepticism about Atlanta (who’s soft schedule we discussed yesterday), and Green Bay (who’s too one-dimensional), and the NFC East (where nobody’s better than 8-6 right now), there’s legitimate championship excitement with both of these teams. San Francisco isn’t afraid of anybody. Seattle isn’t afraid of anybody. Even though the brackets could get tricky, it wouldn’t be a shocker to see these two teams playing each other again in late January.

A fantastic battle…with a lot at stake.

SAN FRANCISCO: They currently lead the NFC West by 1.5 games, and would still be in position to hold onto the crown if they lose Sunday. As long as the Niners win at home as big favorites vs. Arizona in Week 17, they take the West and would earn a top four seed. BUT, a win for San Francisco would move them to 11-3-1, and would keep them ahead of Green Bay in the fight for a #2 seed and a first round bye. That’s huge! Having Wildcard weekend off is much better than having to host a dangerous #6 seed in what’s been a very competitive conference. That could be the NY Giants, Washington, Chicago, or Minnesota. The only good news that would come with a loss is that it would probably launch Seattle up to a #5 seed…where SF wouldn’t have to worry about them in the early rounds.

SEATTLE: They have no illusions about winning the division, because they know Arizona is unlikely to beat San Francisco next week. But, they know that their current record of 9-5 doesn’t give them much leeway in the crowded Wildcard race. Several teams were at 8-6 entering the weekend. Some of those are likely to move to 9-6. A Seattle loss would make the Seahawks 6-5 in the conference too, which could be a problem in tie-breakers. A win makes the Seahawks a virtual playoff lock because of their easy home finale.

In terms of the brackets…

SAN FRANCISCO wins: the Niners are probably a #2 seed, and will await the winner of #3 vs. #6 (Green Bay vs. the last Wildcard); while Seattle still has work to do to maintain the  #5 spot that would have them visiting the NFC East champion on Wildcard weekend.

SEATTLE wins: the Niners are probably a #3 seed, and will host the last Wildcard for the right to visit Green Bay (brrrr!); while Seattle carries a ton of confidence into a first round game against a worn down NFC East champion.

That’s the context. Let’s crunch some numbers…


Las Vegas Spread: Pick-em, total of 39

The market has gained a lot of respect for the Niners, and still has them rated three points better than Seattle on a neutral field. That sets up a pure pick-em here. San Francisco would be -6 at home were the teams to meet again in the playoffs. That low total suggests another defensive battle, just like the 13-6 slobberknocker we saw by the bay earlier this season.

WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)

San Francisco: 10-3-1 (5th ranked schedule)

Seattle: 9-5 (8th ranked schedule)

One reason the enthusiasm for these teams is legitimate is that they’ve posted great records vs. tough schedules. They’re a combined 18-7-1 when not playing each other against top eight schedules. We’ve seen teams go the distance from a Wildcard spot. Seattle has that capability. San Francisco has nothing left to prove after beating New England. (The home loss to the NY Giants can be blamed on Alex Smith!)


San Francisco: +8

Seattle: +11

Amazing job for Seattle considering their rookie quarterback. San Francisco plays a very conservative approach…which helps the team get the best of the risk/reward showdown in most games. Amazing that a pair of college coaches are teaching the NFL about fundamentals!


San Francisco: 362.1 yards-per-game on 6.0 yards-per-play

Seattle: 350.1 yards-per-game on 5.7 yards-per-play

We have very similar teams here, particularly with the switch to Kaepernick for the Niners. San Francisco gets a slight nod because they are a bit better in the math and played a slightly tougher schedule.


San Francisco: 293.0 yards-per-game on 4.6 yards-per-play

Seattle: 303.9 yards-per-game on 5.0 yards-per-play

Same story here. Just a bit better on both sides of the ball. It’s amazing how similar these teams are in style, approach, and the quality of production coming from inexperienced quarterbacks. We’ll say again that DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, which is why both of these teams are trophy contenders. Atlanta isn’t doing this on defense. Nobody in the NFC East is either. Only Chicago of the contenders can compete on this side of the ball…and Chicago may not make it to January.



Total Yardage: San Francisco 283, New England 520

Rushing Yards: San Francisco 180, New England 95

Passing Stats: San Francisco 14-25-1-203, New England 36-65-2-425

Turnovers: San Francisco 2, New England 4

Third Downs: San Francisco 36%, New England 13%

Vegas Line: New England by 4, total of 47

The Niners did allow a lot of yardage when they relaxed way too soon. But, note the edges in the important stats we’ve always emphasized to you on these pages. San Francisco won rushing yardage handily. San Francisco win third downs handily. And, not surprisingly, they also won turnovers. Classic football…on the road against the team Vegas had priced as the Super Bowl favorites.

SEATTLE 50, BUFFALO 17 (in Toronto)

Total Yardage: Seattle 466, Buffalo 333

Rushing Yards: Seattle 270, Buffalo 118

Passing Stats: Seattle 14-23-0-196, Buffalo 24-43-2-215

Turnovers: Seattle 0, Buffalo 3

Third Downs: Seattle 45%, Buffalo 38%

Vegas Line: Seattle by 5.5, total of 43

The second straight game that saw Seattle crack the half-century mark. Wow…270 rushing yards! You couldn’t build two teams who are currently better suited to playoff football than the Niners and the Seahawks in terms of what classically works in the postseason. Remember that New England had a defense and a running back when they were winning Super Bowls. This is what the Giants and Steelers looked like when they made their runs. The antidote to explosive quarterbacks is defense, rushing, and the ability to force turnovers.


Well, we have two evenly matched teams and the game is pick-em! JIM HURLEY is considering the value of home field advantage in this one. Seattle is known for loud crowds. San Francisco is known for taking opposing crowds out of the game. We do believe this particular angle could prove to be the tie-breaker that determines who wins and covers. We’ll also have to think about the Under because of the conservative, defensive nature of both teams. Though, we are talking about teams who scored 50 and 41 by themselves last week!

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Back with you Monday to preview the Hawaii Bowl matching Fresno State and SMU. Be sure you’re making the most of these last opportunities for STOCKING STUFFERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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