Despite San Francisco's improved effort on Sunday, Seattle's Legion of Boom can return to form to haunt the Niners' quarterback, says Romilly Evans, in this pivotal NFC West match-up
"Like Wilson, Kaepernick is getting sacked more than ever before, while his faulty throwing mechanics seem to be catching up with him"
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Start-time: Friday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS1
This divisional duel is a tale of two talented young quarterbacks who have been living down to expectations this year, after leading their teams deep into the play-offs and the Super Bowl over the past few seasons. Which will right the ship and restore fair winds and following seas to their current campaign?
Well, the Vegas line points in favour of Russell Wilson and his Seattle Seahwaks, despite their paltry 2-4 returns so far this term. The Hawks have made slow starts before, of course, only to find their stride for a protracted postseason push. And Wilson has been at the controls for both the past two Super Bowl seasons, so he knows the time of day.
That said, Wilson appears to have lost his big-game composure. He is presently the most-sacked QB in the NFL (falling another four times against Carolina last Sunday). Relying on his fleet feet has often granted him a way out of the defensive maze, but it appears opponents are getting wiser to his moves, and the 26-year-old simply must get rid of it earlier, even if that means chucking it away to the sidelines.
On the other side of the coin, the Seahawks' once-feared Legion of Boom have also been unrecognizable. They nearly blew a massive lead again lowly Detroit (but for a botched touchback call from the zebras) and then positively proved they weren't to be trusted against Carolina at the weekend. A 17-7 lead evaporated against an average offense in the final quarter, which low-lighted a couple of blown coverages from the LOB. The result was just the second loss at home for the Hawks in the past two years. So if alarm bells aren't officially ringing, their circuits were at least being tested.
This trip to Bay Area should offer some welcome respite, however. For the San Francisco 49ers are a depleted outfit this season, suffering from wholesale change in personnel and a star quarterback in Colin who's looking more everyman than Superman these days.
This former star pitcher in college (he could throw up to a wafer shy of 100mph) shapes like he's walking batsmen to first base, as opposed to firing accurate bullets over the plate. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is decaying at the head of the worst-scoring offense in the league. As with Wilson, Kaepernick is getting sacked more than ever before, while his faulty throwing mechanics seem to be catching up with him.
Then again, his arm strength hasn't vanished, as evidenced by the Niners' crucial win over Baltimore last week, where CK registered 16 of 27 for 340 yards, including a 76-yard bomb. Anquan Boldin pouched five catches for 102 yards, while Torrey Smith also snaffled three receptions for 96 yards. Is normal service resuming? Well, Boldin has pulled his hamstring and missed early practice this week. However, the general trend in San Francisco points to an upswing in fortunes for an offensive line finally bedding into cohesion. Now if Kaepernick can rediscover his trademark twin-threat versatility, we could have a dogfight on our paws for second place in the NFC West.
When all's said and done, though, it's the Seahawks that will edge this on the current handicap marks for me (do jump on board early) especially acknowledging more doubts over San Fran's ailing O in this short week. Appearances can be deceptive, but Kam Chancellor's return has restored assured familiarity to the Hawks' D (ignore his little on-field tiff with Richard Sherman). While Wilson did at least reconnect with tight end Jimmy Graham eight times for 140 yards. These giants may at last be stirring from their slumber for an encounter where the chains could move with surprising ease.
Back Seattle Seahawks (-6) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.9310/11 or better
Back Seattle Seahawks (-3) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.9310/11 or better
Back Over 41.5 Total Points @ 2.111/10 or better