Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
San Fran's three-wheeled wagon may lose its balance in the Monday night collision
Not many saw the San Francisco 49ers coming this year. And if they did, they were touting Jimmy Garoppolo under center as the likely heartbeat of the team. Here we are, though, at the close of Week 10 and the Niners are looking to extend their winning sequence to 9-0 for the current campaign. However, despite fitful flares of his latent talent, Garoppolo has seldom been the star. Instead, it's been the 49ers stalwart defense, allied to a breakout troika of talents at running back. In short, the three wheels of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are putting most Reliant Robins to shame.
Of course, it is Breida who is taking the lion's share of responsibility moving the chains for ground gains, but rotating a fired-up Coleman and Mostert into proceedings means rival Ds can seldom be certain who's coming, or if their distracted attentions are only going to free up Garoppolo's erratic cannon arm. Just witness San Francisco's staggering third-down conversion rate this term which, although third in the league at 48.6%, is premised on a more robust sample size. It appears third-and-long is no obstacle to this offense's progress down field, such is their variety.
That variety allowed their previously out-of-sorts quarterback to rebound last weekend with four touchdowns as part of a wider Passer Rating of 136.9. Even if those figures were recorded against a House of Cards still under construction - Garoppolo definitely got lucky with some friendly ricochets that could've gone for picks - you can't argue with the overarching trend.
The Niners now face an even more important head-to-head in the NFC West, hosting the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium. While they have already fallen to two defeats this term, the Hawks still have their destiny, and that on the NFC's number-one seeding, in their own talons. Win out - naturally easier said than done in this most open of regular seasons - and no-one on this side of the Conference divide would be able to surpass their 14-2 record. So, there's everything to play for and collective motivation will be at its zenith for this divisional duel in Santa Clara.
Wilson to prove he's still Seattle's one-man highlight reel
While San Francisco has its three-wheeled roadster, Seattle has the superior skills set of Russell Wilson, which seems to perennially remain in the highest of gears. Wilson has showcased his credentials in spades, both on the road to the Super Bowl in 2013 and also in the clutch of regular-season rebounds.
His twin-threat versatility allows him to throw on the run, and land it on a dime, while rookie DK Metcalf is emerging as this year's Tyler Lockett (another receiver who also been cleared to return for tonight's game). Sure, his O-line is not what is was, but no-one makes up an off-the-cuff winning narrative better than Wilson. Seek solace in his recent lofty PR marks north of 130 (378 yards for five touchdowns last time) which eclipse even Garoppolo's biggest days. A pass-offense median of 8.5 yards-per-attempt currently puts Seattle in the league's Top Five, so the Niners' D will have their work cut out against a full-strength receiving crew.
The naysayers will call Wilson a lone star of hope in a lesser Seahawks roster, which has bargained and bartered away many of its stars since its glory days. Granted, the dominant defensive days of the self-styled Legion of Boom are gone. So, without doubt, Seattle will have to step up on the road - shoring up a rush defense which barely ranks inside the NFL's second dozen.
That said, the whiff of a distinct dollop of luck - rather than judgement - persists when it comes to Garoppolo this year. He's struggled to find a reliable rhythm. Therefore, here's hoping that the Seattle D can slow (if not stop) the relentless rushers here to prove they haven't dropped off the furious pace set by the fabled LOB as much as most commentators fear. After all, while there may be three in-form runners in the backfield, there's only one football. And few follow it better than the Hawks on either side of the board.
So, it's Seattle to upset the applecart for me. After a few damp MNF squibs, this could finally prove the game of the week, if not the season so far.