Neil Harvey guides us though Sunday's second, live NFL game, where he's expecting Seattle to wrap-up home-field advantage for the play-offs, courtesy of a low-scoring win in San Francisco...
"If San Francisco are to move the ball, it will probably be a slow and painful process, which will be reliant on the scrambling of Kaepernick and the endurance of Gore. This approach will eat-up the game-clock in huge bites."
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Sunday December 8, 21:25
Live on Sky Sports 3
Officially the top-ranked team in the NFL right now, the 11-1 Seattle Seahawks need just one more win from their next four games to seal home-field advantage for the play-offs. The chances of them failing to do that appear super-slim to none. But there is a very real possibility that they could damage San Francisco's wildcard hopes en-route.
Lose this game, and suddenly the 49ers could find the likes of Arizona, Dallas or Philadelphia breathing down their neck in the race for a play-off spot. So if the head honchos in San Francisco aren't nervous, I'd suggest they should be. Especially when you consider the size of the task in front of them this weekend.
Seattle are my pick for the Superbowl, and with good reason. For starters, the Hawks are the best in the NFL when it comes to stopping quarterbacks. Heavyweight passers such as Cam Newton (125 yards), Andrew Luck (172), and Matt Ryan (229) have all come, and gone, having been manhandled by a Seahawks defense that averages almost three sacks a game. Then last week, came the ultimate proof of the Seattle D's ability, as they limited future Hall-Of-Famer Drew Brees to a laughable 147 yards passing, in their side's crushing 34-7 victory over New Orleans.
That makes Sunday's match-up, of Colin Kaepernick against the Seattle defense, the equivalent of Frank Bruno against Mike Tyson. And even then, I think I'm being generous. How's this for a stat? Only two quarterbacks in the entire NFL average fewer passing yards per game than Kaepernick (192), and they are Geno Smith of the Jets and Minnesota's Christian Ponder. That is proof, if you needed it, that Kaepernick really isn't good enough to be leading the 49ers offense.
But you needn't just take my word for it. You only have to look back to Week Two, when Seattle defeated San Francisco by 29-3. On that occasion, Colin Kaepernick was held to 127 yards and zero touchdowns, while suffering three sacks and three interceptions in the process. It was a brutal day for the 49ers and their QB all round, and showed the gulf in class that exists between these two teams.
The 49ers only hope of moving the ball looks to lie with their running game. They'll need it to fair better than in that Week Two clash though, when Frank Gore managed only 16 yards rushing, while Kapernick led the 49ers ground game with more than 80 yards. So if San Francisco are to move the ball, it will probably be a slow and painful process, which will be reliant on the scrambling of Kaepernick and the endurance of Gore. This approach will eat-up the game-clock in huge bites. But that's how the 49ers will want it, as their only hope of victory lies in ensuring a low-scoring game. Don't be surprised to see Kaepernick leading the 49ers in rushing yards once again, and even making a bid for the endzone when the 49ers get close.
Where Seattle should win it though is through their superior offense. Running back Marshawn Lynch, in particular, loves playing the 49ers. He's rushed for five touchdowns in their last two meetings and averages more than a hundred yards a game in career meetings. And the 49ers look in no shape to stop that pattern continuing, considering they've given-up more than a hundred yards rushing in each of their last five home games.
To be fair to San Francisco, they are no slouches on defense either, ranking third against the pass and 11th against the run. With home advantage and arguably greater motivation to get the win, I expect them to be playing eyeballs-out, and they are certainly capable of keeping this contest close in the early stages. But Seattle will want to wrap up their regular season this week. They just need to win, but won't care by how much. So I expect them to do exactly that, against a team they've gotten into the habit of beating.
Back Seattle to win @ 2.245/4
Back Under 41 points @ 2.001/1
Back Marshawn Lynch rushing yards to be over 77,5 @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back Marshawn Lynch to be first touchdown scorer @ 5.509/2 (Sportsbook)