When: Saturday, 1:15 p.m., CenturyLink Field
Records: Seahawks 7-7 and tied for second in NFC West; 49ers 11-3 and already have clinched the NFC West title
Ramifications: Seahawks need a win to remain in the playoff hunt; 49ers need a win to keep pace with the also 11-3 Saints for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs
TV: Fox (channel 13 in Seattle), with Ron Pitts, Charles Davis and Drea Avent
Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Rest of the West: Cardinals (7-7) at Bengals; Rams (2-12) at Steelers
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch vs. the 49ers defense: The Seahawks will run the ball, even against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense and a unit that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season or a 100-yard rusher in its past 36 games. They have to, because it has become their offensive identity, one they’ve been striving to achieve all season. After rushing for 100-plus yards in six consecutive games, the Seahawks were held to 60 – and Lynch to 42 – by the Bears last week. But they continued to run: 20 carries for Lynch and 33 for the team. Despite averaging 1.8 yards per carry, the threat of the run – and what Lynch is capable of doing on any given run – helped set up the play-action passes that allowed Tarvaris Jackson to complete 15 of 19 passes for 176 yards in the second half. The Seahawks must have the same mindset against a 49ers’ defense is allowing averages of 71.5 rushing yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry.
One to watch
Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor and LB K.J. Wright vs. 49ers TE Vernon Davis: Of all the options the 49ers have on offense, none is as difficult to deal with as the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Davis. He has the size of a tight end, but the speed and receiving skills of a wide receiver. And when quarterback Alex Smith gets in trouble, Davis is the first place he looks. The 49ers have only two receivers with more than 19 receptions – Davis, with 55 for 620 yards and six TDs; and wide-out Michael Crabtree, 59 for 703 and two. But while you know what you’re getting with Crabtree, you never know where Davis is going to be or who might have to matchup against him. Davis has 26 TD catches since 2009, the most of any tight end in the league.
Fun to watch
49ers RB Frank Gore vs. the Seahawks run defense: Gore is no stranger to the Seahawks, having put together 212-, 207- and 144-yard games against them. But that was in 2006 and 2009, and these Seahawks are not those Seahawks. They’re bigger, more aggressive, more physical and just better against the run. The Seahawks are allowing an average of 106.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks 11th in the league; and 3.7 yards per carry, which ranks fourth. They need to control Gore and then get Smith into must-pass situations to unleash a pass defense that has nine interceptions during the team’s three-game winning streak and produced four sacks last week.
One tough task
The Seahawks’ offensive line vs. 49ers lineman Justin Smith: Say what you will about inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman and rookie pass-rusher Aldon Smith, but even 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh says that Justin Smith is the team’s MVP. That’s because he can line up so many places, and cause so many problems from all of them. And even on those occasions where you’re able to handle Smith, his disruptive and at time overpowering presence creates opportunities for his teammates because of the extra attention he warrants.
The Seahawks’ defense has allowed the fewest points (93) and second-fewest touchdowns (nine) in the league during the second half. … The 49ers lead the league in turnovers (35) and turnover ratio (plus-25), but no team in the NFL has take-aways in the past six games than the Seahawks (18). The 49ers are second (16) during that span. … In the 49ers’ 33-17 victory in the season opener, Ted Ginn returned a kickoff (102 yards) and a punt (55 yards) for touchdowns in the fourth quarter after the Seahawks had cut their lead to 19-17. But he is not expected to play in this game because of a sore ankle. … Lynch has the most rushing yards in the league (748) over the past seven games and has scored a TD in his past 10 games, a franchise record and the longest streak in the league since 2006. … Jackson has a passer rating of 104.5 during the team’s three-game winning streak, and it spikes to 130.4 in the second halves of those games. … CB Brandon Browner has intercepted a pass in the past four games and can break the franchise record with one against the 49ers. He also leads the league and has set a club record with 220 return yards on his six interceptions. … 49ers K David Akers already has set a single-season franchise record with 143 points. … 49ers P Andy Lee is second in the league in average (50.5, by .1 to the Raiders’ Shane Lechler) and is first in net average (44.1). … 49ers FS Dashon Goldson and CB Carlos Rogers also have six interceptions, which tie them for fourth in the league with Browner. … Bowman (135) and Willis (115) led the 49ers in tackles. … MLB David Hawthorne (95) leads the Seahawks in tackles.