Countdown to kickoff

Season’s Greetings from CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks are hosting the 49ers today in their home finale – and on Christmas Eve – with kickoff and coverage on Fox (channel 13 in Seattle) set for 1:15 p.m.

What’s left to say about this game that hasn’t already been said?

The best place to start is the playoff implications, because they’re there for both teams. Several times in the online chats during the three-game winning streak that has pulled the Seahawks to 7-7, people have asked: If the Seahawks win this game do they make the playoffs? The answer has been no, and it will remain no even if they’re able to upset the 49ers. Because the Seahawks have to win today and next week in Arizona against the also-surging Cardinals to even have a chance to advance to the postseason, and they still need some help. That’s because the Lions and Falcons already have won nine games, so the Seahawks need those teams to lose.

For the 49ers, they’re 11-3 and already have wrapped up the NFC West title. But they also need to keep winning to secure the No. 2 seed in the conference, and a first-round bye in the playoffs, because the Saints also are 11-3. The Saints and Falcons meet on Monday night, and the Seahawks and 49ers will be pulling for different teams for different reasons – if the Seahawks are still in the hunt by then.

But there’s so much more involved in this game:

Like, will Marshawn Lynch become the first player to score a rushing touchdown against the 49ers? The 49ers’ defense actually has been impressive for the past couple of seasons, but people are finally noticing because of that 11-3 record. And they’re ridiculously good against the run, ranking first in the league. But Lynch has been the most productive back in the league over the past seven games with 748 yards and eight touchdowns. Last week, he became the first Seahawk to surpass 1,000 yards since Shaun Alexander in 2005. Lynch also has scored in his past 10 games, a franchise record. As hard as it is to bet against the 49ers, don’t bet against Lynch, either.

Like, will the Seahawks’ not-too-shabby-either defense be able to contain Frank Gore and then pressure Alex Smith into making some mistakes – which the 49ers once-beleaguered QB has avoided for the most part this season?

Like, which team wins the turnover battle? Because that team almost assuredly will win the game. The 49ers have created the most turnovers in the league (35) and committed the fewest (10). So it’s eighth-grade Sewickley that they’re a league-best plus-25 in the all-important take-away/give-away ratio. But the Seahawks’ three-game winning streak has been fueled by turnovers – 10 of them, including four interceptions by XXL cornerback Brandon Browner.

Like, do the Seahawks really have a chance in this one? The 49ers are 11-3, after all. But two of those losses have come in their past four games – on the road against the Ravens and Cardinals, teams the Seahawks beat this season at CenturyLink Field. The 49ers did slap a 33-17 loss on the Seahawks in the season opener in San Francisco, but it was 19-17 with four minutes left in the game before Ted Ginn returned a kickoff and also a punt for touchdowns. But the chances are good they won’t get Ginn-ed a-Ginn because he is not expected to play today. The Seahawks are, in the estimation of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Justin Smith, playing as well any team in the league – having won three in a row and five of their past six.

There is, however, no question that this should be one heckuva a game before a sellout crowd on Fan Appreciation Day. So sit back and enjoy, wherever you are, and join us at Seahawks.com for that live chat.


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