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Rivalry watch: San Francisco 49ers continue to impress national media

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There are less than two weeks until the Seattle Seahawks first showdown against the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers.

As the number of days get smaller, the rivalry heats up. It’s probably not fair to call the upcoming battle a “must win” for Seattle, but a loss puts them down three games and conceivably out of the running for the division title.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have become the shiny new toy for ESPN. An almost embarrassing amount of praise has been heaped on San Francisco this week as they remain undefeated.

ESPN’s Power Rankings have the 49ers at #2, having finally passed the New Orleans Saints for the spot. Multiple commentators are calling the Niners the best team in the NFL, including the all-wise Rex Ryan. Who probably could walk back into New York and grab his old job back if he really wanted. He was a better coach than analyst, for what it’s worth.

Interestingly, however, many of the other top sports sites aren’t even predicting San Francisco to be in the Super Bowl, showing that the Niners haven’t earned the respect of everyone just yet.

The finest minds at ESPN have also been digging through the annals to point out how special the Niners are, especially the defense.

To be fair, the Seahawks haven’t played a defense as good as San Francisco’s yet. But they’ve played some pretty good ones. Football Outsiders has the Niners obviously in second, but ranks the Los Angeles Rams, Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers as the 4th, 6th, and 9th best defenses by DVOA, respectively. Seattle is now 2-1 against those teams as they return home to take on the league’s exact middlest defense in Tampa Bay. The Bucs are 15th by DVOA, making four top-half-of-league defensive opponents for the Hawks before they get San Francisco.

Nick Bosa has turned into quite the superstar for the Niners, especially in his recent demonstration of how to not get tackled by a quarterback twice in the same play. (But wait, you say, doesn’t that mean he got caught by a quarterback?)

Regardless, he’s very, very good. Bosa has 23 of 26 possible current votes on for defensive rookie of the year. He’s also annoyingly un-Shermanlike on social media, having posted once since being drafted. However, he’s still available for the occasional comment, and knows what’s at stake with the pair of Seattle games.

“It is time to play division opponents so that is what really matters,” he recently chipped in after a win. “We are not done.”

Richard Sherman, on the other hand, just invented some brand new sunglasses or something that I’m definitely not going to go buy as soon as this is finished.

I hope he wears them while getting wrecked by Tyler Lockett.

Back to football - this year’s rivalry games could have monumental consequences. Maybe for the season itself, but definitely not for the overall record. Seattle currently leads the head-to-head matchup 25-16. Since the infamous 2013 NFC Championship game and Richard Sherman’s “tip”, Seattle has been 10-1 against San Francisco.

Seattle’s own media largely feels the same intensity about it all. Recently Danny O’Neil of 710 AM espoused the deep stirring of a true rivalry:

There is something about the 49ers that touches an emotional chord in me that the Rams do not. There is something about the 49ers and watching that team and seeing them unbeaten at 4-0 that touches an emotional chord for me as a football fan (however), and for someone who’s lived in Seattle and for someone who experienced that rivalry from 2011 to 2014, that is different than the (rivalry with the) Rams has ever been. … It was a rivalry that flared up and it was as intense as anything that we’ve seen in the NFL in the past 20 years.”

Seattle-San Francisco carries such weight that fans all over the West Coast have been sitting on this matchup for months. Some have even taken to inserting the upcoming game into conversations where it need not be inserted.

I have no possible explanation for what’s going on below, but people are gearing up.

Twleve days and counting. Potential terrible officiating remains to be seen.