However, due to contractual obligations a 5Qs, 5As preview post is required, and as such Field Gulls is joined by Niners Nation to preview this division matchup that will be played with first place on the line.
1. After a scorching start the Niners hit a three game skid that showed some cracks in the armor, but they have bounced back with a pair of wins after the bye. What happened that led to the losses? And now that things appear back on track, what could derail things?
1. Some of the blame for the losing streak comes down to turnovers. The Vikings game specifically felt like a game that San Francisco could have easily won if they didn’t give the ball away. The 49ers losses definitely exacerbated the weaknesses in the pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks were throwing with tremendous success and efficiency. In the Cincinnati game primarily, the Bengals wide receivers were picking apart the cornerback group for San Francisco. The Niners were still generating a high level pass rush, but it wasn’t resulting in sacks and the opponent’s passing attack was getting the ball out on time and in rhythm. Things have smoothed out since the bye week with a couple of adjustments - the addition of Chase Young via trade, the move for Deommodore Lenoir to the nickel, and DC Steve Wilks moving from the box to the sideline to call plays. This is all without mentioning the return of Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel which opened up the offense tremendously. This season could still be derailed if the play at corner falls back to below league average, which could also be seen as a consequence of the Talanoa Hufanga injury. The offensive line is also a bit worrisome, but hasn’t cost this team a game yet.
2. There’s more than plenty of debate regarding Brock Purdy among Seahawks fans. Is he a potentially legitimate franchise quarterback, or is he no more than a quarterback who happens to be lucky enough to play in Kyle Shanahan’s system? What should Seattle fans know as they watch in order to help understand which of these two it is?
There’s little debate at this point among 49ers fans. Purdy is by far the best quarterback that Shanahan has had in his time in San Francisco for a number of reasons. For one, he isn’t afraid to push the ball down field. We’ve seen a huge development in the vertical passing attack and it’s because Purdy can throw the ball deep and outside the numbers better than Jimmy G or anyone else before him. Two, Purdy is both efficient and a bit of an aggressive passer. He will throw into tight windows, trusting himself and the play design with almost reckless confidence. And three, Purdy is able to create out of structure and extend plays. As you watch the game, I am sure there will be plenty of examples of him throwing to open receivers or targeting his first read in a progression. But that doesn’t mean that’s all he is capable of. The 76-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Aiyuk last week against Tampa is plenty of evidence that this player has the awareness and ability to lead any NFL offense, not just excel in a passer-friendly system.
3. Seattle fans know all the big names on the 49ers roster - Warner, McCaffrey, Samuel, Kittle, Aiyuk, etc, but who is a player whose name Seahawks fans may not recognize who could have an impact on the game?
There’s so much familiarity between these two teams it’s tough to point out a lesser known player for fans. I’ll say safety Tashaun Gipson is worthy of recognition amongst this stellar roster. Even with all the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it’s the most senior veteran in the group that led the Niners in interceptions a year ago. Gipson isn’t going to flash on the stat sheet game to game, but he’s a guy that does his job really well. He is always in the right position and has helped as a leader in the development of a young secondary, including Hufanga.
4. The Niners absolutely stomped the Seahawks in all three games during the 2022 season after Seattle swept the season series in each of 2020 and 2021. With the teams facing off twice in 18 days, do we get a season sweep by one team or another for the fourth straight season, or will they split for the first time this decade?
It’s a tough question, and I am not sure this game will be the deciding factor in the final regular season matchup between the two, especially due to all the injuries Seattle is facing. However, both fanbases know how hard it is to beat one of these teams in front of their home crowd, so if San Francisco pulls off the victory on Thursday, I like their chances to get the sweep on the season. And even if Seattle finds a way to win on Thanksgiving, I am not sure it would demonstrate a sort of enormous advantage they have over the 49ers that would definitely carry over to the second divisional contest. I think San Francisco has the better opportunity to do it, and will likely be favored in both games. But any time you have to travel on a short week makes things more difficult than they have to be.
5. What is your prediction for the game? And will it be a high scoring shootout on which fans should bet the over?
It feels like this will be another close game between these bitter rivals and I like to think the defenses will come to play under the lights. Primetime unders have been much more successful this season and I am leaning towards a defensive battle with plenty of big hits and maybe some sloppy mistakes by both offenses with limited game prep time. At a 44 total on DraftKings, I will take the under with a 49ers 24-17 victory.