Game Preview: Seahawks vs. 49ers

The Seahawks look to add to their 8-game winning streak as they host the downtrodden 49ers in an NFC West tilt at Qwest Field. With a win, the Seahawks would sweep their division for the first time ever in their history.

What: Final divisional game of season
When: Sunday, December 11th, 1:05 p.m. (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 40 degrees


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49ers Key Players:

QB Alex Smith: The number one overall player selected in last April's NFL Draft, as expected, has had a tough rookie season. He's struggled through injuries, horrible line play and his own inconsistency. This is the first season, since high school, the he has played predominantly under center, having come from Utah's spread-option attack in college. He's a good athlete, has a strong arm and he's smart, but at this point he is swimming in information and defenses can confuse him easily. He's completed 52.7% of his passes for 513 yards, eight interceptions and no touchdowns. He's only making his fourth start and he doesn't have a lot of help around him.

WR Brandon Lloyd: The only real threat on the 49ers offense, Lloyd doesn't go a game without a "highlight-reel" catch. With better play from the quarterback position, Lloyd would be a Pro Bowl candidate. As it is, his 38 receptions for 624 yards and four touchdowns lead the team. He still doesn't run crisp routes, but he has improved in this area. What he does have is excellent body control, good hands and deceptive speed. He is at his best when the ball is in the air and he uses his excellent leaping ability and surprising strength to win most jump balls.

DE Bryant Young: Young was hurt three weeks ago when the Hawks and Niners faced off in San Francisco and he's listed as questionable this week. When healthy, Young has defied father time, putting up early season Pro Bowl number with eight sacks and numerous quarterback pressures before his knee injury. Young, who played defensive tackle in the old 4-3 scheme the Niners ran, has moved out to the strongside defensive end spot in the new 3-4 scheme and he has more than held his own. He holds strong at the point of attack and shows a good bull-rush move to get to the passer. He's the leader of the front four.

LB Julian Peterson: Peterson is the biggest name on the 49ers defense and teams know he is the key to being successful on offense. Peterson is an incredible athlete and he brings an attitude that is infectious toward his teammates. He has been up and down this season, after missing most of the 2004 season with a torn Achilles. He runs well, is a good blitzer and can cover backs downfield. He is still getting used to the new defense and should be a real force next season. On the year he ranks fourth on the team with 57 tackles and has posted 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and six passes defensed.

CB Shawntae Spencer: Even though the 49ers pass-defense ranks near the bottom of the league, Spencer has been a pleasant surprise in his second season. The former Pittsburg Panther ranks third on the team with 67 tackles and leads the team with three interceptions (including one for a touchdown) and 15 passes defensed. He isn't the speediest cover-man, but he reads routes well and anticipates better than most corners in the league. He's also a tall corner who is strong enough to battle the larger wideouts in the league.

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Key Matchups:

Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander vs. 49ers LB Derek Smith: Smith leads the Niners defense in tackles (79) and tackles for loss (10). He flows to the ball well and when he gets his hands on a ball-carrier he usually doesn't get away. Alexander had his lowest output of the season last week vs. Philadelphia with only 49 yards, but he still managed two touchdowns to push his total to 22 and he continues to lead the league with 1,388 yards on the ground. Alexander rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns against San Francisco the first time the two teams met and it stands to reason that the Niners will be keying on him to start the game.

Lloyd vs. Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant: The 49ers used a lot of motion the first time the two teams met, doing their best to get Lloyd matched up against former starter Kelly Herndon, but look for the Seahawks defensive coaches to do their best to get Trufant constantly manned-up on Lloyd this time around. Jordan Babineaux will take the place of Andre Dyson and Herndon – who are both injured – in the starting lineup and while he has good ball skills, this will be the first start at corner of his career. Also, watch for the Hawks to play a lot of zone coverage, hoping the confuse Smith into making some mistakes.

Seahawks DE Grant Wistrom vs. 49ers LT Adam Snyder: Wistrom has been a good leader this season and he's played the run well, but this week if he can generate some pressure off of Smith's blind-side the Seahawks defense could continue their ball-hawking ways. Look for the 49ers to use a max-protect package for Smith as they try to keep their rookie signal-caller upright for the entire game.

Seahawks vs. Complacency: The Hawks are absolutely rolling right now. This is one of the best stretches in franchise history and there is no reason they should lose this game. QB Matt Hasselbeck has not been putting up huge numbers, but he's been an incredible leader on the field and he's managed the games well. Head coach Mike Holmgren has been here before and he seems to be pushing all of the right buttons. Last week the entire team, on both sides of the ball, came out with more fire in their eyes than many fans have seen in a long time and it looks like the team is hitting its stride. A loss to the 49ers would dampen any hopes of home-field advantage and the team must continue to have the same sense of urgency for the next four weeks. Can they do it? The smart money says yes.

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News and Notes: Holmgren has a 10-3 record all-time vs. the 49ers; Hasselbeck is ranked 3rd in the conference in passing-yardage (2,704) and second in QB rating (89.1); Seahawks offense ranks first in the NFC at 370.1 yards per game; Seahawks defense ranks third in the NFC with a +7 turnover ratio; Seahawks seek club-record 9th win in a row and 9th straight home win; WR Joe Jurevicius ranks 6th in the NFL with seven touchdown catches; LB Leroy Hill's 6.5 sacks ranks second among all rookies; In past eight December/January 49ers RB Kevan Barlow has rushed for 674 yards including three 100-yard games; Seahawks lead series 7-6 including the last five.

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Injuries:

Seahawks: OUT: CB Andre Dyson (ankle); CB Kelly Herndon (knee); S John Howell (hamstring); LB Jamie Sharper (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Darrell Jackson (knee); LB D.D. Lewis (knee); DT Craig Terrill (shoulder)


49ers: DOUBTFUL: CB Mike Adams (knee); WR Arnaz Battle (knee); CB Ahmed Plummer (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Kevan Barlow (knee); Bryant Young (knee)
PROBABLE: RB Fred Beasley (neck); RB Steve Bush (concussion)


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Prediction: Seahawks 35 – 49ers 13

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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