NFL's Week 7 kicks off with a matchup of NFC West rivals who just two seasons ago were among the best in the NFL. But now, these 2–4 teams are scrambling to stay out of the division's basement. Can Colin Kaepernick lead the 49ers to a second straight win, or will the Seahawks find a way to halt their losing skid? Don Banks makes his Thursday Night Football pick below.
• Last week: 11-3; Season: 59–32 (.648).
• Best pick in Week 6: San Francisco 27, Baltimore 19 (actual score: 49ers 25–20).
• Worst pick in Week 6: Arizona 26, Pittsburgh 16 (actual score: Steelers 25–13).
Proving that all 2–4 records are not created equal, the 49ers have lost four of six but feel better about themselves, having beaten visiting Baltimore 25–20 on Sunday and watching QB Colin Kaepernick rebound with six consecutive quality quarters of passing the past two weeks. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are 2–4 and appear to be unraveling before our eyes, with the bewildered defending NFC champions having lost two in a row to Cincinnati and Carolina, blowing sizable fourth-quarter leads in both games.
Seattle hasn’t slogged through a start that has gone this poorly since 2011, the last time they finished sub-.500 (at 7–9) and missed the playoffs, in the second year of Pete Carroll’s coaching tenure. That was also the season Seattle endured its most recent three-game losing streak, which is what the Seahawks will be trying to avoid in seeking its first road win of the year in four tries. Seattle has already matched its total number of losses for all of 2014, and both the Seahawks and 49ers are facing the reality that just 8.3% of the 168 teams that have started 2–4 since 1990 rallied to make the playoffs, with none of them reaching the Super Bowl.
As recently as two years ago, this was the best, most fiercely contested rivalry in the NFL, with Seattle winning two of three meetings in the 2013 season, including that ridiculously dramatic 23–17 Seahawks victory in the NFC Championship game. But last year, Seattle swept San Francisco, outscoring the 49ers 36–10, and now we don’t even have the Jim Harbaugh-Carroll coaching tension to fall back on with both teams plummeting to a tie for last place in the NFC West. It’s another reminder that change is the only constant in the NFL.
Both of these once-elite clubs have lost their identity and intimidation factor of recent years, with Seattle’s defense seemingly incapable of closing out an opponent in the fourth quarter, and San Francisco still trying to figure out what it does best on offense, be it on the ground or through the air. Kaepernick’s recent play is a hopeful sign, but the 49ers need to build on that upswing and string something together, having not won consecutive games (at least in the same season) since Weeks 11 and 12 of last year.
Someone’s dreams of playoff contention will be all but extinguished with a loss, and someone’s season stays alive with a win, but for the Seahawks and 49ers, the 2015 season thus far has been as treacherous and unsettling as the turf at Levi’s Stadium.