The San Francisco 49ers (4-3) are fresh off a resounding 33-6 victory at New England. The first place Seattle Seahawks (5-1) look to bounce back after their overtime loss to Arizona.
The two meet this Sunday at 1:25 p.m. with lofty expectations after last season’s two thrillers.
There’s the potential for plenty more fireworks as they are true opposites.
One team has no defense and can score at ease with their MVP-contending quarterback and high-powered pass attack.
The other depends on defense, gadget plays and their rush-attack to carry them to victory.
Here are five players to watch in the NFC West fight:
Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are in familiar territory without Deebo Samuel, who missed their first three games.
Fortunately, his absence won’t handicap the offense as much, due to the emergence of rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
It took a few weeks longer than some hoped, but Aiyuk was unleashed against New England.
Aiyuk found holes with ease, catching six of seven passes for 115 yards. His longest catch of the day was a 35-yarder from Jimmy Garoppolo which, if placed a little better, would have been an easy touchdown.
He’ll match up with one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.
Here’s a list of receivers who had more than 100 yards against the Seahawks this season: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Julian Edelman, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, DeVante Parker and DeAndre Hopkins.
If not for Kirk Cousins, Seattle would’ve surrendered the century mark to a wideout in every game.
Seattle’s defense leads the NFL in passes over 40 yards (seven) and passing first downs per game (19.3). They’re also second in total passing yards (2,212) and sixth in yards per attempt (7.8).
Whether beyond or in front of the line, expect Aiyuk to have a big day.
JaMycal Hasty, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers
This depends on Jamal Adams’ status. The former Jet played just three games before a groin injury took him out.
Adams is a spectacular safety that excels on the blitz. He’s probably Seattle’s best pass-rusher.
If he plays, the 49ers could lean heavier on Tevin Coleman or Jerick McKinnon, who are experienced at picking up blitzes.
If Adams (groin/illness) is unable to go, rookie running back JaMycal Hasty should get the majority of touches.
In limited touches, Hasty has been an explosive weapon out of the backfield, and showed some physicality between the tackles.
Although Seattle’s secondary has been atrocious, head coach Kyle Shanahan should not fall into a battle of arms.
Shanahan needs to stick to what’s powered the 49ers’ resurgence. San Francisco must take advantage of the leaky secondary with play action once the run has been established.
The Seahawks are susceptible to the run. They’ve allowed 103, 201 and 159 rushing yards in their past three games.
Expect Hasty to get at least 18 touches and a chance for his first career touchdown.
Emmanuel Moseley, Cornerback, San Francisco 49ers
Russell Wilson is the front-runner for his first MVP award. Through six games, he’s on pace to set career highs in adjusted yards per attempt (9.4), first downs passing (91) and touchdown passes (22).
He has the best deep ball in the NFL and has three receivers with excellent speed and athleticism. Whether it be Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf or David Moore, Wilson loves to chuck it for an easy, quick score.
The 49ers secondary, Emmanuel Moseley in particular, must be careful to not relinquish devastating blows.
The starting corner has been burned a few times. Jared Goff and Josh Reynolds got him for six two weeks ago. He also got beat by Tyreek Hill in the Super Bowl.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has to provide help with whatever healthy safeties he has.
There has to be extra emphasis on keeping everything in front. Lockett and Metcalf are both fast enough to blaze past a safety with an eight-yard head start.
With the way Fred Warner is playing, and Seattle’s lack of a rush-attack, the 49ers should feel comfortable dedicating a few more bodies outside.
If Moseley can limit the deep-ball’s impact, the 49ers’ defense stands a chance.
Jordyn Brooks, Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks
Tight end George Kittle is a must stop for the Seahawks, but do they have a way to accomplish that? Does any team?
He had two third down conversions against New England and in his most recent game against Seattle (Week 17 of last year), he caught all seven targets for 86 yards.
The All Pro bested Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and even cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
In addition to rematches, Kittle will also draw rookie Jordyn Brooks.
Seattle lost their pass-rushing linebacker Bruce Irvin to a torn ACL Week 2. After Cody Barton got burned repeatedly by Minnesota’s Irv Smith Jr., Brooks was thrust into the starting lineup.
In his first career start, Brooks was beat by Arizona tight end Dan Arnold for a 16-yard gain. Later, Arnold split Wagner and slot Ugo Amadi for 41 yards.
A major reason Seattle’s defense was good for so long was its linebackers. The defense has seen a dramatic drop-off despite Wright and Wagner’s steady play.
It seems the only two that can limit Kittle are Shanahan and Garoppolo.
If they opt to employ their matchup nightmare tight end, Brooks and Wagner could be in for a long day.
DeeJay Dallas, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks
Remember last season when Seattle was so decimated at running back they had to bring in Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin to face the 49ers?
Well, if not for Covid protocols, which essentially eliminate any chances of signings debuting that same week, we might be watching Lynch again.
Chris Carson (foot), Carlos Hyde (hamstring) and Travis Homer (knee) were all DNPs on Wednesday. That leaves DeeJay Dallas as the lone healthy back on the roster.
If you are unaware of Dallas, he’s a rookie fourth-rounder out of Miami.
He has talent, but he’s by no means the lead back in a prolific offense.
If Hyde is unable to go, the Seahawks would become even more dependent on the pass.
DalIas began his collegiate career as a quarterback-turned wide receiver, but quickly moved to the backfield.
He can be used as a weapon in the pass game, but is an inexperienced runner and blocker.
Depending on Homer and Hyde, fullback (and former 49er linebacker) Nick Bellore might need to help out in pass protection.
Saleh and Warner should take advantage of that with disguised/delayed blitzes and force Wilson off his first reads.
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