Game Scout: San Francisco 49ers (2-9) At Seattle Seahawks (6-5)
SERIES HISTORY: 39th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series, 23-15. Seattle holds the two largest winning streaks in the series, winning six consecutive contests between the 2003 and 2005 seasons as well as maintaining a current eight-game win streak. Overall, the Seahawks have won 11 of the past 12 matchups between the division rivals.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Seattle wants to run the football, but this may not necessarily be the best game to ground-and-pound the opposition. Despite having plenty of holes on the defensive side of the ball, San Francisco has held opponents to only 102.7 rushing yards per game, 10th best in the NFL. Much like last week against Carolina, Seattle may have to lean a bit more on Russell Wilson's throwing arm, though he'll have to be careful how aggressively he attacks former teammate Richard Sherman on the outside. Away from Sherman, cornerback Akhello Witherspoon has had some trouble in his second NFL season and safety depth took a hit when Jimmie Ward was lost for the season due to injury. The vertical passing game may not necessarily be there, but the Seahawks have to like their chances with Tyler Lockett and David Moore potentially working against Witherspoon and susceptible safety group.
Playing with their third quarterback in Nick Mullens, the 49ers offense has been ravaged by injuries. Still, the 49ers have been able to run the football with Matt Breida leading the way, as they rank fifth in the NFL in yards per game. Seattle has given up nearly 600 rushing yards over the past four games, and if there's a way the 49ers can steal a win at CenturyLink, it'll be riding Breida and Alfred Morris out of the backfield. The Seahawks must slow down the run game and limit yards after catch when Mullens does pass, as the 49ers average 6.8 yards after catch per reception, second-best in the league.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
--OUT: WR Pierre Garcon (knee), G Joshua Garnett (thumb), WR Marquise Goodwin (not injury related), S D.J. Reed (heel, chest)
--OUT: RB C.J. Prosise (abdomen), LB K.J. Wright (knee)
--DOUBTFUL: S Shalom Luani (quadricep), RB Tre Madden (chest)
--QUESTIONABLE: DT Shamar Stephen (foot)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman. After years of battling against one another at practice as teammates at Stanford and with the Seahawks, Baldwin and Sherman will square off as opponents for the first time. Baldwin has played his best football of late, catching 12 passes and a touchdown over Seattle's past two games. While his statistics indicate otherwise, Sherman remains one of the best corners in football and opponents simply haven't challenged him much this season.
--Seahawks SS Bradley McDougald vs. 49ers TE George Kittle. On an offense lacking playmakers, Kittle has been one of the few bright spots, as the second-year tight end has caught 56 passes for 823 yards and three touchdowns. McDougald, who has recorded 57 tackles and three interceptions this season, will be tasked with covering the athletic 6-foot-4, 250-pound weapon. With Kittle being San Francisco's most reliable receiver, he may receive some help as Seattle tries to force quarterback Nick Mullens to throw elsewhere.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: 49ers MLB Fred Warner. Lost in the fog created by Reuben Foster's situation, Warner has been one of the most productive rookies in the NFL this season. But with Foster now gone, the spotlight shifts fulltime to the guy who is now considered the future of the linebacker position for San Francisco. That's a different kind of pressure.
FAST FACTS: 49ERS QB NICK MULLENS has 733 pass yards (244.3 per game) with 5 TDs vs. 4 INTs for 89.6 rating in 3 career starts. Aims for his 4th in row with 200+ pass yards & TD. ... RB MATT BREIDA ranks 2nd in NFL with 5.81 rush avg. (min. 100 att.) & ranks 6th in NFC with 738 rush yards. ... TE GEORGE KITTLE ranks 3rd in NFL in YAC (554) & ranks 3rd among NFL TEs in receptions (56) & rec. yards (823). Has 29 catches for 394 yards (78.8 per game) & 2 TDs in his past 5. ... Rookie WR DANTE PETTIS had 4 catches for career-high 77 yards & TD last week. ... DL DeFOREST BUCKNER had 5 tackles & sack in Week 12. Has 2.5 sacks in his past 3. ... Rookie LB FRED WARNER aims for his 4th in row with PD. Is 1 of 2 NFL rookies (DARIUS LEONARD) with 80+ tackles (83) & FF (1) in 2018. ... CB RICHARD SHERMAN spent 7 seasons with Sea. (2011- 17) & had 32 INTs, most in NFL over span. ... SEAHAWKS QB RUSSELL WILSON completed 22 of 31 (71 pct.) for season-high 339 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 128.3 rating last week. Aims for his 4th in row with 2+ TD passes & 110+ rating. In his past 5 vs. SF, has 1,187 pass yards (237.4 per game) with 8 TDs vs. 1 INT for 101.5 rating. Is 1 of 2 NFL QBs (DREW BREES) with 25+ TD passes (25) & 5 or fewer INTs (5). ... RB CHRIS CARSON had rush TD in Week 12. Aims for his 3rd in row with rush TD. ... WR TYLER LOCKETT had 5 receptions for 107 yards & TD last week. Aims for his 4th in row with 5+ receptions & 65+ rec. yards. Has 3 TD catches in 5 career games vs. SF. ... WR DAVID MOORE had 103 rec. yards & TD in Week 12, his 1st-career 100-yard game. ... LB BOBBY WAGNER led team with 11 tackles & had FF last week. Aims for his 6th in row with 8+ tackles. In his past 4 meetings, has 33 tackles, 6 PD, 3 INTs, 2 sacks & FR. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. SF with INT. Since 2014, is only NFL player with 600+ tackles (603). ... Rookie CB TRE FLOWERS had 2 FFs in Week 12, his 1st-career multi-FF game. Ranks 2nd among NFL rookies with 3 FFs in 2018.
PREDICTION: The Seahawks are surging in hopes of gaining a spot in the playoffs, and the 49ers have too many issues affecting them negatively on both sides of the ball.
OUR PICK: Seahawks, 27-10