To the victor belong the spoils in a hard-nosed defensive NFC West battle [TNF Live Thread]
It also promises to the winner sole possession of first place in what has become one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
While their teams are natural rivals due to alignment, and possibly even proximity, the coaches also have a long history. Harbaugh (with Stanford) and Carroll (with USC) got to know each other and their coaching styles. Now they're division rivals once again, looking to take the lead in the dog fight between 4 very much improved teams.
The Niners are coming off an embarrassing - and somewhat surprising - loss to the Giants, and apparently they've never lost two in a row under Harbaugh. The Seahawks are coming off a comeback win against a very good New England Patriots team. They both boast a pretty good defense, with strengths in different areas, respectively.
SF Keys to a Win:
Third downs - Seattle still has a tough time converting them on offense, and stopping them on defense.
Stop Lynch - he was stuffed by the Patriots at home for a dismal 41 yards; 2.7ypc average. His worst performance all season. He's going to be hungry for some Skittles.
Pick on Trufant. He's the weak link in that secondary.
Keep Wilson in the pocket. You've seen what he can do.
SEA Keys to a Win:
Get to Alex Smith. Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. The grass will make that more difficult, but rattling Smith = creating turnovers.
Receivers need to keep getting open, and hold on to the ball.
Watch out for Kaepernick. While Smith is the QB, Kaepernick remains a nice weapon and they'll use him.
Stop the run.
For those of you who love only offensively exciting games, this might be a yawner. However, if you're looking for a hard hitting, smashmouth, in-your-face defensive battle in a heated division rivalry game for first place, NFL Network promises to deliver. Tune in and Q it up here at 8:20 Eastern Time!