2022 NFC Wild-Card Preview: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
The 2022 NFL Playoffs feature several interdivisional matchups, including the Seattle Seahawks taking on the San Francisco 49ers. This NFC West matchup has San Francisco currently favored by 9.5 points, per the Vegas odds. If the Seahawks want to pull off the upset, quarterback Geno Smith will have to take over in this NFC wild-card game. Conversely, the 49ers just need to stick to their game plan and not get cute to move on to the next round of the playoffs.
The Seahawks’ path to victory
Seattle needs to do a lot on offense to defeat the daunting San Francisco defense. Ideally, the Seahawks could get Kenneth Walker III going on the ground and open up the passing game like they have done all year. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work against the 49ers.
San Francisco’s defense allows the second-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. This showed in these teams’ Week 15 matchup where the Niners held Seattle to just 70 total yards on the ground. Attacking San Francisco’s middling pass defense — 12th worst in the league — is key to winning this one.
Letting Geno Smith Cook
Obviously, this is easier said than done, but Smith dicing up the 49ers’ defense is how the Seahawks move onto the next round. Thankfully, Smith has the weapons to get the job done in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
They won’t be able to run the ball, but Smith’s career has revitalized this year in Seattle. Smith currently has the fourth most passing touchdowns amongst all quarterbacks in the NFL in 2022 with 30. Nick Bosa will be the biggest concern with Smith having to drop back so much in this NFC wild-card matchup. Rookie left tackle Charles Cross will have to hold up against the potential Defensive Player of the Year, Bosa.
Giving Smith enough time for the plays to develop and his receivers to get downfield will be vital.
Getting after Brock Purdy
The Seahawks need to make Brock Purdy uncomfortable — get after him and force errant throws. That’s how Seattle’s defense can get turnovers and put Smith in a position to score. If Smith can jump to an early lead and force Purdy to drop back and pass, the interceptions will come.
Rookie corner Tariq Woolen is a specimen at cornerback and a ballhawk. The problem with this is Trent Williams will be stifling any pass rusher coming his way, and defensive end Darrell Taylor will have his hands full there. Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu is Seattle’s best bet at getting after Purdy.
The 49ers’ path to victory
This is a lot easier question to answer. The 49ers just need to play their game.
Kyle Shanahan is going to call a great game and come out with the win. Purdy needs to take what he is given in the passing game: Make the quick easy read on a quick out or a slant across the middle.
Deebo Samuel is back, and he will see plenty of these quick pass looks. Brandon Aiyuk has taken a huge step forward this year and can get open with ease. Purdy needs to just hit them in stride on the simple concepts Shanahan provides and let them do the rest.
The 49ers’ offense does not need to force anything to win this NFC wild-card game.
Christian McCaffrey might eat. The last time these teams matched up, he went for over 130 yards and a score. A balanced game of passing and running the ball will be employed by the Niners, which will maximize McCaffrey’s opportunities to dominate.
George Kittle is a monster run blocker and will help CMC do just that as Seattle has allowed the third MOST rushing yards all year. The only reason McCaffrey might not dominate is if Elijah Mitchell steals touches and moves the ball too. I expect any 49er running back to make plays when given the opportunity.
Shut down Kenneth Walker
The Niner defense will need to do what they’ve done all year: stop the run. Walker getting going would open up the deep shots for Metcalf and Lockett, respectively.
But that won’t be happening against the buzzsaw defensive line San Francisco possesses. Nick Bosa will do his thing on the edge making Geno uncomfortable and forcing passes. The 49ers currently lead the league in interceptions, and they will prove why as the Seahawks will be forced to make errant throws downfield.
As much as I would like to see Smith and the Seahawks pull off the upset, the cards are stacked against them here.
The 49ers’ defense matches up well to stifle the run game. Purdy just needs to do the bare minimum in the passing game to move the ball downfield. Getting the ball in his playmakers’ hands is easy with Shanahan calling the plays, thus Purdy won’t be taking many shots and risking turnovers. McCaffrey, Samuel, and Kittle will get plenty of yards after catch opportunities in this one.
Meanwhile, Smith will be dropping back to pass plenty of times, but Bosa and the 49ers’ pass rush will be ferocious. I expect a turnover or two for Seattle which will be one too many if they want to achieve the upset.
I expect the 49ers to play their game and win at home in this NFC wild-card matchup.
Final score prediction: 27-13, 49ers win
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