Thursday Night Football Preview: 49ers head to hostile Seattle hoping to clinch NFC West title

Dec 5, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday Night Football Preview: 49ers head to hostile Seattle hoping to clinch NFC West title

San Francisco 49ers (9-4) at Seattle Seahawks (7-6)

Time/TV: 7:15 p.m. CT/Prime Video

The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks have played countless meaningful games against one another over the past decade, many of which have come late in seasons and played a huge role in determining the winner of the NFC West. This season, there are notable differences at quarterback – Russell Wilson has departed Seattle for Denver, and Jimmy Garoppolo is unavailable due to injury after taking the reins back from Trey Lance earlier this season, who was also lost to an injury.

Enter Geno Smith and Brock Purdy, two quarterbacks who entered the 2022 season with little to no expectations of success attached to them. Smith has quarterbacked the Seahawks to a better season than even most Seattle fans anticipated, leading his team into the thick of the NFC Playoff hunt with a chance at competing for a division crown. Brock Purdy was taken with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers and began the season buried on the depth chart behind both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. With both Lance and Garoppolo sidelined, Purdy has thrown four touchdown passes with just one interception while leading the 49ers to wins over the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Seattle has dropped three of its last four games, diminishing any opportunity it hoped to have at stealing first place in the division from San Francisco on Thursday night. Still, a win would move the Seahawks within a game of first place – and Seattle’s Lumen Field is a notoriously tough place for opposing teams to win road games, especially at night.

The Seahawks hope that the return of their sensational rookie running back, Kenneth Walker III gives them a boost. However, they will primarily need to improve defensively if they want to make good on Thursday night’s opportunity. Seattle’s defense is allowing the third-most points in the NFL, including 31 points per game over their last three. The Seahawks’ last four opponents have all rushed for more than 150 yards, their longest streak of such games within one season since 1981. It only adds insult to injury for Seattle that all three of its losses during that stretch have come to teams with losing records (Tampa Bay, Las Vegas, and Carolina). 

If the Seahawks’ defense is to step up, it’ll have to do so against a 49ers’ offense that has been firing on all cylinders no matter who plays quarterback. San Francisco has scored 33 or more points in three of its last four and has won six in a row. While the 49ers will be without do-it-all wide receiver Deebo Samuel Thursday night, quarterback Brock Purdy is still bringing an impressive chest of weapons with him to Seattle, including tight end George Kittle and star running back Christian McCaffrey.

While San Francisco’s offense has been raising eyebrows of late, it is the 49ers’ defense that truly strikes fear into the opposition. The 49ers are allowing a mere 15.2 points per game, best in the NFL – and have held six straight opponents to under 20 points. When San Francisco hosted Seattle back in Week 2, it allowed just seven points.

The 49ers won Week 2’s matchup 27-7 after losing starting QB Trey Lance to injury in the game’s first few minutes. Jimmy Garoppolo managed the game well en route to a comfortable win, and San Francisco completely demolished Seattle statistically. The 49ers outgained the Seahawks by 157 yards, picked up 11 more first downs, controlled the ball for almost two-thirds of the game, and forced three Seattle turnovers that afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.

With another win over the Seahawks, the 49ers can clinch the NFC West with three games still to go and celebrate on the road at Lumen Field as they did back in 2019. For the Seahawks, winning Thursday night is about staying relevant in the constantly-changing NFC playoff hunt – especially with a trip to 10-3 Kansas City on deck.

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