(6-6, 6-6 ATS)
San Francisco 49ers
(4-8, 4-8 ATS)
At the outset of the season, everyone expected to see the San Francisco 49ers win the NFC West with ease, as the rest of the division really shouldn’t have proven to give that much of a challenge. The latter part of that statement was right, but San Fran has been a total mess all season long. If it can beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday though, its season will at least maintain its pulse. If not, it’s going to be a long, long offseason for a team that has a lot of questions to answer.
For two and a half games, the Seahawks looked absolutely brutal, getting crippled by the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. They gave up the first 14 points to the Carolina Panthers as well, and were booed off of their home turf last Sunday at halftime. That was just the spark that the team needed. Seattle rolled off the final 31 points of the game to beat arguably the worst team in the NFL by a comfortable 17 point margin, and the hope is that that momentum can carry through to the duel that could help decide the NFC West on Sunday. Seattle knows that it has a great chance to eliminate the Niners and get a leg up on the St. Louis Rams, who are travel to the Superdome to take on the defending champs in Week 14. QB Matt Hasselbeck is only leading an offense that ranks No. 28 in the league though, at 305.3 yards per game. The ‘D’ isn’t doing significantly better, conceding 389.3 yards and 24.1 points per game. Something has to get sparked in either the defense or special teams category for scoring, but this is something that has occurred with some regularity and seems to happen quite a bit on the road.
The quarterback carousel continued to turn this week in San Fran, which isn’t something that you expect to hear from a contending team with just four games left in the season. QB Troy Smith is now off of the ride, while QB Alex Smith is back in the saddle. The former Utah Ute missed a few games due to injury, but even healthy last week, he was held out in favor of the Ohio State Buckeye. To his credit, the younger Smith did lead the team to three wins in his starts, but the elder clearly is the better quarterback and gives this squad its best chance to win games. The difference between this time around for Smith and when he started the season is that RB Frank Gore isn’t going to be behind him in the backfield. RBs Anthony Dixon and Brian Westbrook are going to be carrying the load once again this week after a dreadful game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field last weekend. The ‘D’, though shoddy at times, has some decent numbers on its side. Averaging allowing 324.6 yards per game is a respectable No. 11 in the league, while 21.6 points per game allowed isn’t as bad as it seems when you consider the fact that these guys were just whacked around by the Pack last weekend.
We love Seattle in this spot, not so much for what the Seahawks are doing, but for what the Niners aren’t. Every time you think this team has made a stride in the right direction, it takes two backwards. This will be the final straw on Sunday. Seattle rides the wave of momentum from that huge second half against Carolina to an upset at Candlestick Park.
NFL Free Pick: Seattle Seahawks +5.5