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Seahawks-49ers preview

NFC title game: 49ers at Seahawks

6:30, CenturyLink Field, Seattle | Ch. 13; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM | Seahawks by 31/2, 40

San Francisco is here because of two road wins, but it is a different team at Seattle. Over its past 17 road games, the 49ers are 0-2 at Seattle, losing by 26 and 29 points, and 13-2 everywhere else. Seattle is 16-1 at home over the past two seasons, including a rally from a 21-0 deficit to beat the Bucs this season.

Weather: 40s, winds about 5 mph, no chance of rain

What the 49ers do best

Own the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. San Francisco was the only team ranked among the top five in rushing offense (third) and rushing defense (fourth). Seattle isn't far behind, ranking fourth and eighth, respectively.

What the Seahawks do best

Dominate the turnover game. San Francisco was second in the NFC at plus-12 in the regular season while Seattle was an NFL-best plus-20. The Seahawks also led the NFL with 28 interceptions, but San Francisco tied for the league low with just eight thrown.

How you beat the 49ers

San Francisco has scored exactly 23 points in each of its past three wins, but its offense disappears on occasion. It scored nine or fewer points in three of its losses. Among Colin Kaepernick's eight interceptions, five came in those games (including three in a 29-3 loss at Seattle). Can the Seahawks force him to make mistakes again?

How you beat the Seahawks

Quarterback Russell Wilson hasn't been stellar of late: four touchdown passes in his past five games and an average of 128 yards in his past three. Arizona's win Dec. 22 at Seattle came despite four interceptions thrown by Carson Palmer. The Cardinals held the Seahawks to 192 total yards and 2-for-13 on third downs.

Game's top offensive player

It's a battle of elite running backs, and we'll go with Seattle's Marshawn Lynch over Frank Gore. Lynch rushed for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season plus 140 and two scores last week. Don't discount him as a pass catcher, either. He has 36 for 355 yards and two scores.

Game's top defensive player

We'll hedge and go with Seattle's secondary: cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Their ability to limit big plays and come up with picks is Seattle's strength — surpassed even by the confidence it plays with at home with the 12th Man.

The Seahawks must avoid ...

A letdown late. Arizona got its winning touchdown with 2:13 left. San Francisco won on a kick with 26 seconds left, and Indy won with an 11-0 fourth quarter. Those are Seattle's only losses. If this is close, that's what will buoy San Francisco.

Greg Auman's pick

Seahawks 27, 49ers 21

Seahawks-49ers preview 01/18/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 9:44pm]
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