Game no. 256 of the NFL season will decide the NFC West as the Seattle Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 EST on Sunday, December 29 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC.
Current betting odds list the 49ers as 3-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 47 points. Click here to check out betting odds for every NFL game in Week 17.
For most of the season, the 49ers were arguably the best team in the NFL. However, they’ve slipped late in the year, losing two of their last four games. The two games that they’ve won were both close contests that could have gone the other way. The good news is that San Francisco still leads the NFC West and remains in control of their own destiny. With a win, the 49ers can secure both first place in the division and the top overall seed in the NFC, giving them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Of course, the Seahawks are in a similar position. They’ve been one of the NFC’s best teams all season but have lost two of their last three games. Last week’s 27-13 win was particularly surprising, even with some key players going down with an injury. Despite those losses, Seattle can leapfrog the 49ers for the NFC West crown with a win. However, Seattle needs the Packers and Saints to lose to give them a chance at a playoff bye. Nevertheless, a win means the Seahawks will at least be back at home next week while a loss means a road game against either the Cowboys or Eagles to open the playoffs.
The reason the Seahawks have a chance to jump ahead of San Francisco is that they won in San Francisco earlier this year in a wild overtime game that ended 27-24. That continued Seattle’s dominance over the 49ers for most of the current decade, including a 10-game winning streak from 2013 to 2018. The 49ers have just one win over the Seahawks over the last six seasons and they haven’t won a game in Seattle since 2011.
I’ll be honest, I have no idea what’s going to happen in this game. Both teams have been a little unpredictable in December and both potentially have their Super Bowl hopes riding on the result of this game. But one thing I do know is that the Seahawks are rarely underdogs at home. While they haven’t been unbeatable at CenturyLink Field this season, I expect them to be tough to beat at home in such a big game. That’s enough to make me take the Seahawks against the 3-point spread.
Having said that, there are several red flags that concern me about Seattle. It starts with Chris Carson, who has been an invaluable part of their offense this season but has been placed on IR after suffering a hip injury last week. Seattle’s offensive line, which has had its fair share of issues this season, is dealing with several injuries, including left tackle Duane Brown, who won’t play on Sunday. However, the Seahawks are bringing back Marshawn Lynch, who is a huge X-factor, having had a year without taking any hits.
Another area of concern for the Seahawks is quarterback Russell Wilson, who hasn’t played like himself recently. His accuracy has been erratic over the last several weeks and his protection continues to let him down. Wilson has taken 47 sacks in 15 games this year, with 25 of those sacks coming in the last six games. Clearly, protection problems are having a negative effect on Wilson. On the other hand, Wilson is capable of overcoming those issues and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the league’s MVP candidates snap out of his slump in a big game.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco defense is also going through a slump late in the season. The 49ers have allowed an average of 35 points per game over their last three games. Perhaps more concerning is that San Francisco’s vaunted pass rush has only two sacks during that span. They haven’t been at their best for must of the second half of the season, so it’s hard to guarantee they’ll get back on track against Wilson and the Seahawks.
On the other side of the ball, the San Francisco offense has also had some shortcomings in recent weeks. The running game has been a little sluggish with all three of the running backs struggling to stand out. Jimmy Garoppolo has also had some ups and downs the past few weeks, throwing two picks and taking six sacks against the Rams last week, albeit in a winning effort. I’m sure the 49ers will have a fair amount of success against an average Seattle defense, but there are lingering concerns, especially in such a tough road environment.
In the end, I feel more comfortable siding with the home team in this game, especially as the underdog. If this game is anything like the first meeting between these teams, it’ll be wild and unpredictable. But it will also be a close game, which is why I’m leaning toward the Seahawks as 3-point home underdogs.