It worked last week, so we’ve brought back the same writers to predict the 49ers’ next game, the NFC Championship against the Seattle Seahawks. I’ve rambled enough about this game, the key players, Jim Harbaugh’s pants, silly videos, and the ever-dangerous Colin Kaepernick. So let’s just get to the predictions and see how we did last week.
Bay Area Intern: Although the comparisons between Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are at their peak, the NFC Championship game will ultimately be decided by the performance of the running backs. The team with the leading rusher has won the last four times the 49ers and Seahawks have met and Sunday’s game will be no different. With a 20% chance of rain, expect to see an emphasis on running the ball per “jumbo” formations. The Seahawks have massacred the 49ers the last two games in Seattle, but the third time will be the charm for a previously impaired offense. The San Francisco 49ers should win this game as long as they restrain from attempting an absurd amount of HB screens like the Saints carelessly did last week.
NFC Divisional Round Prediction: 49ers 20, Panthers 17
NFC Championship Game Prediction: 49ers 27, Seahawks 20
Bay Area Duck Guy: Frank Gore has to gain yards on the ground. Seattle will probably sell out to stop the run, so San Francisco has to beat them at that. Yoda needs to pick up positive yards on first down to control the pace of the game and make 3rd down much easier to manage. If the 49ers can get something going on the ground, that will take the crowd out of the game early and keep the 12th man out of it late in the game. Harbaugh and Roman have to stick to the run – they can’t lose faith in it and ask Kap to do it all himself. If they ask Kap to do it himself, the 49ers are playing right into the Seahawks’ hands.
NFC Divisional Round Prediction: 49ers 16, Panthers 13
NFC Championship Game Prediction: 49ers 19, Seahawks 16
Ruthless Sports Guy: The 49ers have been quick to abandon the run in the last two contests in Seattle, but they’ll need to stay committed on Sunday. It’s a bit of a chicken-meet-egg scenario, because if San Francisco ends up in a couple third-and-long situations after only gathering a couple yards running on first and second down, Greg Roman might feel the pressure to abandon running the ball. Still, few things deflate a team (and a fan base) like long drives founded on the run. Seattle’s run defense is good, but not invincible. Pound Gore between the tackles, pick up six rather than four, and the 49ers will control this game.
NFC Divisional Round Prediction: 49ers 20, Panthers 13
NFC Championship Game Prediction: 49ers 23, Seahawks 13
Bay Area Stats Guy: The big key to the game is for the 49ers to actually score points when they have the opportunity. I rewatched the first meeting in Seattle earlier today and I had forgotten how outside of a couple plays in the red zone the 49ers were pretty even for the first three quarters. The big problem was that while the outcome of the game was still in question and they got inside Seattle’s 10 yard line they came away with just 3 points in two trips. The only problem is that I have little confidence that this will be changed.
NFC Divisional Round Prediction: Panthers 20, 49ers 13
NFC Championship Game Prediction: Seahawks 17, 49ers 3
LOL KNBR Callers: Offense, defense, special teams, coaching…throw it all out the window. None of it matters. The key to this game will be holding onto the football. If I’ve learned anything about big time football over the years, it’s that turnovers are bad. Really bad. I don’t have a stat or anything to support this claim, but I bet if you look it up on the internet you’ll see I’m right on the money. So, how do the 49ers protect the football? Easy. Hold onto it really tight. They can’t let go of that football, no matter what. If they do, the Seahawks will be right there waiting to take the ball away. As for passing? Look, let’s not even go there. The 49ers should just avoid passing altogether and keep their hands on the football. They can’t afford to risk more turnovers. Also, the big fellas up front need to be tough in the trenches again this week.
NFC Divisional Round Prediction: 49ers 20, Panthers 9
NFC Championship Game Prediction: 49ers 17, Seahawks 13
Bay Area Sports Guy: The 49ers seem to be peaking, while the Seahawks haven’t wowed anyone offensively since blowing out the Saints on Dec. 2. They still have that outstanding defense, plus the knowledge that they have absolutely destroyed the Niners twice at CenturyLink. But it seems like the 49ers only lose this one if the unexpected comes into play: careless turnovers, dumb penalties, not enough penalties called on Seattle, poor offensive communication. Justin Smith said on Friday that the “peripheral stuff” doesn’t matter to either team, and the 49ers are playing better right now. When it comes to who’ll prevail, it’s pointless to focus on emotion and the 12th Man. Although, as I said on our podcast with Tim Kawakami, I feel like the number “12″ is going to come into play on Sunday.
NFC Divisional Round Prediction: 49ers 30, Panthers 27
NFC Championship Game Prediction: 49ers 19, Seahawks 12