Titanic. Monumental. Season-changing.
Choose your superlative.
While this may sound like hyperbole, the Monday Night Football matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks may amount to just that.
This is probably the best NFL matchup of the 2019 season thus far.
Let’s examine what’s at stake.
The 49ers and Seahawks have a combined record of 15-2 (.882 win pct) entering Monday Night Football in Week 10.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 4, 2019
That will be the 3rd-best combined win pct in Week 10 or later in Monday Night Football history. pic.twitter.com/PSIWiVEc6K
First of all, the 49ers are the last remaining undefeated team. They’re off to their best start since 1990. And they look like a better team than even their Super Bowl season a few years ago when Jim Harbaugh was the coach and Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback. That season feels like eons ago.
The Seahawks have a chance to go down there and hand SF their first L. They also have a chance to prove that their own season is special.
The Seahawks are 7-2, which counts as their best start since 2013, which was their Super Bowl-winning season. Russel Wilson may be having his best season ever, and lots of people are calling him an MVP candidate.
If the Seahawks can find a way to win, it keeps them firmly in the race for the NFC West. It also keeps them firmly in the playoff picture. It will put to rest, at least temporarily, concerns about how the team doesn’t necessarily look as good as their record suggests. Especially since the Seattle defense has looked rather porous. It’s taken them until the fourth quarter or even overtime to put away bad teams, even at home. Take last week’s close win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a case in point.
On an emotional level, a Seattle win would bring San Francisco back down to earth. It would rip the proverbial sheriff badge off the 49ers’ chest and let them know that things still run through Seattle when it comes to top-dog status.
If the Niners win, it would all but do the opposite. It would cement this San Francisco team as the real deal. Their confidence, already high, would shoot through the roof. They would be ready to head into a very difficult stretch of their schedule, with games against the Packers, the Ravens, and the Saints in coming weeks.
How do the teams match up?
Well, unfortunately for Seattle, the Niners look like the better team. The defense is lights out. Seattle’s offense has probably not faced as stout of a unit yet this year. San Francisco has the capability to derail everything that Seattle is doing well. They might eat the Seattle offensive line like a nice little sourdough bowl of clam chowder. They can shut down Wilson’s downfield attack as well as Seattle’s running game.
On the other side of the ball, things don’t look much better. San Francisco boasts both a strong running game and a decent passing attack. The Seattle defense has the potential to be exposed in a major way.
And you can count on San Francisco fans being loud and raucous. NFL fans, players and coaches have long memories. There is some serious payback potential given that, when the Niners were last good, a few years ago, Seattle almost always had their number.
Seattle, however, does have some distinct advantages of their own. For starters, Pete Carroll is probably the better coach. Russel Wilson is likely the better quarterback. He’s at least got the better resume, especially when it comes to big games.
Seattle also often rises to the occasion when the entire country’s eyes are watching. Though it’s likely to be a close game either way, don’t be too surprised if the Hawks come out with a game plan that puts the Niners on their heels. Embarrassing them on their own field, while a long shot, is not out of the question.
A Seattle loss, especially a bad one, will raise all kinds of questions, mainly to do with their defense. Why do they give up so many points, especially to teams with losing records? It puts a lot of pressure on the Seattle offense. It forces Wilson to be near perfect, all of the time.
Another storyline to watch will be Richard Sherman. Expect him to be fiery and vocal. For the past few years, both at the end of his Seattle tenure and the beginning of his San Francisco one, Sherman has been a bit of a sulking Achilles. He’s never gotten over the fateful pass on the last play of the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. It all but ruined the Seahawks for a few years and sent many of their stars looking for new homes (though salaries and contracts also played a part).
In this game, Sherman will likely try to show Seattle how much they miss him. He’ll want to rub it in Pete Carrol’s face. To show him how happy and successful he is on his new team. To paper over past disappointments, to show Seattle the new him.
What’s actually at stake in terms of playoff potential?
Well, Seattle clearly has more to lose, since they’re already a couple of games behind San Francisco in the NFC West race. A loss for Seattle makes them more likely to be a wild card team, which is an uphill battle if they hope to make it all the way. Now, there is a lot of football left to play. This game is not make-or-break, but it’s darn close.
For San Francisco, a loss doesn’t change much, though it makes things tighter. Currently, the 49ers are one game ahead of the Saints in the playoff picture. If the Saints win this Sunday—they host the Falcons—and the 49ers lose, they will both be at 8-1, fighting all the way down the stretch for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Now here’s some specific advice for Seahawks fans: All of the local stores will likely have a run on popcorn this weekend. Likewise for hot wings and hop juice, so stock up early. Remember, Monday is a holiday, Veterans Day, so consider starting your day with some reflection and gratitude for our men and women who’ve served.
And then spend the rest of the day gnawing on your raw nerves.
You’ll want to be parked in front of your television in plenty of time to make the opening kickoff. Plan to scream as loud as you can. Maybe, just maybe, the Seahawks will hear and feel you all the way down in San Francisco.