Free NFL Pick: Seattle at San Francisco 12-12-2010

December 11, 2010


Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Sunday December 12th, 2010 1:05 PM EST

Line: San Francisco -5


The 4-8 San Francisco 49ers have had one of the most disappointing seasons in the NFL this season. In a division littered with below average teams, the 49ers still manage to sit two games out of first place. The 49ers still have three division games left on their schedule and would probably need to win all three to have a shot at going to the playoffs.

Their hopes will only be kept alive if they can knock off the 6-6 Seattle Seahawks, who handled the 49ers with ease on opening day. The Seahawks began the season with a promising start, but have lost four of their last six games. They are tied for first place with the St. Louis Rams, who take on the heavily favored New Orleans Saints. It seems as though the Seahawks would ultimately gain a game on the Rams with a win at Candlestick this week.

Keys to the Game:

  • Alex Smith is back in the driver’s seat. While many 49er fans are angered by this decision, the 49ers have good reason to move Smith back into the starting lineup. Troy Smith struggled after his two big wins in his debut starts in a 49er uniform. Alex Smith has the whole playbook at his disposal and is more effective in the red zone. The 49ers will look to Alex Smith to come away with a victory, but he needs to start taking more shots down the field.
  • Matt Hasselbeck needs to improve his play in order for the Seahawks to win. Last week, he threw two interceptions against the Panthers. The Panthers weren’t able to hold off the Seahawks in the long run, but the 49ers may not be so forgiving, should Hasselbeck repeat his two interception zero touchdown performance. The 49ers will likely send pressure at Hasselbeck, as he is fragile and prone to turning the ball over under pressure.
  • That pressure will be heightened due to Ahmad Brooks’ recent production. In his first ever start, Brooks logged two sacks. He gets the nod over Parys Haralson and will look to build on his performance last week. He faces rookie tackle Russel Okung this week, so look for him to have another big game opposite linebacker Manny Lawson.
  • Leon Washington needs to be carefully avoided. Washington has been turned into a youtube sensation after being tackled by a punter for prematurely celebrating last week. Even so, he remains a dangerous threat in the return game. Huge returns are a way to build momentum and change football games. The 49ers need to play disciplined football. Allowing a big return and giving the Seahawks a short field puts their defense at a disadvantage.
  • Patrick Willis is on one of the best stretches of his career. He and Takeo Spikes –who logged 17 tackles in the 49ers’ loss last week– are a dual threat for opposing offenses. Patrick Willis will likely be sent on a number of blitzes. He has enjoyed some of the best games in his career and the hit on Matt Hasselbeck at the goal line last season remains in the minds of Seahawks fans today. Willis has five sacks this season, four in his last four games.

Key Matchup:

Vernon Davis Vs. Earl Thomas

  • Vernon Davis tied the record for most touchdowns by a tight end in a season last year. Teams took notice, and took away the seam route that made Davis so effective. He put up bigger numbers while Alex Smith was under center, and should benefit from the quarterback change. Last week, he had a monster game, netting 126 yards on four catches with a touchdown. The 49ers need to continue to take shots down the field to Davis, to soften the defense while the 49ers are without running back Frank Gore.
  • Earl Thomas has been a bright spot on a struggling Seattle defense. Thomas is a rookie safety, but has not let teams take advantage of his inexperience. He has played exceptionally well this season and will likely be on Davis in a number of situations. Davis creates matchup problems for every team in the league, as he is too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for safeties to handle. Earl Thomas is 5-10 202 pounds, but he should be able to keep up with Davis down the field. If Alex Smith isn’t careful, he could give Thomas his sixth pick of the season.

Wrap Up:

The 49ers were blown away by the Seahawks in their last outing. Even so, the 49ers have looked better than the Seahawks have recently, despite being dominated by Green Bay last week. The Seahawks appeared out of sorts in their games against the Chiefs and Saints and even in the first half of the Panthers game. I expect the 49ers to come away with a victory, but this spread is too big. A field goal should separate these two teams, as they both need a victory and appear evenly matched.

Free NFL Pick: Seattle +5

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