Three reasons 49ers will beat Seahawks: Christian McCaffrey should shine against Seattle run defense

Three reasons 49ers will beat Seahawks: Christian McCaffrey should shine against Seattle run defense

Three reasons 49ers will beat Seahawks: Christian McCaffrey should shine against Seattle run defense

The San Francisco 49ers, one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, are the hottest team in the NFL heading into the playoffs. San Francisco has a 10-game winning streak, the ninth team to make the playoffs with a winning streak and the first since the 2019 Baltimore Ravens.

Can the 49ers reach the Super Bowl? The 49ers are the 13th team in the Super Bowl era to finish the season on a 10-plus game winning streak — and five of the previous 12 have reached the Super Bowl (three of them have won). San Francisco has the No. 1 defense in points and yards allowed, the first time in franchise history the 49ers have reached those marks.

The emergence of Brock Purdy, who is 5-0 in his five starts after being the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, makes the 49ers’ late-season run even more incredible. Not only are the 49ers averaging 33.6 points per game in Purdy’s five starts, but he has the highest passer rating (119.0) in his first five career starts since Kurt Warner and the second highest of any quarterback since 1950.

Game 1 of Super Wild Card Weekend pins the 49ers against the Seattle Seahawks, who will meet for the third time this year. San Francisco won the first two matchups by a combined score of 48-20 and are favorites to win the third matchup as well.

How can San Francisco face Seattle? Here are three reasons the 49ers will emerge victorious:

Featured game | San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

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McCaffrey wasn’t on the 49ers for the Week 2 game against the Seahawks, but the trade delay acquisition made his presence felt in a Week 15 win. San Francisco gave McCaffrey football a season-high 32 times against the Seahawks in a short week, and McCaffrey finished with 138 yards (108 rushing, 30 receiving) and a touchdown in the 21-13 victory. McCaffrey had a season-high 26 carries for 108 yards (4.2 yards per carry), including a score before halftime that gave San Francisco a double-digit lead which he held until the last minutes.

The Seahawks’ run defense is one of the worst in the NFL, giving up 150.2 rushing yards per game (30th in the league) and 21 rushing touchdowns (27th in the NFL). Seattle’s struggles against the run mean McCaffrey is poised to shine, averaging 29 touches, 183 scrimmage yards and 1.7 touchdowns in three career games against the Seahawks – his best numbers against any team he faced several times.

With Elijah Mitchell healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 49ers in control of the ground game with him and McCaffrey, especially since McCaffrey presents so many matchup issues for the Seahawks defense. It could be in store for a busy afternoon.

2. Geno Smith struggles against the 49ers defense

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Smith has earned every accolade given to him this season. Earning a Pro Bowl selection for the first time at age 32, Smith led the NFL in completion percentage (69.8%) while setting the franchise record for passing yards in a season (4,282). ). Smith also threw for 30 touchdowns for 11 interceptions, finishing with a passer rating of 110.9 as he prepares to make his first playoff start.

While Smith has been excellent this season, the 49ers defense has gotten the better of him. Smith has just an 87.9 passer rating in two games against the 49ers this season, but a 102.3 passer rating against everyone else. He led the league in touchdowns thrown for 15+ yards this season, but had none in both games against San Francisco. Smith’s average passing distance was 3.4 yards shorter against San Francisco this season than all other teams.

Here’s a look at Smith’s performance against the 49ers compared to the rest of the league:

Geno Smith by opponent (2022 season)

WL

0-2

9-6

Yards Per Attempt

5.9

7.7

Passer ranking

87.4

102.3

Average passing distance

4.6

8.0

Nick Bosa certainly played a role in Smith’s struggles. The Defensive Player of the Year nominee has three sacks, two forced fumbles, 13 pressures and eight quarterback hits in two games against Seattle this year. Bosa faces a lag against the Seahawks’ offensive tackles, which rank in the bottom 10 for sacks and hits allowed this season.

Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas have been bright spots on the offensive line, but both continue to develop as pass blockers. Seahawks offensive tackles have allowed 17 sacks and 17 quarterback hits this year, another reason Smith has struggled against perhaps the best defense in the NFL.

If the 49ers can shake up Smith early — like in the previous two meetings — the Seahawks’ offense could last a long afternoon.

3. George Kittle is a nightmare for the Seahawks

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Kittle has been scorching lately on the receiving side, catching 18 passes for 265 yards and seven touchdowns over the last four games – proving he’s still one of the elite tight ends in the game. Kittle began his hot streak in Week 15 against the Seahawks, when he caught two touchdown passes and finished with four catches for 93 yards on Brock Purdy’s first road start.

In Purdy’s five starts, Kittle has 22 catches for 293 yards and seven touchdowns (13.3 yards per catch). He was a top pass catcher in attack with Deebo Samuel absent, and a reliable pass catcher for Purdy in midfield. Even with Samuel expected back, Kittle will still be a top target on offense thanks to Seattle’s mediocrity against tight ends this season.

The Seahawks allow the second-most receiving yards on opposing tight ends this season (1,115), allowing 79 catches and 14.1 yards per catch. Kittle should have a huge midfield advantage in an offense that thrives on finding players in open space, creating yards after the catch. The 49ers were tied for the NFL lead in yards per catch after receiving (6.6), while the Seahawks were the second-worst defense in the same category (6.1).

Kittle should thrive in the passing game on Saturday, and that hot streak is very likely to continue for another week.

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