By Jerrell Richardson
There are plenty of storylines for this Thursday Night matchup between the 49ers and the Seahawks. The two teams are talented and division rivals, which only adds to the hatred between the two. Add to the mix that this game is by far the biggest of the year for both sides, and figures to have the same feel when the two met in the NFC Championship Game this past season. The Seattle San Francisco rivalry has taken off recently and now one of the best in all of sports. With so much going on, here are three things to keep an eye on during and talk about after.
Crabtree and Kaepernick vs Sherman
When the NFC Championship Game ended on an interception, due in large part to one Richard Sherman, the trash talking began. After a sarcastic pat on the butt and verbal exchange on the field, the two went back and forth through social media exchanging insults for most of the offseason. While Crabtree is not San Francisco’s only viable receiving threat, Sherman and Crabtree will be lined up across from each other eventually, and it will be interesting to see what does or doesn’t happen.
Colin Kaepernick has told the media that he is going to throw the ball to whomever is open, which if you read between the lines, is saying that he will throw at Sherman, which sometimes he’s decided not to do as of late. Sherman has put a bull’s-eye on his back, but he has the on field talent to back it up, and is a dangerous player to throw at. However, he is only human, and with the new rules protecting the wide receivers, things are now set up for Crabtree and the rest of the receiving core to actually get open. As long as Kaepernick does what he says, then Sherman should not have a profound impact on this game. However, if he decides to force the ball to prove a point, then it could backfire.
Perrish Cox With Plenty to Prove
There might not be a player on the field who wants to play better than Perrish Cox. He was drafted in 2010 and after a short stint with Denver, has only been either a Seahawk or 49er. However, the two team have combined to release Cox a total of seven times. San Francisco though only released him due to limited roster space and a player returning from injury, while the majority of his signed and then released career has been due to the Seahawks, who clearly think he doesn’t have what it takes to start at his position. After leaving the Seahawks, Cox was reclaimed by San Francisco and the rest has been history.
Despite his great season, Cox knows that tomorrow is not promised, but that a strong performance in this game will help solidify his spot in the league. Playing an old team is always personal, so playing one that released him several times in the span of a month, and playing currently for the team that took a chance on him (more than once), you can bet that Cox will take this game Thursday very personal.
Beast mode vs Borland
Rookie linebacker Chris Borland has been a stud since stepping into the starting role due to injuries. However, the 49ers run defense has not been consistent, and now face the best running team in the league. While he has more than held his own, this will be the first true test for Borland. Marshawn Lynch is a physical, talented back, and one who the 49ers have to play two times a year. Borland clearly is in possession of the talents to succeed at his position, but can he match the physicality of Lynch like a Willis or Bowman? If Redskins back Alfred Morris could run for over 100 yards with no support from the Washington passing game, then how will the 49es slow down Lynch? This matchup could essentially decide the game as the running game is the catalyst for the Seattle offense, and if San Francisco can find a way to stop the run, they will put themselves in a much better position to beat the defending Super Bowl Champs.
This will be a battle that the 49er coaching staff will keep an close eye on, as they will able to evaluate their star rookie linebacker against the best the league has to offer and will know how pressing it will be to get NaVorro Bowman back on the field moving forward.
49ers Face A Little More Pressure to Win
While there are plenty of matchups to watch on the field, the bottom line is that this is the most important game this season for the 49ers and the Seahawks. Knowing that they have to go to Seattle in just two weeks, it will do a lot for the San Francisco players’ psyches if they’re able to knock off their division rival beforehand. A loss, on the other hand, will make their week 15 trip to Seattle mathematically a must win, which certainly is possible, but not a position the team wants to be in.
Seattle, on the other hand, can afford to lose, but will then make the rematch a must win for them. Both teams will benefit greatly from a Thanksgiving win, while the loser will have to dust off and hit the panic button, which seemed unlikely just a few short months ago when the season started.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.