Sixteen weeks of regular season have not been enough to decide the NFC West and the division will go down to the wire on Sunday.
Week 17’s matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers in Seattle, Washington, had long looked as the pivotal game to determine the division’s winner and it has lived up to expectations.
The path to what is effectively the NFC West title game, however, has been anything but straightforward over the last month, when the race for top spot in the division has resembled an heavyweight bout with both fighters dishing out punishment and receiving it in equal measure.
The 49ers and the Seahawks are 12-3 and 11-4 respectively and have exchanged the lead of the NFC West—and with it control of the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs—four times over the last four weeks.
San Francisco slipped from No. 1 to No. 5 in Week 13 after losing in Baltimore, while the Seahawks took control of the NFC by defeating the Vikings, only for the roles to be reversed the following week as Seattle lost to the Rams and San Francisco won in New Orleans.
The 49ers’ unexpected loss at home to Atlanta allowed Seattle to reclaim the No. 1 seed, which they then proceeded to relinquish on Sunday by losing at home to the Cardinals, a day after San Francisco had defeated the Rams.
The decision, however, did not surprise 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
“I kind of expected it and it’s exciting,” he said in his press conference on Sunday.
“We always like that. The only negative is that it probably gives Seattle fans a little bit more time, but that doesn’t matter too much because it’s always as loud as it can be there. But, we’re excited.”
The scenario for both teams couldn’t be simpler ahead of Week 17, as the winner will top the division.
As shown by this graphic provided by Statista, with a win the 49ers would also claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC and with it home advantage throughout the playoffs, while a win may not be enough for the Seahawks to ensure they don’t have to leave Seattle in the postseason.
To earn the No. 1 seed Seattle must win on Sunday and hope both the Saints and the Packers lose.
The Seahawks were the first team to beat the 49ers this season when they won 27-24 in overtime in San Francisco in Week 10, but they will be without two key players on Sunday night with running back Chris Carson and left tackle Duane Brown sidelined.
While the latter will undergo a minor knee surgery on Monday and should be back in the playoffs, Carson could be ruled out for the season with a hip injury he suffered in the loss against the Cardinals last week.
To make matters worse for the Seahawks, Carson’s back-up C.J. Prosise then suffered a season-ending broken arm.
The injuries come two weeks after running back Rashaad Penny, who served as Carson back-up this season, tore his ACL. It leaves Seattle short of options in a position that is key to their gameplan.
“We do kind of like running the football, you know,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was quoted as saying by ESPN. “It’s a challenge. [General manager John Schneider] has to get working. He has a plan, and he was already preparing for every position that has a fallout wherever we go.”
Here’s all you need to know ahead of Sunday.
When and where is the game?
The Seattle Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington, on Sunday, December 29.
Kick-off is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. ET.
The game will be broadcast nationally by NBC.
A live stream will be available via NBC’s digital platforms, the NBC Sports website and fuboTV.
The two teams arrive into Week 17 in contrasting moods. The 49ers regained control of the NFC West with a 34-31 win over the Los Angeles Rams, while the Seahawks slipped to No. 5 in the NFC standings after an unexpected 27-13 home loss against the Arizona Cardinals.
Seattle leads the all-time series 25-16 and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings against the 49ers, including a 27-24 overtime win in San Francisco in Week 10.
According to BetOnline, the 49ers are a three-point favorite and are 21/25 to cover the spread, while the Seahawks are 3/2 underdogs.
The over/under line in terms of total points scored is set at 47.
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