The NFC Championship Game almost seemed destined to be between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers from the start. Oh, wait… Apparently, it was...
At the beginning of the 2013 NFL regular football season, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers (along with the AFC's Denver Broncos) were picked as the best teams in the NFL, the teams to beat, the teams most likely to go to Superbowl XLVIII and win it. And now, as ESPN reported Jan. 19, both teams will face off on Fox Television before the nation to see who goes to the Superbowl. But if these two NFC West Division rivals' last two games at CenturyLink Field in Seattle are any indication, the Seahawks will be packing their bags for a flight east to play in New Jersey in February.
The two prior match-ups between the 49ers and Seahawks in the Seattle dome were one-sided affairs -- both in Seattle's favor. The Seahawks outscored the 49ers 71-16. However, the 49ers know they can beat the high-flying Seahawks, because they did so in December, 19-17.
Seattle brings the best record in the NFL (tied with the Denver Broncos), 13-3, into the game, but San Francisco finished only one game back. But what may be more important is that Seattle also brings the No. 1 ranked defense in the League, according to ESPN statistics, giving up less than 274 yards per game, not to mention the least points per game, 14.1. And it is that defense that just might carry the team all the way.
San Francisco presents a defense ranked fifth in the League, giving up nearly 317 yards a game on average and the third least amount of points allowed (15).
To say that the 2014 NFC Championship Game will likely be a defensive struggle would be to state the obvious...
As for offenses, Seattle was ranked 17th overall for the 2013 regular season, San Francisco 24th. The Seahawks are a ground attack team, ranking fourth in the League in rushing yardage, but their passing attack is somewhat lacking, ranking 26th in total yardage. Still, they match up well with the 49ers, who were third in overall rushing, 30th in passing.
In the quarterback department, Seattle's Russell Wilson passed for only 200 yards more than the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick. And both quarterbacks are threats if flushed from the pocket. Kaepernick rushed for over 500 yards in 2013, Wilson for over 1,000.
So it would seem that if the 49ers can contain giveaways (fumbles and interceptions) and big plays like they did the last time the two teams met in Candlestick Park (and where the 49ers were victorious), they could keep the game close and come out with a win. Fall apart just partially in that noisy dome in Seattle and they'll go home instead of to the Superbowl.
Statistics aside, what do the professional oddsmakers think? Apparently, they're siding with the Seahawks as well. Online betting site Bovada sees Seattle with a 3-point advantage, while several others, including SportsBetting.ag, go as high as 4 points.
But in the end, it comes down to individual plays and the players, the actions and reactions in the game, and how each interacts with the movements of the respective teams. Statistics are data accumulated from past acts. The game is now. And what occurs in the now, and each successive now for 60 minutes of play, will determine which of these two teams moves on to the Superbowl.
The San Francisco 49ers take on the Seattle Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Championship Game at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19, on Fox Television.