The Seattle Seahawks are right where they want to be on Jan. 19. Not only are the Seahawks in the NFC championship game, they are hosting it against the arch-rival San Francisco 49ers, who they have blown out in Seattle two straight times. A month ago, the Seahawks would have been considered unbeatable in a setup like this, yet now there is real doubt that they can seal the deal.
Although the Seahawks have been nearly invincible in Seattle for two years, they have been more vulnerable lately. In addition to finally losing at home against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 22, they barely held on against the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs on Jan. 11. In contrast, the 49ers have won their last eight games and have already won twice in the postseason on the road.
The 49ers haven't looked like the team that was blown out by the Seahawks in Seattle on Dec. 2012, or Sept. 2013. Likewise, the Seahawks recently haven't been the team that blew through the NFC in the first three months of the season. Russell Wilson certainly hasn't been the player he was before the last month, as he only completed nine passes against New Orleans a week ago.
Before these last few weeks, a Seahawks Super Bowl berth looked inevitable, especially if they had home field advantage. But thanks to the Cardinals, Saints, 49ers and Wilson's own struggles, there's a sense that the "12'th Man" and fan-made earthquakes won't be enough on their own for Seattle to reach the Super Bowl. If San Francisco has learned its lesson from its last two visits to the Pacific Northwest, it probably won't be.
Although the 49ers and Seahawks have been bitter rivals these last three years, San Francisco is the only team that has made three straight NFC title games and reached a Super Bowl. This is uncharted territory for Wilson, coach Pete Carroll and these Seahawks, who seem to have felt the strain in recent weeks. However, Seattle hasn't bent quite yet -- but is it close to breaking?
The Seahawks can answer their new doubters at 6:30 p.m. est on FOX.