SANTA CLARA – On the 49ers’ Thanksgiving menu: a win in Seattle.
If they reach their goal, the 49ers may well celebrate by eating turkey legs on NBC’s postgame set on the Seahawks’ midfield logo, a reversal of what went down at Levi’s Stadium on Thanksgiving Night 2014.
Call it the Thanksgiving Revenge Tour. Or don’t. The 49ers (7-3) have bigger goals than a late-night turkey dinner and a nine-year grudge.
First place in the NFC West is at stake, although the 49ers own a one-game lead because the Seahawks (6-4) lost 17-16 Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams (4-5).
A bigger-picture view of the playoff race has the 49ers back in hot pursuit of the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles, who take an 8-1 record into tonight’s Super Bowl rematch at Kansas City (7-2). The Eagles’ ensuing game: a Dec. 3 visit by the 49ers, in an NFC Championship Game rematch.
After that, the 49ers host the Seahawks on Dec. 10 with a shot at clinching the division title, if they win their next two games and the Seahawks lose next Thursday, Nov. 30 in Dallas.
TOP 5 STORYLINES
1. QUARTERBACK MATCHUP
The Seahawks went 0-3 last season against the 49ers with NFL Comeback Player of the Year Geno Smith, and Sunday saw Smith’s throwing elbow injured on a hit from Rams menace Aaron Donald. Coach Pete Carroll told Seattle radio Monday he expects Smith to play through a bruised triceps. Whether it’s Smith or backup Drew Lock, the 49ers will have the edge, because Brock Purdy is not only coming off a perfect passer rating of 158.3 but he has thrown six touchdown passes and committed no turnovers in their past two wins to get back on the playoff track.
2. SECONDARY SHIFT
Losing an All-Pro can be a crushing blow, and the 49ers have lost safety Talanoa Hufanga to a season-ending knee injury. His replacement is rookie Ji’Ayir Brown, who made a fourth-down interception in the end zone in the final minutes after two pass breakups (and after a 41-yard completion on him). Brown aside, the 49ers will need their starting cornerbacks, as well as safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. to be ready to run with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Brown and all defensive backs will get tested, which is why the 49ers have invested so heavily in a pass rush that has sprung to life since Chase Young’s trade, with big-time plays coming from starting linemen Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave and Clelin Ferrell.
3. KITTLE POWER
Tight end George Kittle absolutely adores the noise-rattling atmosphere that awaits in Seattle, and why not? He has scored two touchdowns in each of the 49ers’ past two visits and totaled 13 catches for 274 yards in those combined. Kittle on Sunday again showed what a valuable, trusted target he is for Purdy (eight catches, 89 yards, touchdown). He is averaging 108 yards over the past four games.
4. OFFENSIVE LINE SETUP
It seems unlikely that the 49ers would bring left guard Aaron Banks (toe) back from a two-game hiatus to play …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment