Jimmy Garoppolo, Russell Wilson prepared for 49ers-Seahawks 'dogfight'

Josh Schrock
NBC Sports BayArea

All eyes will be on Santa Clara on Monday night when the Seahawks visit Levi's Stadium to face the undefeated 49ers

At 8-0, Kyle Shanahan's team has rolled over just about everyone in their path to this point, but their NFC West rival poses their stiffest challenge to date. 

The long-time bullies of the NFC West, Seattle enters the "Monday Night Football" clash at 7-2, buoyed by the MVP-level play of quarterback Russell Wilson and powerful running game.

A win Monday night would put the 49ers on the fast track to winning the division and locking up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. A loss, however, would bring them back toward Seattle, with a treacherous second-half schedule still to come.

For the Seahawks, they enter the game against their division rival no longer the team with a vaunted defense, looking to choke the life out of their opponent. That honor now belongs to the 49ers, who own the NFL's second-best scoring defense led by a powerful defensive line and former Seahawks star Richard Sherman

Coming into the biggest game of his 49ers career to date, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is ready for what he knows will be the ultimate battle.

"It's a great opportunity for us," Garoppolo told ESPN's Steve Young on an interview to air on "Monday Night Countdown." "We've had a couple division games this year. Division games are always going to be tough and we know that. It's going to be a dogfight out there on Monday night but we're looking forward to it."

After opening the season 8-0, the 49ers have every right to feel like one of the favorites to head to Miami and play for the Super Bowl. They've been dominant in almost every aspect of the game, with each position group starring at times. The undefeated record, though, hasn't changed the 49ers' locker room.

"It's not that different," Garoppolo told Young about the feeling around the 8-0 Niners. "There's confidence. There's definitely a confidence, but we haven't been talking playoffs, we haven't been talking Super Bowl, all that stuff. One week at a time, and honestly, we've taken that mindset this entire season and it's worked out well for us."

Garoppolo enters the game as one of the biggest question marks surrounding the 49ers. He's thrown for 1,806 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season while completing 70.6 percent of his passes. The 49ers' defense has carried the day for most of the season, allowing Garoppolo to find his footing after missing last season with a torn ACL.

There are no question marks around Wilson, though. Deemed the MVP front-runner by many, the Seahawks star has been sensational this season, Following his five-touchdown performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Wilson now has thrown 22 touchdowns and only one interception.

The task of facing the NFL's lone undefeated team is one Wilson and the Seahawks are looking forward to, but they aren't focused on the bagel San Francisco still has in the loss column.

"I think for us, we've been preparing for moments like this, opportunities -- championship opportunities all season," Wilson told ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson. "Every game matters. Every practice matters. I think this is a great opportunity. They look great on film. They are playing great football. They are one of the best teams in the NFL. It's been interesting to watch how good they've been playing. It's going to be a battle.

"It's about our season, it's not about theirs necessarily," Wilson continued when asked if ruining an undefeated season means anything. "We got to continue what we're doing. We've been playing great football. The great thing is we can play even better. That's what we're looking forward to. it's about our season and what we're trying to do."

What Wilson and the Seahawks are trying to do is put a chink in the 49ers' armor. They'll look to establish the run early, using powerful back Chris Carson to pummel the 49ers' run defense, which has been mediocre this season. Getting Wilson into second- and third-and-manageable will keep San Francisco's front four from pinning their ears back and coming after Wilson.

Wilson's top target, Tyler Lockett, faces a crucial matchup against K'Waun Williams, who has been one of the best slot corners in the NFL this season. Will Wilson test Sherman on the outside with rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf or Josh Gordon? Can the 49ers defense keep him contained in the pocket and stop him from extending plays and creating big plays down the field?

For the 49ers, the addition of Emmanuel Sanders has taken the passing game from "break in case of emergency" to a bonafide threat. Garoppolo got the air attack going in Week 9 against the Cardinals, throwing for four touchdowns in the win. The Seahawks will look to bottle up Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and the 49ers' running game Monday night and make Garoppolo beat them. Getting Sanders going in the slot early will open up the playbook for Shanahan and force the Seahawks to alter their gameplan.

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The 49ers are expected to be without star tight end George Kittle, who has been battling through knee and ankle injuries, while the Seahawks are expected to have newly-acquired wide receiver Josh Gordon on the field.

After being dormant for a few years, one of the NFL's best rivalries returns Monday night.

Dogfight. Battle.

Call it whatever you want, it promises to be a lot of fun.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Russell Wilson prepared for 49ers-Seahawks 'dogfight' originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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