Game Scout: Seahawks at 49ers

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Seattle Seahawks (11-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at Candlestick Park, San Francisco - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
*Keys to the game: The 49ers know it's a longshot to catch the Seahawks for the division title, but this remains a critical home game in the chase for a wild-card spot - and in proving San Francisco remains a strong contender in the NFC West. The franchise certainly feels the urgency, sending ticket holders a memo on how and when to cheer and coach Jim Harbaugh imploring fans to get it "cranked up." More important, the 49ers are at full strength at the skill positions and believe they are primed to peak offensively at the right time. San Francisco will look to pound the interior of Seattle's defense with RB Frank Gore & Co. and then attack man coverage on the outside. And that's where it falls on QB Colin Kaepernick: can he make the correct reads and accurate throws on key downs? The Seahawks' offense is also at its healthiest of the season - although WR Percy Harvin (hip) is still battling soreness. The 49ers need to be able to contain RB Marshawn Lynch with their front seven. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is enjoying better protection with his o-line healthy and his ability to make plays out of the pocket will stress the 49ers' coverage downfield.
*Matchup to watch - Seahawks CB Richard Sherman vs. 49ers WR Michael Crabtree: Crabtree had an immediate impact in his season debut last week, while Sherman thrives on featured one-on-one battles.
*Player spotlight - 49ers LG Joe Looney: Likely to make his first NFL start in place of Mike Iupati (knee), Looney's biggest task will be handling the Seahawks' speed package on passing downs.
*Fast facts: The Seahawks are 11-1 for the first time in franchise history, and have outscored the 49ers 71-16 in their past two meetings - both in Seattle. ... The 49ers have had seven different offensive line combinations this season.
In arguably the NFL's best rivalry going on right now - sorry, East Coast - the 49ers come out scrapping with their back against the wall. Having a healthy WR Michael Crabtree helps San Francisco exploit Seattle's depleted secondary better than New Orleans proved capable of doing.
*Our pick: 49ers 23-20