NFC West: 2014 Quick Takes NFC

Quick Take: 49ers at Seahawks

January, 12, 2014
Jan 12
Three things to know about next Sunday's San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field:

1. Inevitable meeting: The matchup has been brewing since the offseason. This is one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL. The players have gotten chippy. The coaches have gotten chippy. The teams have poached each other’s rosters. It only makes sense that a Super Bowl berth comes down to these two NFC West adversaries.

2. The quarterbacks: San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson are two of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the NFL. They have similar games and are great leaders for their teams. This game likely will come down to which quarterback makes the most plays with his arm and legs. Kaepernick has been to this stage before; Wilson hasn’t. Will Kaepernick's championship game experience give him the edge?

3. Can 49ers figure out how to win at Seattle? The 49ers were hammered in Seattle 29-3 in Week 2 and have been outscored 71-16 in their past two games at CenturyLink Field. The 49ers were greatly affected by the infamous noise level in those two games. Sunday, after beating the Panthers, several 49ers said the key will be to play as perfect as possible to take the crowd out of the game.

Quick Take: 49ers at Seahawks

January, 12, 2014
Jan 12
SEATTLE -- Three things to know about next Sunday's San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field:

1.The rubber match: This is the game most people expected to see when the season began, bitter NFC West rivals going head to head for a trip to the Super Bowl. They split in the regular season, with the Seahawks winning 29-3 in Seattle and the 49ers winning 19-17 at Candlestick Park in December. The 49ers have been the big boys on the NFC West block in recent years, but the Seahawks took that crown in the regular season. Now they want to prove they can do it in the playoffs. Playing on the road has not been a problem for San Francisco the past two months. The 49ers have won five consecutive road games, including the past three.

2. An honest hatred: This is the best rivalry in the NFL today and one of the best in professional sports. Most players on both teams will deny it all week, but the truth is these teams can’t stand each other, and that goes for the head coaches, as well. The two fan bases do everything they can to berate each other, and all of that animosity adds to the intrigue and hype for a title game. These are two of the most physical teams in the league. They are going to pop each other right in the mouth on every snap. It won’t be an easy game to officiate, having to find a balance between letting them play with so much on the line and knowing when a player’s actions get out of hand.

3. Dominant defenses: They say defense wins championships, and you certainly can make that argument with both of these teams. Seattle, the No. 1 defense in the NFL this season, has not allowed more than 19 points in any of its past six games, averaging only 11.2 points per game over that stretch. The 49ers, the No. 5 defense in the league, have allowed only 15.2 points per game in its past 11 games.

Quick Take: 49ers at Panthers

January, 5, 2014
Jan 5
Three things to know about the San Francisco 49ers' matchup at the Carolina Panthers in the NFC divisional round at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday:

1. Rematch: All Colin Kaepernick said about the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night, after the 49ers secured their trip there with a 23-20 win at Green Bay was “we owe them.” The Panthers beat the 49ers in San Francisco, 10-9, on Nov. 10. It was one of the NFL’s most physical games of the season. Both offenses struggled as both teams played brilliant defense. Expect another low-scoring game, although the point total likely will exceed 19 this time around.

2. Young quarterback battle: This will be a terrific national spotlight game for two of the better young quarterbacks in the league, Kaepernick and Carolina's Cam Newton. One of these two quarterbacks is heading to the NFC Championship Game. Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. Kaepernick, who already has been to one Super Bowl, was taken in the second round.

3. Great linebacking play: The first meeting was highlighted by stellar defensive play, particularly by the inside linebackers. San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis and Carolina’s Luke Kuechly are among the game’s best middle linebackers. Bowman and Kuechly are legitimate NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidates. Expect this matchup to be run through these guys once again.

Quick Take: Saints at Seahawks

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
SEATTLE -- Three things to know about next weekend's New Orleans Saints-Seattle Seahawks divisional round playoff game at CenturyLink Field:

1. Back where Who Dat was handed its hat: The Saints were 0-5 in road playoff games in franchise history before defeating the Eagles 26-24 in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Now New Orleans returns to the site of its worst defeat this season, a 34-7 victory by the Seahawks in a Monday night game on Dec. 2. Seattle held the Saints to 44 yards rushing, and Russell Wilson had one of his best games of the season, completing 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

2. And where the Beast Quake beat them: The last home playoff game for the Seahawks was a 41-36 victory against the Saints three years ago, when Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch rocked the world (literally). His 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, when he broke seven potential tackles, was the scamper that came to be known as the Beast Quake after registering seismic activity from the frenzied crowd.

3. Strength versus strength: Saturday's game will match the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL against the No. 2 passing offense. The Saints averaged 307 yards passing per game in the regular season, and had four players with more than 70 catches, an NFL first. The Seahawks led the league in passing yards allowed per game (172), and interceptions (28).

Quick Take: 49ers at Packers

December, 29, 2013
Three things to know about the San Francisco 49ers' matchup against the Green Bay Packers in an NFC wild-card game at 4:40 p.m. ET Sunday at Lambeau Field:

1. Two teams no one wants to play. This rematch of the 49ers’ Week 1 home victory is easily the most intriguing matchup of the first weekend. The 49ers are the NFL’s hottest team. They have the longest active win streak in the league at six games and have won 11 of their past 13 games. This is a 12-4 juggernaut. However, the Packers are dangerous. A healthy Aaron Rodgers makes them a contender, and winning at Lambeau Field in the playoffs is never easy for the road team.

2. Will the read-option live? This should be an interesting cat-and-mouse game. Last year in the divisional round in San Francisco, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran all over the Packers using the read-option. It was a huge storyline heading into Week 1 -- and then the 49ers barely used it as Kaepernick threw for a season-high 412 yards, including hitting Anquan Boldin 13 times. They used it sparingly the rest of the season, but they do break it out now and again. Will it happen again at Green Bay? I can see it being used, at least a bit. The Packers will definitely be on their toes.

3. Check the weather. It is expected to be cold with a chance of snow next weekend in Green Bay. Of course, it is Green Bay in January. The 49ers are a physical, grinding team. They fancy themselves as a cold-weather team. It shouldn’t be a big problem, but the weather is always an advantage for the Packers.