49ers

49ers-Seahawks showdown rife with playoff implications

carroll_pete_harbaugh_jim_49ers_seahawks.jpg

49ers-Seahawks showdown rife with playoff implications

The NFC West title will not be at stake when the division-leading San Francisco 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. But the game has plenty of implications for both teams.

The 49ers (10-3-1) are already in the playoffs. But they might need two victories to finish off the regular season to head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which guarantees a first-round bye.

The Seahawks (9-5) can wrap up a spot in the playoffs with a victory over the 49ers. They can also keep alive their slim chance of winning the division title.

"All we can do is focus on this game right here," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We'll have no trouble focusing. They're a great team, and coming home and all that, it will be exciting to get ready."

The 49ers won the first meeting, 13-6, on Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park. Since that time, the 49ers changed quarterbacks and the Seahawks have taken flight with their own rookie quarterback.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick got his chance to play when Alex Smith, the third-leading passer in the NFL at the time, sustained a concussion. When Smith was cleared medically, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick.

In Kaepernick's five NFL starts, the 49ers are 4-1. The 49ers are coming off a 41-34 victory over the New England Patriots last week in Foxboro, Mass. Kaepernick threw four touchdown passes and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson had his worst game of the season when the clubs met earlier this season. He completed 9 of 23 for 122 yards with no touchdowns and one interception at Candlestick Park.

Now, both teams are playing their best football of the season.

The Seattle offense has put up huge numbers the past two weeks, scoring 58 and 50 points in back-to-back blowout victories over Arizona and Buffalo. The Seahawks became the first team since the 1950 New York Giants to score 50 points in consecutive games in the same season.

This is a game that will feature two hard-hitting teams, and two coaches who are familiar with one another. Harbaugh and Carroll had an adversarial relationship as coaches at Stanford and USC. In three head-to-head games in the NFL, Harbaugh is unbeaten.

While both coaches joked this week about not exchanging Christmas cards, Harbaugh suggested he has a lot of respect for Carroll's coaching. He said there are certain characteristics of a Carroll-coached team.

[RELATED: Carroll, Harbaugh joke about greeting cards]

"Enthusiastic team. They play with a lot of energy. Play a high level of energy, intensity," Harbaugh said "Well-coached teams."

Both teams use similar formulas from their young, mobile quarterbacks to strong defenses. The 49ers rank second in the NFL in total defense, while the Seahawks are No. 3. The 49ers are preparing to play without All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith, who missed most of the second half against the New England Patriots with a left elbow injury.

[RELATED: Justin Smith might not play Sunday]

"The Seahawks are a hot team right now," Kaepernick said. "Their defense is playing great. Their offense is putting up points, so we have to be ready."

Seattle, which has not lost a home game this season, has won five of its past six games overall. Over the past six games, Wilson has led the charge with 11 touchdown passes and just one interception.

"Our trust in him has just skyrocketed in the last month," Carroll said. "He's ready, and we try to utilize every way we can to make it hard on our opponents."

“That’s our goal,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “We want to get the bye. We don’t shy away from what our goals are. We want to win the division, get the bye and go into the playoffs and go on from there. That’s something we control if we win out. It’s a big game, as far as the division and getting the bye.”

Kaepernick and the 49ers will a tough challenge in dealing with a loud environment at CenturyLink Field, along with a strong challenger. This is Kaepernick’s most important start, as the 49ers hold a half-game lead over the Green Bay Packers for the No. 2 seed with two weeks remaining.

"We're both great teams that want to win," Wilson said. "It's going to be a one of a kind (atmosphere). This is the best place to play in the NFL in terms of the energy."

With as well as both teams are playing, it's not out of the question there could be a third matchup down the road in the NFC playoffs.

 

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

garoppolo-brady-patrs.jpg
USATSI

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

If the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are unable to reach a multi-year contract extension by March 6, the 49ers have no other choice but to designate him as their franchise player.

The estimated one-year salary for the franchise tag would be $23.307 million, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, whose work now appears at CBS Sports. (That is assuming a 2018 league-wide salary cap of $178.1 million per team.)

There is a lot to consider for both sides as they look to enter into a long-term contract. Corry said if a deal is struck, he would expect it to be in the neighborhood of Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason.

“And then there’s the other dynamic, which I would not undersell or I think may not be appreciated as much as it should be,” Corry said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “(Garoppolo’s agent) Don Yee has a reputation – no fault of his own – of doing team-friendly deals.”

Yee also represents New England quarterback Tom Brady, whose average of $20.5 million annual pay ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Brady is underpaid by design, Corry said, because one of the great quarterbacks of all-time realizes it helps the Patriots to maintain a strong supporting cast.

“That’s because Tom Brady dictates, ‘I want to do something good for the team, take less money so we can improve the roster to win Super Bowls.’ That’s not Don Yee who wants to do that,” Corry said.

“The agent works for the player, so he’s executing Tom Brady’s wishes. But he gets that held against him in recruiting. So this is his opportunity to erase that perception if Garoppolo allows him to do his job and gives him latitude to strike the deal that he feels is appropriate.”

For more on the potential negotiating strategies of both sides, listen here to the 49ers Insider Podcast.

49ers linebacker Foster named to NFL All-Rookie team

lynch-foster-thomas-shanny.jpg
USATSI

49ers linebacker Foster named to NFL All-Rookie team

Linebacker Reuben Foster was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America.

Foster started all 10 games in which he appeared for the 49ers after being selected with the No. 31 overall pick out of Alabama. Foster finished second on the 49ers with 72 tackles. He had seven tackles for loss, ranking No. 2 on the team behind rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

Foster was one of three linebackers selected as an all-rookie performer. Thomas, the No. 3 overall draft pick, was not among the four defensive linemen honored.

[MAIOCCO: Ex-agent says Reuben Foster's arrest could void salary guarantees]

Foster was selected as the winner of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November. He missed five games early in the season with a high ankle sprain and another game with a ribs injury.

The NFL’s top defensive rookie was New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who recorded five interceptions and scored a touchdown while making 13 starts.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
CO-OFFENSIVE ROOKIES OF THE YEAR: RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs and RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CB Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints

2017 PFWA ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
Offense
QB – Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
RB – Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs; Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
WR – Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams; Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
TE – Evan Engram, New York Giants
C – Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings
G – Dan Feeney, Los Angeles Chargers; Jermaine Eluemunor, Baltimore Ravens, and Ethan Pocic, Seattle Seahawks (tie)
T – Garett Bolles, Denver Broncos; Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

Defense
DL – Derek Barnett, Philadelphia Eagles; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Carl Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals; Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants
LB – Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions; Reuben Foster, San Francisco 49ers; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
CB – Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints; Tre'Davious White, Buffalo Bills
S – Jamal Adams, New York Jets; Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

Special Teams
PK – Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs
P – Rigoberto Sanchez, Indianapolis Colts
KR – Ryan Switzer, Dallas Cowboys
PR – Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions
ST – Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals