49ers' NFC West hopes could be hurt by Seahawks' easy December schedule

49ers' NFC West hopes could be hurt by Seahawks' easy December schedule

Barring an injury or an unexpected drop-off, the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks should once again battle down to the wire for the NFC West crown.

As good as the 49ers were last season, it took a Dre Greenlaw tackle on the 1-yard line in Week 17 for San Francisco to clinch the division and send Seattle to the wild-card round. While the 49ers have a better overall roster, Russell Wilson is the great equalizer. As long as he's healthy, the Seahawks can't be counted out of the division race.

As close as they are, each team's path to another Week 17 clash -- this time at Levi's Stadium -- could play a huge role in who has the upper hand heading into what is expected to be a game with massive playoff and division implications.

After a brutal stretch in which Seattle plays the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, 49ers and Buffalo Bills from late September through the end of October, the Seahawks were given an early Christmas gift with their December schedule. While the 49ers have to play the Bills, Washington, the Cowboys and Cardinals in the lead-up that Week 17 clash with the Seahawks, Pete Carroll's club has one of the easier stretches in the NFL.

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The Seahawks will host the New York Giants and New York Jets in back-to-back weeks to open December before flying to Washington and then heading back home to face the Los Angeles Rams.

Since Wilson's rookie season, the Seahawks are 16-4 against East Coast teams heading West, which doesn't give you a lot of faith in Daniel Jones or Sam Darnold pulling off the upset. Going into FedEx Field in Week 15 won't scare Seattle either, as the Seahawks are 7-0 in the eastern time zone since 2018.

The Rams are no pushover, but they are racing toward a rebuild unless Jared Goff and Sean McVay can find the magic powder that helped them get to the Super Bowl two seasons ago.

There's a good chance the Seahawks will enter December at least a game or two behind the 49ers after that brutal early stretch. But a breezy December schedule leading up to Week 17 could get Wilson and Carroll right back in the division mix.

[RELATED: Seahawks-Browns Russ trade would have given 49ers no NFC West equal]

While the Seahawks should be beating up on the bottom feeders from the AFC and NFC East, the 49ers will play what are likely to be tough, physical games against two expected playoff teams in the Bills and Cowboys, and a Week 16 trip to the desert to face an up-and-coming Cardinals team that gave them fits last year.

The difference in those stretches could end up playing a huge role in who is more rested and has more momentum in what might once again be a winner-take-all Week 17 game.

49ers' Deebo Samuel shows how he looks seven weeks after foot surgery

49ers' Deebo Samuel shows how he looks seven weeks after foot surgery

Deebo Samuel broke his left foot on June 16. It nearly has been eight weeks since the injury, and the 49ers receiver is taking his rehab head-on. 

Samuel, 24, is expected to miss 12 to 16 weeks after he underwent surgery. Ever since the injury, though, Samuel has vowed to be back sooner and predicted a 10-week recovery. On Sunday, he posted a seven-week update to his Instagram. 

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7 Weeks Post Surgery🤫

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There's no doubt Samuel wants to make it back before the 49ers face the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 13 at Levi's Stadium. The reality is that it likely won't happen

“(We’re) not going to put an exact timeline on it, but I think it’s fair to say he may well miss some games early in the year,” general manager John Lynch said late last month.

The 2019 second-round draft pick impressed everyone as a versatile option in his rookie year. Samuel caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns in 15 regular-season games. He then set the Super Bowl record for rushing yards from a wide receiver with 53 yards on three attempts.

[RELATED: Shanahan already seeing Jimmy G start to take next step]

No matter how big of a loss Samuel will be, the 49ers can't rush him back. If he remains on the non-football injury list at the start of the regular season, he would be ineligible to practice or play for the first six weeks of the regular season. And if that does happen, then so be it. 

Receivers like Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd, Brandon Aiyuk and Dante Pettis will have to step up in Samuel's absence. The 49ers don't have the most experienced group, but there's a lot of talent there to work with. Rushing Samuel back simply isn't worth it.

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Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley's work ethic never was in question during his decade-plus career as the 49ers' starting left tackle, and it appears that determination has continued into retirement.

Staley told ESPN's Emily Caplan in early July that he already has lost 50 pounds since retiring from the NFL in April, and a picture shared on Twitter by Sports Illustrated's Grant Cohn definitely shows the former offensive lineman's body transformation.

[RELATED: 49ers' Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for Super Bowl no-call]

"As an offensive lineman, you're always known as this big, humongous, unathletic blob," Staley said to ESPN. "Offensive linemen get casted in a movie, and they're always 500 pounds. Then you get the opportunity to be healthy again, and all of the effort you used to put into football, you put into that. It gives you a focus once you retire. It's a little bit vain, but I'm starting to see abs that I've always wanted. And it's kind of exciting."

Offensive lineman often must eat an incredible amount of food to maintain the 300-pound frames typically seen across NFL rosters.

Staley seems to be enjoying his retirement.

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