The matchup we’ve all been waiting for is almost here. The Seattle Seahawks (7-2) are in the Bay Area for a primetime bout against the San Francisco 49ers (8-0).
Monday’s night’s contest will dictate who’s in control of the NFC West and will serve as a litmus test for both teams. Here are five Seahawks players who will play pivotal roles in whether or not Seattle is able to come away with a win.
1. DE Ziggy Ansah
I wasn’t lying when I said that Ansah would be on this list until he showed up. Seattle will desperately need its pass rush. Jimmy Garoppolo will carve up the Seahawks secondary if he’s allowed to sit in a clean pocket all game long. Pete Carroll said during the week that Ansah is still lacking strength and is about 10 pounds away from where he needs to be. Ansah is going to have to find a way to be productive without being at 100% because Seattle doesn’t have any other options at edge.
2. DB Quandre Diggs
Diggs is one of Seattle’s two wildcards in this game. He is yet to play a game for Seattle, but it appears that he’s finally ready to make his Seahawks debut. Diggs’ hamstring is healthy, and he doesn’t carry an injury designation going into this one. We have no idea how Diggs will fit into Seattle’s defense. Nickel corner seems to make the most sense as Diggs would be able to make a big impact while not having to be an every-down player. He’d figure to be an upgrade over Jamar Taylor.
3. WR Josh Gordon
Gordon, obviously, is the other wildcard. The receiver told reporters on Saturday that he’s healthy and ready to roll. I can’t imagine the Seattle makes him inactive. His mere presence alone will be enough to capture San Francisco’s attention. Jaron Brown, David Moore and Malik Turner played a combined 64 snaps in Week 9. There’s no reason why 25 of those can’t go to Gordon. His potential Seahawks debut will be one of Monday night’s biggest storylines.
4. TE Jacob Hollister
Hollister caught four passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns in Week 9 against the Bucs, including a 10-yard walk-off score. He’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who will be making his first career start in place of Kwon Alexander (torn pec). Alexander was one of San Francisco’s emotional leaders on defense, and he was also fantastic in coverage. Greenlaw will have big shoes to fill. It would be silly for Seattle to not challenge the rookie early and often.
5. RB Chris Carson
San Francisco’s defense has been fantastic, but the 49ers have largely benefitted from playing with a lead. That has made opponents one dimensional. If Seattle can avoid an early deficit, sticking to the run game will be crucial. The 49ers have allowed 4.7 yards per carry this season and two-consecutive 100-yard rushers. Kenyan Drake racked up 110 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries in Week 9. Before that it was Christian McCaffrey with 117 yards on 14 carries.
The 49ers utilize a Wide-9 alignment along their defensive front to buoy the pass rush. But that strategy does leave gaps against the run. Carson has four 100-yard games this season, and Seattle will likely lean on him heavily Monday night. Getting Carson rolling will help keep the 49ers talented defensive line off balance.