While many people will have the San Francisco 49ers as Super Bowl favorite next year, which is quite warranted, it definitely will not be an easy road.
Teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers will be back and strong again as well and would rather be there themselves if they have anything to say about it.
There are even the up-and-coming teams like the Redskins and ther phenom quarterback Robert Griffin III. However, the team that the 49ers would have to be most worried about is in their own division: the Seattle Seahawks.
While the Seahawks might have gotten a free win last season thanks to the replacement officials they were a great team last year and the scary thing is, they will only get better. Guys like Marshawn Lynch and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson (who was able to put Mel Kiper Jr. in his place) were essential to the team on offense while guys like Richard Sherman (who played at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh) and Earl Thomas anchored one of the best defenses in the league.
The Seattle Seahawks were every bit as dominant last year as the 49ers were and even dominated San Francisco’s offense at times as well. Both teams are built essentially the same way starting with the head coaches who both recently came from college, and more specifically the Pac-12. They both run the ball first, play very physical defense, and are led by young, mobile quarterbacks who, along with Robert Griffin III, are redefining the position.
How similar are they?
Well looking at the stats, I would say almost perfect clones of one another. Seattle was the best defense in the league only allowing 16.1 points per game while the 49ers were third at only 18.2 points allowed.
Equally as similar are the rushing abilities of both teams with San Francisco averaging 164.6 yards per game while the Seattle was right behind them in fourth with 162.6. Hardly any difference there either. Here are the stats, plus I added individual defensive rushing and passing defenses as well.
Opponents rush yds/gm… SF 3rd at 94.0; SEA 11th at 106.7
Opponents pass yds/gm… SEA 3rd at 199.9; SF at 213.7
Total opponents yds/gm… SEA 3rd at 306.6; SF at 307.7
Own rush yds/gm…SF 3rd at 164.6; 4th at 162.6
Since the teams seem to wash each other out on paper we have to look elsewhere, and what better place to look than next season’s opponents?
The Seahawks look like they are getting a slightly easier schedule than the 49ers and seem to matchup against their opponents a little better this coming season. The 49ers will have to face the Packers and Redskins next season while Seattle takes on the Vikings and Giants.
Other than those differences, both teams will play the mandatory six divional games and based on rotational scheduling, the NFC West plays the AFC and NFC South which are both full of high-powered offenses.
When we look at opponents like the Falcons, Saints, and Texans who all have great passing games and face both teams next season, the appears to fair better against them than San Francisco does due to their superior pass defense.
San Francisco, while being sixth in the league in pass yards per game, was inconsistent at times and allowed big games to big time quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. They face names like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers again, Robert Griffin III, and Matt Ryan (who torched the 49ers in the playoffs, well at least for a half). We also saw last year how well Seattle played the 49ers at home while San Francisco struggled big-time against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
So it’s no wonder the Seahawks are a threat to the 49ers in terms of winning the division crown next season and will be a threat for years to come with a good young core of players.