NFC Championship — 49ers vs. Seahawks: 3 things to watch

Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick and the Niners finished the regular season with six straight wins.
Credit: Getty Images

Despite a chaotic finish to the regular season, including a late run by the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers and the ascension of the Panthers, the cream still rose to the top in the NFC Championship game.

The Niners and Seahawks have been the two best teams in the conference since Week 4, when San Francisco got hot and reeled off five straight wins. Seattle, of course, has been atop everyone’s power rankings all season and finished with the best record in the NFL — a 13-3 mark equal to the Broncos in the AFC.

We take a look at the top three storylines to watch for in Sunday’s NFC Championship (6:30 p.m., FOX):

1. Going mobile

Maybe the two most exciting quarterbacks in the league, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, take center stage in this game. And neither was expected to be a star at the professional level. The undersized Wilson wasn’t drafted until the third round in 2012, while Kaepernick was taken one year earlier in the second round. But they now present the most dangerous combination of athleticism and throwing ability in the NFL. Both were in the middle of the pack with 210 passing yards per game for Wilson and 200 per game for Kaepernick. But Wilson (539 yards per game) and Kaepernick (524 yards per game) finished second and third respectively in rushing yards for quarterbacks, behind only Cam Newton. Both defenses will need to watch out for the read-option attack, but also guard against old-fashioned QB scrambles. Kaepernick had a huge third-down scramble against the Packers to set up the game-winning field goal two weeks ago. We’ll see if either team puts a spy on the opposing quarterback, which could open up passing yards downfield.

2. Stopping the Beast

Kaepernick and Wilson may be the bold-faced names in every ad for the game, but the best player might be Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. The man known as “Beast Mode” drives the Seattle offense, and will do so even harder if Seattle receiver Percy Harvin (concussion) is out as expected. The 49ers are fourth in the NFL, allowing just 95.9 rushing yards per game, thanks to a tenacious defense led by Pro Bowl linebackers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks, who came up with a huge stuff at the goal line on fourth down against Newton last week. The Niners will need all defensive hands on deck to stop Lynch, who finished with 1,257 rushing yards and a career-high tying 12 touchdowns. The Seahawks finished fourth in the NFL in rushing.

3. Something to talk about

The Seahawks are in a similar position, trying to stop longtime stud running back Frank Gore. Because you can bet the Seahawks would like nothing more than to shut down the ground game and force Kaepernick to throw the ball on the best secondary in the league. By all statistical measures the Seattle secondary is tops in the NFL — including trash talk. All Pro cornerback Richard Sherman leads the league in talk, but he also leads in interceptions, so don’t think he can’t back it up. The 49ers have two talented receivers in Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, but Seattle allows an absurdly low 172 passing yards per game. Even a future Hall of Famer like Drew Brees threw for just 456 yards combined in two games against the Seahawks this season. It goes without saying Kaepernick is nowhere near the passer Brees is.

Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.