|Date of game: 11/27/2014
NFL Preview - Seattle (7-4) at San Francisco (7-4) (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - Don't expect Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree to sit down together for a hearty meal before their Thanksgiving night encounter at Levi's Stadium.
The two rivals would probably just end up in a food fight anyway.
Sherman and Crabtree square off for the first time since a thrilling end to last seasons NFC Championship Game as the San Francisco 49ers play host to the Seattle Seahawks.
With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line in January, the Seahawks edged out the 49ers 23-17 in Seattle, scoring 13 unanswered points and going ahead on Russell Wilson's 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was able to move his team from its own 22 to the Seattle 18-yard line, but his pass attempt to Crabtree in the back-right corner of the end zone was tipped by Sherman and intercepted by Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith to seal the outcome.
After the game, Sherman came over and slapped Crabtree on his rear and stuck his hand out, but the Niners wide receiver responded by smacking Sherman in the helmet.
Sherman wasn't done as he exploded into a TV camera during an interview on the field that he was the best cornerback in the game while labeling Crabtree a "sorry receiver."
Though it has been 10 months since that encounter, the fact that 49ers and Seahawks are tied for second in the NFC West with 7-4 records -- two games back of the first-place Arizona Cardinals -- and are playing in primetime on a holiday could quickly ignite this rivalry.
Kaepernick commented this week that "it's in the past," and isn't worried too much about the rivalry or Crabtree getting talked off his game.
"It's another game for him. I don't think he's worried about anything else," Kaepernick said of his receiver.
Seattle tightened the race in the NFC west for both itself and San Francisco by defeating Arizona 19-3 at home last weekend. Wilson threw for 211 yards with a touchdown pass to Cooper Helfet and also ran for 73 yards.
Steve Hauschka made four field goals and defensive end Cliff Avril had two sacks, while running back Marshawn Lynch was held to just 39 yards on 15 carries.
The Seahawks bounced back from a road loss to Kansas City and won for the fourth time in five games.
"It's a special win because we did it together," said Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. "For the first time this year, I think we played for pure reasons."
Steven Hauschka made 4-of-5 field goals in the win.
San Francisco took advantage of Arizona's loss by beating the Washington Redskins 17-13 on Sunday. Kaepernick threw for 256 yards with an interception and touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, who led all receivers with nine catches for a season-high 137 yards.
The 49ers won their third straight game.
"The guys did what they needed to do, when they needed to do it," said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. "Good teams win those kind of games. I'm proud of our guys."
San Francisco has won five of its past seven in the regular season versus Seattle and is 2-1-1 on Thanksgiving Day, while the Seahawks are 1-2 on the holiday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The battle within the battle will be the NFL's top-two ranked defenses squaring off. Seattle is giving up a league-low 296.8 yards per game, followed by San Francisco's 300.1 YPG.
The Niners also rank second against the pass and the Seahawks are third, so Kaepernick and Wilson have their work cut out for them. The duo rank behind only Tom Brady (.777) in the best winning percentage among active quarterbacks with at least 20 starts, with Wilson checking in at .721 percent and Kaepernick's record producing a .706 percentage.
And both can make plays with their feet, Wilson leads all quarterbacks with a career-high 644 yards, while Kaepernick is second on San Francisco with 336 yards on the ground.
Wilson did find himself sacked seven times versus Arizona, something that Seattle would love to improve ahead of this game. San Francisco has posted 22 sacks on the season and recently got one of the best pass-rushing linebackers back from suspension in Aldon Smith.
"We have to keep working to fix everything. We have to fix everything. It's hugely important," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. "We can't survive those kinds of games, game in and game out, we have to find a way to get the ball out and make sure that we're not getting hit. We need to run it better."
The Niners picked up five sacks in their win over the Redskins, with Smith getting his first two of the season. Rookie linebacker Aaron Lynch also had one, his fourth of the season to tie for second among rookie leaders, and defensive tackle Justin Smith had a strip-sack that was recovered by linebacker Ahamd Brooks.
Smith was playing in his second game since returning from a nine-game ban and has six sacks in his past six versus Seattle.
"He's a very talented player," Harbaugh said of the linebacker. "He gives great effort and made plays. I thought he added 10 percent to our defense in creating that pressure and the sacks, the hurries. If he feels like he can bring more, all the better."
Seattle saw one of its key linebackers return to action versus the Cardinals, with Bobby Wagner making a team high-tying eight tackles after missing the previous five games due to a torn ligament in his big toe. The return of Wagner helped the Seahawks limit the Cardinals to just 204 yards of offense.
Safety Kam Chancellor had eight tackles as well and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week and Sherman had four tackles with a pass defensed.
Sherman has logged two interceptions, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal return he took 90 yards for a score in his last four versus the Niners.
Seattle's secondary faces the task of keeping an eye on Kaepernick, who has tied a San Francisco franchise record with a touchdown pass in 18 straight games. That matches Steve Young and Kaepernick posted a 115.7 passer rating in his only other Thursday start, which came back in 2013.
Wilson has thrown five touchdown passes to zero interceptions with a 116.6 passer rating in winning his last two games on Thursday and he could have left guard James Carpenter blocking for him in this game. Carpenter has been out with an ankle injury, but was close to playing against Arizona.
Both the Niners and Seahawks are trying not to put a whole lot of focus on their rivalry, instead viewing this game as just the next one on the schedule.
"Just another game we need to win to get into the playoffs," said Kaepernick.
Though both have a chance to close the gap with Arizona, the loser of this contest could end up being the one that misses out on a playoff spot given Philadelphia (8-3), Dallas (8-3) and Detroit (7-4) are also in the mix for wild card spots.
The Seahawks and 49ers are two teams that enjoy the spotlight and every yard will need to be earned given the strength of the defenses. Seattle's offense depends on Wilson making plays with his feet and that could be tough to pull off against a Niners defense that is very strong up front.
The first mistake will decide this game and that could play in favor of the home team.
Sports Network predicted outcome: 49ers 20, Seahawks 17