The NFC West comes down to Sunday night as the San Francisco 49ers will travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the 2019 regular season finale. The primetime matchup also has plenty of postseason implications as San Francisco looks to gain a first-round Bye and homefield advantage through the playoffs with a win in Week 17.
This week, we are joined by Seahawks.com reporter John Boyle to get an insider's look ahead of the divisional rematch in Seattle. Here's what Boyle has to say about the Seahawks in this week's showdown for NFC West supremacy.
Q: In Week 10, we discussed Pete Carroll's "every week is a championship opportunity" approach to the game. With so much on the line in Week 17, is the team still buying in to this method, or do you sense any additional motivation from the locker room?
Boyle: When it comes to the preparation, the Seahawks will treat this game like any other, but that doesn't mean players don't understand what's at stake Sunday. So yeah, there's a little bit of extra juice in the building—and the addition of Marshawn Lynch has added to that—but the Seahawks won't come into this game treating it any differently than their previous 15 games. The way Pete Carroll sees it, it's not that they don't recognize that this game is a big one, but rather that they treat them all as big. The reason being that a game won or lost in September was just as important to getting to this point as is a game in Week 17.
Q: The biggest news heading into the final week of the season was the signing of Marshawn Lynch. Sunday will mark his first game in nearly 14 months when he was a member of the Oakland Raiders. How much of a workload is Seattle looking to give Lynch in his first snap since October 2018 alongside recent signing, Robert Turbin and rookie Travis Homer?
Boyle: Players and coaches have said Lynch and Turbin looked great during the week of practice, and Carroll confirmed Friday that both will play, but it's tough to say what that will mean on gameday given that, as you mentioned, Lynch hasn't played in over a year. Carroll was understandably vague when asked how carries would be divvied up this weekend, but it's probably safe to assume that no one back will be asked to replace the workload of Chris Carson, who was averaging 21 touches per game this season.
There's also the factor of Lynch and Turbin adjusting to a different offense since the Seahawks have changed offensive coordinators since they played here. Carroll has noted that there's enough similarity between their old offense and the current one that the adjustment shouldn't be too difficult, but they will have to catch up quickly on new terminology to be ready to go Sunday.
Q: Injuries played a great deal in San Francisco's Week 10 loss to Seattle. It appears as if the Seahawks are now dealing with their own share of ailments heading into Week 17 as seven of their 10 linemen were listed on Thursday's injury report – with one of the most notable being left tackle Duane Brown. How is Seattle looking to replace their All-Pro, Pro Bowl tackle?
Boyle: The Seahawks can go one of two ways with this one, and Carroll isn't saying what they'll do. Earlier this season when Brown missed a pair of games, the Seahawks went with George Fant at left tackle, but last week they used Jarmarco Jones at that spot. Part of the decision making there, Carroll said, had to do with the uncertainty of Brown's status until late in the week. Fant has a pretty sizable role in Seattle's offense as a sixth lineman/big tight end, so going with Jones allowed them to keep Fant in that role, but as they showed earlier this year, they might be willing to take Fant out of that role if they think he's the better choice at left tackle.
Q: Russell Wilson has been spectacular this season, throwing 29 touchdowns to a career-low five interceptions. What does he need to do to in Week 17 to help the Seahawks depleted offense?
Boyle: Regardless of who's at running back, I'd be surprised if the Seahawks just give up on the running game, but it's also probably not fair for anyone to just come in and match the level of play of Chris Carson, who has rushed for 2,381 yards over the past two seasons. So yeah, it's probably safe to assume that Wilson and the passing game will need to step up on Sunday. When it comes to Wilson himself, he just needs to play like he usually does, take care of the football, make plays downfield, and use his legs to avoid pressure whenever possible. Seattle's line, regardless of who is playing left tackle, will need to do its part as well to give Wilson time to operate. If the Seahawks can give Wilson time to find his weapons in the passing game, and if he can continue to take care of the ball, he should be able to do his part to help the Seahawks succeed.
Q: Jadeveon Clowney had his best performance of the season against the 49ers, tallying a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery for a touchdown in Week 10. Since, he's played in just two games while dealing with a lingering core muscle injury and the flu. Slated to make his return in the regular season finale, what does Clowney bring to this defense?
Boyle: At his best, Clowney can be a game-wrecker for opposing offense, as the 49ers discovered in Week 10. His sack numbers haven't been impressive this year, but Clowney has pressured quarterbacks at a high rate, and he commands double teams nearly every play, creating opportunities for his teammates. Clowney said the two games off has him feeling better, and all but guaranteed he is playing, and that's obviously huge news for a defense that has been inconsistent at times this season, but that has shown in some games—the win over the 49ers in particular—that it is capable of playing at a very high level.
Q: Quandre Diggs has been a welcome addition to the Seahawks defense fitting in seamlessly. With him currently on the mend who needs to step up in his absence?
Boyle: Despite not practicing this week due to an ankle injury, Diggs is questionable and Carroll said he has a shot to go. But if Diggs does have to miss a second straight game, the likely answer would be third-year safety Lano Hill, who started last week's game and who took over for Diggs when he initially went down with the injury in Week 15. The Seahawks have a couple of young safeties whose upside they like in rookies Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi (Amadi has also seen playing time as Seattle's nickel corner), but based off of the past couple of weeks, it looks like it'll be Hill stepping up if Diggs can't go.