Two wins in five days is the goal for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7. The 49ers welcome the Seattle Seahawks for "Thursday Night Football." Both clubs enter the contest with a 2-4 record. Both are hungry to get back into the NFC West divisional race.
The trio of 49ers.com writers have returned with four topics to preview the matchup. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
1st Down: A 49ers player who has a chance to change the game is...
@Joe_Fann: Aaron Lynch
Lynch was quiet against the Baltimore Ravens after back-to-back standout performances against the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. The outside linebacker will be instrumental in the success of the defense against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense. The opportunities should be there for Lynch as the Seahawks have allowed 26 sacks through six games, the most in the NFL. Using my impeccable math skills, that comes to more than four sacks per contest. It's time for Lynch to eat on primetime.
@TylerEmerick: Vernon Davis
This feels like it's been a long time coming, but Thursday night certainly seems like a good opportunity for Davis to return to form. Although the veteran tight end has only caught eight passes this season and none since Week 2 in Pittsburgh, he has a favorable matchup in Week 7. The Seahawks have struggled defending tight ends all year, surrendering 36 receptions for 479 yards and five touchdowns. Davis' knee injury appears to be behind him as well, so look out for vintage No. 85.
@TaylorPrice: Jarryd Hayne
When he's not getting 401k help from Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett is impacting games with key kick and punt returns. The 23-year-old rookie has touchdown returns on both punt and kick return units. So while Seattle's return man has garnered attention, it's up to San Francisco's rookie return specialist to out-perform his counterpart. Hayne has an opportunity to spark the 49ers offense with a big play. The less field San Francisco's offense has to advance against Seattle's defense, the better their chances stand at earning a trip to the honeypot, a term for the end zone coined by Australian blogger Matt Cleary.
2nd Down: The 49ers position group that must play well is...
The scramble drill isn't an official play in the Seahawks playbook, but it might as well be. That's when Wilson is most dangerous. When No. 3 escapes the pocket and buys time for his receivers to get open, that's when the big plays occur. It will be vital for everyone in the 49ers secondary to stay aware and play through the whistle. There are guaranteed to be a few plays on Thursday where the 49ers are required to cover downfield longer than usual. Those plays could decide the outcome of the game.
@TylerEmerick: Defensive line
When Wilson has time, he'll find an open man. So far this season, however, the Seahawks quarterback has been under constant duress in the backfield. On the flip side, the 49ers defense is tied for 24th in the NFL with nine sacks thus far. That number has to change on Thursday. Facing a makeshift Seattle front, San Francisco's pass-rushers must put pressure on Wilson. Moreover, the guys up front will have to contain the Seahawks rushing attack, which ranks first in the league with 137.8 yards per game.
@TaylorPrice: Offensive line
Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril can give any offensive line fits on gameday. Seattle knows this, and they don't hesitate to line the two pass-rushers next to each other to execute stunts on passing downs. Bennett and Avril have three and two sacks, respectively. The rest of Seattle's front has registered eight sacks. Linebacker Bruce Irvin leads the bunch with 3.5 sacks on the year. If the 49ers are able to limit the pressure from the aforementioned names, Colin Kaepernick will have more time to build on his 340-yard outing in Week 6.
3rd Down: What will be the most telling stat in the final box score? @Joe_Fann: Sacks
At this point you're probably sick of hearing about offensive lines and the need to put pressure on the quarterback. Plain and simple, the 49ers must give Kaepernick time to throw and set up play action if they hope to have any success offensively. Conversely, keeping Wilson in the pocket and taking advantage of Seattle's offensive line will be important for the 49ers defense. @TylerEmerick: Red-zone efficiency
This is an area in which neither team has had much success this year. The Seahawks rank last in the NFL, scoring touchdowns on just 28.57 percent of their red-zone trips. The 49ers have been better, finding the end zone 36.84 percent of the time, but that number still ranks 30th overall. In recent years, San Francisco-Seattle has been a low-scoring affair. So with points at a premium, whichever team can convert more opportunities will likely win. @TaylorPrice: Yards per carry
The offensive line remains important for the 49ers in the yards-per-carry category. Seattle has held opponents to 3.6 yards per carry this season and one rush of 20-or-more yards. The Seahawks, however, have given up six rushing touchdowns this season. They gave up eight in all of 2014. So this means Pierre Garçon's workload might not be pretty at times, but the offensive line must stick with blocks and keep pounding because there's hope at the end of drives. Defensively, keeping Marshawn Lynch under 4.7 yards per carry will be key in this game. Having NaVorro Bowman back on the field should help.
4th Down: The 49ers will win if... @Joe_Fann: Kaepernick makes it three standout performances in a row
I'll remind you Kaepernick's stats again: 635 total yards, four touchdowns, zero turnovers and a passer rating of 118.7 in his last two contests. Phil Simms told me on Wednesday that the 49ers quarterback must be sharp and near mistake-free in order to beat the Seahawks. "Sharp" and "mistake-free" would both be suitable adjectives to describe Kap's last two games. If he makes it three in a row, I think the 49ers will improve to 3-4.
@TylerEmerick: Kaepernick has another turnover-free game
After throwing a combined five interceptions in Weeks 3 and 4, Kaepernick has rebounded and then some over the last two games. In addition to totaling more than 600 yards and four touchdowns through the air, the quarterback hasn't committed a turnover. If he can continue playing mistake-free football, the 49ers will be in a good position to come out on top. Kaepernick has thrown seven picks in six career games against Seattle, so he'll have to overcome some demons on Thursday.
@TaylorPrice: They contain Jimmy Graham
The former New Orleans Saints tight end is the new kid on the block in this divisional rivalry. He's Wilson's new toy in the passing game, and he's coming off an eight-catch, 140-yard performance in Week 6. The 49ers can't allow Graham to build on his last outing. Eric Mangini's defense must devise ways to keep Graham contained, and that could be the job of second-round draft pick Jaquiski Tartt, who has seen his role steadily grow over the season in sub-nickel packages.