San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
When: 5:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 9 (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)
Line: Seahawks by 3½
This one should be reminiscent of old-time, smash-mouth football. There’s no hotter team in the NFL than the Niners, who have won eight in a row, including playoff games at Green Bay and Carolina. Jim Harbaugh is the NFL’s first coach to take his team to three conference championships in his first three seasons. There might not be a better secondary — or defense — in football than Seattle’s No. 1-ranked unit. The Seahawks are 8-1 at home this season and have won 16 of 17 home games since 2012, which happens to be QB Russell Wilson’s first season. Solid communication through the chaos at CenturyLink Field will be paramount for 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. This is the 49ers’ 15th conference title game, which ties an NFL record. It’s the Seahawks’ second.
The NFC West foes split their 2013 regular-season meetings, each winning at home. In their last meeting, the 49ers beat the Seahawks 19-17 on Dec. 8, 2013, in San Francisco. In Week 2 the Seahawks won 29-3. In that game, Kaeper-nick had a career-worst 20.1 passer rating. The Seahawks have outscored the 49ers 71-16 and forced seven turnovers in their past two wins at home.
49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks has 4½ sacks this postseason. No player has more than six in a single postseason since sacks became official stat in 1982.
The NFC title game has been decided by seven points or fewer six years in a row. Three of those games went to overtime.
When 49ers have the ball
The Seahawks secondary will be challenged by 49ers wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman led the league with eight interceptions, and safety Earl Thomas had five. Cornerback Byron Maxwell has been a real find.
When Seahawks have the ball
Seattle’s offense has slumped in recent weeks, but it also has made big plays when needed. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards last weekend against New Orleans. This week he faces the best linebacking corps in the NFL.