This is my Wednesday column.
Oddsmakers aren’t taking the 49ers seriously.
Vegasinder.com says they’re six-point underdogs at home Thursday night against the 2-4 Seahawks, who blew a 20-7 third-quarter lead against the Panthers last week, and a 24-7 fourth-quarter lead against the Bengals the week before.
Are the Seahawks really that much better than the Niners? Or will San Francisco pull off the upset Thursday night?
Let’s think this through.
Starting with the matchup between the 49ers offense and the Seahawks defense. Which side has the advantage?
Niners starting running back Carlos Hyde has an injured foot, and the coaches won’t let him practice. They let him go through drills, but not seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 scrimmages.
How healthy can Hyde’s foot get between Monday and Thursday? He won’t have to do much to aggravate it, considering how he runs. He slashes, makes jump cuts, then seeks out defenders and punishes them. If he gimps up Thursday night, who will take his place as the Niners’ primary running threat? Colin Kaepernick?
To beat Seattle, the Niners need Hyde on the field. But San Francisco’s offense will struggle even if he plays the whole game.
Hyde didn’t have holes to run through last week, and he won’t have holes to run through Thursday. The Niners’ offensive line stinks, and the center, Marcus Martin, is the team’s biggest weakness. He was only 20 when the Niners drafted him in 2014 — he needed to get stronger. He hasn’t. Defensive linemen throw him around.
Thursday night, he will have to block Seattle’s strongest D-lineman — Brandon Mebane. Good luck. Mebane will bull Martin into the backfield every play.
Now, let’s address the matchup between the 49ers defense and the Seahawks offense.
Seattle’s offensive line is the worst in the NFL, even worse than the Niners’ O-line. Through six games, Russell Wilson has been sacked 19 times and hit 11 times, according to Pro Football Focus. And Marshawn Lynch has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
The Seahawks can’t run block or pass protect.
The Niners won’t have to blitz to put pressure on Wilson — outside linebacker Aaron Lynch will eat right tackle Garry Gilliam’s lunch. Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini can rush just four players and drop seven into pass coverage.
On passing plays, the only receiver who can hurt the Niners is tight end Jimmy Graham. Marshawn Lynch has a pulled hamstring that’s slowing him down, so he won’t be much of a receiving threat. And none of the Seahawks wide receivers can consistently beat the Niners’ corners one on one.
So, the defense will focus on stopping Graham. The Niners can double cover him in the middle of the field like they double covered Packers’ slot receiver Randall Cobb Week 4 when Green Bay scored just 17 points.
Seattle will score fewer than 17 points Thursday night
Advantage: San Francisco
That’s one advantage for the Niners, and one for the Seahawks. What’s the tiebreaker?
The Niners have none. They’re exceeding expectations. They’re the happiest 2-4 team in the league.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are crumbling under the pressure of their preseason expectations. They were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders, and yet they have the same record as the 49ers. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
There’s a stench hanging over the Seahawks. We first smelled it at the end of the Super Bowl when Seattle blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Patriots, then didn’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line on the last play of the game.
Including the Super Bowl, the Seahawks have blown fourth-quarter during each of their past five losses. Blowing fourth-quarter leads has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How confident will Seattle be if the game is close Thursday night? Will they fold once again?
Yes, they will, and the Niners will win 19-16.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.