These are the top-3 matchups to watch on Sunday.
LT Joe Staley vs. RDE Red Bryant: The 330 lb. Bryant lined up at LDE week 1 last year and completely handled Anthony Davis. You may remember Bryant beating Davis on one play, hitting Alex Smith and stripping the football. The Seahawks list Bryant at RDE this year, so that means it’s Joe Staley’s job to stop him. Can he do it? He couldn’t stop Houston’s 260 lb Connor Barwin from pushing him around a couple weeks ago. Bryant has 70 pounds on Barwin. Staley needs to play like the stud Harbaugh says he is. The Niners can’t afford Smith taking any blind-side hits.
SS Donte Whitner vs. TE Zach Miller: With Sidney Rice doubtful to play on Sunday, Zach Miller becomes Seattle’s primary weapon on offense. Whitner, who allowed 10 touchdowns in coverage last season and is only 5’10”, takes the task of covering the 6’5” Miller in week 1. Can he slow Miller down? Whitner is known more as a run-stopper, but he’s the best player in the 49ers secondary, and he has the toughest matchup on the team, so the Niners need him to step up.
LOLB Ahmad Brooks vs. RT James Carpenter: A pass rush would help Whitner and the secondary immensely, and that’s where Ahmad Brooks comes in. He’s the Niners best pass rusher right now, and he’s matched up against Seattle’s rookie right tackle James Carpenter. Brooks should abuse Carpenter. If Brooks can’t beat Carpenter and get to Tarvaris Jackson, Donte Whitner is in big trouble, and so are the 49ers.
BONUS: Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll: They’ve brought their rivalry from the Pac-10 with them to the NFC West, and they’re fighting for dominance once again.
**UPDATE: As Brad pointed out, Carpenter is starting at left guard in place of the injured Robert Gallery. Breno Giacomini will start at right tackle, not Carpenter.
Follow me on twitter @grantcohn