Seattle @ San Francisco (+10.0)
Power rankings: Seattle 16, San Francisco 5
Spread update: This one has since moved toward the model. San Francisco is currently 9.5 point favorites. The market agrees with us that 10 points is a lot of points, especially when the underdog has the better quarterback.
Keys to the game: The Seahawks offense (14th in DVOA and 13th in EPA/play) will have their work cut out for them against the 49ers defense (5th in DVOA and 1st in EPA/play). The 49ers pass rush isn't quite as scary as you'd think -- they rank 11th in pressure rate this season -- but Nick Bosa was one of the best pass rushers in the league this season, earning first-team all pro honors. The Seahawks offensive line, meanwhile, is bottom tier, featuring a pair of rookie tackles. LT Charles Cross (9th overall) and RT Abraham Lucas (72nd) were both average this season and held up well in pass protection, but they'll naturally have their work cut out for them whenever Bosa is lined up over them. The true weakness of the Seahawks defense is with the interior, but the 49ers did struggle to generate pressure from the inside this year. DT Arik Armstead is typically disruptive as an interior pass rusher, but the 29 year old had a down year, racking up just 20 pressures over 230 pass-rushing snaps. In addition to Bosa, what makes the 49ers defense special is an elite linebacking core (Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw) and solid secondary. The Seahawks are a pass first team, ranking 5th in situation-neutral pass rates, and they'll naturally need to throw more as double digit underdogs. This plays into their strength, as Seattle has been better passing (8th in DVOA) then running (23rd). Geno Smith was the best quarterback in the league this season by PFF grades in deep passes (passing that travel 20+ yards in the air), earning an absurd 99.3 grade. The 49ers were significantly better this season against short passes (1st in DVOA) then deep passes (24th), which gives Seattle at least somewhat of a matchup advantage. The 6'3 229 pound DK Metcalf will run most of his routes against the 5'10 Deommodore Lenoir, who is the weakness of the 49ers secondary. Deep passes to Metcalf should be tried early and often.
Despite needing to turn to their 3rd string quarterback, the rookie Mr. Irrelevant who turned out to be quite relevant, the 49ers offense is 6th in DVOA and 4th in EPA/play. It's not surprising to see the 49ers offense still firing with Brock Purdy -- for starters, Kyle Shanahan has had some degree of success with CJ Beathard and Nick Mullens. But the 49ers also have a top 10 offensive line with an impressive group of skill players. Against a Seahawks defense that ranks 21st in DVOA and 27th in EPA/play, it isn't a stretch to imagine San Francisco continuing to find success. Brock Purdy's 7.0 average depth of target ranks 4th lowest in the league, which unfortunately plays right into the weakness of Seattle's defense. Seattle has been far better against deep passes (7th in DVOA) then short passes (28th) and have struggled against tight ends (27th in DVOA) and running backs as receivers (30th), which is more bad news when you're up against George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey. The Seahawks do at least have some ability to win at the line of scrimmage -- they have average pressure rates despite ranking dead last in blitz rate. Uchenna Nwosu leads the way with 61 pressures, but he works off the edge where he'll have a difficult matchup against the 49ers tackles (Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey). You ideally want to attack the 49ers along the interior -- last week JJ Watt, in his final game of his NFL career, was able to routinely beat RG Spencer Burford and ended the day with 3 sacks. Burford ranks 68th of 78 qualifiers in PFF grades among all guards and represents the biggest weakness along the line. DT Shelby Harris is a solid player for Seattle, but he's more of a run stopper then a pass rusher.