Matchups to watch closely in today’s NFC Championship

Tough assignments for certain Hawks

I love that San Francisco is the team that Seattle must play to go to the Super Bowl.  Given the rivalry that the 49ers and the Seahawks now share I can’t imagine having it any other way.  Seriously, would you prefer to be playing the Panthers Sunday?  No way!

In addition to the rivalry that starts right at the top between the two head coaches, these two teams just matchup so well against one another on an individual by individual basis that you have to love it as fan of great football.

Here’s the 5 “one on ones” I’ll be watching closely on Sunday.

Michael Bowie vs. Justin Smith or Aldon Smith

Since the 49ers run a 3-4 defense and vary which linebacker comes in to rush the passer it will be interesting to see how newly named starting left guard Michael Bowie holds up against the likes of Justin Smith and Aldon Smith.

Carroll named Bowie the starter for the first time this year at left guard just in time for the Seahawks playoff game against New Orleans.  Nothing like getting thrown into the fire quickly as a rookie, but that’s Pete Carroll.  He said in his press conferences leading into that game that they had a competition during the off week and that former 1st rounder James Carpenter was going to the bench because Bowie played better.

Richard Sherman

Meet the SHADOW. Richard Sherman.

No one could ever say that Carroll doesn’t live up to his “always compete” battle cry.

Richard Sherman vs. Anquan Boldin

In the first game Seattle had this year at home with San Francisco Richard Sherman played the part of Anquan Boldin’s shadow.  With Michael Crabtree out, Sherman was free to follow Boldin where ever he lined up.

As a result the extremely physical and talented Boldin wound up with just 1 catch in that game for 4 yards.

Seattle likely does not have the luxury of shadowing Sherman on Boldin again considering Crabtree will play Sunday but it’s still a great matchup to watch as these two guys are very physical and quite frankly, don’t like each other that much.

Byron Maxwell vs. Michael Crabtree

Crabtree didn’t play in the first 49ers game in Seattle but he did in the 2nd matchup at Candlestick.  Crabtree managed 4 catches for 40 yards.  Not huge numbers but the Seahawks defense will likely see a lot of balls thrown Crabtree’s way on Sunday.

Is Byron Maxwell up to the challenge?  Well, he’s picked off Kaepernick once already in his short career since being named as the new starting corner alongside Sherman.  He needs to continue to ball hawk Kaepernick because history says that Kaepernick will give the Seahawks chances to make picks when he plays in Seattle.

Malcolm Smith OR KJ Wright vs. Vernon Davis

This might be the most interesting matchup in the entire game.  KJ Wright did an unbelievable job against Jimmy Graham in the first New Orleans game.  He has since broke his foot and Malcolm Smith has performed admirably in his absence.

The Seahawks played New Orleans again and rotated coverage on Graham a bit more than they did during the first game but Smith still had Graham on numerous plays during that game last week.

Graham finished with just 1 catch for 8 yards and the 1 catch was while the Seahawks were in a full prevent defense mode.  Vernon Davis is a very similar type of tight end and Smith and Wright are going to have to rise to the challenge again.

Marshawn Lynch vs. Patrick Willis

I don’t think you could argue any other running back being more physical than Marshawn Lynch.  I think you might be able to make the same type of argument in terms of physicality with 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

Lynch is going to shoot the gaps and when he does, more often than not it’s going to Patrick Willis that is there to greet him.  Beast mode is going to have to get going much like he did against New Orleans in order to free things up for Russell Wilson and the passing game.

Lynch is outstanding at making the first would be tackler miss.  How many times will that happen to Willis?  It’s going to be dang fun to watch and find out and if/when he does it could mean Beastquake III at Century Link on Sunday.

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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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