Best in the NFL
Rivalries are the lifeblood of sports. That game coaches, players, and fans all circle on their schedules. Yankees-Red Sox. Bears-Packers. Michigan-Ohio State.
It’s the rivalry games that can make or break a season, and good rivalries cement themselves into the minds of America forever. Players play harder, fans are more passionate, and coaches become either legends or goats.
That’s why it can only be a good thing for the NFL that a rivalry is brewing out on the West Coast between two of the NFL’s youngest teams.
I’m talking about the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. A historical rivalry it is not, but it has all the makings of the NFL’s next feud.
Playmaking Young Quarterbacks
Starting from the top, much buzz has been made about the so-called “Gang of Four,” the group of talented young quarterbacks who shook up the NFL last season.
Both are jet-footed quarterbacks who can make plays with their legs, but have cannons for arms. Both emerged seemingly from nowhere. Wilson unexpectedly beat out Matt Flynn for the job in Seattle.
Kaepernick replaced an injured Alex Smith halfway through the season in San Francisco and never looked back. Wilson and Co. made it to the divisional round of the playoffs, while Kaepernick took the Niners all the way to the Super Bowl.
Because of their age and more reasons that we’ll get into, expect the two to be linked throughout their careers.
Elite Physical Running Backs
Continuing with the similarities between both teams, both feature manhandling running offenses centered around a tough, physical runner.
Both backs are agile, but are as likely to run you over as they are to juke you out of your cleats. And I’m not even touching on the backup backs each team has (LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Robert Turbin to name a few).
You could put together a very convincing case that the defenses of the respective teams are 1 and 2 in the league. Both teams have head cracking safeties and elite cornerbacks.
San Francisco had the better defensive line last season, as Seattle will need to improve their pass rush in 2013. But it’s just another parallel between the two squads.
Unless Portland gets an NFL team, the Niners are geographically Seattle’s biggest rival in the foreseeable future.
Two of the largest cities on the West Coast and the two biggest north of SoCal, they are similar in many ways.
And nothing helps a rivalry like neighbors not too far away. A rivalry is at its best when the teams are close by, like Boston and New York.
The NFC West is Up For Grabs
The NFC west is a clear two-horse race as the two squads are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference.
Conference rivals means they’ll be seeing each other a lot, and as long as every game doesn’t end in a 42-13 blowout, they should be match-ups to look forward too.
Let’s a take a look at the schedule.
After a mild opener against Carolina, the Seahawks season kicks into high gear as the Niners come to town for week two.
The matchup, on September 15th, is the primetime Sunday night 8:30 game. The first game will be huge for both teams, as both will look to jump out to a strong start to the season and prove their statuses as Super Bowl contenders are legitimate.
Matchup number two is on December 8th in week 14 for the Seahawks, and while it has a regular 4:25 time slot, timeliness could wind up making it the more important game of the two.
San Francisco will have the home field advantage this time around. But if either team wants to be seriously considered championship-caliber, they’ll need to be able to win on the road.
A pounding running back, a stingy defense, a bright young star at quarterback; that could describe either team equally well.
Their similarities, geographical proximity, and status as natural rivals for the NFC West crown should kick off some of the NFL’s most heated match-ups for the next few years.