NFL: 49ers-Seahawks preview

The Examiner breaks down the 49ers-Seahawks game, including what it will take to win, the matchups, a word about the coaches, our humble predictions and broadcast information.

THREE KEYS TO A VICTORY

1. Despite their atrocious start to the season, the Niners are still just two games behind the West-leading ’Hawks. Seattle isn’t exactly a premier powerhouse in the NFC. So one slight mishap — along with a lukewarm streak by the Niners — could make the West an open race once again. But quarterback Alex Smith, who’s averaging just 133.3 yards per game, needs to get the offense going — seriously.

2. Offensive tackle Jonas Jennings was placed on injured reserve and guard Justin Smiley will have season-ending shoulder surgery. Adam Snyder will start his third game in place of Jennings while David Baas moves up to start at right guard. But the Niners can’t afford to lose any more linemen.

3. The Niners have done a good job getting tight end Vernon Davis involved (he has 13 catches for 148 yards in the last two games). But wideout Darrell Jackson has yet to show up at all this season. He has just 20 catches for 237 yards.

KEY MATCHUPS

MARK ROMAN vs. BOBBY ENGRAM

Roman: If cornerbacks get burned by now-healthy receivers, safety will have to bail them out.

Engram: Moves back to slot with Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett back. But should still be active.

LARRY ALLEN vs. ROCKY BERNARD

Allen: If guard doesn’t want to see Alex Smith pancaked again, he must provide protection.

Bernard: Defensive tackle’s crushing sack on Smith in Week 4 was a turning point to Niners’ season.

PATRICK WILLIS vs. MAURICE MORRIS

Willis: Playing with broken hand, linebacker is only good thing Niners have on both sides of the ball.

Morris: RB could start if Shaun Alexander can’t play due to injuries to wrist, ankle and knee.

COACHES' CORNER

The Niners’ Mike Nolan will be coaching with a heavy heart. His father Dick, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer for several years, died on Sunday at the age of 75.

After watching Arizona pick up a victory over the Detroit Lions, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren needs to pick up a victory in order for his team to stay in sole possession of first place in the NFC West.

THE EXAMINER PREDICTS …

Losing two starting linemen, it’s unclear whether the Niners will make any significant progress in moving the football. Chances are they may look good, but the defense will give up a big play and Seattle’s running game will show up. Seahawks 21, 49ers 13

49ers at Seahawks

Today, 5:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN, KBCW (Ch. 44)

Radio: KNBR

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