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The NFC West division showdown between host San Francisco and Seattle on Thursday night not only pits the league’s top-rated defense (49ers) and the league’s No. 4 unit (Seahawks), but it is the sixth edition of the fierce coaching rivalry between the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh and the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll.
As a rookie pro boss last season, Harbaugh bested Carroll’s defending division champs twice en route to winning the West and earning the second seed in the NFC postseason.
Their coaching history dates to their head-to-heads from 2007-09 when Harbaugh was at Stanford and Carroll was guiding the USC Trojans to at least a share of six straight Pac-10 championships.
Harbaugh went 2-1 SU (3-0 ATS) in those meetings, including the biggest upset in recorded college annals in 2007 when a Cardinal team that had lost by 38 points the game before knocked off USC 24-23 in the LA Coliseum as a 40½-point underdog. Two years later, Stanford routed the host Trojans 55-21 as an 11-point underdog.
Now for a closer look at their sixth get-together:
PRO FOOTBALL THURSDAY, OCT. 18
Seattle Seahawks (4-2) at San Francisco 49ers (4-2)
Time: 5:25 p.m. PDT
Line: 49ers -7 (37½ over/under)
Facts: SF quarterback Alex Smith, who topped the passer chart entering Week 6, dropped to seventh after his 3 INT performance in a 26-3 home loss to the Giants on Sunday. Meanwhile, Seattle rookie Russell Wilson leaped 10 spots to 17 in his team’s 24-23 comeback win against New England.
• 49ers PK David Akers, who shattered the league record with 44 FGs last season, has missed on 4 of 8 tries the past 3 weeks. Seattle’s Steven Hauschka is 11-for-12 in 2012.
• The Seahawks’ offense rates No. 29 in the league. Two weeks ago San Francisco shut out the host NY Jets’ No. 30-ranked unit, 34-0.
Analysis: This is a steep spread without having to be concerned with a QB. Smith (probable) played with a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand last week and had his worst day in the past two seasons. Is that just a coincidence? Last season in Detroit, Matthew Stafford had a midseason finger injury on his throwing hand and pitched 9 INTs in a 3-week stretch before returning to top-rate form.
• On a short week, Smith’s finger probably didn’t do much healing. As for Seattle going with a rookie QB on 3 days preparation time on the road, it won’t be impossible to at least stay close. Brandon Weeden did it with the Browns at Baltimore as a 12-point underdog in Week 4 and was throwing into the end zone for the tie as time expired.
Forecast: 49ers 20, Seahawks 17
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].