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NFL: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks Preview

The San Francisco 49ers can clinch the NFC West division title with a win over a stumbling Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on Thursday night.

The Niners remain red hot after recording their sixth straight win with a 35-7 destruction of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday behind rookie quarterback Brock Purdy.

The third-stringer threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another as Christian McCaffrey arguably had his best game for the 49ers with 153 all-purpose yards and two scores.

Three losses in four games have stamped on Seattle's sparkle while an inability to stop the run and failure to shine at Lumen  Field have cast a shadow across the Seahawks' playoff prospects.

What: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Where: Lumen Field, Seattle
When: 20:15 ET, Thursday December 15th
How to watch: Amazon Prime Video
Odds: SF 49ers -175, SEA Seahawks +155

Seahawks' defense has sprung a leak

Seattle's latest wobble occurred last Sunday when the Carolina Panthers became the second straight team with a losing record to enter their stadium and run all over them.

McCaffrey's former team amassed 223 rushing yards on their way to a 30-24 win that dropped the Seahawks to 7-6 and means that they would be on the outside looking in if the season ended today.

Two weeks after Las Vegas rushed for 283 yards while beating the Seahawks in front of their own fans, it reveals a worrying trend for Pete Carroll's team.

Seattle's run defense ranks 31st in the league in yards allowed and 40% of those have come in their past four games.

So, it's not a good time for the Seahawks to come up against one of the NFL's top running attacks as San Francisco rank ninth in rushing yards and yards per game.

McCaffrey making a difference

And Kyle Shanahan's offense seems to be getting more efficient as the 49ers have averaged 28.7 points per game since McCaffrey took on a full-time role in Week 8, up eight points from the period before he arrived.

The playmaking ability he provides out of the backfield has been crucial at a time when fellow running back Elijah Mitchell is out with a sprained MCL and there has been more turmoil at quarterback.

San Francisco continue to find ways to get it done in a season where they have lost two starting-calibre quarterbacks - Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo.

More injury drama for Niners

And now Purdy has a day-to-day injury designation coming into this Thursday's game, although all the signs are that the rookie will shake off oblique and rib problems to start again.

He threw 21 passes, providing 185 yards of offense through the air and two touchdowns against the Bucs before recently-acquired backup QB Josh Johnson, in his fourth stint with the team, came in for 11 snaps.

And that wasn't the only injury flare-up from last weekend as Deebo Samuel suffered what appeared to be a high ankle sprain to potentially pit him out until the postseason.

Smith's success is fading

Seahawks QB Geno Smith has had a great year, but there are clear signs of regression from him in the past few weeks.

His three TD, two-interception performance against the Panthers earned him one of his lowest quarterback ratings of the season and his completion ratio was below 60% for the first time in 2022.

Smith faced the 49ers in Week 2 and managed to throw only 197 yards in Seattle's 27-7 loss in Santa Clara. He produced a dismal 6.57 yards per attempt that day and threw a pick at midfield with the Seahawks down 13-0 in the first half.

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San Francisco secondary could feast again

That turnover was created by second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga, who is developing into one of the NFL's best young ballhawks.

The former USC star's four interceptions tie for fourth-best across the league and it was his deflection of a pass intended for Tyler Lockett that enabled Tashaun Gipson to complete the pick.

As a team, the Niners have recorded the joint-second most interceptions i the NFL and the most of any team in the last three weeks - five. 

Priceless Lockett could be the key for Seattle

San Francisco's No.1 ranked rush defense will probably force Seattle into some third-and-long situations that will require Smith to surgically attack that secondary - but they do have an in-form receiving weapon in their ranks.

Lockett has averaged 7.67 targets, five receptions and 71.33 yards per game over the past six weeks.

The eight-year veteran rose to the top of ESPN Analytics' wide receiver rankings on the back of his showing last Sunday.

However, although the San Francisco defense is allowing 211.8 passing yards per game to rank only 12th in the league, that number decreases to 174 yards (1st) when on the road.

The Niners have allowed 17 points or fewer for six straight games and it would be no surprise if they corralled Smith and his offensive weapons in the same manner that they have done to similar - and stronger units - these past few weeks.

They have covered the spread in each of their last four games and can do so again with -120 San Francisco a solid play at -3.0 points on the Spread.

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