The final Thanksgiving Day game of 2023 pits the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers. These two teams have been passing the division lead back and forth for a few weeks, and this game will go a long way toward determining which of them eventually takes the crown.
Seattle is banged up coming into this one, with Geno Smith, Kenneth Walker, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett all nursing injuries throughout the week and the team coming off a dispiriting last-second loss to the Rams. San Francisco lit up the Buccaneers on Sunday, collecting its second straight blowout victory coming out of the bye.
Which of these NFC West rivals will emerge victorious? We'll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here's a look at how you can watch the game.
How to watch
Date: Thursday, Nov. 9 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Lumen Field (Seattle)
TV: NBC | Stream: fubo (try for free)
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Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: 49ers -7; O/U 43 (via SportsLine consensus odds)
When the 49ers have the ball
Seattle's defense presents a dream matchup for the 49ers.
The Seahawks play zone coverage at the third-highest rate in the NFL (82.1%), according to Tru Media. Meanwhile, Brock Purdy has been arguably the league's best quarterback against opponents playing zone. He's completed 136 of 176 passes (77.3%) for 1,713 yards (8.7 YPA), and he ranks first in both passer rating (107.0) and EPA/play (0.25) against zones.
There is no area that the 49ers like to attack more than the middle of the field: 56% of Purdy's passes have been thrown over the middle. That's the third-highest rate in the league. On those throws, he is 109 of 141 (77.3%) for 1,392 yards (9.9 YPA) and he ranks third in passer rating (114.7) and first in EPA/play (0.49!!!) on those throws. The Seahawks check in 29th in FTN's DVOA on throws over the middle, having badly struggled when opponents attack them there.
The Seahawks have also struggled on throws to running backs (20th) and tight ends (23rd). Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle therefore present a lot of problems for them. These two teams met once in Purdy's starts last year, and even without Deebo Samuel, Purdy averaged 8.3 yards per attempt and found Kittle for two touchdowns, while McCaffrey caught six passes for 30 yards, and ran for 108 more and a score. The Seattle defense is stronger on the perimeter due to the strength of the team's cornerback room (Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen), but Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are more than capable of beating anybody.
Seattle has given up the third-most rushing yards per game in the NFL, with the significant majority of those coming after contact. Seahawks opponents have gained 3.05 yards after contact per carry, the fifth-highest mark in the league. Combined with a 21% avoided tackle rate, it's clear that there are opportunities to create hidden yardage and break big plays against this group. With McCaffrey leading the way, that could present a major problem for Seattle.
That's especially true because San Francisco is healthy again up front. Trent Williams is back, and Aaron Banks could return after getting in a pair of limited practices this week. The Seahawks could have some pass-rush advantages on the interior of the line with Leonard Williams, Dre'Mont Jones, and Jarran Reed, but Kyle Shanahan has shown a consistent ability to scheme around those types of issues.
When the Seahawks have the ball
Geno Smith enters this game expected to play but carrying a questionable designation after suffering an elbow injury during Sunday's loss to the Rams. He spent much of the second half on the sidelines as Drew Lock tried to protect Seattle's lead, only to re-enter for the final drive and lead the Seahawks into deep field goal range before Jason Myers missed the would-be game-winning kick.
Not only is Smith not at 100% health, but neither is the Seahawks' skill-position core. Kenneth Walker III is listed as doubtful after exiting last week's game with an oblique injury, and he's going to sit after not practicing all week. Tyler Lockett has been nursing a hamstring injury for several weeks, and will presumably play at less than full strength. (He played a season-low snap rate on Sunday and it wouldn't be surprising if his reps were managed here.) And DK Metcalf missed practice this week with a toe injury, but carries no game status and will play.
This is also a Seattle offense that struggled to move the ball and score points in three games against the 49ers last year, and is now working at much less than full capacity. In three matchups last year, Smith completed passes at a high rate (73.4%) but struggled to push the ball downfield against San Francisco's "no deep passes" zone coverages (6.3 yards per attempt), ultimately coming away with only three touchdown passes and two interceptions. Given that he and multiple pass-catchers enter this game with various ailments, it's tough to see the Seattle offense finding much passing success.
That's especially true because the 49ers defensive front has been playing lights out football since returning from the bye and adding Chase Young to the mix. Young, Nick Bosa, and Drake Jackson coming off the edge, with Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, and Javon Kinlaw pushing up the middle, is a group that figures to cause major issues for a Seattle offensive line that has disappointed this season. That's especially true on the inside, where Armstead and Hargrave have significant advantages over Seattle's guards and center.
Zach Charbonnet should see most of the backfield work with Walker out, though DeeJay Dallas could spell him in some passing situations. Charbonnet was an interesting prospect and runs with some power behind his pads, but even though the 49ers have the league's 23rd-ranked run defense by DVOA, teams don't often find success running on them because they get down by too many points, too quickly. The Seahawks are certainly in danger of facing that fate here.
Prediction: 49ers 30, Seahawks 16
With Seattle coming into this game incredibly banged up on offense, it's tough to see the Seahawks taking as much advantage of the San Francisco defense's relative weaknesses as they might be able to if at full strength. Additionally, the Niners offense is set up well to attack this version of the Seattle defense. This week looks like a really good matchup for them.
If you want a more analytical approach to your NFL picks, then I highly suggest that you check out the SportsLine Projection Model, which has been on fire this year. Check it out if you want to know which side to bet for every game in Week 12.