Thanksgiving day in America is known for family, food, and football. The NFL is taking full advantage of the big day by giving fans three division rivalry games to feast on between meals. The day starts with the Detroit Lions hosting the Chicago Bears, the afternoon game is between the Philadelphia Eagles, and the night is capped off with the Seattle Seahawks heading down to Santa Clara to take on the 49ers.
These are three games that have playoff implications for all teams involved except for the Bears, who are in third place in their division. The Lions, however, are in second place and just one game behind the Green Bay Packers for first place in their division and need the win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Seahawks and the 49ers come into the game with the same record and both two games behind the Arizona Cardinals for the very tightly contested NFC West. Neither team will be mathematically eliminated with a loss, but with only 5 games left to play, it is realistic to think that whoever loses this game will be watching the playoffs from home.
When fans think of great NFL rivalries, they think of the Packers versus the Bears, The Cowboys versus the Giants, and the Pittsburg Steelers versus the Baltimore Ravens. Since Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh both entered the league, there has been no better rivalry than the Seahawks and the 49ers. The two teams have gone back and forth, each winning their home games. Last year they played three games in one season, with the Seahawks besting them in the NFC Championship game.
The Carrol and Harbaugh rivalry goes back to when they were both coaching in college. Harbaugh coached the Stanford Cardinal football team and Carrol, the USC Trojans. The teams faced each other every season. Making the rivalry more intense is the fact that Richard Sherman played for Harbaugh when he was in college. Sherman had such strong feelings for Harbaugh that he thought about quitting football altogether. His mother told him that quitting the team was not an option. Sherman made the switch from receiver to cornerback and did not have to deal with Harbaugh that much after he was moved to defense.
The 49ers have been to the last three NFC Championship games, something no head coach has done in his first three years in the league ever. The two fan bases are extremely vocal about their hatred for each other. The players are highly involved in the trash talking as well, most notably after the NFC Championship with Sherman and Michael Crabtree having a confrontation.
The thing that makes this rivalry so intriguing to fans outside of the two teams fan bases is that both the Seahawks and 49ers are so good. Both teams mirror each other in many ways and take great pride in beating the other team. Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson both took the league by storm the same year, and both can change a game with their legs or their arm.
With the biggest game of the season to date imminent, the trash talking has been fairly low this year. The Seahawks are looking loose and ready for the game. On Tuesday, Sherman and Doug Baldwin held a press conference in which they mocked the league. Sherman brought out a cardboard cutout of Baldwin and talked about almost all of his endorsements without ever mentioning anything game related. Sherman made sure to let everyone know that it was okay and there would be no fines, because he talked. This was in defense of his teammate Marshawn Lynch who was fined $100,000 for not speaking with media earlier in the season.
The conference was really just a two-minute skit that had both players, the media in the room, and several players on twitter laughing. The players look to be back to the brotherhood form that they had last season when they made their run to the Superbowl.
The Seahawks and the 49ers kick off tomorrow at 5:30 pm local time to renew their rivalry. Both teams are in desperate need of a win to stay alive in the playoff race. Regardless of the outcome, nothing will be settled in this big rivalry because the two teams square off again in just three weeks in Seattle.
Commentary By Andy Lapic
Photo by Mike Morris –Flickr License