The luster is off the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry.
The 49ers have beaten Seattle just once in seven meetings since the 2012 season.
The 49ers have not scored 20 points or more against the Seahawks in the past nine meetings. So many of the great matchups and comparisons of the past are gone: Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll, Michael Crabtree vs. Richard Sherman and, even, Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson. Still, it’s an important game for both teams.
Here are 10 players to watch in Sunday’s game:
10) RT Erik Pears, 49ers
This venue is the most difficult for visiting offensive tackles. Pears will have the biggest challenge, as he lines up mostly against Cliff Avril on passing downs. Pears, a 10-year veteran, was signed to be a guard. He has played mostly at right tackle, where he has struggled. The right side of the line must keep pressure out of Blaine Gabbert’s face.
9) CB Cary Williams, Seahawks
While most of the attention will shift to Richard Sherman, the 49ers will likely try to attack the other side of the field. Williams has mostly struggled in pass coverage since signing as a free agent. A healthy Anquan Boldin could give Williams some problems, and the 49ers will be looking to go that direction as often as possible.
8) P Bradley Pinion, 49ers
The 49ers must play the field-position game if they have any hope of sticking close to the Seahawks in this game. That means the rookie punter must show greater consistency with his directional punting and give Seahawks rookie return man Tyler Lockett few opportunities to bust loose on a big play in the kicking game.
7) TE Jimmy Graham, Seahawks
Graham has been Seattle’s leading receiver, but the trade that sent Max Unger to the Saints has not provided the Seahawks with the kind of returns for which they had hoped. The Seahawks gave up a lot, and their offensive line has been horrible. Still, Graham provides a dangerous target who could create problems in the middle of the field for the 49ers.
6) TE Garrett Celek, 49ers
When training camp started, Celek looked to be a long shot to win a roster spot. But, now, Celek is clearly the 49ers’ best tight end. They had no second thoughts about sending Vernon Davis to Denver because Celek is better than Davis and Vance McDonald. It appears as if Celek and Blaine Gabbert have pretty good chemistry with the pair teaming up for two TDs against Atlanta.
5) S Kam Chancellor, Seahawks
Seattle’s hard-hitting safety is a key figure in pass defense, as well as his ability to come up in run support. Despite the 49ers’ no-name run game of Shaun Draughn, Kendall Gaskins and Travaris Cadet, they will still want to run the football. Chancellor is capable of setting the tone for a Seattle defense that wants to establish their superiority early in the game.
4) S Jaquiski Tartt, 49ers
Part of the reason the 49ers drafted Tartt in the second round was because of the versatility he provided in covering big tight ends, such as Graham. Tartt will be on the field for every snap, now that Antoine Bethea is out of the season. In many ways, he is the 49ers’ answer for Chancellor. He’s a big-hitter who could make his mark on this game in a number of different ways.
3) QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Seattle has the league’s 27th-ranked passing attack, but Wilson is still capable of making the big, back-breaking play in the passing game. Wilson is at his best when he is not contained within the pocket. His short-area quickness makes it difficult for pass-rushers to contain him. He can buy time to make big plays despite the Seahawks’ leaky play on the offensive line.
2) QB Blaine Gabbert, 49ers
Gabbert was promised nothing beyond this game, as coach Jim Tomsula named Gabbert to his second consecutive start over Colin Kaepernick. Now, this is Gabbert's show. Kaepernick is out for the remainder of the season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The only safety net the 49ers have behind Gabbert is undrafted rookie Dylan Thompson. Now, Gabbert is playing for the opportunity to head into next season as the 49ers' starter. He was solid –- not spectacular –- against the Falcons in his first start. And it does not get any more difficult than playing this defense on its home field.
1) LB NaVorro Bowman, Seahawks
This is Bowman’s first game in Seattle since he sustained the horrific left knee injury in the NFC Championship game in January 2014. Bowman has shown steady improvement as he’s regained his strength and lateral quickness through the first nine games of this season. Bowman is playing at a high level, once again, as he returns to face his old nemesis. Bowman ranks third in the NFL with 88 tackles.