SEATTLE -- Three things to know about next Sunday's San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field:
1.The rubber match: This is the game most people expected to see when the season began, bitter NFC West rivals going head to head for a trip to the Super Bowl. They split in the regular season, with the Seahawks winning 29-3 in Seattle and the 49ers winning 19-17 at Candlestick Park in December. The 49ers have been the big boys on the NFC West block in recent years, but the Seahawks took that crown in the regular season. Now they want to prove they can do it in the playoffs. Playing on the road has not been a problem for San Francisco the past two months. The 49ers have won five consecutive road games, including the past three.
2. An honest hatred: This is the best rivalry in the NFL today and one of the best in professional sports. Most players on both teams will deny it all week, but the truth is these teams can’t stand each other, and that goes for the head coaches, as well. The two fan bases do everything they can to berate each other, and all of that animosity adds to the intrigue and hype for a title game. These are two of the most physical teams in the league. They are going to pop each other right in the mouth on every snap. It won’t be an easy game to officiate, having to find a balance between letting them play with so much on the line and knowing when a player’s actions get out of hand.
3. Dominant defenses: They say defense wins championships, and you certainly can make that argument with both of these teams. Seattle, the No. 1 defense in the NFL this season, has not allowed more than 19 points in any of its past six games, averaging only 11.2 points per game over that stretch. The 49ers, the No. 5 defense in the league, have allowed only 15.2 points per game in its past 11 games.