It’s been nine years since the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks fought a grueling battle in the NFC Championship Game. What culminated on January 19, 2014 was a deep rivalry between the two West Coast opponents that had built up over the years. Many are hoping this can be renewed with another chapter in the Wild Card Playoffs.

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When the leather egg flies through Levi’s Stadium in California on Saturday from 10:30 p.m. Central European Time, many fans will remember the last playoff meeting of the rivals. Back then, the Seahawks won a long-even game 23-17 and walked away victorious at CenturyLink Fields. Two weeks later, they won one of the clearest Super Bowls in history, 43-8 against the Denver Broncos.

Without a doubt, the two best teams of the NFL season played against each other on this winter evening in 2014, which is why this year’s duel is likely to be different. Instead of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, quarterbacks Brock Purdy and Geno Smith are facing each other. After all, the support of the two solid playmakers is also impressive this year.

The stars in the pass attack are now on the side of the Seahawks DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who just two months ago made the Allianz Arena in Munich unsafe in the first regular season game on German soil. With the 49ers, the inexperienced Purdy relies on tight end George Kittle, as well as wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. All-purpose weapon Deebo reports back healthy in time for the playoffs and will be an important pass for the rookie quarterback.

The elite running backs of both teams can be measured against the old warriors. Many still remember the conspicuous Marshawn Lynch and his unrestrained hard runs or the persistent Frank Gore, who could literally wear down an opposing defense with his hard and incessant attacks.

The current guarantors of success are Kenneth Walker and Christian McCaffrey. Kenny was selected in the last draft and was previously the best running back in college, winning the Doak Walker Award. “CMC” is now in its sixth season. The 49ers only traded the athletic and flexible runner and receiver from the unsuccessful Carolina Panthers in the fall.

In the wild card game, it will be particularly important to his services and variable applicability. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has been remarkably productive in using McCaffrey’s all-round weapon since his arrival. He will be a factor again.

Gone are the days of the “Legion of Boom” around Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Co., which is why Seattle is also the underdog in the game against San Francisco. Because the defense is currently under construction. There are important young pass defenders in Tariq Woolen and Jordyn Brooks. Against the run and generally against running backs and tight ends, however, the defense is not playing at playoff level this year. Although Seattle’s defense is showing the first rays of hope, it is otherwise only a pale shadow compared to days long past.

San Francisco has a lot more to offer than that. They’re going into the postseason with the strongest defense of the NFL season, and that should give them the tailwind they need for a deep playoff run. Alongside star defender Nick Bosa, Dre Greenlaw has recovered in time for the playoffs and completes a strong front seven around middle linebacker Fred Warner.

Basically, the Seattle Seahawks should be defeated because they have weaker personnel in many important positions. But this is about prestige, rivalry and the revival of what was then a great story. Head coach Pete Carroll can certainly still remember the epic Super Bowl title in 2014 and will certainly have a trick or two up his sleeve to motivate his young team. Playmakers Metcalf and Lockett in particular can keep the Seahawks on course in cooperation with Geno Smith.

NFL fans are hoping for a renewed rivalry between San Francisco and Seattle and an exciting and explosive game. Because it is precisely such duels that make every sport a special experience.

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