A few thoughts before boarding a plane for San Francisco to see the 49ers' NFC West opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night:
December revisited: Here's hoping these teams pick up where they left off in December. It's great having both teams competitive at the same time.
Different OL: Robert Gallery and Lemuel Jeanpierre started on Seattle's offensive line in the 2011 Week 16 game between the teams. Paul McQuistan, now at right guard, was at left tackle then. Marshawn Lynch topped 100 yards rushing anyway. Seattle now has Russell Okung and James Carpenter on its left side, with McQuistan at right guard. The 49ers should be better this time, too. They've got Patrick Willis instead of injury replacement Larry Grant at inside linebacker.
Around the NFC West: Oct. 18, 2012
Akers on alert: The 49ers got four field goals from David Akers in their 19-17 victory at Seattle last season. Akers missed twice against the New York Giants last week. He's making 68.8 percent of his tries after exceeding 82 percent in each of the previous four seasons. Points could be precious in a game featuring two top defenses.
Smith in pocket: Seattle forced 49ers quarterback Alex Smith from the pocket several times last season. That could be a key variable Thursday night. Last season, Smith completed 21 of 31 passes for 225 yards and an 88.4 Total QBR score against Seattle from inside the pocket. He completed only 8 of 15 passes for 78 yards and a 57.8 QBR score from outside the pocket.
Regular offense: The 49ers gained 173 yards on 12 pass attempts (14.4-yard average) against Seattle when operating with two backs and one tight end against the Seahawks' base defense. They averaged 3.1 yards per attempt against Seattle with one back and one tight end against Seattle's nickel defense. The 49ers are better at wide receiver this season, but they're still at their best when their personnel and formations suggest a run is coming. On a side note, Seattle could be better equipped on defense -- both in its base and sub packages -- with rookie Bobby Wagner at middle linebacker. Wagner is much healthier and faster than predecessor David Hawthorne was last season.
I could go on here, but there's a flight to catch and I'd hate to miss a chance to see this game from Candlestick Park. And to think, I didn't even mention the Seahawks' new quarterback, Russell Wilson. The day is young.
Note: Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for the charting data.