NFC West Clash

As poorly as the Seattle Seahawks have played of late, they've been able to hold onto the top spot in the weak NFC West.

The Seahawks look to bounce back from their most recent loss Monday night when they host reeling San Francisco 49ers, who haven't won in almost two months.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Seattle -10 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Monday's game, the over/under has been set at 38.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on Seattle -10 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Seattle (4-4) blew a 12-point lead, then forced overtime and lost 33-30 at Cleveland last Sunday for its third defeat in four games. Despite their recent struggles, the Seahawks still hold a one-game lead over Arizona in a division in which the teams have lost 18 straight games combined.

That's allowed the Seahawks to remain the team to beat in the West, and their upcoming schedule could keep it that way.

On Monday, Seattle returns to division play against San Francisco (2-6), which despite losing for the sixth straight time last week, 20-16 at Atlanta, is only two games back of the Seahawks.

"We are leading our division, still, and we have a division opponent coming up, which is a very important game," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren told the team's official Web site. "It's now an eight-game season and we've got a one-game lead."

Holmgren knows there's lots of room to improve, and he could go to a more of a pass-first offense Sunday until he gains more confidence in banged-up Shaun Alexander and a 23rd-ranked running game that's averaging 94.1 yards.

Alexander, who did not practice Wednesday but is likely to play Monday despite injuring his knee versus Cleveland, has rushed for 492 yards on 149 carries. He ran 14 times for 32 yards against the Browns.

The former MVP has rushed for 954 yards and 10 TDs in 11 games versus the 49ers, but had just 78 yards on 25 carries in Seattle's 23-3 win at San Francisco on Sept. 30.

Matt Hasselbeck threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in the last meeting with San Francisco and was 30-for-47 for 318 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against Cleveland. Hasselbeck has thrown six TDs and three interceptions in his last three games and topped the 300-yard mark in two of his last three contests, which may make it easier for Holmgren to rethink his offensive game plan.

"That might be the way we have to go now, play to our strengths just a little bit, how we're going right now," Holmgren said. "And instead of striving for balance, maybe we have to tip the scales just a little bit to be at our most productive, we'll see."

The Seahawks may also have receiver Deion Branch and tight end Marcus Pollard back Sunday. Branch missed the last three games with a foot injury and Pollard the last two with a knee problem. Branch caught 10 balls for a season-high 130 yards in the win over San Francisco.

The 49ers, too, look to get healthier with the expected return of running back Frank Gore on Sunday. Gore missed last week's loss and has yet to rediscover the form that allowed him to lead the NFC in rushing with 1,695 yards in 2006.

He has 435 yards on 110 carries, but has yet to rush for more than 100 yards this season, gaining 79 on 16 carries versus Seattle. Gore rushed for 356 yards in two wins over the Seahawks last season.

The 49ers, though, might need more than an effective Gore to boost the NFL's worst offense, which is averaging 224.2 yards. San Francisco is averaging 13.0 points and 11.2 during its six-game skid.

"We have to keep fighting,'' said Alex Smith, who was 17-for-38 for 149 yards and three interceptions last week. "There's no other choice.''

After throwing for 328 yards and three TDs last season against Seattle, Smith hopes to fare better Monday than he did in the September meeting with the Seahawks. He separated his shoulder on the third play of that contest and missed two games as a result.

San Francisco has not lost seven in a row since Nov. 6-Dec. 18, 2005, but can take comfort from knowing it's not out of the division race.

"It's tough to be 2-6, but we find ourselves in a unique position and with a unique challenge at only two games out playing our division leader this week," coach Mike Nolan said. "The season is a long way from being over."

The 49ers have lost seven of the last nine meetings with the Seahawks.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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