When the Seahawks host San Francisco on Sunday night, it will be for an early lead in the NFC West, and in the minds of many, it will determine which team, for now at least, is the best in the NFL.
And if two of the best teams in the league facing off isn't enough for you, there's always the bad blood between the coaches that goes back to their days coaching in the college ranks. Or there's the time last year when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh suggested Seattle's corners play too physical, leading to funny responses from the two Seahawks who played for him at Stanford, Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman, including Sherman referring to his old coach as a bully. Or how about the time this summer Harbaugh talked about wanting his team to be "above reproach" when he was asked about the Seahawks' latest suspension under the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs?
Good times, right? So obviously, given all that's at stake, considering all the bad blood between the teams, everyone at Seahawks and 49ers headquarters is especially amped up this week, right?
"We just look at it as the next game," said Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. "We take every game as a championship game, play each game as a championship game, and this right here is just another game."
"We just look at is another opportunity to put another W in the column," linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
Come on guys, you're killing me. Nothing?
"It's a championship opportunity for us, as it was last week," Carroll said. "It's no different. These games will all weigh in at the end. We have a real strict mentality to that. It's the biggest game in the world to us, and then next week will be the same. So it's a long, long trip beyond here to get through the season, and to go up and down with who you're playing and the storyline and all that, it doesn't suit us right. We're not into that."
OK, fine. But at least the 49ers, who still remember the 42-13 beating they took in Seattle last winter, they're eyeing this as a chance at revenge against a bitter rival, yes?
"It's two good teams going head to head," 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said on a conference call, not long after Harbaugh answered a rivalry question with, "We look at it as: the next game is the most important game. The next game on the schedule is the biggest game of the year. That's how we look at our opponent each week. ... The most important game to win is the next one you're playing."
That's it, I give up. At least there's still hope for some good trash talk this week. Sherman's media availability isn't until today.
But the fact that Carroll and Harbaugh even downplay the rivalry in a similar manner is a small part of one of the best aspects of the rivalry: how similar the two teams are. Despite tension between the coaches dating back to their "What's your deal" Pac-10 days, and despite the fact that there is a lot of animosity on the field and between fans, these teams are so alike in so many ways. From their stingy defenses to their desire to run the ball in a league that is becoming more and more pass-happy, to their young, dynamic quarterbacks who have become the faces of their respective franchises.
"I'd like to think that," Harbaugh said when asked if the teams are similar. "We have great respect for them, their players, their coaches, front office decisions, the way they've drafted, the way they've constructed their team, how they play. There's nothing not to respect there."
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now you're even complimenting each other? That's going too far, Jim.
Baldwin, who has played for both coaches, definitely sees the similarities, even if the coaches have very different personalities.
"I know the coaching staff well there in San Francisco because they were my coaches at Stanford, and it's similar philosophies, though they go about it in different way," Baldwin said. "... It's very similar scheme wise and very similar in the way they put the team together -- they just want hard-nosed players that will fight and battle and compete every day, they're very similar in that aspect."
Which is funny considering how different, from a personality standpoint, these coaches are.
"Pete's more of a rah-rah, up-tempo, excited, kind of like a kid type of guy," Baldwin said. "He enjoys kind of being a kid with the players, enjoying the game of football, where Harbaugh is more of a -- he likes to be in control of things. He likes things done a strict way, because that's the way he sees fit. It's different mentalities, but at the end of the day, you can't take anything away from either of them. They're both great coaches."
So no, we're not getting much in the way of smack talk this week. Seahawks-Niners may be the best rivalry in the NFL, but both sides are content to save the fireworks for Sunday.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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