San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith knows that his team’s season-opening matchup with Seattle has a little extra weight to it because it is a divisional matchup.
Given that it took only seven victories to win the NFC West last year, a victory in Week 1 could be big for both clubs.
Smith and the 49ers get their season underway against the defending-champion Seahawks this Sunday at Candlestick Park.
The 49ers finished third in the division a season ago with a 6-10 record, but were in the hunt for a division title right up until the season’s final weeks thanks to the NFC West’s mediocrity. In fact, the Seahawks didn’t clinch their seventh playoff berth in 12 seasons until a Week 17 victory over the Rams finished off their 7-9 regular season.
Seattle earned a little bit of vindication by defeating the then-defending Super Bowl champion Saints in the NFC Wild Card round, but were ushered out of the playoffs the following week by the Bears.
A first-place finish didn’t stop Seattle head coach Pete Carroll from tinkering with his roster. After the Seahawks pulled off an incredible 284 roster transactions last year, the club has added another 24 players who are in their first season in Seattle.
One of the new faces is quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who takes over for Matt Hasselbeck after the Seahawks parted ways with their all-time leader in wins this offseason.
“I’m excited. We’ve been working hard throughout training camp, preseason games and now we actually have a real game so we can try to move forward as a new era for the Seahawks,” Jackson said.
Seattle could be without two of its new faces in guard Robert Gallery (knee) and wide receiver Sidney Rice (shoulder), with both players questionable and day-to-day.
Expected to contend for the division crown last year, the 49ers instead capped off a disappointing season by firing head coach Mike Singletary prior to the campaign’s end. After Jim Tomsula finished up on an interim basis, new general manager Trent Baalke lured Jim Harbaugh away from a successful four-year stint at Stanford to become the 18th head coach in team history.