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Welcoming back key offensive cogs in 49ers run game is critical to a cover

The 49ers and Seahawks square off in Week 10 Monday Night Football. Time for a pick against the spread in this rivalry.

San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida is congratulated by fullback Kyle Juszczyk after scoring a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at Levi s Stadium. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks square off on Monday Night Football to close out Week 10 with a bang. The 49ers are 8-0 and lead the NFC West, while the Seahawks are 7-2 and hold the top spot in the wild card race. A 49ers win puts them even further in the driver’s seat to win their division, while a Seahawks win potentially turns this into an interesting race down the stretch.

The 49ers enter game day as a six-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook. The point total is listed at 47. San Francisco is -245 on the money line, while Seattle is +210. This marks the first time the 49ers have been favorites in this rivalry since Week 13 of the 2014 season — an embarrassing 19-3 Thanksgiving home loss. This is the also the most the 49ers have been favored in this rivalry since Week 7 of the 2012 season. The 49ers won that game 13-6, just failing to cover the 7.5-point spread. Dating back to 1985, the 49ers as favorites against Seattle are 11-5 straight up and 6-10 against the spread. They have failed to cover their last four as favorites.

This week’s game brings a few intriguing subplots. For the Seahawks, Josh Gordon is expected to make his debut after joining the team via waivers ten days ago. He came up with an ankle injury on this week’s injury report, but was removed from the final report and has no injury designation. Pete Carroll would not commit to him playing, but did say on Saturday there’s a good chance he plays on Monday. He is a question mark, but brings serious talent to a wide receiver corps already looking good with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.

On the 49ers side, injuries and returns from injuries are significant. George Kittle is listed as doubtful with a knee injury, which means he is unlikely to play. Ross Dwelley would start in his place, with Levine Toilolo serving as his backup. Kittle is key both as a receiver and a blocker, so his absence is a big deal.

Related to blocking, the 49ers will welcome back fullback Kyle Juszczyk, left tackle Joe Staley, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey. The run game and pass protection has been good enough in their absence, but they are serious upgrades. Having both tackles back is an obvious boost, but Juszczyk back at fullback is an underrated return if you don’t follow the team regularly. He is a key part of the run game blocking. During his absence the team went to more single back sets with tight ends offering extra help. His return means more I-formation with Juszczyk offering considerable help as a lead blocker.

The 49ers currently rank first in pass defense efficiency and 20th in run defense efficiency at Football Outsiders. By comparison, the Seahawks offense ranks first and tenth in those two categories. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks defense ranks 21st and 22nd in pass and run defense efficiency, while the 49ers offense ranks 11th and 15th.

I’m concerned about the absence of Kittle, but with Emmanuel Sanders’ emergence in the passing game and the return of Juszczyk, Staley, and McGlinchey, I think the 49ers offense can remain on track. I would not be surprised if this game came down to the wire, but I think we see the 49ers impress and win in covering fashion.

Robert Saleh has had a couple extra days to prepare for Russell Wilson, which is critical. He is a dynamic presence, but the 49ers front seven has the athleticism to keep Wilson in front of them. The loss of Kwon Alexander is concerning for the defense, but they would seem to have the depth to cover for it. Chris Carson is a dangerous presence, but the 49ers chances of winning and covering come down to whether or not they can contain Wilson. I think they can do the job.

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