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They’ll face a hefty challenge trying to keep LB Aldon Smith (99), Justin Smith and San Francisco’s other prime sackmasters away from Wilson. Then again, those defenders might get tired chasing Wilson.

Where the Seahawks don’t equal the 49ers on offense is at receiver. There’s not a lot of star power there, especially if Percy Harvin (11) can’t go because of concussion symptoms.

Still, don’t underestimate the hands of Doug Baldwin (89), the moves and quickness of Golden Tate (81) or the steadiness of TE Zach Miller (86).

Special Teams

No real big edges here unless Harvin is healthy - he’s a gamebreaker on returns.

Tate probably is the next-best weapon on either side running back kicks.

Both sides treasure the reliability of their kickers. San Francisco brought in veteran PK Phil Dawson (9) as a free agent after David Akers flopped last season. Dawson has excelled, and he beat Green Bay in the wild-card round with a final-second field goal through the frigid night air. Punter Andy Lee (4) has been a perennial Pro Bowler.

Seattle counters with PK Steven Hauschka (4), who also has had a topnotch season, and Jon Ryan (9), who regularly buries punts deep in opponent’s territory.


Harbaugh and Carroll have no love lost, dating to when they were at Stanford and Southern Cal and Harbaugh ran up the score, prompting Carroll to ask him, “What’s your deal?”

Harbaugh’s deal has been winning like no coach in San Francisco since Bill Walsh. This is the Niners’ third straight trip to the NFC title game under him. He exudes confidence and, yes, arrogance, and it works for the 49ers.

Carroll’s nonstop exuberance rubs off on his players, and no team is more aggressive, especially on defense, which is Carroll’s specialty. He had some success in a previous head coaching stint with the Patriots, then went to USC and, since returning to the pros, Carroll has done a brilliant job turning the Seahawks into a championship contender.


Playing in the same division means both sides are deeply familiar with each other; there won’t be many secrets on display here.

That the Niners have struggled in the Pacific Northwest is, well, tangible: They were outscored 71-16 in their last two visits, Harbaugh’s two worst losses. They’re an experienced outfit in pressure situations, though, so the supersonic noise from the 12th Man in the stands shouldn’t affect them.

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