In a division ruled by the San Francisco 49ers for the past two seasons, the Seattle Seahawks have caught up. And while we could spend all day debating who will win the NFC West in 2013, the more interesting debate is who will have the best backfield. Each team’s backfield including rushing quarterbacks are stacked with players that dominate on the ground. On the Seahawks side: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin and Spencer Ware. While on the 49ers side: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore.
To evaluate which team has the best backfield will be accomplished through five, player to player comparisons. The winner of each comparison will receive one point and the loser will receive a ½ point. After all five comparisons are made, the points will be added up and whoever has the most points will be crowned as the best backfield in the division. Let the battle begin!
Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson
Kaepernick or Wilson? Keep in mind this isn’t about passing prowess, its rushing prowess. And in that department, the clear winner has to be Colin Kaepernick. Sure, Wilson rushed for more yards than Kaepernick in 2012, but Kaepernick was only 74 yards away from Wilson, and he only started 7 games. The tape doesn’t lie either, because Kaepernick runs like Bruce Springsteen looks like he was born to run. Wilson on the other hand runs when he needs to improvise, but he would much rather sit back and pass, in terms of his style. So it may not be a landslide, but Kaepernick is just a natural born runner compared to Wilson’s improvisation.
Now let’s check the scoreboard.
49ers vs. Seahawks: 1- ½
A good start for the 49ers, but it’s time to kick things up a notch with their featured backs.
Frank Gore vs. Marshawn Lynch
You may disagree, but Marshawn Lynch deserves the crown in this matchup. This shouldn’t take anything away from Gore, but I’ve never seen Frank Gore do this.
That clip pretty much sums it up. The fact that Lynch had more touchdowns and yards in the last two seasons than Gore is another notch that puts Lynch as the decisive winner. There might be some dissenters and it is tough to pick a winner here, but Marshawn Lynch is the obvious winner in this matchup.
Back to check the tally.
49ers vs. Seahawks: 1½-1½
The Seahawks are catching up, but let’s go to the backups.
LaMichael James vs. Robert Turbin
Turbin and James were drafted in 2012 and serve as perfect comparisons, but the styles of these players clash. James is an explosive finesse runner, and Turbin is a downhill banger between the tackles. However, going by how they performed in 2012, Turbin racked up 229 more yards in 2012 and was much more durable. Having a dependable backup is crucial for both teams and even though James has proved to be more explosive at times, he still hasn’t proved he can stay healthy. James has 2013 to turn the tables on this loss, but Turbin is the winner going into 2013.
49ers vs. Seahawks: 2-2½
The Seahawks are in the lead, but let’s see if the rookies can help the 49ers tie.
Marcus Lattimore vs. Christine Michael
The 49ers and Seahawks shocked most draft experts when they selected running backs in the 2013 draft in Lattimore and Michael. After all, the Seahawks and 49ers were already loaded in their backfields, but they decided to add more ammunition with these excellent selections. Which one of them is the best? That answer is Christine Michael, and I know Marcus Lattimore fans will cry foul, but has Lattimore even proved the capacity to come back from multiple ACL tears yet? Michael has his own injury history too, but he showed he has it early in preseason. Lattimore was a special player who will have to prove he can be one again, and that’s why Michael takes it.
49ers vs. Seahawks: 2½-3½
The Seahawks have won, but the last comparison should show how tight this win was.
Kendall Hunter vs. Spencer Ware
Ware is a rookie in 2013 and was converted to fullback, but he hardly runs like either. Kendall Hunter on the other side is the forgotten man in San Francisco, because he was once touted as a potential replacement for Frank Gore until LaMichael James was drafted. And the winner is…Hunter. He beats Ware in experience by default, but watch any tape of Ware at LSU and you’ll know he can flip this loss around in couple of seasons. Hunter takes this one, but Ware can prove he’s better this season.
Let’s count the final tally, and the best backfield in the NFC West is…
49ers vs. Seahawks: 3½-4
…The Seahawks by half a point. Its close as expected, but the Seahawks have the best backfield on paper. The variety of proven running backs on the Seahawks is just higher, and the 49ers definitely have a lot of high ceiling players like LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore, but they haven’t produced any significant impacts yet. The 2013 season can flip all of this upside down, but until then, the Seahawks win this battle. But whether this win on paper will be enough for the Seahawks to win the division is a story for another day.
James Cobern is a NFC West Division Leader for TPF and can be contacted at JCobern@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com or follow him on Twitter @Jmcobern1