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Seahawks vs 49ers NFL Wild Card Weekend: QB matchup | Geno Smith vs Brock Purdy

The NFL Wild Card Weekend kicks off with the 49ers hosting the Seahawks and the matchup of improbable quarterbacks in this game is something to watch.

The NFL Wild Card Weekend kicks off with the 49ers hosting the Seahawks and the matchup of improbable quarterbacks in this game is something to watch.

What better way to start the NFL playoffs than with a quarterback matchup between two former third-stringers who are making their first ever playoff starts? Okay, actually now that I’ve written it that way, it sounds painfully boring. But, it isn’t! Both are compelling and improbable stories which make for a fun matchup.

Seahawks vs 49ers NFL Wild Card Weekend: QB matchup | Geno Smith vs Brock Purdy

NFL Super Wild Card Weekend: Everything you need to know

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy has been one of the most unlikely and interesting stories this season, while Geno Smith has been defying expectations with the Seattle Seahawks all season, taking them to 9-8 and second in the NFC West (behind the Niners).

49ers favored to win over Seahawks

The Niners have not lost a game since October, when they fell to the no. 1 seed in the NFC, the Kansas City Chiefs. They are one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL, succeeding even with three different quarterbacks starting throughout the season.

The 49ers are the clear favorites to win, which is crazy considering the odds of rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs. Only six in NFL history in the Super Bowl era have ever won their first playoff game.

History of rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs

But Brock Purdy has been defying the odds since he came in the game in Week 13. Still though, he’s a rookie and Geno Smith is an experienced veteran. If anyone is going to choke, it would be Purdy, right? Let’s take a look at how these two quarterbacks compare.

Purdy vs Smith: How do they compare?

Let’s talk about Brock Purdy for a second. Purdy is the name you would find in the dictionary next to “Mr. Irrelevant”. The Niners picked him dead last in the NFL draft (the 262nd and final overall pick) and had him as backup to both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. Unfortunately for those two, they both suffered season-ending injuries, Lance early on in Week 3 and Garoppolo in Week 13. For Purdy, it was a golden opportunity, and he did not let it slip by him, leading them to six wins in a row to end the season on a 10-game win streak.

Incredibly, Purdy is the quarterback with the best passer rating (107.3) in the NFL of QBs who have thrown at least 30 passes. He played the majority of Week 13 and has started every game since then, winning all six games he’s played, and the 49ers scoring at least 35 points in four of his five starts. He has thrown for 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns and four interceptions, plus one rushing touchdown. When Purdy faced the Seahawks in the regular season, he threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-13, division-clinching win. That was actually maybe his worst display, but he was also dealing with an oblique injury at the time. He still managed to pull it off though.

Now let’s compare him to the underdog’s quarterback, Geno Smith. Smith has a few things going for him that Purdy doesn’t. One is the obvious - he’s a veteran. He has never played in the post season either, but he’s experienced in the league and that does tend to matter. There’s a reason we call it a “rookie mistake” when someone makes a silly mistake. Besides that though, Smith has the highest completion percentage (69.8%) in the league and his on-target percentage of 78.9% is much higher than Purdy’s 68.5%. Smith is ranked fifth in on-target percentage of quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts and fourth in full-time QBs. He set several franchise records this season and was the only quarterback to play every single snap.

The Seahawks may be underrated by the oddsmakers, but it’s true that Smith has been up and down this season. He was off to a hot start through the first 12 games, leading the Seahawks to 7-5 and finishing with 22 touchdowns to just six interceptions. But…there’s always a but…he slipped up over the next five games, falling to a 63.3% completion percentage (from 72.7% through the first 12 games), threw five interceptions, and was sacked 15 times as the Seahawks finished on a 2-3 stretch. He has struggled against the Niners, with both Lance and Purdy at the helm. In both regular season games against San Francisco, Smith converted just two of 20 third-down pass attempts. He has just one offensive touchdown over the two games, which came late in the 4th quarter of their most recent 21-13 loss.

But Smith’s story is almost as unlikely as Purdy’s, as he is having his breakout season after six years of playing backup for four different teams…at the age of 32. He finished the regular season with 3,433 yards, 25 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

Basically, what would have sounded like the most boring of quarterback matchups at the start of the season has become one of the most interesting by the post season. I wouldn’t write off the Seahawks just yet - people have been doing that all season and they’re still here, into the playoffs.

The Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers game kicks off Saturday, January 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET from Levi’s Stadium.