Countdown to 49ers starts in Cleveland

Logo -- At ClevelandThe Seahawks were supposed to be watching the Browns on Monday night — their homework for this week — but it was pretty hard to miss the team that dominated Baker Mayfield and company.

“That night was San Francisco’s night,” Pete Carroll said of the 49ers’ 31-3 win. “It didn’t matter what happened, really. The ball kept coming their way and they kept making the plays. They looked great.”

The Hawks play at Cleveland this week, but in a month they will be facing the 49ers in what figures to be a major Monday night showdown — impacting both the division and conference races.

In Cleveland, the Seahawks (4-1) are looking to go 5-1 for the third time in franchise history (2003, 2013). After that, they host still-feisty Earl Thomas and Baltimore, visit Dan Quinn’s struggling Falcons (1-4) and then host Bruce Arians’ high-scoring Bucs. That’s a recipe for an 8-1 record, 7-2 at worst.

Meanwhile, if the 49ers (4-0) can beat the Rams (3-2) in L.A. this week, they could easily be 8-0 when they host the Seahawks in Week 10. They play Washington (0-5), Carolina (3-2) and Arizona (1-3-1) in between.

The Seahawks have the toughest remaining schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings (which are a better approximation of team strength than simple winning percentage). That tough slate is due largely to playing the No. 1 49ers, No. 4 Philadelphia, No. 6 Baltimore and No. 7 Minnesota.

The Seahawks should be up to the challenge. They rank ninth in DVOA themselves — thanks to nearly perfect Russell Wilson and the No. 3 offense — and will get better on defense as Ziggy Ansah, Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed come together in the second half.

As Clowney said of the pass rush, “We’re winning games and we’re not playing our best right now, which is always a good thing. It’s a long, long season.

“Once we start clicking on all cylinders, I think we’re going to make a big push at the right time. That’s all we’re waiting on. Everything’s about timing. We’ve just got to keep working together, keep getting better and winning games.”

A quick look at the very winnable next four:

Cleveland: Mayfield has thrown eight interceptions and has been sacked 16 times, and Odell Beckham Jr. is starting to get antsy. The defense has a great pass rush but has been gashed by the 49ers and Ravens for 448 rushing yards the past two weeks.

Baltimore: Thomas has had a rough first few games, and he’ll certainly bring his personal vendetta against Carroll to this one. But that defense has allowed three 300-yard passers and seven rushing touchdowns. After a hot start (six TD passes in the opener at Miami), Lamar Jackson has thrown five interceptions and been sacked nine times the past two games.

Atlanta: Quinn is on the hot seat as his team has given up 30.4 points per game (which would be worst in the NFL if not for Miami’s ridiculous 40.8). The Falcons have given up 12 TD passes, also second-most in the NFL, and have allowed 139 rushing yards per game in their four losses.

Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston & Co. are the No. 5 scoring squad in the league (29.4) and are 2-1 on the road, including a whopping 55-40 upset of the Rams in L.A. Arians’ team is competitive, and the coach loves Seattle. This figures to be the toughest of the four.


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