It's simple, really: If you love football -- if you love sports -- then you LOVE the Seattle Seahawks hosting the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday night.
It's the single best rivalry in the NFL today.
Yes, I understand the amazing history between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. I'm well aware of the classic battles waged by the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. I know all about Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers -- that's a spectacular clash, fueled by smashmouth play and a whole lot of people (players and fans alike) who don't like each other. But it isn't Niners-'Hawks. Not now. In 2013, nothing gets the emotions flowing like this epic NFC West grudge match.
No other rivals truly loathe each other right now quite like San Francisco and Seattle. And pure hatred in today's NFL -- with free agency and general player movement -- is rare. Pure hatred is wonderful, needed and extremely juicy.
The Niners and Seahawks resemble each other in style and structure. They are the two best, deepest and most-complete teams in the NFL.
And to have this week's game in Seattle -- in front of the throaty "12th Man" crowd -- makes it even better.
This is The Game in professional football, and here are nine reasons why:
1) Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll
This personal rivalry goes back to the coaches' college days -- and it is flat-out awesome. These are two high-octane, type-A, in-your-face gurus. Players love playing for them, while opposing coaches are routinely rubbed the wrong way. No wonder they openly dislike each other.
Last December, as the Seahawks blasted the Niners with a relentless series of proverbial upper-cuts in a 42-13 statement win, Harbaugh looked like he was sucking on a lemon for three straight hours. You know he wants revenge more than anything in the world. You also know Carroll wants to serve his cocksure counterpart another slice of humble pie. The Seahawks' fourth-year head man wants to prove he's the better NFL head coach.
The sideline antics, the postgame handshake, the press conferences -- plenty of opportunities for added spice and drama. You never know where your story or headline will come from when Carroll and Harbaugh are involved. You can't miss a moment, a sound bite, an exchange.
2) Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson
This will be the talk of this rivalry for years to come -- two young guns who ensure their respective teams will be in the Super Bowl race for the foreseeable future. These quarterbacks ooze leadership, talent, clutch play and likeability. And just like the teams in this rivalry, the signal-callers are similar in style. Both can throw deep, throw with pinpoint accuracy and effectively run the football. They are two of the brightest young stars in the NFL and two of my favorite players to watch.
Wilson was a majestic 8-0 at home last year, becoming the only rookie in NFL history to accomplish that feat. And the numbers were out of this world: In those eight games, Wilson threw 17 touchdown passes against just two picks. In the aforementioned blowout of the Niners, he piled up four touchdown throws.
Kaepernick has been special since becoming a starter. As of this posting, he is the only player in NFL history with a quarterback rating over 100 and more than 500 rushing yards (including the playoffs).
In an NFL rivalry, what's better than a great debate at quarterback? The Wilson-Kaepernick dispute will rage on for years to come, with both fans bases refusing to acknowledge inferiority. That's fantastic.
3) Richard Sherman
Sherman is a great player. In fact, I think he's the best corner in the league. And if you don't believe in my assessment, just ask Sherman himself -- he'll be the first one to confirm this notion. He's loquacious, braggadocious and a whole lot of fun. He's the actor who steals the scene with his performance and personality.
Just look at what Sherman did against San Francisco last December, logging an interception and returning a blocked field goal 90 yards for a touchdown.
Sherman is the ultimate villain for Niners fans. Seahawks fans, of course, can't get enough. You need this kind of guy to really sell a rivalry.
In my opinion, the Seahawks and Niners boast the top two defenses in the NFL. They hit you hard -- and they let you know about it.
And they each will be tested by a strong offense on Sunday night. How cool is this?!
Both defenses are deep, talented, bone-crushing units that routinely churn out game-changing splash plays. It's not often that you call a defense "fun to watch," but that's exactly what we have here -- on both sides.
Simply put, there's explosiveness at every level of these defenses.
5) Marshawn Lynch
Lynch is a Bay Area product who starred at Cal, so many Niner fans rooted for him on the collegiate level.
But lately, he's been in his self-proclaimed "Beast Mode" against San Francisco, logging three straight 100-yard games. Against that defense, that's pretty darn impressive.
6) San Francisco's O-line vs. Seattle's D-line
With the rapid player movement in today's game, line cohesiveness has taken a hit. But not with the Niners. San Fran's offensive line is the best in the game. The unit does a brilliant job protecting Kaepernick and opening up holes for Frank Gore. These guys bloody you.
This matchup in the trenches is always intense.
7) The Anquan Boldin factor
Throughout his entire career, Boldin has been the epitome of clutch. His debut effort as a Niner -- 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown last Sunday -- was astounding.
You know Boldin is going to do something to add his own chapter to this rivalry's book.
8) This game counts
I know what you're thinking: It's Week 2. How is that possible?
Well, only one of these division foes can win the division. Sounds elementary, but it adds to the sense of necessity. A single win or loss can be the difference between a No. 1/No. 2 seed and playing on the road the entire postseason. That's how evenly matched these teams are and how great the NFC West is, as we have previously documented.
9) The fanfare
Move over Lambeau Field. See ya, Arrowhead. In today's NFL, no home-field advantage compares to the one experienced at CenturyLink Field. The place rocks at an unparalleled decibel level.
Seahawks fans hate Niners fans. Seattleites like to mock the "wine and cheese" crowds in San Francisco. The great Niners fans, an amazing and passionate bunch in their own right, think of the Seahawks as "Johnny come lately"-types and like to remind their counterparts where they store their five Lombardi Trophies.
Buckle up for this ballgame. I can't wait for Sunday night.