Dec 012012
 

Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Chicago Bears (8-3)

The Seahawks were 6-4 coming out of their bye last week and looked like they were in prime position to take one of the NFC’s two Wild Card spots. However, they lost on the road to the Dolphins and now all of a sudden, the sky is falling for this team. Everyone’s wondering what happened to them. I’ll tell you what happened to them. The same thing that happened to them when they went to Arizona, St. Louis, and Detroit and lost to an inferior team: they went on the road.

Since the start of the 2005 season, no team has a bigger home/road differential ATS wise than the Seattle Seahawks. They are 22-43 ATS on the road and 45-20 ATS at home. This year, that’s been especially true as they are 5-0 ATS at home (with 3 straight up wins as home dogs) and 1-5 ATS on the road (with 3 straight up losses as road favorites). At home, they outscore opponents by 6 points per game over that stretch and they get outscored by an average of 6 points per game on the road. The league average is 3 points at home and on the road, which is why 3 points are added either way when computing the line.

The only reason I didn’t take Miami for a big play last week, as I did when they were in Arizona and St. Louis and to a lesser extent, in Detroit, was because the Seahawks were coming off a bye and as road favorites, they had a trend that had hit 75% of the time since 2002 on their side. I still took Miami for a small play and even that powerful trend couldn’t combat the Seahawks’ road woes.

The Seahawks are on the road here, but in different circumstances. They are now road dogs after losing on the road. They are 4-3 ATS in this spot since 2005, which isn’t strong, but it’s definitely worth noting and it makes sense as teams generally tend to cover as road dogs off a road loss, going 138-79 ATS since 2005 in that spot. It’s not a reason why the Seahawks will cover, but it doesn’t make them an automatic fade here on the road.

It is worth noting that the Seahawks already failed to cover once this season in a very similar spot, losing in Detroit on the road as dogs after losing the week prior in San Francisco. They were 2.5 point dogs in that situation and they are 3.5 point dogs here, which doesn’t make a ton of sense. Chicago is much better than 1 point better than the Lions.

Using the net points per drive method to compute line value, we get a real line of Chicago -5.5 as Chicago ranks 7th in net points per drive and Seattle ranks 11th. However, we do need to look at DVOA to make sure there are no discrepancies, as net yards per drive doesn’t take into account everything that DVOA (which is net yards per drive based) does. In DVOA, Seattle actually ranks 4th in regular and weighted, while Chicago ranks 5th in both, which does make this line make more sense, that is until you remember how horrible Seattle generally is on the road, especially this year, and more importantly how much better the Bears are with Jay Cutler healthy.

Jay Cutler might be the most undervalued player in the NFL. Excluding the Houston game, in which he got hurt before halftime, the Bears are actually 13-1 straight up in Jay Cutler’s last 14 starts with that one loss being a very excusable one in Green Bay on a short week. In the last 2 seasons, when he starts, again excluding that Houston game, the Bears are 15-4 and score 28.0 points per game. When he doesn’t, including that Houston game, they are 1-7 and average just 12.3 points per game.

That isn’t all him. For instance, Matt Forte missed a few of those games as well and Caleb Hanie, who started 5 of those games in his absence, is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Still, it shows he has a huge value to this team. He doesn’t put up flashy stats and his body language can be off putting, but the numbers don’t lie. They don’t have a ton of offensive talent. Brandon Marshall is great, but they don’t have another receiver and their offensive line is atrocious. Cutler has done a great job of leading drives in spite of this and he is actually very tough to sack. Before Cutler got hurt, this team led the NFL in points differential and last week when he returned healthy, they blew out a solid Vikings team by 18.

It’s true they have yet to beat a truly good team this year, but they’ve only had one chance, that Green Bay game, with Cutler healthy for the full game. They’ve blown out several bad teams, leading the league with 6 double digit wins. They beat Indianapolis, Detroit, and Minnesota, solid teams, in impressive fashion and they should be able to beat the Seahawks here. There are some reasons to take Seattle and the 3.5 points, but I think Chicago wins straight up once again here and as long as this line is 4 or less, I have a hard time taking the Seahawks on the road against Cutler and the Bears.

Public action: Chicago (60% range)

Sharps lean: SEA 18 CHI 15

Final update: No change.

Chicago Bears 24 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against spread: Chicago -3.5 (-110) 1 unit

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