New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks: 2013 NFC Divisional Round Pick

New Orleans Saints (12-5) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

Everyone knows about the Seahawks’ home dominance and the Saints’ road struggles. Since 2007, the Seahawks are 39-18 ATS at home, including 23-10 ATS as home favorites, and 12-4 ATS as home favorites of 7 or more. They have been especially good over the past two years, as they’ve broken out as an elite team, going 12-4 ATS since the start of the 2012 season. They are outscoring opponents by an average of 16.94 points per game at home since the start of last season and have a 15-1 record over that time span.

Meanwhile, since 2008, the Saints are 31-10 ATS at home and 18-25 ATS on the road, excluding the 2012 season when Sean Payton didn’t coach. Sure, they won last week, but they could have easily lost in Philadelphia and Drew Brees’ play against a weak Philadelphia defense shouldn’t instill much confidence in his ability to win big games away from home. On the season, they are still just 2-7 ATS on the road and 4-5 straight up, with the wins coming by a combined 16 points and the losses coming by a combined 51 points, including a 27 point loss in Seattle earlier this season.

However, the problem is that everyone knows about the Seahawks home dominance and the Saints’ road struggles. That’s clearly affecting this line as the Seahawks as 8 point favorites. That suggests the Seahawks are 5 points better than the Saints on a neutral field under normal home field advantage. That’s simply not true. I know the Seahawks don’t have a normal home field advantage and the Saints aren’t the same team away from New Orleans, but that’s already been priced into the line and then some. We’re not getting any line value with the Seahawks.

In fact, I have numbers that suggest that the Saints are a better team than the Seahawks on a neutral field. The Saints rank 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at a 76.90% rate, as opposed to 69.15% for their opponents, a differential of 7.75%. The Seahawks, meanwhile, move the chains at a 72.35% rate, as opposed to 66.23% for their opponents, a differential of 6.12% that ranks 5th in the NFL.

Why has Seattle been more successful than the Saints this year in spite of that? Well, turnovers and return touchdowns have benefitted them in a way that they haven’t benefitted the Saints. While the Saints are +2 in turnovers, the Seahawks are +20. Also, the Seahawks are +3 in return touchdowns and the Saints are -2, a 35 point swing. That kind of thing tends to be very tough to rely on in any given week.

Rate of moving the chains suggests that the Seahawks should be favored by only a point and a half. Of course, that would be absurd because that doesn’t take into account that the Seahawks are a significantly better home team than road team and the Saints are a significantly worse road team than home team. You could definitely argue this line should be around 6 or 6.5 because of that, but 8 seems a little steep. At the very least, we’re not getting any line value with the Seahawks and we might be getting some with the Saints.

The Saints are also in the better spot. I mentioned they got blown out in Seattle earlier this year. That actually works to their benefit this week. It might seem counterintuitive, but it means sense once you think about it, as the Seahawks could be overconfident as a result of that win. Teams are 26-13 ATS since 2002 in same site non-divisional revenge games in the post-season, meaning that teams cover at a high rate in the post-season against a non-divisional team that they lost to in the regular season in the same location. It’s even true of blowout losses are teams are 12-6 ATS in same site non-divisional revenge games against teams they lost to by 10 or more the previous time. In fact, teams are 17-8 ATS in the post-season in that situation regardless of location.

The Seahawks could also be overconfident because they’re at home coming off of a bye. Teams are 14-22 ATS since 2003 as home favorites after a 1st round bye in the post-season, including 8-14 ATS off of a week 17 win. With a week off and a team they already beat coming to town, the Seahawks may have one eye on the NFC Championship Game and a potential rubber match with the 49ers. Patriots/Broncos and Seahawks/49ers seem to be the consensus AFC/NFC Championship Games right now. We all know how seldom the consensus is right in the post-season. It might not be a bad idea to bet against all 4 of those teams. I’m thinking at least 3 of their opponents cover.

The Saints, meanwhile, are in a good spot as teams are 10-3 ATS off of a road playoff win since 2005. Not only that, but they are 8-5 straight up despite being underdogs all 13 times. We’ve seen so many teams go on runs from the Wild Card round after winning on the road before. That could make the Saints dangerous. I hate going against the Seahawks at home, especially given the Saints’ road struggles and especially when the Saints seem to be somewhat of a public underdog, but there’s too much value with the Saints here and too much going in their favor. I’m not that confident though.

Seattle Seahawks 24 New Orleans Saints 20

Pick against spread: New Orleans +8

Confidence: Low

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