Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
The Seahawks smoked the Vikings in Minnesota back in week 13, winning 38-7. However, the trio of linebacker Anthony Barr, safety Harrison Smith, and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, arguably the Vikings’ 3 best defensive players, played a combined 19 snaps in that one, thanks to injury. Joseph was out completely, while Barr and Smith both got knocked out with injuries early, after 8 snaps and 11 snaps respectively. The Vikings are, unsurprisingly, a much better team when those 3 are healthy. In fact, in the 13 games where at least 2 of the 3 have been healthy, the Vikings allow their opponents to move the chains at a mere 68.17% rate, as opposed to 79.38% in their other 3 games, which includes their embarrassing home blowout loss to these Seahawks. They’re better than their 12th place finish in rate of moving the chains differential suggests.
The Seahawks are still the better team, ranking 3rd in that metric, but they’re the ones that are banged up this time around. Running back Thomas Rawls, a key part of the Seahawks’ earlier win in Minnesota, will miss his 4th straight game this week. He rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries the last time these two met. Meanwhile, running back Marshawn Lynch, who was expected to return from a 7 game absence with a sports hernia this week, did not travel with the team, leaving them once again thin at running back.
Besides, teams are 29-14 ATS since 1989 in the playoffs in a same season, same site, non-divisional rematch against a team that beat them previously, so the Vikings will likely keep this game much more competitive than the last one, at the very least. Despite all of this, the public is all over the Seahawks as 5 point road favorites, as they’re seemingly way too caught up in what happened between these two teams week 13. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense, as they always lose money in the long run, and it does here. This line is way too high at 5, given that about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer. Worst case scenario, I like the odds of a backdoor cover.
Seattle Seahawks 17 Minnesota Vikings 16
Pick against the spread: Minnesota +5