Seattle Seahawks (0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
The Seahawks weren’t as good as their 11-5 record suggested last season, as they went 10-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less and just 1-3 in games decided by more than a touchdown. They also lost Jadeveon Clowney this off-season and he was arguably their best defensive player last season. Despite that, I still have the Seahawks ranked 11th in my roster rankings, due to the incredible job they’ve done rebuilding their secondary.
This off-season, the Seahawks added cornerback Quinton Dunbar and safety Jamal Adams to a unit that already saw significant improvement down the stretch last season after adding Quandre Diggs in a deadline trade. Including top cornerback Shaq Griffin, the Seahawks have arguably the best secondary in the NFL, which buoys a roster that is otherwise underwhelming around the quarterback and that is especially weak on the defensive line.
That being said, I don’t really like the Seahawks’ chances week 1, for a couple reasons. For one, they typically are a much better team later in the season, going 38-39-6 ATS in week 9 or earlier and 49-26-2 ATS in weeks 10-17 since Pete Carroll’s first season in 2010. Breaking that down even further, the Seahawks are just 6-13-1 ATS in weeks 1 and 2 over that stretch. This is a well coached team that normally figures it out by the end of the season, but they don’t usually start strong.
The second reason I don’t really like the Seahawks’ chances this week is simply that the Falcons won’t be an easy opponent. I have the Seahawks 11th in my roster rankings, but the Falcons are just one spot behind. I don’t have them making the playoffs, but that’s primarily due to a brutal schedule. The Falcons finished last season 7th in first down rate and 24th in first down rate allowed, giving them the 15th ranked first down rate differential in the league, and offensive performance tends to be much more consistent on a year-to-year basis than defensive performance. They also enter the season without injury concerns.
The Falcons won’t need to have a great or even a good defense to be a competitive football team and if they can be even just a few spots better than last season on defense while continuing their offensive performance, they could easily be a playoff caliber team. Given that, I think they’re a little underrated, opening the season as 2.5 point home underdogs. The Falcons won’t have their normal homefield advantage and very few games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so this won’t be a big bet, but I would consider increasing the play if this line happens to move to a field goal.
Atlanta Falcons 26 Seattle Seahawks 23 Upset Pick +120
Pick against the spread: Atlanta +2.5