New York Giants (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
Coming out of their bye week last week, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, and they were healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. That lasted about a half, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury that has him week-to-week and will cause him to miss at least this game in Seattle.
Jones’ numbers haven’t been that impressive this season, but they’re a lot more impressive when you consider the quality of the defensives he’s been facing and their offense immediately became noticeably more stagnant when he went down, with underwhelming backup quarterback Colt McCoy unable to do much of anything against a mediocre Bengals defense in what ended up being a 19-17 win that could have easily turned to a Giants loss had the Bengals not fumbled at midfield at the end of the game on what could have been a game winning field goal drive.
McCoy will have a full week of practice with the first team this week, but he figures to continue struggling, as he’s a 34-year-old journeyman with a career 78.2 QB rating, who recently threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a brief stint as the Washington Redskins starting quarterback from 2018-2019. With him under center, the Giants rank 29th in my roster rankings (or 28th depending on who is eligible to play this week for Baltimore), only ahead of the Jets, Bengals, and Jaguars. There’s a huge gap between them and the Seahawks.
The Seahawks have not played as well as their 8-3 record would suggest this season, going 6-2 in one score games, with a +37 point differential and a 12th ranked +0.77% first down rate differential, but I expect them to play better than that going forward. There are a few reasons for that, including simply that they’re typically much better in the second half of the season than the first half in the Russell Wilson era, going 43-21-3 ATS in games 9-16 since Wilson’s first season in 2012, as opposed to just 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8.
On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team and offensive led teams tend to fare better going forward because offensive performance is much more consistent and predictive week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 5th in first down rate over expected at +2.54%, but are dragged down by a defense that ranks just 27th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.77%. If they can get even middling play from their defense going forward, they should keep winning games, including some by larger margins than most of their wins thus far this season.
Aside from the inherent randomness of defensive play, the Seahawks are also getting more talented on defense, in large part due to players returning from injury. A few weeks ago, the Seahawks got talented safety Jamal Adams back from a 4-game absence and last week they got Shaq Griffin back also from a 4-game absence. They also added defensive end Carlos Dunlap a few weeks ago in a trade with Cincinnati that gave the Seahawks much needed help on their defensive line, though he is questionable for this game after not practicing all week. Their offense is also healthier than it’s been in recent weeks, with top running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde returning from absences of 4 games and 3 games respectively. My roster rankings have them ranked 4th and they shouldn’t have much trouble with the Colt McCoy led Giants.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting line value with the Seahawks, who have ballooned to 11-point home favorites, despite not having any real homefield advantage without fans. My calculated line is Seattle -11.5, so I think they still have a good chance to cover, especially with without any upcoming distractions on the schedule, with the Jets coming to town next week (home favorites of 10+ are 52-31 ATS since 2002 before being home favorites of 10+ again the following week), but there isn’t enough here for the Seahawks to be worth betting, even if Dunlap is ultimately able to suit up.
Seattle Seahawks 30 New York Giants 17
Pick against the spread: Seattle -11