Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (6-10) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5)

The Cardinals pulled the upset in Dallas last week to keep their chances at winning the division alive, but there is still reason to be concerned about this team long-term. They started the season 7-0, but they benefited significantly from a +8 turnover margin, which was never likely to continue (+3 in 9 games since), and they have not been the same on either side of the ball since losing top wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and stud interior defender JJ Watt for an extended period of time. They are also missing wide receiver Rondale Moore, who could be filling in for Hopkins, interior defender Jordan Phillips, who is supposed to be filling in for Watt, and a pair of starting cornerbacks Robert Alford and Marco Wilson.

In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on more predictive metrics like yards per play and first down rate, the Cardinals rank 12th, 19th, and 18th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 10th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency. That rank is not as good as their record and they are probably even worse than that suggests given the key players they are missing. My roster rankings, which take injuries into account, have the Cardinals just 1.5 points above average.

The Seahawks are just 6-10, but they have been hurt by a 2-5 record in one score games and have a +21 point differential, despite talented quarterback Russell Wilson missing three games and being limited for about three games upon his return. If you exclude that stretch, the Seahawks are 5-5 with a +32 point differential, with their defense (22nd in schedule adjusted efficiency) and their special teams (4th) serving as complementary units to an offense that has still performed above average when Wilson has been healthy this season.

I wish the Seahawks were not missing top linebacker Bobby Wagner, talented run stuffing interior defender Al Woods, and a pair of starting offensive lineman Gabe Jackson and Brandon Shell, but I was considering making the Seahawks my Pick of the Week before those players were ruled out, so even missing those players, I still only have the Seahawks a half point below average and, with the Cardinals 1.5 points above average, we’re getting line value with the Seahawks as underdogs of 6 points.

The Cardinals did win in Seattle earlier this year by 10 with backup quarterback Colt McCoy under center, but Russell Wilson was not 100% in that game, while McCoy played at a fairly high level for the three games he filled in for Murray. On top of that, just because a team won a divisional game on the road as underdogs does not mean they will beat that same opponent more easily in a same season, regular season game rematch. In fact, divisional favorites cover at just a 41.9% rate in that spot and only win straight up about half the time as favorites of 6.5 points or fewer. This isn’t a big play, but the Seahawks are bettable as 6-point underdogs.

Arizona Cardinals 23 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against the spread: Seattle +6

Confidence: Medium

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (2-12-1) at Seattle Seahawks (5-10)

The Seahawks are just 5-10, but they are a lot better than their record. Their point differential is just -1, as they have gone 2-5 in one score games, and that is despite the fact that Russell Wilson missed three games and was limited in about another three games with injury. The Seahawks are solid on defense (20th in schedule adjusted efficiency) and special teams (6th), so when Wilson is healthy, they are much better than a 5-10 team. 

The Seahawks lost to the Bears last week, but it was a 1-point loss in which the Seahawks won the yards per play battle in that matchup by 1.6 yards per play, losing the game primarily because of third downs (3/10 to 7/14), which are not as predictive on a week-to-week basis as early downs. I suspect the Seahawks would win that game significantly more than half of the team if they played that game a hundred times.

Now the Seahawks get an even easier game with the Lions coming to town. The Lions have been better than their 2-12-1 record this season, with just four of their losses coming by more than ten points, but they are starting backup quarterback Tim Boyle, who is one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the league, which significantly hurts their chances of keeping this game close as 7.5-point underdogs. 

The only reason I am not betting on the Seahawks is because this could be a look-ahead spot for them with a much tougher game against the Rams on deck. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at a 42.6% rate all-time against an opponent with a record more than 50% worse than their next opponents’ record, which applies here. The Seahawks are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes though, as they should be able to get their fourth multiscore win of the season against a Lions team that is missing key personnel on both sides of the ball.

Seattle Seahawks 22 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Seattle -7.5

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (4-10) at Seattle Seahawks (5-9)

The Bears lost to the Vikings last week, but they won the first down rate battle by 2.12 and the yards per play battle by 12.88%, losing because they lost the turnover battle by two and went just 2/12 on third down and 2/5 on fourth down, which aren’t as predictive of metrics week-to-week as first down rate and yards per play. The Bears’ offense still had a poor game though, as it was their defense that dominated, holding the Vikings to just 3.16 yards per play and a 20.00% first down rate.

The Bears’ defense has been solid most of the season, but last week was easily their best performance of the year and it’s not a surprise that it coincided with the return of stud defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who had previously missed four straight games and six total games on the season. However, Hicks is expected to be out again this week, having been placed on the COVID list, meaning the Bears will once again be without both Hicks and Khalil Mack, a massive blow for this defense, which is highly unlikely to be as good this week as they were last week.

The Bears’ offense, meanwhile, figures to continue struggling. They continue to be without left tackle Jason Peters, arguably their most important offensive player, who has been out for the past game and a half, which has been a big blow to an already mediocre offense. On top of that, the Bears will be forced to turn to third string quarterback Nick Foles, with their top-two quarterbacks Justin Fields and Andy Dalton out. Foles is more qualified than most third string quarterbacks, but he figures to be a downgrade even from Fields and Dalton, who have not played all that well this season.

Given all of the players the Bears are missing, I don’t expect them to be able to keep this game close with the Seahawks. The Seahawks are just 5-9, but their even point differential suggests they have been better than their record and that is despite the fact that starting quarterback Russell Wilson missed three and a half games with injury and then was not himself for about three games upon his return. The Seahawks’ defense (22nd in schedule adjusted efficiency) and special teams (3rd) are complementary units, so if this offense can play well, the Seahawks are a lot more dangerous of an opponent than their record would suggest.

The Seahawks did not have a strong offensive performance last week, but that was on the road in Los Angeles against a good Rams defense and the Seahawks were without talented starting wide receiver Tyler Lockett, starting running back Alex Collins, and starting right tackle Brandon Shell. This week, the Seahawks return home to face a lesser defense and will get at least Lockett and Collins back, with Shell remaining a possibility to play as well. Given the talent gap between these two teams right now, my calculated line favors the Seahawks by 9, so we’re getting good line value with them as 6.5-point favorites. I want to wait until gameday to place this bet because of COVID uncertainty, but I will very likely be bumping this up from a low confidence pick before gametime. 

Update: Hicks is still out, so I want to lock this in before the line increases.

Seattle Seahawks 23 Chicago Bears 13

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (5-8) at Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

The Rams were the third team to have a game rescheduled because of COVID this week. They actually had more cases than Washington or Cleveland at one point, knocking out about half of their roster, but it never affected their quarterback room and, overall, they had less significant absences than the other two teams whose games were rescheduled. Rescheduling this game for a couple days later allowed the Rams to get edge defender Von Miller back and, while they will still be without top safety Jordan Fuller and stud right tackle Rob Havenstein, they will get back top cornerback Jalen Ramsey and talented center Brian Allen, who both missed last week’s win over the Cardinals and are probably more impactful losses.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are arguably more impacted by COVID absences then their opponents. They don’t have as many positive cases overall as the Rams, but will be without top cornerback DJ Reed, starting right tackle Brandon Shell, talented wide receiver Tyler Lockett, and starting running back Alex Collins, so they are arguably missing more impactful players than the Rams will be, as many of the Rams positives are players that don’t make much of an impactful.

This Seahawks team is still better than their record, now that quarterback Russell Wilson is back to 100% and leading a more effective offense, to complement their 21st ranked schedule adjusted defensive efficiency and their 5th ranked special teams efficiency, but I still have the Rams calculated as 7.5-point favorites in this game, so we’re getting some line value with them as touchdown favorites. The Rams rank 6th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency and, even not quite at 100%, they are still one of the top teams in the league. It’s not nearly enough value to bet on the Rams, especially given all of the uncertainty in this game, but the Rams are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Rams 27 Seattle Seahawks 19

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -7

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-8) at Houston Texans (2-10)

The Texans are 2-10 and don’t have the worst record in the league, but they are undoubtedly the worst team in the league. Their first win came back in week one when their offensive line was healthier and it came against a Jaguars team that is also terrible, while their second win was a game against the Titans in which the Texans won the turnover margin by 5, an unpredictive metric, while losing the yards per play and first down rate battle convincingly, by margins of 2.2 and 9.47% respectively, which are much more predictive metrics.

Meanwhile, the Texans’ ten losses have come by an average of 18.3 points per game and that number could be even higher if the Patriots weren’t missing most of their offensive line in their 3-point win, a game in which the Patriots still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%, and if the Texans hadn’t scored 22 meaningless garbage points against the Rams in a game in which they were down 38-0 going into the 4th quarter. 

Overall, the Texans rank 32nd, 26th, and 21st in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively and, in mixed efficiency, they don’t just rank dead last in the NFL, but they are more than 6.5 points behind the next worst team. There was some hope they would play better when they got veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor back from injury, to replace raw rookie Davis Mills, but Taylor was barely an upgrade and was pulled in the middle of last week’s game so the team could get a better look at Davis Mills as a potential long-term starter, a chance he will get as the starter for the rest of the season.

It’s hard to see a circumstance where I would bet on the Texans and it would take a lot for me to even pick them against the spread, but this game is a situation where they make some sense as a pick, as they are in an incredible spot. The Texans lost 31-3 at home to the Colts last week, but teams tend to bounce back after a big loss as home underdogs like that, especially if teams are home underdogs again, as teams cover at a 59.0% rate all-time as home underdogs the week following a loss as home underdogs by 14 points or more. This is also the Texans’ third straight home game, a situation in which teams cover at a 55.2% rate.

Meanwhile, on the other side, the Seahawks have a much tougher game against the Rams on deck and could overlook the Texans or take their foot off the gas in the second half with a big lead and allow the Texans to backdoor cover this 8.5-point spread. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.7% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is more than 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, which applies here. My calculated line actually has the Seahawks favored by 11 points, with the Texans being the worst team in the league and the Seahawks being much better than their record with Russell Wilson rounding back into form, and, because of that, I can’t take the Texans with any confidence, but they could make this more of a game than people are expecting.

Seattle Seahawks 31 Houston Texans 23

Pick against the spread: Houston +8.5

Confidence: None

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (6-5) at Seattle Seahawks (3-8)

Typically, I like to fade significant week-to-week line movement, as it tends to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This game features one, with the 49ers going from 1-point favorites last week on the early line to 3.5-point favorites this week, a huge swing, considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer and 1 in 6 by exactly three. Normally I can at least understand why a significant swing happens, but, in this case, it’s hard to figure it out, as the 49ers won by 8 last week as 3-point favorites and the Seahawks lost by 2 as 1-point underdogs, two results that were well within the reasonable range of their point spread.

I have thought the 49ers are underrated for weeks and their efficiency ratings still show them to be a much better team than their 6-5 record suggests, as they rank 8th, 7th, 20th, and 7th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, but if anything, the line should have gone the other direction, as the 49ers have lost two key contributors to injury in the past week with both their top wide receiver Deebo Samuel and their top linebacker Fred Warner, two of the best in the league at their respective positions, going down with injuries last week. 

The Seahawks, meanwhile, should get something closer to 100% from Russell Wilson than they have gotten in his first three games since returning from injury, as he nears the original time frame for his injury recovery. They are just 3-8, but their defense ranks 16th in schedule adjusted efficiency, while their special teams rank 6th, so if they can get something decent from their offense, they could definitely pull the upset against a banged up 49ers team. 

The Seahawks are still missing top running back Chris Carson and starting left guard Damien Lewis, so even if Wilson is healthier, they are still not 100% on offense, but Wilson returning to form would be very significant and, even with Wilson factored in at slightly less than 100%, we are still getting line value with the Seahawks, as my calculated line is still where the early line was last week, favoring the 49ers by 1. This isn’t a big play and I still think the 49ers will win, but there is enough value with the Seahawks to bet them.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Seattle Seahawks 23

Pick against the spread: Seattle +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (3-7) at Washington Football Team (4-6)

Washington started the season 2-6, but they have been better in recent weeks since their offensive line has gotten healthy, particularly the re-addition of stud right guard Brandon Scherff. They have won their past two games to push their record to 4-6, which is still not all that impressive, but it’s more impressive when you consider that they have faced arguably the toughest schedule in the league. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency ratings, Washington ranks 9th, 28th, and 3rd on offense, defense, and special teams respectively, while ranking 13th in mixed efficiency. 

Unfortunately, the public and odds makers seem to have caught onto this, as we have lost a significant amount of line value in the past week, with the Seahawks going from being favored by 3.5 points on the early line last week to now being underdogs of one point. Seattle is missing a key starting offensive lineman with Damien Lewis out and, with that taken into account, my calculated line has Washington favored by 1.5 points, so we are still getting some line value with Washington, but it’s a miniscule amount. In fact, I am going to pick the Seahawks in this matchup just because I don’t want to go against Russell Wilson (31-14-3 ATS off of a loss and 10-1 ATS off of two straight losses) in a must win situation. This is a no confidence pick though, as a push may be the most likely result though and this should be a very close matchup.

Washington Football Team 24 Seattle Seahawks 23

Pick against the spread: Seattle +1

Confidence: None

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (8-2) at Seattle Seahawks (3-6)

This game is a tough call because both quarterbacks have significant injury question marks. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will play, but he returned very early from a hand injury and did not look close to 100% in his first game back last week, while Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is reportedly a gametime decision after being limited in practice all week and missing the past two weeks with an ankle injury. It sounds like he’s expected to play and he definitely practiced more than the past two weeks, but it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be. It’s very possible he’ll be closer to 100% than Wilson is because he wasn’t rushed back, but there is a lot of uncertainty here. 

The Cardinals may have the slight quarterback health edge, but the Seahawks are much better than their 3-6 record, as they faced a tough schedule early in the year, starting 2-3, then they went 1-2 without Russell Wilson, but outscored their opponents, with both losses being winnable games, and then last week they lost 17-0 in Wilson’s first game back, largely due to Wilson’s struggles. If he’s closer to 100% this week, the rest of this team is playing well enough for the Seahawks to be a tough opponent again. 

The Seahawks are also the healthier team overall, as the Cardinals’ injuries go well before Murray, as top wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, talented left guard Justin Pugh, and stud interior defender JJ Watt are all out once again this week, after being big parts of the reason for their early success this season. With both quarterback injuries factored in, I have this line calculated at even, with the Cardinals missing all of the other key players they are missing, so we are getting some line value with the Seahawks at +1.5. 

I also like getting Russell Wilson off of a loss, a spot he is 31-21 ATS in during his career, including 17-8 ATS at home, though his injury situation makes me less confident that he’ll bounce back than I would if not for the injury. The Seahawks are not worth betting against the spread, but they should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game straight up, so there is some value betting on the money line, especially on the off chance that Murray does not play. If that happens, the Seahawks will likely become the favorite and I could hedge by making a small bet on them as well, ensuring I would make at least some money regardless of who wins this game. Or I could just stick with the Seahawks and enjoy betting against Colt McCoy as a road favorite against Russell Wilson.

Update: Now it sounds like Murray will not be playing once again and this line has shifted to favoring the Seahawks by 3 points as a result. If you bet the Seahawks money line when the Cardinals were favored, you can now bet the Cardinals money line (+135) and ensure you make money either way. I am not heding and will be sticking with my original bet because I don’t have much confidence in Colt McCoy on the road in Seattle in a must win game for Russell Wilson and an underrated Seahawks team, who has lost three of their six games by three points each. My calculated line if Murray is out is Seattle -6.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Arizona Cardinals 23 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Seattle +1.5

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-2)

The Packers get Aaron Rodgers back from a one-game absence this week and they are 7-1 with him this season, but they have more reason to be concerned than it seems. Rodgers is returning, but they remain without three of their best players, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, cornerback Jaire Alexander, and left tackle David Bakhtiari, who have missed most or all of the season. The Packers have still been winning games without them, but they rank just 13th, 10th, and 30th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency and don’t really have any dominant wins. 

Just two of their wins came by more than 10 points and those came in games in which the Packers were down at halftime at home to the winless Lions and in which the Packers were outgained at home on a per play basis by a mediocre Washington team. The Packers did go into Arizona and win, but the Packers were very reliant in the turnover battle in that game, losing the first down rate battle by 5.93%, but winning by a field goal in a game in which the Packers won the turnover battle by three.

One of those turnovers was a late interception to seal the game when the Cardinals were in range to at least send the game to overtime, if not win outright. The Packers scored off the Cardinals’ other two takeaways too, so if any one of those turnovers doesn’t happen, the Packers could have easily lost. Given how inconsistent turnover margins are on a week-to-week basis, the Packers can’t count on that again and, given that the Cardinals outperformed the Packers in other key metrics, the Cardinals would likely win a rematch more often than not, so even that was not a dominant win.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, get Russell Wilson back from a three-game absence and might be a little underrated. In fact, I have them as the slightly better of these two teams right now. The Seahawks were just 2-3 with Wilson, but they faced a tough schedule and, even without Wilson, the Seahawks outscored their opponents across 3 games, as they went just 1-2, but had a chance to win both games they lost. Even with Wilson missing half of the season, they rank 17th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, while their defense and special teams rank 19th and 12th respectively. 

Despite possibly being the better team right now, the Seahawks are underdogs of more than a field goal in Green Bay. My calculated line has the Packers at -1, so we’re getting significant line value with the Seahawks at +3.5, especially when you consider that about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. However, I don’t want to bet against the Packers in Green Bay, where they are 47-22 ATS in games in front of fans in which Aaron Rodgers starts and finishes. Rodgers himself has a QB rating that is about 10 points higher at home than on the road, well beyond the average home/road differential. Between that and the uncertainty with both quarterbacks in their first game back, I don’t want to bet this game, but the Seahawks are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Green Bay Packers 23 Seattle Seahawks 21

Pick against the spread: Seattle +3.5

Confidence: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 8 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Seattle Seahawks (2-5)

It’s hard to understate how much the Seahawks miss Russell Wilson. Both of their full games without him have been close, but those games were against a mediocre Steelers team and a Saints team that was probably caught looking forward to their bigger matchup with the Buccaneers the following week. Their offense has struggled mightily without him and, with top running back Chris Carson also out, the Seahawks aren’t really good at anything on either side of the ball right now. 

The Seahawks have an easy matchup with the Jaguars this week, but they are favored by 3.5 points at home, suggesting they are a significantly better team, which I don’t think is the case right now. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less and the Seahawks shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal against anyone other than the Texans or maybe the Jets. There isn’t enough here to take the Jaguars with confidence, but this line seems a little bit off as the most likely result of this game is either team winning by a field goal, both of which would cover this line.

Seattle Seahawks 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3.5

Confidence: Low