Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 NFC Wild Card Pick

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) at Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

The Seahawks got off to a slow start this year, starting 0-2 and sitting just 4-4 at the season’s midpoint, but they once again finished the season strong, something they’ve done pretty much every year in the Russell Wilson era, going 37-18-1 ATS in the second half of the regular season since 2012. The Seahawks went 6-2 straight up and ATS over the final 8 games of the 2018 season to finish at 10-6 and they rank 9th in first down rate differential since week 10 at +3.24%, after ranking 25th at -3.39% prior to week 10. This Seahawks team is not as talented as they were earlier in the Russell Wilson era, but they’re well coached and quarterbacked and there’s no reason to believe they will suddenly revert to their early season form in the playoffs, where they are 8-4 straight up since 2012.

The Cowboys have also had a strong second half of the season record wise, going 7-1 after a 3-5 start, but they actually rank just 21st in first down rate differential at -1.54%. Somewhat remarkably, all 7 of the Cowboys wins over that time period came by 8 points or fewer, while their one loss came by 23, giving them a point differential of just +12 over that time period (as opposed to +49 for the Seahawks).

Their offense has been better since acquiring Amari Cooper, picking up first downs at a 35.73% rate since week 10, as opposed to 34.03% prior to week 10, but their defense has gone in the opposite direction, allowing a first down rate of 37.27% since week 10, after allowing a first down rate of 32.73% before week 10. Their defense overperformed early in the season, but, aside from their nationally televised game against the Saints, they’ve largely fallen back to earth in recent weeks, allowing 23.3 points per game in their other 7 games. I think they’re a little overrated right now because casual bettors think they have an elite defense as a result of that Saints game.

The Seahawks also have the talent and experience edge. Not only is Russell Wilson going into his 13th playoff game with Pete Carroll already, but Carroll has also been a head coach in 5 other playoff games without Wilson (10-7 overall). On the other side, Jason Garrett is in just his 4th playoff game (1-2) and just his 2nd with Dak Prescott, who lost his first career playoff start in 2016. At +2, we’re not getting quite enough line value to take the Seahawks against the spread (especially since I will have bets on the other 3 games this week), but I like their chances of winning this game. Games rarely are decided by 1 point exactly, so the money line is a smarter play if you want to bet this game.

Seattle Seahawks 19 Dallas Cowboys 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Seattle +2

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 17 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-12) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

Unlike other games this week, I am confident the Seahawks will play their starters the whole way in this game, unless they jump out to a huge lead, in which case covering this spread shouldn’t be a problem. The Seahawks are locked into either the 5th or 6th seed, but they’ve never rested starters in the past even when they’ve had nothing to play for and I think they’d much rather go to Dallas next week than either Chicago or Los Angeles. Winning this game assures they will face the Cowboys, easily the weakest of the four division winners.

Given that the Seahawks will be treating this as a real game, I like their chances of covering as 13-point home favorites. The Cardinals are horrible, ranking dead last in first down rate differential at -8.41%, and they’ve been even worse over the past 8 weeks at -9.49%, as injuries have piled up on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks, on the other hand, have gotten better as the season has gone on, just as they have in almost every season in the Russell Wilson era, going 37-17 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season since 2012.

I haven’t picked them much in recent weeks because they went just 3-5 ATS in the final 8 games of last season and because they don’t have the same talent level they had from 2012-2016 when they always finished the season dominantly, but Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level and Pete Carroll seems to have once again gotten his team playing at a high level at the end of the season. They should run over the worst team in the league.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Arizona Cardinals 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -13

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 16 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) at Seattle Seahawks (8-6)

Earlier in the week, the Chiefs seemed like the clear pick. The Seahawks have a solid record at 8-6 and have been playing better offensively in recent weeks, but their defense has had trouble getting off the field this season. They’ve played the 2nd fewest defensive snaps in the league, as a result of the offense going 11 of 14 on 4th down on the season and only turning over the ball 10 times, fewest in the NFL, but 4th down percentages and turnovers tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they won’t always be able to depend on that making life easier for their defense and they rank just 26th in first down rate allowed at 38.51%.

However, the Seahawks could be getting a huge boost defensively this week, with the return of outside linebacker KJ Wright from injury. Bobby Wagner is the linebacker that gets all the attention on this defense, but Wright is arguably the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league when healthy. Lingering knee issues have limited him to just 133 underwhelming snaps in 3 games this season, a big part of why they’ve struggled defensively, especially since replacement Austin Calitro has been horrendous this season. It’s tough to know if Wright is at 100% or if he’ll play his full snaps, but his return should be a boost for this defense.

Despite that, this line didn’t really shift to adjust for his return, opening at Kansas CIty -2.5 and only falling to Kansas City -2, really insignificant line movement. With Wright in the lineup, I have this line calculated at Kansas CIty -2.5, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Chiefs, but not nearly enough to take them with any sort of confidence this week. I think the most likely outcome in this game is a Kansas City win by a field goal, which would cover this spread, but this was one of the toughest games of the week for me to decide on because the Seahawks could easily pull this upset at home.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 Seattle Seahawks 27

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -2

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (8-5) at San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

The 49ers are just 3-10, but that’s primarily because they’ve gotten killed in turnovers, posting a league worst -21 turnover margin this season. In terms of first down rate differential, they are actually positive at +0.39%, despite their record, but it’s tough to win games when you consistently lose the turnover battle. Their offense hasn’t turned the ball over as much since switching to Nick Mullens under center though, as they’ve turned the ball over 8 times in his 5 starts, with 6 credited to Mullens, as opposed to 14 turnovers in CJ Beathard’s 5 starts, with 10 credited to Beathard.

They’ve also moved the chains better in Mullens’ 5 starts, moving them at a 38.51% rate, as opposed to 35.17% for Beathard (41.30% in Garoppolo’s 3 starts). However, despite Mullens being an obvious upgrade, they are still just 2-3 in his 5 starts as their defense has not managed a single takeaway in his 5 starts. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent and unpredictable on a week-to-week basis though, so the 49ers could easily get some takeaways over the final 3 games of the season, which would be a big boost to this team.

The defense isn’t at 100% without injured top safety Jaquiski Tartt and released top linebacker Reuben Foster, but they rank a decent 19th in first down rate allowed on the season at 37.42% and are talented enough that they should have forced more than 5 takeaways on the season. Recovering just 2 of 10 forced fumbles is a big part of the problem, but that tends to be luck more than anything. With an improved quarterback under center and a defense that should force more takeaways going forward, the 49ers are better than their 3-10 record suggests.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they’re really that underrated, after last week’s upset win over a banged up Denver team. That game moved this line from Seattle -7 all the way down to Seattle -3.5, so we’re getting no line value with a 49ers team that isn’t in the best spot this week. In addition to coming off of a big home upset victory, they also have to follow up this tough home game with another tough home game against the Bears next week, a game in which the 49ers are 6-point home underdogs on the early line. Teams are just 26-53 ATS since 2016 before being home underdogs of 4.5 points or more. I’m still taking the 49ers and hoping for a field goal game, but I can’t take them with any confidence, given all of the line value we’ve lost in the past week.

Sunday Update: The 49ers got some good injury news over the weekend, with running back Matt Breida and wide receivers Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin all expected to play despite questionable tags and limited practices. Despite that, this line has climbed back up to +4. There’s still not enough here to bet the 49ers, but I’m moving this up to a low confidence pick.

Seattle Seahawks 26 San Francisco 49ers 24

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +4

Confidence: Low

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

The Seahawks are now 7-5 after a 0-2 start, but this is far from a vintage Seahawks team. Their offense has been solid, ranking 13th in first down rate at 38.09% and improving as the season has gone along, but their defense is far from what we’re used to from them, as they rank 26th, allowing opponents to pick up first downs at a 39.33% rate. Their defense has played tied for the 2nd fewest snaps in the league with 71, as a result of the offense going 9 of 12 on 4th down on the season and only turning over the ball 9 times, fewest in the NFL, but 4th down percentages and turnovers tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they won’t always be able to depend on that making life easier for their defense.

The Vikings have had a disappointing season at 6-5-1, but they’re healthier now than they were earlier in the season and they rank higher than the Seahawks both in my roster rankings and in first down rate differential, in which they rank 16th at +0.19%. This line suggests these two teams are about even, with the hometown Seahawks favored by a field goal, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visitors. It’s not enough for the Vikings to be worth betting, but they should be the right side.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Minnesota Vikings 23

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +3

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (2-9) at Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

The Seahawks have a solid record at 6-5, but this is not nearly the Seahawks team we’ve seen in recent years. Despite their record, they rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.78%. Their offense has been solid, moving the chains at a 37.03% rate, 14th in the NFL, but their defense, a shell of its former self, has allowed opponents to move the chains at a 39.81% rate, 27th in the NFL. Their defense has been on the field for fewer snaps than any defense in the league, as a result of the offense going 9 of 12 on 4th down on the season and only turning over the ball 9 times, fewest in the NFL, but 4th down percentages and turnovers tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so they won’t always be able to depend on those to make life easy for their defense.

Given that, this line is a little high at 10. The 49ers have major issues at the quarterback position, but they have a capable defense (17th in first down rate allowed) and a strong running game. They’re just 2-9 largely because of their -17 turnover margin, 2nd worst in the NFL, but, like I said, turnovers tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Given their quarterback situation, it wouldn’t surprise me if the 49ers continued turning the ball over frequently, but their defense should have more takeaways than they’ve had (5 in 11 games) just from random chance alone. We’re not getting enough line value to bet the Seahawks, but this line is a few points too high.

Seattle Seahawks 24 San Francisco 49ers 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +10

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (5-5) at Carolina Panthers (6-4)

A couple weeks ago, the Panthers were 6-2 and were seen as one of the better teams in the league, but they got blown out in Pittsburgh and then lost in Detroit to a last place Lions team, dropping them down to 6-4. As a result of last week’s loss in Detroit, this line shifted from Carolina -4.5 to Carolina -3, a significant shift, given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal exactly. I think that line movement is an overreaction, as the Panthers would have won that game in Detroit if not for issues in the kicking game, which had not been an issue for them previously.

This line probably would have been closer to 6.5 or 7 a few weeks ago, before Carolina’s blowout loss in Pittsburgh. That was obviously a bad loss, but the Steelers are a legitimately good team and the Panthers were likely just caught off guard on the road on a short week against a strong team. The Panthers also been much better at home than on the road this season, going just 1-4 on the road, but 5-0 at home, with an average margin of victory of 9.8 points per game. Home/road variances tend to be random more than anything, but the Panthers have definitely been better this season than they’ve shown in the past couple weeks. Now back at home, they’re underrated as mere field goal favorites over the Seahawks.

This line suggests these two teams are about even, but I have the Panthers a few points better than the Seahawks, who have been an average team at best this season, ranking just 21st in first down rate differential at -1.93%. The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 13th at +1.24%, despite an underwhelming couple of weeks. I think this line should be closer to the -6.5 or -7 it likely would have been a couple weeks ago. The Panthers are a smart play this week as field goal favorites.

Carolina Panthers 27 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against the spread: Carolina -3

Confidence: High