Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 NFC Divisional Round Pick

Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1) at Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

This might sound weird considering they finished with the 2nd best record in the NFC and secured a first round bye, but I think the Falcons are an underrated team. In a year with so few top level teams, I don’t understand why the Falcons are not regularly mentioned among the best teams in the league. A lot of the attention fell on the Cowboys in the NFC, and rightfully so as they ran away with the conference’s top seed early in the season, and now the Packers are the hot team in the NFC, but the Falcons actually finished the season with a better point differential than Dallas (+134 vs. 115) and ranked higher in first down rate differential. The Falcons’ offensive line and running game are almost as good as Dallas’ and the Cowboys don’t have anything like the combination of Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. As much attention as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott got leading the Cowboys’ offense as rookies this year, the Falcons scored 119 more points than the Cowboys this season. Their defense doesn’t match up, but this is overall one of the top few teams in the league.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, have probably their worst team going into the playoffs in the Russell Wilson era. That’s not necessarily saying much because of how good the Seahawks typically are, but they finished the regular season with a much less impressive +62 and rank 6th among the 8th remaining playoff teams in first down rate differential, only ahead of Houston and Kansas City. They looked good last week in a victory over a weak Detroit team, but their offensive line and running game have been miserable for most of the season and their defense isn’t quite the same unit with safety Earl Thomas out for the season. This line should be about 6 or 7, but instead this line has fluctuated between 4 and 5 all week. I would take them at 5 if I had to, but 4 and 4.5 are obviously better numbers if you can get them.

Atlanta Falcons 27 Seattle Seahawks 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -4

Confidence: Medium

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Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 NFL Wild Card Round Pick

Detroit Lions (9-7) at Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

Detroit made the playoffs with a 9-7 record, despite losing their final 3 games of the regular season, but they’re one of a few playoff teams I don’t think much of (Houston, Oakland, and Miami are the others). They’re the only playoff team that hasn’t beaten another playoff team, entering with a 0-5 record in games against playoff teams (losses to the Texans, the Giants, the Cowboys, and the Packers twice). Even though all 9 of their victories came against non-playoff teams, just one came by more than a touchdown, meaning they were squeaking out victories against non-playoff teams all season to get to this point. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 28th, the worst among playoff teams.

They didn’t get blown out a lot, losing just twice by more than a touchdown all year, but both losses by more than a touchdown came against playoff teams (the Cowboys and the Giants) and both losses to the Packers involved garbage time scoring that made the final score a lot closer. In last week’s home loss to the Packers, the Lions were down by two touchdowns before a meaningless touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game. In their loss in Green Bay, they were down 31-3 in the first half and did most of their damage in garbage time in an eventual 34-27 loss. Aside from those two games, their only loss by a touchdown or less against a playoff team was a 7-point loss to the Texans and the Texans are also a very weak playoff team. In fact, that 7-point victory tied the Texans’ 2nd highest margin of victory of the season.

This all is very relevant because this line is at 8, so if the Lions can keep this within a touchdown again, they’ll cover this spread. The Seahawks are a much better team than the Texans, but come into this game with a lot of questions, given how they ended the season. Aside from a blowout victory over the lowly Rams, who had just fired their coach 3 days earlier, the Seahawks have been very underwhelming for the last month of the season, since losing stud safety Earl Thomas for the year with a broken leg. They were blown out in Green Bay. They lost at home to Arizona. And last week, they barely won in San Francisco. They enter the post-season 8th in first down rate differential, which is solid, but they also had one of the easiest schedules in the league and are not the same team without Thomas. I’m taking the Lions to keep this within a touchdown, but I can’t take them for any sort of confidence.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +8

Confidence: None

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Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-13)

The Seahawks are typically a very good team in the 2nd half of the regular season under Pete Carroll, going 34-12-1 ATS since Carroll’s first season in 2011 in games 9-16 of the regular season. This year they’ve been 4-3 ATS in the 2nd half of the regular season, but that’s largely because they’ve been overrated for most of the season. In the first half of the regular season, they covered the spread in just two games, squeaking out close victories as big favorites against the Dolphins, Bills, and Falcons, losing to the Saints and Rams in upset fashion, and tying the Cardinals in a game that had an even line. They only covered the spread in big victories over the Jets and these 49ers, two of the worst teams in the league. In the second half of the season, they’ve pulled the upset in New England and gotten big victories over the Eagles, Panthers, and Rams, though they’ve also lost as favorites against the Cardinals, Packers, and Buccaneers. Still, they’ve definitely been a better team in the second half of the season again.

After last week’s home loss to the Cardinals, it doesn’t seem like the Seahawks are overrated anymore. The Cardinals are an underrated team that has won the first down rate battle in 13 of 15 games and that could easily be 10-5 or even 11-4 if they didn’t blow 5 close games with special teams mistakes, but that home loss has moved this line 3 points from 12.5 on the early line last week to 9.5 this week, a significant line movement. The 49ers pulled off a close victory against the terrible Rams last week, but that was just their 2nd victory of the season and prior to that win that had lost 13 straight by an average of 15.23 points per game, including 9 losses by double digits. The Seahawks should be able to make that 10 losses by double digits, though there’s not quite enough here for me to bet money on them.

Seattle Seahawks 23 San Francisco 49ers 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -9.5

Confidence: Low

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Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)

The last time these two teams faced each other, it was a defensive matchup that ended in a 6-6 tie. However, the Cardinals actually significantly outplayed the Seahawks in that game, winning the first down battle 23 to 11 and the first down rate battle by 6.26%. They had plenty of opportunities to win that game, missing two makeable field goals and allowing a blocked punt that set up a Seattle field goal at the end of the first half. That game was in Arizona, but this line is at 8.5, so we have plenty of room to work with even if the Cardinals get outplayed this time around.

That tie against the Seahawks was not the only winnable game the Cardinals have blown this year because of special teams. They missed a game winning field goal against New England. They allowed a long punt return to set up the winning score against the Rams. They allowed a kickoff return touchdown in a 6-point loss to the Vikings. And against Miami, in a 3-point loss, special teams cost them 7 points on 3 plays with a missed field goal, a missed extra point, and a blocked extra point that was returned for 2 points. They’ve won the first down rate battle in 12 of 14 games and rank 3rd in first down rate differential on the season, but have been arguably the most disappointing team in football record wise, going 5-8-1 after finishing last season 13-3. The Seahawks, meanwhile, rank 7th in first down rate differential, so we’re definitely getting some line value with the Cardinals.

This isn’t a bigger play for two reasons. One, the Cardinals are pretty banged up at this point in the season. Left tackle Jared Veldheer, right guard Evan Mathis, middle linebacker Deone Bucannon, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, and safety Tyvon Branch are all out for the season, while replacement left tackle DJ Humphries is out this week with a concussion. The Seahawks are missing safety Earl Thomas, but they’re definitely in a better spot injury wise, especially since they were without their other safety Kam Chancellor in their first matchup with Arizona.

The second reason is the Seahawks are in a good spot with only an easy game in San Francisco on deck, in which they are expected to be road favorites of at least 10 points. Teams are 34-20 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 7 or more and favorites of 7 or more are 58-33 ATS before being favorites of 7 or more again over that same time period. Teams tend to take care of business before easy games, but the Seahawks should have a much tougher time taking care of business than this line suggests against an Arizona team that has been much better than their record and that is a few special teams plays away from a completely different season.

Seattle Seahawks 17 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: Arizona +8.5

Confidence: Medium

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Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-9) at Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)

The Rams finally parted ways with head coach Jeff Fisher after last week’s embarrassing 42-14 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Fisher did absolutely nothing to improve the team in his almost 5 years on the job, so it was a long overdue move, but the timing could not be worse as now interim head coach John Fassel has to prepare a gameplan on a short week for the Seattle Seahawks, who host them on Thursday Night Football this week. The Rams have had success against the Seahawks in recent years, but Seattle is still one of the toughest places in the NFL to play, so Fassel’s first game couldn’t be tougher. Making matters worse, the Seahawks are actually in a great spot this week for a couple of reasons.

For one, they were embarrassed last week in Green Bay, more so than the Rams actually. The Rams were 6.5 point home underdogs against an Atlanta team that’s one of the best in the NFL. They were supposed to lose and lose big. The Seahawks, however, lost by 28 in Green Bay as 3 point road favorites, their first loss by more than 10 points in the Russell Wilson era. Teams are 94-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more, as teams tend to bounce back from embarrassing losses. The Seahawks have a great chance to bounce back in a big way this week, especially since Russell Wilson is 14-6-1 ATS in his career off a loss and the Seahawks are 33-11-1 ATS in games 9-16 of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011).

The second reason is because the Seahawks figure to be big home favorites again next week against the Cardinals and teams tend to take care of business as big favorites before being big favorites again. Since 2012, favorites of 6 or more are 94-52 ATS before being favorites of 6 or more again the following week. It’s tough to stomach putting money on the Seahawks with this line jumping to 15 in the wake of the Rams’ loss and Jeff Fisher being fired, but the Seahawks should win pretty easily and they are definitely the right side in pick ‘em leagues.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Los Angeles Rams 6

Pick against the spread: Seattle -15

Confidence: Low

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Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) at Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Typically, the Seahawks are unstoppable in the second half of the season, going 33-10-1 ATS since Pete Carroll’s first season in 2011 in games 9-16 of the regular season. This year, they got off to a strong start, covering in games 9 and 10, but then they got embarrassed in their 11th game of the season, losing 14-5 as 5.5 point favorites in Tampa Bay. They bounced back in a huge way last week, blowing out a banged up Carolina team 40-7, but that game might have been a case of winning the battle losing the war, as the Seahawks have lost safety Earl Thomas, one of the best in the game, for the season with a broken leg. It’s not that the Seahawks can’t win the Super Bowl without Thomas, especially in a year where all of the top teams have glaring flaws, but it certainly becomes a lot more difficult of a task for the Seahawks and it takes a lot of the air out of last week’s big win.

Despite that, this line has actually shifted from 2.5 in favor of Seattle to 3 in the past week. That might not seem like a huge line movement, but it’s pretty significant considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. We’re getting good value with the Packers at home, just the fourth time in Aaron Rodgers’ career that he’s been a home underdog (2-1 ATS). The Packers are also in a great spot, going to Chicago next week to face the lowly Bears. Home underdogs are 79-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites, which the Packers almost certainly will be next week. The Seahawks have an easy game against the Rams on deck, but it’s in 4 days, which is tough. Favorites are just 57-83 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. Normally I bet on the Seahawks in the second half of the season, but I like the Packers a lot if you can get them as field goal underdogs.

Green Bay Packers 27 Seattle Seahawks 24 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +3

Confidence: Medium

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Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1)

Typically, the Seahawks are a very good team in the second half of the season, going 32-10-1 ATS since Pete Carroll took over (since 2011) in games 9-16 of the regular season, but they fell flat on their faces last week in Tampa Bay, losing 14-5 as 6 point road favorites in an embarrassing offensive performance. As a result, the Seahawks fell to 14th in first down rate differential. For comparison, their opponents here, the Carolina Panthers, rank 15th in that metric, just one spot behind them. The Panthers may be 4-7, but 5 of their 7 losses have come by a field goal or less, so they could easily be 7-4, 8-3, or even 9-2 if a few plays went their way.

The good news for the Seahawks is that they are significantly healthier this week than last week. Center Justin Britt, cornerback DeShawn Shead, and safety Earl Thomas return from one-game absences, while Michael Bennett returns after missing 6 games with a knee injury. Thomas and Bennett are two of the best defensive players in the league, while Shead and Britt are both having breakout years at cornerback and center respectively. Now healthy, they could easily put last week’s loss behind them and continue on what looked like another Seattle second half run, after they covered in big wins in games 9 and 10. Conversely, the Panthers are the ones who enter this game very banged up. Top defensive player Luke Kuechly will miss his 2nd straight game with a concussion and will be joined on the sidelines by safety Kurt Coleman. Offensively, the Panthers are down to a 3rd string center and a 3rd string left tackle upfront.

That being said, this line is 7, so it’s hard for me to be confident in Seattle at all, especially with the Panthers in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 140-105 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 111-72 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 234-248 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.83 points per game, as opposed to 331-464 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.01 points per game. Seattle is the pick, but only for pick ‘em purposes.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Carolina Panthers 16

Pick against the spread: Seattle -7

Confidence: None

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