It's unwise to bet against Tom Brady. Only do so when there are at least three good reasons to do so. Those (lucky enough to be) predisposed to throwing caution to the wind may disregard the opening two sentences and if such a nature permeates your bones, then being able to back the Seahawks as a home underdog (+3.5) will be right up your alley.
Are there three reasons to bet against Brady this week? You bet your life there is.
Home field advantage. Conventional wisdom has it that Seattle and Kansas City can lay claim to being the two toughest cities to play in. It isn't even close this season and Patriots coach Bill Belichick has said that he thinks CenturyLink Field might be the loudest stadium that his team's been in. It is. He went on to add, unsurprisingly, that it's a huge home field advantage for Seattle. It is.
Statistically, the Seahawks are the league's number one ranked defense, giving up just 258.6 yards per game, ranking 4th against the pass and third against the run. The latter may be tested significantly this week as New England enter town having put together their first back to back 200 yard rushing performances since 1978.
Stevan Ridley is the main man Patriots fans can thank for that and he averages an extremely healthy 4.8 yards per carry, but that does tail in behind his running partner in crime, undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden, who averages 5.6 yards a pop. Bolden's officially questionable, but is expected to play. In fact, if he does, he may see his playing time increase as Ridley isn't averse to coughing the ball up, an issue that placed him in Belichick's dog house during the playoffs last season. Seattle's opportunistic D will be waiting should Ridley play flash the fumble.
So, home field and defense bodes well for the Seahawks. The third reason why it's OK to bet against Brady this week? The small matter of strongside linebacker Dont'a Hightower missing his second straight game. Hightower's good against the run and his immediate backup, Tracy White, is also out, making the visitors vulnerable on that side of the field. It's the worst kept secret in the NFL that the Patriots need to key in on stopping Marshall Lynch (and Robert Turbin) and losing Hightower may have caused some defensive headaches on the cross country flight.
Not that it can't ever be relied upon, but the 12th Man will be needed, and early, should New England begin as they did last Sunday. Brady ran a quick, no-huddle offense against the Broncos last week and it does remains to be seen whether the same tactic will be deployed this week. It would certainly help limit any defensive adjustments the Seahawks want to make between plays, but Brady may tire of having to keep barking out orders over a noise he wouldn't have heard this season. It's one thing to play super fast at Gillette, quite another to attempt to get away with it at the Clink.
As form covering the spread goes, the Patriots are no slouches this season. They're 4-1 ATS with the sole failure to cover being their shocker at home to Arizona in Week 2. They were favoured by 13.5 points against the Cardinals, but on the three occasions this season when they've been favoured by less than seven, they've covered each time. They're available -3 this week so that trend is in their favour.
Assuming that Hightower's absence is as relevant as it looks on paper, Lynch's continued efforts will help keep the pressure off of Russell Wilson. It's not as though he doesn't look as though he can't handle the pressure of being an NFL quarterback, but he's making mistakes. However, he was always going to. I'm loath to sledgehammer any points home (particularly on this site), but it's why stats in the preseason count for absolutely nothing.
As electric as Wilson looked then, the learning curve against pro defensive starters is steep. However, he's in the perfect system. The coaching staff aren't rushing him along, he's surrounded by the dream supporting cast of both a running game and a defense to die for and it can be argued that Seattle is the most perfect fit for him in the entire league. He's a lucky fella, as are we to be watching a team such as this. Be careful what you wish for. It's a good time to be supporting the Seahawks and, devastating injuries aside, 2013 is looking scarily good.
Wilson is helped this week by looking over at a Patriots pass defense that ranks 29th in the league. It really is New England's Achilles heel and when the time comes to throw, he just has to forget that Belichick is the brains behind it and how he simply loves setting schemes to stymie and fool rookie QBs. I wouldn't be surprised to see Wilson toss a pick or two, but it won't anger me. I'll feel frustration, but our defense is one that Belichick would love to get his hands on and the Seahawks should be able to keep this one close until the very end.
This matchup truly is the case of the irresistible force against the immovable object: New England's No. 1 ranked offense against Seattle's No. 1 ranked defense. Something's gotta give and the form book looks favourably on both teams. I mentioned earlier how the line suits the Patriots, but the same can be said of the Seahawks. They're 2-0 ATS at home this season as a 3 or 3.5 underdog. Same line today, folks.
Brace yourselves. This one promises to be too good. The Seahawks plus the points.
Please gamble responsibly.
In addition to contributing here, Rob runs his own blog, Rob's NFL Yard and contributes at The NFL Injury Report so make sure you head over to those sites and check out more of his work. He'll be with us all season to give all you degenerate gamblers a better look at the ever-changing NFL odds, with a focus on the Seahawks, but attention to the NFL as a whole.