NFL Odds, Playoffs Divisional Round: Seahawks at Falcons point spread analysis

Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

"Despite the fact that we have a ‘nobody' team, a team not full of first rounders and things like that, we have a lot of guys that play at a high level."

Richard Sherman can rein it in after all. Had I been asked which Seahawk I would credit with saying that after Sunday's win in D.C., Sherman's is the very last player's name I would have proffered. Since when did he become the master of *understatement?

*For Sherman, this constitutes him almost being mute.

The "high level" Sherman alludes to was abundantly clear last week on many strata and by many players, but you all know this and I need not really take you back to events at FedEx Field (tempting though it is), suffice to say that the win, and the manner in which it was achieved, far outweighed demolishing San Francisco two weeks previously. I do appreciate that any victory is viewed subjectively, but the W gained against the Niners was secured as soon as Sherman returned the blocked field goal 90 yards for a TD. To hammer the point home (and please pardon any perceived spoon feeding), the obvious reasoning is that had we lost to San Fran then we still had at least one more week of our season remaining.

Once the first quarter was in the books last Sunday, we then dominated as heavily against Washington as we had on December 23 without putting the hosts away. To touch upon some odds here for a second, what price do you reckon you may have been offered on the Redskins not taking a single snap in Seattle territory from the beginning of the second quarter until the end of the game?

Having replicated a knife through butter while taking a 14-0 lead, nobody in the world (and beyond...somebody somewhere must believe this) would have foreseen Washington not getting out of their own half for the remaining 75 percent of the game. You would've been laughed at for asking for such an eventuality and could've named your own price. Boy, those odds of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (yeah, not a clue how big that is, but I don't care because even that number doesn't come close to the real odds) were so attractive. I could've bought a ticket to the Super Bowl. This team we love more than our families sit but just two hours from holding up their end of that particular bargain.

Our partners at oddsshark.com rank Seattle as 2.5 point underdogs, but they're also available +3 with Paddy Power and Sportingbet, two lines that are sure to see plenty of action; I do wonder whether that field goal start will be shaved somewhat the nearer we get to kickoff. As proof of how difficult a time the oddsmakers are having of forming a cohesive opinion on this one, BETDAQ, Pinnacle Sports and 32redbet favour Atlanta by as little as one point, outstanding value if you truly believe one hundred percent that the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith regular season juggernaut are about to shake the playoff monkey from their backs.

I like what oddsshark do when looking at matchups, offering the punter a snapshot of some of the betting trends for both teams and here's a couple of gems that should discourage nobody from backing the Seahawks ATS:

Seattle is 10-3 ATS over the past 13 games

Seattle is 15-3-1 ATS over its past 19 games as the underdog

The latter stat already has me reduced to a nervous wreck as I contemplate kickoff at The ‘Stick or Lambeau in a week's time, but I remember not to get ahead of myself. As good as we are and as much as we all harbour thoughts of the Seahawks being right up there competing for home field advantage in '13, we enter the house this week of the NFC's number one seeded team, a team rested, a team welcoming players back from injury. That said...

...we have a hell of a lot going for us. Last week, I mentioned Walter Cherepinsky of Walterfootball.com, a man of deep irreverence who, if you like a flutter on football or possess more than just a passing interest in the NFL Draft, is your man. You may not agree with his view(s) all of the time (in fact, that's an impossibility), but once you're slightly hooked, he's not easy to ignore.

I mention dear old Walt again this week because he just happens to like our opponents on Sunday ATS. I will admit to not doing him justice one bit here with what I'm about to write as it's the final two lines of his post, but he signs off with, ‘I'm taking the Falcons, but I'm not betting on them because the Seahawks are the better team. Seattle just happens to be in a very tough spot.'

That ‘tough spot' is the fact that ‘Atlanta has to feel completely disrespected' because ‘everyone assumes Seattle will win.' That's not all. ‘The Seahawks have a dubious track record in such games [1 p.m. East Coast contests]' and ‘the human body isn't completely awake that early'.

I mentioned last week that I agree with Walt's picks ATS about fifty percent of the time. Whereas I sided with him last week, I couldn't disagree with him more this week. That said, as part of his opening salvo, Walt gives us ‘...you may have heard that the Seahawks match up extremely well against the Falcons on this side [offense] of the football. Well, that happens to be a highly accurate statement.'

Time to put Walt away now before he begins to monopolise this post, but, hey, if you're interested, go check him out.

So, where do we match up extremely well with the Falcons when in possession of the football? I can hear the collective scream in my London flat and suddenly feel like Colin Kaepernick on the evening of December 23, 2012.

Yep, you don't need me to spell the word B-E-A-S-...so I won't.

Marshawn, your 27 yard run for the lead-changing touchdown midway through the last quarter against the ‘Skins is never going to usurp THAT effort against the Saints two years ago, but, man alive, you can't half move beautifully. As you rumbled past Russell's block upfield and dove into the end zone, you had me going crazy. Finally (finally!), we had the lead and we couldn't blow it. Not now. You have what can't be taught and are the poster boy for players drafted by the wrong team in the wrong city.

Marshawn, we need you on Sunday. We need you very, very badly and I only say this because it's too easy to assume that you're primed for a stellar outing in the Georgia Dome. Why wouldn't you be rushing for at least 123.2 yards on Sunday? It's what Atlanta's allowed on the ground on average throughout the regular season. I'm taking nothing for granted, but, yes, it should happen. Oh, my, what have I just done?

As powerful as Seattle's running game is, it's not unfair to say that the Falcons pose nothing like the same kind of threat. Michael Turner, Atlanta's leading rusher, accumulated 800 yards this season at only 3.6 yards per carry. Only 3.6 yards per carry. Oh, my, what have I just done?

It's to be expected that Matt Ryan will come out firing or at least he'll want to come out firing. Long discussed and dissected since everybody knew Atlanta's opponent this week is Ryan's 0-3 playoff record.

The Falcons were truly abject when losing 24-2 to the Giants on Wild Card weekend last year and it remains to be seen how affected Ryan will (may?) be with history whispering in his ear. Should that whisper become a roar, Ryan will have nobody to blame but himself considering the supporting cast at his disposal. The triumvirate of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez is arguably the league's best receiving corps, but almost certainly the one secondary they were hoping to avoid on the road to New Orleans was Seattle's.

I don't even need to speak with the heart when saying that Messrs. Sherman, Browner, Thomas and Chancellor is the league's strongest defensive backfield and when I wrote at the very start that Sherman can actually rein his mouth in, he proved this week that he really can. His not-so-faint praise of "they're two of the best out there right now as individuals...for a tandem they're probably the top tandem out there" when speaking of White and Jones was actually pleasing to read.

There's really no need to offer any extra motivation to the opposition in their own stadium. However, he couldn't resist reverting to type when evaluating, "good against good is always the best kind of game." That'll do Richard, quit while you're just about ahead.

With the likelihood that Ryan will want to make a flying start, thus keeping the crowd in the game, should the Falcons win the toss, there's little to no chance of them deferring to the second half. You get the impression Atlanta will want to build the same lead as Washington did last Sunday and just as quickly and should the Seahawks emerge as sluggishly out of the blocks as they did last week, then we are undoubtedly going to be staring down a 14-0 barrel very quickly all over again. However, this Seattle team is young (just in case you weren't quite aware of the blindingly obvious!), but one that clearly learns very quickly so I'd happily take any bet that we won't be two touchdowns behind after fifteen minutes. (Oh, my, what have I just done?)

From events in Chicago to the comeback in Washington, this group of players seems to have collectively adopted the mindset of Russell Wilson...the team doesn't get rattled. That mindset will be tested with the absence of Chris Clemons and not just because of his status as Seattle's most dominant pass rusher. What will be equally missed is his veteran presence and leadership and while we can plug in a first round draft pick to replace him, Pete Carroll earlier this week spoke of utilising Greg Scruggs and even K. J. Wright and/or Mike Morgan to support Bruce Irvin.

Losing Clemons is a huge blow, but we were due a serious injury if we're honest with ourselves and I have total faith in Carroll and the entire coaching staff in overcoming this. Teams as good as this current Seahawks outfit have overcome far worse to win a Super Bowl so I'm trying not to dwell too heavily on Clemons, if for no other reason than the following:

Russell Wilson

Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor

Marshawn Lynch

Robert Turbin

A power running game

Wilson/Lynch mastering the read option

K. J. Wright, Bobby Wagner

Momentum

Zach Miller last Sunday

ZACH Miller last Sunday

ZACH MILLER last Sunday

ZACH MILLER LAST Sunday

Three game winning road streak

We're good, very, very good

ZACH MILLER LAST SUNDAY

Some of the above overlap, but you know that and I also know you'll forgive me my enthusiasm if they look a tad all over the place. Sunday, January 13th is a big day. It also just happens to be my birthday. I don't want or need it to be a bittersweet day. Forty one is no age to celebrate as I still get misty eyed when contemplating how good my 40th was. However, it's still a sweet day. Just the Seahawks advancing to the NFC Championship Game is all I want. It's all I need on Sunday.

I've just realised what I missed from the above list. Man, I'm an idiot.

Those ‘road' white uniforms.How sodding well good do they look?

Please gamble responsibly.

In addition to contributing here, Rob runs his own blog, Rob's NFL Yard and contributes atThe NFL Injury Report, so make sure you head over to those sites and check out more of his work. Follow @RobDaviesNFL on Twitter | Follow @FieldGulls on Twitter | LikeField Gulls on Facebook

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