That bark you hear is the sound of Seattle as the ‘dog on Sunday. Rub your in eyes in disbelief, fellas, but them's the rules in Vegas this week. And they're right.
New Orleans was offered about as much opportunity by the Seahawks of winning last Monday night as was San Francisco last December 23. And I had about as much opportunity of venting my elation during the game as would be afforded a Trappist monk. Living, as I do, in a flat with my fiancé, getting up at 01:30 GMT to watch any of the NF's, be it T, S or M, means any and all audible emissions are kept to a respectful level. I wish I wasn't such the caring gent sometimes, but if Seattle will insist on rolling like they did on Monday, am I really going to blub at having to curb the chorus?
Why do the oddsmakers have it spot on this week? Aw, because they do, because they always seem to bloody well do. Only this week, while I do feel as though they undoubtedly come down on the right side of the line, they probably overestimate Seattle a little. Hardly surprising though, is it?
The Seahawks are available +3, which, while holding a certain amount of appeal to a certain proportion of the masses, looks a little skinny to yours truly. Not that any oddsmaker would offer this to you this week, but I make Seattle four point underdogs, if not 4.5. Would I lay that myself to a willing punter? Yes.
Reasons...? Here goes.
San Francisco needs this, badly. San Francisco wants this, badly. San Francisco are going to come out crazed. I'm not saying that the Seahawks aren't in the same position, but expect a level of intensity from the 49ers the like of which nobody's seen this season.
The reasons don't stop there, but please, both of you, bear with me.
I've been thinking, ever since Tuesday morning, that this game would be the most unique to Seattle on their entire schedule, but every game's unique because each and every opponent's unique, so let me be so bold as to say that this promises to be the most incomparable game we'll see, including in its build up, thanks to the staggeringly untamed rivalry between the two teams, a rivalry that's ever growing in no small part to this team we cherish. Yep, all of this is of our own making.
Why did the Seahawks have to embarrass the Niners so in the last two games at the CLink? Why would they ever want to deny the 12th Man the endearing sight of Colin Kaepernick snuggling up to his world beating guns? Why on earth would they wish to give San Fran any extra motivation to deliver their own shellacking to our team? Come on boys, what the hell do you think you're playing at? Yeah, OK, I'll shut up.
Aside from the 49ers looking to dish up revenge served in a cauldron this week, Seattle does have to be wary of what follows the Lord Mayor's show; often, it's very little and that's a heavy worry for Sunday. What happened on Monday night was fantastically extraordinary and if we thought the performance in Atlanta was a wake up call for the rest of the league, then Monday was the cold shower and the sour milk on your cereal for our NFL brethren.
Stating the obvious, it's going to be exceptionally difficult to come close to matching that performance this Sunday and we shouldn't even be expecting it. If I'm honest, I'm expecting the Seahawks to lose, but not because of any unacceptable performances. No, my apprehension is partly due to years of following this franchise through thick and thin (mostly thin, something we can all relate to), thus merely expecting the worst and, as I wrote above, a belief that the 49ers are simply going to want it more.
Now, I do recognise that the talent this team currently has (it's no longer latent talent, which is a shame as it looks beautiful written down) should veer me away from expecting the worst. However, that ain't gonna happen and the snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat against the Rams and Buccaneers this season, whilst reversing a common Seahawk trend of chucking it away (pre-RW, admittedly), is still recent enough and evidence enough to like San Francisco as a betting proposition this week.
Boy, I think I'm gonna get it after those two paragraphs.
Somebody (I can't remember who as I didn't ‘favourite' it) tweeted late during the Saints game that it was slightly preposterous (or a word to that effect) to now suggest that Seattle will be unbeatable at home during the playoffs based upon one game and that Tampa Bay had come mighty close to clipping the wings a few weeks back. I totally understand the sentiment and maybe the simple fact that Russell Wilson has won every home game he's ever played in had escaped their memory, but the more salient point missed by our tweeting friend brings me round again to what I wrote earlier.
To compare the Buccaneers game to what happened Monday night is ludicrous. Yes, Tampa played extremely well that afternoon, no doubt about it, but the Seahawks wanted the Saints a whole lot more than they did the Bucs.
Everybody who contributes to Field Gulls, in any way whatsoever, relies upon statistics on some level and it's an integral part of any football thought processes. Sometimes, though, the human element just smashes the door down. It's what happened on Monday night and I fear it's what's going to happen to Seattle on Sunday.
Hang on, I need to clarify something here. I'm not being glib and merely suggesting that the Seahawks being ‘up' for Monday was what determined the outcome. No, no, no. They, the whole organisation it seemed, had done their homework and done it good and proper; no stone was left unturned and remind me once again ‘cos I've gone a blank, but doesn't somebody dear to us speak a lot about preparation and separation?
On Monday night, Seattle kicked off with the potent arsenal of superior knowledge and obstreperous intensity, the latter shaping that unparalleled will to win. One without quite fully the other can be a recipe for victory...both in the same glass offered New Orleans not the briefest of prayers.
I am going on a bit about the Niners wanting Sunday more than the Seahawks and of all the quotes I read heading into the weekend, San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis summed up his team's thinking and it comes as no great surprise (gleaned from ProFootballTalk).
"Any time you play a team and you lose, the next opportunity you get to play them again is definitely a statement game," Davis said. "Not just for us, but for anybody. So we have to go into this game playing hard, playing fast, and initially we have to make some noise right away."
Davis then got down to the bare bones of what he really meant.
"It might be the most intense game this season, because those guys don't like us and we don't like them."
That's it, a proper rivalry.
Davis speaking of making some noise does shed some extra light on a small happening this week that will have made every one of us smile, namely ‘The 49ers Home Field Advantage Plan for Gameday.' Instructions such as ‘Wear Red!' and ‘Quiet on Offense' prompted some smart Alec to comment that anybody would think the game was being played in London. Oi, mind your P's and Q's, Sonny Jim, as we know our stuff over here, but I get the point you make. When news broke of the memo, the whole of Niners Nation must have winced.
Right, I'm done on intensity and rivalry and wanting any game more. I guess we'll just see what transpires.
After Monday night, Russ (sorry, the Seahawks in the Russell Wilson era) is now 5-0 ATS when favoured by less than six points at home since the beginning of the 2012 season, a W-L record that far outweighs what this team achieves when favoured by more than a touchdown at home over the same span. It's a stat I'm more than a little intrigued at keeping an eye on as it's already become quite a serious betting trend, but that may have to wait until next season as upcoming home games against the Cardinals and Rams should see the Seahawks favoured by at least a touchdown. That said, much depends on the outcome of Seattle's next two road games because if home field advantage throughout the playoffs is secured after playing the Giants, Pete Carroll may decide to juggle his starters somewhat.
Sunday will be the first time this season that the Seahawks have started any game as underdogs, meaning we can only go on last season for a look at how Seattle fared in a similar position. Here's the breakdown, including the playoffs:
Week 5, 2012 Seahawks +3 at Panthers WON 16-12
Week 7, 2012 Seahawks +7.5 at 49ers LOST 13-6
Week 8, 2012 Seahawks +2.5 at Lions LOST 28-24
Week 13, 2012 Seahawks +3.5 at Bears WON 23-17 (OT)
Div. Playoff Seahawks +3 at Falcons LOST 30-28
No mean feat is that, a 4-1 record ATS on the road with a rookie quarterback and you'll notice that two more points (OK, a field goal) scored in Detroit would have made it a clean sweep. Interestingly, Wilson is 3-0 ATS versus the 49ers in his (short) career; Kaepernick is 0-2 ATS versus the Seahawks, but he's yet to play Seattle at home.
Frank Gore likes playing the Seahawks, he's always liked playing the Seahawks (barring Week 2 this season) and, without having had sufficient time this week to properly revisit this game from last year, I know that he gashed Seattle for 131 rushing yards on 16 carries on that balmy Thursday evening a season ago, a whopping 8.2 YPC. I also remember it seemed like so, so much more at the time as he punished the Seahawks up the gut. Was it really on just 16 carries?
Gore hasn't rushed for more than 48 yards in each of his last three outings. That'll change this Sunday...probably, I'm sad to report. I hope I'm wrong.
This was also the game last year where Seattle's receivers (including Robert Turbin) were guilty of dropping crucial passes and the missed opportunities were many, creases in the passing game that have long since been ironed out, even without Sidney Rice for spells and Percy Harvin, who misses out again this week.
San Francisco's getting increasingly healthy at wide receiver and Michael Crabtree's return couldn't have come at a better time for Kaepernick as the 49ers fight for their playoff lives. The attention Crabtree generates will be welcome relief for Davis, but he'll have watched with wide eyed interest at how the Seahawks dealt with Jimmy Graham on Monday night. It was a master class in how to defend against the best receiving tight end in the NFL and, aside from K.J. Wright practically coming of age, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane put to bed any discussion around the absence of Brandon Browner.
Maxwell was simply outstanding in coverage and Lane's downfield block on Michael Bennett's touchdown was that of a football player with an abundance of football savvy. Down to the most microscopic detail, this is one supremely coached football team. Minutiae matters.
It's some statement as to exactly how far this team has come in two seasons when we can afford ourselves the thought that all Seattle needs to do is win its remaining home games in order to reach the Super Bowl. Rub your eyes in disbelief, fellas, but them's the rules.
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