NFL Playoff Odds: Saints at Seahawks against the spread

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
MONDAY

Anybody here as nervous as I am? C'mon, somebody has to be. If not, I envy you, all of you, you lucky little beggars.

I really shouldn't be this pessimistic approaching Saturday and for two perfectly good reasons at the very least. However, this football team that I love so very, very dearly has let me down and ruined many a Sunday since 1983, the year that I was first introduced to them on a 14 inch portable TV at my aunt and uncle's flat in a town called Barking, situated in the county of Essex, a stone's throw from the working class East End of London.

Barking was a tough town in which to spend one's formative years so I couldn't, aged 11, do anything but choose one of the toughest NFL teams to follow, could I? Not that I could foresee the agonies that lay ahead in the years to come, of course, nor was it all that taxing being a Seahawks fan in 1983 and 1984, if I'm honest.

So, I'm a pessimistic sports fan, assisted in no small part by this football team that I love so very, very dearly. My rampant defeatism has, admittedly, come close to meeting its match since the beginning of the 2012 season or, as is more likely, from the very moment Seattle's draft patience paid off and Russell Wilson was reportedly able to say to John Schneider, "You just made the best decision of your life."

I don't wish to infuse this with much negativity as we really have never had it so good. No, not even in 2005 so, cutting straight to it, what are the two perfectly good reasons to feel positive about facing New Orleans all over again? Naturally, the reasons amount to more than a couple (there's a myriad of reasons, if I may continue a theme from Field Gulls this week) but, firstly, I am mightily warmed at how the oddsmakers see this one. In short, the Seahawks are the better team. By 8 points. Oh yes, that's an undeniably rocky wall on which to nail any confidence, but Seattle is favoured to win by more than a touchdown and I like them odds in our half of the court when we're one step away from a home NFC Championship Game.

Secondly, for us to taste the same bitter pill at the corresponding stage of the playoffs as last season, the Saints need to repeat a slice of franchise history for the second time in a week. Before conquering the Eagles in Philadelphia last Saturday (in the cold, no less), New Orleans was 0-5 on the road in the playoffs in its history. That equates to a pretty colossal (cold) W for the Saints, and one hell of a monkey to discard, but it doesn't escape the fact that it's equally colossal for the Seahawks.

More on that tomorrow.

TUESDAY

Anybody here as nervous as I am? Well, wouldn't you know it, I'm not alone. I knew you wouldn't let me down. If I may have a moment...I love you guys.

Having just read Kenneth's ‘6 reasons that the Seahawks will advance' piece, the comments were littered with thoughts and fears that mirror my own and some were beautifully authored; many made me smile. Panic bubbles beneath the surface, our smiles a mere veneer of what lies beneath.

I'm half dreading watching events unfold on Saturday, but it's OK, Seattle's favoured by 8. The oddsmakers aren't often wrong...the oddsmakers are often wrong. Damn. But, wait. New Orleans winning in Philly last week wasn't all bad. They may have momentum, that much is true, but their triumph was equally colossal for the Seahawks due to the simple and bountiful truth of the Saints needing to replicate one of the finest achievements in franchise history just seven days later in perhaps (arguably) the most intimidating atmosphere the NFL has ever seen, or, more pertinently, heard.

Hmmm, checking the spread this evening, punters aren't being coy in believing in New Orleans...at least with regards to receiving points as the line's been trimmed to 7.5; handy, should you fancy Seattle to do a number on the Saints similar to what we saw on December 2.

96 hours ‘til kickoff.

WEDNESDAY

72 hours ‘til kickoff. The nerves are beginning to stir. They're not jangling, just unchained. The former's coming and it's a comfort knowing I'm not alone on these pages.

Kenneth, once again you have me harking back to something you've written this week. You packed in smoking the day the Seahawks lost to the Falcons at this stage last year. The date was January 13, something you mention more than once as it's now a significant day in your life. Join the club as it just happens to be my birthday.

I grew up in love with The Smiths and had never tied Morrissey to Seattle...hey, he may have toured there (somebody educate me), but 2013 was a most Unhappy Birthday.

Have a read of this:

"I'd be getting texts, calls on Wednesday night about the third down package. Thursday night I'd be hearing from him 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock about red zone plays. Obviously, he's talented, but he never stops thinking about football. When you coach him, you're not coaching with him; you're a partner in the offense with him. That's the ideal for a quarterback - someone who cares about it as much as you do."

Now, tell me...who does that remind you of?

I do admit to taking the entire quote from Pro Football Talk this week, from an article posted by Michael David Smith on Tuesday. Bill O' Brien, the new head coach of the Houston Texans, was talking to Peter King of The MMQB about his time working with Tom Brady in New England.

I've borrowed it to make the point that, should the Seahawks not quite deliver this season, it's not the end of everything. It will feel like it temporarily and I still abominate memories of Super Bowl XL. Ultimate success or 2005 all over again this season, Seattle will be back and for some time to come. Russell Wilson will be back and for some time to come.

Just remember, "...someone who cares about it as much as you do." Russ in ten words.

Would we settle for Wilson to emulate Brady's Lombardi haul? Even chucking in two (heartbreaking) Super Bowl losses at the same time? Don't dig too deep for the answer.

(Heck, Brady may even get a sixth attempt this season.)

As of Wednesday evening UK time, the Seahawks are still available -7.5, but most of the (online) oddsmakers who'd trimmed the line yesterday have pushed it back out to 8 today. Only Paddy Power and William Hill are offering New Orleans with the touchdown plus the half point.

I want to run Seattle's form past you as a home favourite in the RWE (Russell Wilson era). I've also discovered a quite staggering spread fact (despite that looking like two words that simply shouldn't sit side by side). OK, I'm probably over egging the pudding a little...it's a semi-staggering fact. That'll have to wait though.

With Russ at the helm since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Seahawks are 9-4 ATS when favoured at home.

Broken down even further, when favoured at home in the RWE by less than a touchdown, Seattle's 5-0 ATS. When favoured at home by more than a touchdown over the same span, the Seahawks are 4-4 ATS.

The latter line isn't the most encouraging news for those with a fancy for laying down the hard earned on the home team this week. Simply put, and in gambling parlance, it's black or red.

Semi-staggering fact: This is the first occasion in the RWE that the Seahawks find themselves in the bracket between a touchdown favourite and a double digit favourite, either at home or on the road. Yes, it is by just half a point, but they all count.

Purely for reference and for those of you with the thirst, when last the Saints came to town six weeks ago, they were 5.5 point underdogs.

Our partners at oddsshark.com offer us some further guidance on betting trends/history and here's the pick of the best:

New Orleans is 1-6 ATS in its last 7 games on the road
New Orleans is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games on the road in Seattle
Seattle is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games
Seattle is 15-4 ATS in its last 19 games at home

While this does pertain to be a spread betting column, perhaps the most salient point of all relates not to the line, but to the reality that the Seahawks are 15-1 SU in their last 16 games at home; the Saints have their work cut out.

I'm beginning to resign myself to the fact that if New Orleans find themselves flying to either Carolina or San Francisco next weekend, then they would've seriously earned it.

THURSDAY

Evening's settled in, I'm home from work and only one more day in the office sits between me and game day, only this week it should read Game Day.

At the time of writing, there's no reason to now think that Percy Harvin won't play some part on Saturday, however small. The very thought quells my apprehension somewhat, despite that meaning nothing come Game Time. I look at the franchise names on the page: Saints at Seahawks...Seahawks looks bigger, bolder...that's promising, yes, I like that...but Seahawks is made up of more letters so it should look bigger and bolder. My, oh, my, this is ridiculous. What the hell am I doing?

So, Harvin should play, but those four words will date immediately should he go down or pull up with a recurrence of pain and/or soreness between now and Saturday. Should our dreams come true (at least this week) and Percy does take the field, Seattle's aided by the knowledge that New Orleans has very little tape on him in a Seahawks uniform. Sure, there's hours of fun to be had of him in Minnesota, but that should equate to no film at all.

Harvin playing should add a level of explosiveness to the Seahawks' offense, should the coaches decide he's healthy enough to be utilised in such a way. At worst, his mere presence and the sight of him possibly going in motion means the Saints need to account for him and that makes Seattle's offense immediately more potent; such small, and what may appear to be insignificant detail, is seismic in this sport and is what sets it apart from anything else. I can't get enough.

If I may labour on Harvin for just a sentence longer, should he be healthy for the whole of next year, there's no reason for us not to believe that we can't be in this same position come the playoffs next season. Against the Rams. Possibly.

OK, I'm not quite finished on Harvin after all as I wish to pose a question. Given the choice, would you rather Percy be playing on Saturday or K.J. Wright? I stand firmly in the Wright camp as we've come this far without Harvin, bar one game. Oddly enough, that one game came against the very team that traded him our way. All this after he was injured on the same field in 2012 against the team he would eventually be traded to. If I didn't know you knew better, I'd feel justified in asking if you're still with me here.

Saints' tight end Jimmy Graham always poses a threat, but he was nullified at the CLink six weeks ago thanks largely to what amounted to a truly outstanding night's work from Wright. Graham scares me. His height scares me, his range scares me, his athleticism scares me. Wright not being in his vicinity, or even closer than that, terrifies me.

This won't be the same New Orleans we saw in Week 13. Bugger. I hated writing that. Expect Sean Payton to chuck in the odd surprise play at the very least. He'll need to keep Seattle's defense on their toes. He'll want to quieten the crowd. The former I expect him to achieve. Good luck with the latter. No, sod your luck with the latter.

Hmmm, no, this won't be the same New Orleans we saw in Week 13...hang on, what do we have here? Have you seen the weather forecast? Of course you have. Maybe this will be the same New Orleans we saw in Week 13 after all. Maybe, just maybe.

Please gamble responsibly.

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