‘We should probably never, ever have a bye week again'.
This was a gem of a comment reacting to Kenneth's post on Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner facing four game suspensions having fallen afoul of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
With the news coming hot on the heels of Seattle's ever-so-tough-to-stomach loss in Miami, those words resonated with me the most amidst a sea of vitriol and hyperbole; the simplicity in the sentence is painfully beautiful.
Due to a Christmas schedule beginning far earlier than I would like, along with the regular job killing way too much time, I have no chance of writing anything this week beyond Thursday night so have decided to write something each day and see where it takes me. I suppose Sun Life Stadium on Sunday afternoon is as good a place to start as any.
As this pertains to be a betting column, let's begin with the spread, where the Seahawks failed to cover for the third consecutive time this season as a road favourite. Not just a road favourite, but a 2.5 point road favourite, as was also the case in Arizona and St. Louis. I backed us with untold confidence yesterday, daring to leave myself open in the process to the double whammy of the Seahawks losing and the wallet feeling lighter come the end of the game.
I never learn my lesson and in the lead up to facing the Dolphins, had been blinded by wins over the Vikings and Jets. I blithely forgot to remind myself that those events took place in the Pacific Northwest and we were embarking on our longest trip of the season. The latter is easy to overlook so of course this is exactly what I did. I'm quite the pro.
All I saw in Weeks 10 and 11 was a Miami offense woefully short of momentum and desperately lacking in cohesion and verve. Before Sunday they were two weeks removed from losing 37-3 to Tennessee, at home. Wow. This wasn't going to go wrong. You know the rest.
You do know the rest, but if Earl Thomas hadn't been called for roughing the passer on Bobby Wagner's (what would've been second) interception in the fourth quarter, with Seattle leading 14-7 and a little over eight minutes left, then I believe the outcome of the game to be different. Yes, this sport contains thousands of nuances that affect the outcome, but the call was seismic, not least because Miami levelled the scores on the very next play. Mine is but one opinion, but the humble one I hold today believes the call cost the Seahawks the W and, to those of us who laid down the hard earned, the monetary spoils.
Initially, I assumed the NFL would hear the players' appeals this week and ban them immediately. No passing Go, no collecting $200. However, those worst fears may not be being realised just yet. From what can be gleaned (and I realise this may look dated by the weekend), it looks as though our two starting corners are playing in Chicago this week.
Our two starting corners are playing in Chicago this week. The league wants to conduct the hearings on Sherman and Browner next week.
I'm looking for the spread on Sunday's game and all I can see is literally one line. Seattle is +4.5 at bwin.com, the only company on the globe (nothing available online in Vegas) apparently courageous enough to offer any line on events at Soldier Field in exactly five days time. At the time of writing, we should be in the early stages of the fourth quarter in exactly five days time. I envision the Seahawks being a touchdown behind, but that's only down to the Dolphin defeat. Had Thomas not been flagged on Wagner's second pick, we'd have won the game (a day later, I'm unwavering in that belief and of course that's what would have happened) and I'd now be contemplating the Seahawks tied with the Bears in five days time after three quarters.
It shouldn't be that one zebra's call can influence the mind such as it has. Perhaps some of you don't feel that way. If not, I envy you.
There are two possible reasons for the lack of a line, barring bwin.com, but one of them truly doesn't make sense. We know that Sherman and Browner will play in Chicago so, aside from the team, well, the defense, feeling slightly unsettled for a short amount of time as the week began, everybody knows they're going to suit up.
The second reason is Jay Cutler's health. The concussion he suffered in Week 10 against Houston kept him out the following week, a 32-7 shellacking at the hands of San Francisco, but he returned against Minnesota last Sunday and suffered no ill effects in going 23 of 31 for 188 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. It's inconceivable that he won't play this Sunday so I'm at a loss to explain the reticence being shown by the world's sportbooks.
The Bears need Cutler and if you wonder how desperately, I defer to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk for the following. In the last three years, in games Cutler's both started and finished, the Bears are 26-9. In games Cutler either missed entirely or was knocked out because of an injury in the first half, the Bears are 1-8.
Before Wednesday's injury report, all we can do is speculate as to the health of the Bears that really are banged up and who, unlike Cutler, may be listed as questionable within the next 24 hours; Cutler will likely be listed as probable.
As Kenneth previously wrote, starting right guard Lance Louis will miss the rest of the season, ex-‘Hawk Chris Spencer and Matt Forte have knee injuries, Devin Hester a concussion and Lance Briggs may be in the worst shape of all, seen wearing a walking boot after Sunday's win over the Vikings. Cornerback Charles Tillman, one of the best at his position, has a chipped bone in his right foot, but it's expected that he'll play through it for the remainder of the season. Chicago hope.
We finally have more than one line to look at and it turns out that bwin.com weren't that wide of the mark at all, although it should be noted that they've trimmed their spread by a point and Seattle are now available +3.5.
Our partners at Oddsshark share the same view of that assessment, but the Seahawks can be backed +4 at Carbon Sports (Vegas), Coral and William Hill. It's a line that at first blush looks skinny, very skinny. Seattle's 1-5 record on the road mirrors exactly Chicago's 5-1 record at home so isn't this akin to buying money for those looking to bet on the home team? In black and white, yes, but there's more to this one than may be immediately obvious, despite the Seahawks allowing Ryan Tannehill to complete 69.2 percent of his passes for 253 yards last Sunday. And that still grates.
The bad news for us is that Cutler will play. I won't be collecting any awards for breaking news or imparting news that can't be filed under ‘good', but them's the facts. How effective he'll be though does hinge on the plethora of aforementioned injuries the Bears currently have and, as unfortunate as that undoubtedly is for the home team, two days from feeling as though our season could be gradually slipping away from us, I can actually see Seattle winning in Chicago for the third time in the regular season in as many years. Of course, when it really mattered, a week removed from stunning the Saints on January 8, 2011, we couldn't match up with them, but I wouldn't have the bitter sweet nature of following the Seahawks any other way. Where's the fun in that? Yeah, OK, you got me.
Following a truncated diary entry yesterday, let's get serious over Sunday's matchup.
Before that, Earl Thomas gets fined 15k for his ‘hit' on Tannehill this past Sunday. Speechless. Wordless, really, in this format.
As I wrote above, Seattle has previous in the Windy City in the regular season, winning 23-20 in 2010 and 38-14 in 2011 and upon reading an article this week on what Cutler can be expected to bring to the table on Sunday (more of that in a while), somebody had commented in response that "...Seattle always plays us tough." It appears we do although we were helped last year with the absence of both Cutler and Forte.
I may have mentioned above that Cutler will play on Sunday, but the picture surrounding Forte is a little less clear...officially. As of Wednesday, he took part in practice, but his participation was limited and he's listed as questionable. Expect him to start. Backing that up is Bears' offensive coordinator Mike Tice saying Forte looked "fine". Expect him to start.
In relation to the other injured Bears, Spencer, Hester, Briggs and Tillman all missed practice on Wednesday. I think my heart just skipped a beat.
Cutting back to Cutler, he'll look to connect, as ever, with Brandon Marshall on Sunday and Chicago will look literally like a two man offense should both Forte and, to a lesser extent, Hester, not play. With Alshon Jeffery out injured (knee), Hester's presence may seem critical. However, without wishing to do him too much of a disservice, he sits third on the team with just 18 receptions for 203 yards (1 TD), a whopping 63 catches and 814 yards behind Marshall and has been targeted less times over the season than tight end Kellen Davis.
Hester will be missed in the return game and little else, but, like I say, I don't wish to do him too much of a disservice.
I promised earlier to go back to the article I read on Cutler the other day. I will and it raised an interesting point of view, one I totally disagree with. It was stated that Seattle, coming off a demoralising loss to the Dolphins, is vulnerable. No, that doesn't make Seattle vulnerable at all.
When betting ATS, I'm always wary of the team coming off the emotional win. They're dangerous to bet on the following week as it can be difficult to maintain the previous levels of motivation and, if I may be so bold, adrenalin. The money is often safer going on the team coming off the difficult loss. There's pride to regain (the Eagles are currently debunking this myth as I type), which is never to be underestimated in the NFL, and the plain and simple truth of wanting to be as far removed from that feeling of desolation as is possible with the only solution being to put right what went devastatingly wrong the previous week.
I don't believe I'm extending the truth any here by saying that matters went devastatingly wrong for the Seahawks in Miami. About the only redeeming feature was the play of Russell Wilson and Leon Washington's kickoff return for a touchdown.
Wilson was outstanding last Sunday and would probably be the only player allowed to rest on his laurels as the week rolls around to Soldier Field. However, you just know that he'll have attached as much blame to himself as anybody for last week's defeat and will be approaching this one with the same amount of vigour and maniacal attention to detail as he always does.
How do I put this without sounding like a complete Fanboy, the like of which Kevin Smith would gleefully take credit for? Russell Wilson is potentially the greatest quarterback of his generation and will take the team, the franchise, us, on the sporting ride of our lives. The kid is summat else. The next ten years promises much. Stick around.
Aside from Seattle always playing tough in Chicago and the fact that the Seahawks are coming off an emotional loss, another factor to consider, and not unrelated to the latter point, is the Bears looking past us and towards the two weeks following this. A look at their schedule shows NFC North foes Minnesota and Green Bay up next, two games with far greater magnitude than this Sunday's matchup against an upstart team from out west somewhere who just happened to have their wings clipped recently a million miles from home.
As disappointing as it is, the Seahawks are no match (as it stands) for a place in the hearts and minds of the Bears with the Vikings and Packers on the horizon. Don't let it get you down fellas, it works in our favour.
Briggs returned to practice on Thursday and doesn't "plan on missing" Sunday's game. Also returning to practice today was Tillman while Forte said he expects to play despite his ankle injury; Hester and Spencer have indeed both been ruled out and in Spencer's case, it means the Bears need to find two new starting guards this week. What can possibly go wrong for the Seahawks?!
Within three days, I had us going a definite 6-6 to thinking we can win this one. We are going to win this one. From scratch. And I haven't even mentioned Marshawn Lyn...damn.
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. Follow @RobDaviesNFL on Twitter | Follow @FieldGulls on Twitter | Like Field Gulls on Facebook