We have a lot for which to be thankful to the Buffalo Bills for. Not only have they kept Rex Ryan on an NFL sideline, which can never be underestimated, but they did Seattle the most astronomical of favours this season when downing Green Bay 21-13 in Week 15. Had the Packers not succumbed that day in Buffalo, the Seahawks would be the ones on the road for the NFC Championship Game this Sunday, dependent upon beating Dallas, of course. Incidentally, Green Bay were 3.5 point favourites against the Bills.
That's not to say that Seattle wouldn't have had much chance of reaching Super Bowl XLIX had Lambeau Field been standing in the way as that's just downright stoopid, but you can't ask for more than your home comforts when you're sixty minutes away from football's biggest stage and Buffalo, if nothing else, have helped shift the odds Seattle's way. I suppose that's the perfect segue with which to look at this week's spread without further ado.
Either those of a Packers persuasion or the punter who loves himself some Green Bay this week can lean on one crucial element...the half point. Yes, the Seahawks are a touchdown favourite on Sunday with many oddsmakers, but you can tack on a half point at the same number of alternative oddsmakers and that's huge if you're looking to lay down the hard earned on the visitors. To revisit my first point above for a second, what this week's line represents is that Seattle would either be a 0.5 or 1 point favourite were events taking place in Green Bay and yes, 0.5 naturally constitutes a 'pick 'em' contest.
If I truly believe a team to be a touchdown better than another team, and only a touchdown better, I'm loath to back them -7.5 as there's little worse than seeing said team not cover by the smallest gambling margin there is. Of course, conversely, you can afford to be smug when the reverse happens and the Seahawks did exactly that as 7.5 point underdogs when losing 13-6 in San Francisco in 2012 in what was just (a cherubic) Russell Wilson's seventh career start.
What to make of Green Bay visiting the CLink for the second time this season? I suppose a little like Seattle visiting North Carolina so frequently of late, the Packers must be aching for the chance to finally play the Seahawks at home. Again, to Buffalo, we need to doff our respective caps here.
Watching the opening game of the season again this week and expecting much the same on Sunday is lulling oneself into a false sense of security. Yes, I want to believe otherwise and yes, I think it's fair to say that Dallas matches up a little better with Seattle, but it's still a team coming to town led by Aaron Rodgers, the de facto best quarterback in the game right now, who finished off the Cowboys with this, via ESPN Stats & Info: Aaron Rodgers' last 10 pass attempts on Sunday: 10-for-10, 163 yards, 2 TD, 8 1st downs. I've rarely read anything as impressive, at least as in relating to football, and all of this on a supposedly dodgy calf; I think the calf's doing just fine and I simply laughed at the preview on ESPN describing Rodgers as ‘ailing'.
So, this week's a proper ol' test for the Seahawks, despite what the oddsmakers may be intimating, but last week was a proper ol' test, too, and Carolina deserves a ton of respect, three words, incidentally, used this week by Rodgers when speaking of Richard Sherman. The charm offensive is a smart play from Rodgers; he doesn't need to stir the Legion's pot and damn his level headedness.
The most pleasing aspect of researching for this post is realising something that had completely passed me by, namely that Green Bay ranks 23rd against the run, at least in terms of rushing yards allowed per game (119.9). In contrast, Dallas ranks 8th (103.1), which I suppose is not a huge difference over the course of a whole game (4.2 rushing yards a quarter). However, those 16.8 yards of difference constitutes one of those now oft-written about 'explosive' plays and any team would take that all day long.
Last week, the Packers gave up 145 yards on the ground to the Cowboys at 5.2 yards a pop. DeMarco Murray collected his own 123 yards at 4.9 yards per carry and if Green Bay aren't working like dogs on this aspect of their game, then a very long afternoon most likely awaits. Hmmm, that word afternoon ain't great as the midday kickoff could be more timely.
The Packers can still be backed +7.5 as of Thursday afternoon (Seattle remain available -7) and to delve a little deeper into matters, I have to thank the top man that is Pro Football Talk's Mike Wilkening for dishing up some truly eye-opening statistics as the line opened. He reports that Green Bay has never closed as underdogs of seven points or more in any of Aaron Rodgers' 113 career starts (go figure...my head hurts), incorporating both the regular and postseason. Moreover, the Packers have only once been underdogs of even six points in any of Rodgers' starts; they beat the Jets 9-0 on the road in 2010 as a six point underdog. This is how good these Seahawks are and only highlights how we should just cherish all of these moments right now, regardless of the outcome on Sunday; these are the dizziest of times and an era we'll crave once the NFL cycle works its inexorable magic.
Sunday represents only the third time in the Russell Wilson era where the Seahawks have been available -7. The other two occasions were in New Jersey versus the Giants and in Washington this season and Seattle covered the spread on both occasions, although the 10 point winning margin in the latter did flatter the hosts somewhat. So, as seven point favourites go, the Seahawks are a comfortable 2-0 ATS with Russ under center. However, that's a (micro) trend that needs to be avoided as the talent level Green Bay brings far exceeds those Giant and Washington squads.
I think I need to show you two lists here to demonstrate Seattle's record at home ATS, but two lists as this is the first time you've been able to lay down the hard earned on the Seahawks at the CLink as a clean touchdown favourite. OK, in the RWE, Seattle is 9-0 ATS (including the playoffs) when favoured at home by less than a touchdown. It's a remarkable little run and here's the breakdown:
2012, Week 9 -4 vs. Vikings WON 30-20
2012, Week 10 -5.5 vs. Jets WON 28-7
2012, Week 16 -0.5 vs. 49ers WON 42-13
2013, Week 2 -2.5 vs. 49ers WON 29-3
2013, Week 13 -5.5 vs. Saints WON 34-7
2013 NFCCG -3 vs. 49ers WON 23-17
2014, Week 1 -5.5 vs. Packers WON 36-16
2014, Week 3 -4.5 vs. Broncos WON 26-20 (OT)
2014, Week 12 -6.5 vs. Cardinals WON 19-3
When favoured at home by between 7 and 10 points over the last three seasons, the Seahawks are 3-1 ATS and here's that breakdown:
2013, Div. Playoff -7.5 vs. Saints WON 23-15
2014, Week 6 -7.5 vs. Cowboys LOST 30-23
2014, Week 10 -8 vs. Giants WON 38-17
2014, Week 15 -9.5 vs. 49ers WON 17-7
So, overall in the RWE, Seattle's 12-1 ATS when favoured at home by less than 10 points and 18-6 at home ATS when favoured by any margin.
On the season, Green Bay is 0-3 ATS as a road underdog, the SU loss and failure to cover coming in Seattle (+5), Detroit (+1) and New Orleans (+2).
I know the Seahawks advanced last Saturday, but even playing one day earlier than usual has made the waiting for this Sunday to arrive interminable and I don't know how any of us survived the two week build up to last year's Super Bowl without going off our heads. Maybe we did and the ensuing ecstasy merely wiped away the memory. I may as well not have gone to work this week such has been the distraction.
Being the eternal pessimist I am (with the blame laying squarely at the feet of the Seahawks), I need some emotional insurance for this one and am openly going quite big on a bet on the Packers straight up. They're available at odds of 11/4 with William Hill and I'd gladly lose the dough for Seattle to reach Glendale.
Please gamble responsibly.