"I'm ready to hit somebody. I'm tired of talking."
Thank you, Bobby Joseph Wagner. While he's never going to reach the rarefied air of Michael Bennett's comedy gold, Wagner delivered on Tuesday, for me, the most memorable quote since Russell Wilson's perfect 35 yard arc to Jermaine Kearse concluded proceedings in the NFC for another season. Wagner actually caused me to shift in my chair, sit up and take proper notice. I'm not against Media Day per se, but the concept of it is better than the execution; The Phantom Menace of the football universe, if you will. If Seattle wasn't in the Super Bowl, I'd never watch it.
Two ‘classic, game for the ages' NFC Championships in a row, eh? Who'da thunk it? I know I may speak for some of you here and certainly not all, but Monday, January 19 had me still disbelieving, to the extent that I didn't even feel that the Seahawks were actually in the Super Bowl, let alone going back to it. It wasn't because I felt as though they didn't deserve it. No, it's because I'd spent the best part of two hours the previous night (kickoff was 20:00 GMT) resigned to the fact that any thoughts of a dynasty, as unlikely as that may be in this climate, would need to be put on hold until September. Despite it being a season we could only have dreamed of during the ‘90s, this was it. But, no, of course this wasn't it.
By Monday evening, only after having watched the post-game press conferences, did it sink in. I wish I was joking here. Back to back Super Bowls was always the domain of the powerhouse franchises (and I'll include THAT Buffalo Bills team here) and then you realise...these once kick-us-while-we're-down-with-Kelly-Stouffer-at-quarterback Seahawks are a Power. House. Drink in every moment, people.
I need add nothing here of the heroics witnessed against the Packers, suffice to say that it's mind bogglingly frightening the effect unparalleled self belief and sheer will to win can have on an athletic collective. And these guys freakin' well love each other. When a fragile looking Richard Sherman (imagine that?), at the end of the NFCCG, mouths to Kam Chancellor on Sound FX, "I love you", he ain't bloody well paying Kam lip service.
If I may borrow from somebody this early in the piece, it's Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, who wrote this on January 21: ‘I'm not picking against the Seahawks (maybe ever again) because of one word: belief. I've rarely seen anything like it in sports...I can't remember another NFL team like this...'
How on earth has this come to be? How have the Seattle Seahawks, who's every ill judged move I've frustratingly watched from afar, become such an NFL landscape changing behemoth? You know the answer(s)...I'm just typing stuff that would have been laughed at before Paul met Pete met John met Earl met Kam met Marshawn met Richard met Russell.
I made kind of a big deal in my Super Bowl post last year of the Broncos opting to wear their orange jerseys against the Seahawks. Call it hokey, but their record in three previous Super Bowls in that colour of choice was an absolute shocker of a read and, after Super Bowl XLVIII, Denver's now lost by a combined score in orange of 167-38 in four games. It's difficult to knock the history of it and I'm pretty much convinced that if/when Denver is next the designated home team in a Super Bowl, they'll opt to wear white. I know, I know, you don't give a toss and I get that, but the point I'll eventually get around to making is that I was one of those hoping Seattle would choose to wear their white jerseys on Sunday. Yes, based purely on history...what there is of it anyway.
We've been here before, the Seahawks wearing blue in the Super Bowl. It didn't end well. It began positively and that was about it. But, hang on. Seattle wasn't initially pegged to wear blue that day. They were the designated road team that year, only Pittsburgh went and decided to wear their white road jerseys in the Super Bowl on the back of it being their good luck charm throughout a road playoff run that began in Cincinnati in the Wild Card round. The football Gods smiled at the Steelers' gumption while at the same time placing a fine fog in the eyes of the officiating crew.
Pittsburgh remains the only team that's chosen to don their road jersey in the Super Bowl and as much as I hated the outcome, I applauded their decision.
So, the Seahawks had the chance to appeal to those aforementioned Great Bigs In The Sky, but opted against it. Oh, Seattle...if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Blimey, this will be interpreted by some as a complete load of ol' tosh, but some of those folks in Denver and Pittsburgh might've thought the same once.
I think it needs to be said though, that the '05 blue ain't a patch on the magnificence on show these days and as for the '05 white...well, it's up against the most resplendent NFL jersey there is.
Are you up for yet more tosh on why I'd like to have seen Seattle wear white on Sunday? There's a trend developing around the Super Bowl. Now, granted, it is a once a year trend, but it's difficult to ignore nonetheless. Nine of the past ten Super Bowl winning teams have worn white, the one exception being Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV, against Pittsburgh, of all teams.
On the flip side to all of this, and to totally contradict myself, is the fact that the Seahawks were forced to wear blue in Super Bowl XL, which is in stark contrast to choosing to wear blue in Super Bowl XLIX. It may prove significant. ‘Yeah, sure', you're probably thinking. Get on with it.
Let's get down to some odds, shall we? "Finally(!)", they cried.
Seattle began the two week intermission as the consensus favourite, a line that lasted about as long as it would take Usain Bolt to run the length of his back yard. As has already been posted on SB Nation this week, Kevin Bradley, the Sportsbook manager of Bovada.lv, explained why New England soon assumed the mantle of favourite: "The instant Pats money early last week I think is a direct relation to the fact that the Pats smashed the Colts and was fresh in people's minds and given Seattle's struggles against Green Bay, I was not surprised to see the public all over them early."
It's been reported that the Seahawks opened as a 2.5 point favourite, something I didn't even consider checking. Had to be true. However, upon researching for this (and please correct me if I'm wrong), all I can see is that Seattle opened as a 1.5 point favourite at (the stupendously named) Treasure Island. The line shifted out to -2 by the afternoon of the first Monday, but that's as good as it got for those looking to get on New England with the points. Wherever you care to look now (January 29), the Patriots are favoured everywhere. Almost...
Ever since at least last weekend, Bet Victor has held their line of Seattle -1. As of Thursday evening, I can't see a single oddsmaker anywhere laying New England as the underdog so they simply have to be taking money on them and plenty of it. Either they have an unwavering belief in the Seahawks not to lose them thousands or they've taken a ton of money on Seattle outright before the season began, which could well have happened as all the talking heads are now piping up that they tipped the Seahawks from the very start.
However, hang on...what's this? It's now Saturday morning, the day before the game, and Bet Victor has some bedfellows. This has now become a quite fascinating betting market due to activity over the past 36 hours. In a complete 180, ToteSport and Betfred now have the Patriots pegged +1.5, while over at Paddy Power they can be backed +1. In the truest sense of the phrase, this really has become a ‘pick ‘em' contest.
Seeing as the best available line on Seattle is +1.5, let's take a look at their record as an underdog in the Russell Wilson era, regardless of venue:
2012, Week 2 +3 vs. Cowboys WON 27-7
2012, Week 3 +3.5 vs. Packers WON 14-12
2012, Week 5 +3 at Panthers WON 16-12
2012, Week 6 +3.5 vs. Patriots WON 24-23
2012, Week 8 +2.5 at Lions LOST 28-24
2012, Week 13 +3.5 at Bears WON 23-17 (OT)
2012, Div. Playoff +3 at Falcons LOST 30-28
2013, Week 14 +3 at 49ers LOST 19-17
2013 Super Bowl +2.5 vs. Broncos WON 43-8
2014, Week 11 +2.5 at Chiefs LOST 24-20
2014, Week 13 +2 at 49ers WON 19-3
2014, Week 14 +2 at Eagles WON 24-14
It's a respectable 8-4 record SU, but when the line's taken into account, is 10-2 ATS. The latter stat alone makes it dangerous betting against Seattle on Sunday, but if you want further reassurance, here's something, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Seahawks. Please bear with me here.
Throughout this season, I've rarely brought Walter Cherepinsky of walterfootball.com into proceedings, mainly because he hasn't had that much to say of note with regards Seattle. He's certainly brought a nugget of note to the table this week.
Ol' Walt points out that the first team to score 40 points during these playoffs was the Patriots, when they obliterated the Colts. Why is that so significant? Well, teams that have scored 40+ points in the playoffs are just 3-22 ATS(!!) in their following game since 1996. Yep, 1996. The last time a team posted 40+ points, New England went on to lose to Denver in last year's AFC Championship Game.
If betting history is your thing, particularly Super Bowl betting history, then pleasant reading will also be that the Patriots are 0-4 ATS in their last four Super Bowls as a favourite. Here's the breakdown (no apologies for the Roman Numerals):
Super Bowl XXXVIII -7 vs. Carolina WON 32-29
Super Bowl XXXIX -7 vs. Philadelphia WON 24-21
Super Bowl XLII -12 vs. NY Giants LOST 17-14
Super Bowl XLVI -2.5 vs. NY Giants LOST 21-17
Of course, we now know that the Patriots can be backed as the underdog on some sportsbooks, but the prevailing line for much of the last twelve days has been New England -1, so I believe the above to still be relevant.
On the only line comparable to this one throughout their entire season, the Patriots covered as a 1 point underdog in Buffalo in Week 6, a spread that now looks beyond ridiculous.
New England, the threat that is New England, particularly as we still don't really know the true extent of the injuries to Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. They're all listed as probable, but how severe are Sherman's torn elbow ligaments? How much range in his shoulder will Thomas have? Kam just ‘fell near the goal line' on the penultimate play of Friday's practice, per Super Bowl pool reporter Peter King, and it appears to be his knee. When I woke up to news of Kam's injury this morning, my heart almost froze in my chest. However, the headline appears to be more damaging than the actual deed. Do we really have to endure the three most important members of the Legion of Boom all playing banged up tomorrow? Sure as hell looks like it.
Should Kam be limited to the extent that it falls to K.J. Wright to take care of Rob Gronkowski pretty much on his own (unlikely as it is), we know that Wright has it in him to do so, as Jimmy Graham can testify. Those hoping Seattle fail on Sunday will point to Gronkowski's height advantage over Wright (6'4") as a key point in the matchup, but lest we forget that Gronk's 6'6" frame actually comes in at an inch lower than Graham's.
Is there any real advantage to the Patriots being able to call upon Brandon Browner's knowledge of some of Seattle's passing schemes? I'm sure it works just fine for them, but what happens when the pocket breaks down (which it inevitably will)? Browner's nous goes straight out of the window when Russell Wilson's looking for his favorite broken play receiver, Doug Baldwin. Baldwin has the innate ability of knowing just what Wilson's looking for and that won't help Browner or the secondary one bit. And if Baldwin can't get open quickly enough, then Russ can always rely on his feet.
Like all of us of a Seahawk persuasion, I'm desperate to see Seattle take home their second Lombardi trophy in as many years and, like last year, have booked the Monday off work as kickoff is 23:30 GMT. Either way, I hit the pub on Monday in one of two moods. As far as betting on the game goes, I'm actually avoiding the spread altogether and laying down the hard earned for some emotional insurance, namely a not insignificant amount on the Patriots SU. If Seattle wins, the money lost is an elation only matched by the aftermath of Super Bowl XLVIII. If Seattle loses, I line my pockets; don't wanna do that.
I would just like to finish here by saying it's been an absolute pleasure yet again contributing these posts to Field Gulls this season. I owe the biggest thanks to Danny, so, thank you, squire, but also to all of you who enjoy these and add comments.
Enjoy all of Sunday, all of you, and, for the final time this season...please gamble responsibly.
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