The elephant in the room, if only to myself, is my absence these past two weeks. I apologise for it, which I appreciate may not be to too many, but however many few there are, I genuinely felt bad. Everybody else, all of the regular contributors, dragged themselves to keyboards over Christmas and New Year, to which I tip my hat.
I had the whole of the holidays off of work and what with catching up with English friends visiting from Estonia and South Korea and spending a few days at my wife's parents (I know, I know, but they're wonderful people), the two weeks fell away from me. Now, I know you don't care, but I felt an explanation necessary. And Danny has let me back in the door. Thank you, squire.
On to something more sobering, which is relevant to Field Gulls. You undoubtedly would have read this week of the sad passing of Ian Smith. Ian was President of the UK Seahawks fans chapter, a labour of intensive love, no doubt, and one that clearly brought him untold joy. And this comes from somebody who didn't even know Ian, which is something I feel a little ashamed about, having been a kindred spirit from the same side of the pond.
I contacted Stu Court this week, the day after Danny introduced Stu's words on Ian to FG and the accompanying fundraising efforts for Help for Heroes, a UK Military charity that Ian was a former member of. Stu informed me of a fan meeting that's being arranged in Manchester for April 30, an event that I'm doing my damndest to attend. I can't say I'll miss Ian as I never even met him, but I felt mighty sadder for the rest of Wednesday than I did when I woke up that morning.
Stu tweeted to me that ‘[Ian] did so much for the cause and the outpouring since Sunday has been unreal.'
Yes, the Seahawks are a big bunch over here (and not just because they now win a lot), but have all of a sudden been robbed of one of its brightest ever lights. I can't wait to meet Stu to give him a big ol' Seahawky hug and to raise a glass to the glorious endeavours of Ian Smith.
I heard something on the radio this week that typified the UK's reaction to what I'll call, just for this, American football. It was on a station called talkSPORT, the self-proclaimed biggest sports radio station in the world. It might well be, but I doubt it. I won't name the two discussing the NFL playoffs, but they spoke, albeit briefly, of the Panthers, Packers and Cardinals. That was it. Just the three. The guy on the phone, a British journalist based in the US, fancies Arizona outright. Fair enough as (most) opinions are important, but I sat there waiting for the word of caution that the Cardinals had just been annihilated by the Seahawks on their own turf and to approach with caution. I honestly think the guy had no idea that last Sunday even happened. They then had a slight disagreement on the outcome of the Washington/Green Bay game this week.
I really shouldn't care as you can get your football opinion and insight from far greater minds (Statler and Waldorf for starters). What it stems from is how we read of the NFL's rapid growth in the UK (Heaven knows what baloney you read over there) when the reality is that 95% of the population over here couldn't give a rat's arse for the sport and that's probably a generous figure an' all. It continually grates that the media pretend that they care, too, when probably three quarters of the UK's sporting press wouldn't have the foggiest idea what was going on if somebody had the temerity to make them watch...sorry, endure, a game. That last figure might just be my ranting going into overdrive and I could be bang to rights on this, but I'm sticking with it. OK, I'm done.
It was interesting to note Seattle's 6% chance of winning the Super Bowl via ESPN's Football Power Index, which translates to 16.66/1 in true odds. It flies a little in the face of the Seahawks being available at a best price of 6/1 at a multitude of oddsmakers online, but I suppose the FPI has a science at its heart as opposed to positively no heart being utilised in the heads of those pricing up the Super Bowl for punters to get their teeth in to.
I began the week, I suppose much like a lot of us, not imagining Seattle encountering many problems this week. Granted, the maelstrom of events that took place in Glendale last Sunday were too vivid to consider anything other than the Seahawks progressing to face Carolina, but memories of a few days ago were gradually overwhelmed by whispers of plummeting temperatures in Minnesota, a weather front that damages Seattle's chances. Yeah, it could, but I suppose you then have to consider that, if what is forecast presents itself, then the Seahawks would naturally look to run the ball more, which is hardly a change in philosophy. It's obvious stuff, but where to start with this? You could do a lot worse than check out Brian Nemhauser's (@hawkblogger) hawkblogger.com site, where he's written a fantastic piece on the effect (very) cold weather has on teams, particularly the road team; I recognise that I'm preaching to the converted here.
Back to Seattle running the ball more this Sunday: Per Sheil Kapadia at ESPN, the Seahawks weren't a high volume passing team during the regular season, throwing the ball 30.6 times per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL. That's difficult to compute when all your recent memories of this season are of endless Doug Baldwin touchdowns, third downs (and long) being converted with what seemed like stunning regularity and, of course, Russell Wilson hitting the kind of streak never before seen in NFL history. Those last few words are thrilling to write and spine tingling to read back on. And he's a Seahawk. These are just the most blessed times to have this team in our collective hearts.
So, will the extreme cold disrupt the rhythm between Wilson and his receivers? It sure as hell looks like it. Will the return of Marshawn Lynch disrupt the rhythm between Wilson and his receivers? On this coming Sunday, perhaps not, but we all know that the Seahawks have spent the second half of this season preparing for life without Lynch and the job being done is masterful.
I wrote something towards the end of last season along the lines of that possibly being the last few games we'd ever see Lynch in a Seahawks uniform and that, in this current incarnation of the franchise at least, how could he ever be replaced? He was, after all, the heartbeat (arguably) of the team. Not that it would've been easy to formulate a post-Lynch plan, but what's been achieved, not only by Wilson and a combination of a rookie back and a near bust of a back, but by a handful of the brightest coaching minds there are, is work that should be the envy of the league. It would appear that the Seahawks aren't going away any time soon but, yes, I firmly believe that the league doesn't wish to see Seattle reach its third straight Super Bowl.
Will the return of Marshawn Lynch disrupt the rhythm between Wilson and his receivers? I've just woken up on Saturday morning and, as is customary, checked Field Gulls to see what's up before finishing this post. Startling news. With Pete Carroll basically saying it was certain that Lynch would play on Sunday, I have to admit that my immediate reaction to Lynch not making the trip to Minnesota was that there's more to this, and I can see I wasn't alone when reading some of the comments. However, it does have to be considered that the most likely reason is Minnesota's climate not being conducive to Lynch busting his tail coming off of the surgery he's just had.
Lynch or no Lynch, Seattle's available -3.5 points (Sky Bet, Coral), a line that hasn't moved now that it's unequivocal that Christine Michael starts for the Seahawks. If you fancy Minnesota and the points, they're available +4.5 on too many books to mention.
As this promises to be by far the coldest game Seattle's played in the RWE, and in turn the most unique, there's naturally nothing at all to go on when comparing this spread to any other since 2012. That being so, it may even be an exercise in futility comparing this line to anything similar, but it's what this post does so march on we shall. Let's start with the negatives. If you're looking for recent form to go on, then the Seahawks are 0-2 ATS this season when favoured by 3.5 or 4 on the road. Respectively, those occurrences were in St. Louis and Dallas.
Seattle was -5.5 points at San Francisco and more than cleaned up, but that was one balmy evening. I only mention that as I've now been sucked in to this whole weather malarkey and am starting to believe all that I hear and read. What looked to be a playoff route the Seahawks wouldn't have minded navigating may be taking a dark turn towards ‘be careful what you wish for.'
While Seattle is available -3.5 points, the consensus is -4 or -4.5 so let's look at everything relevant here (as it's the playoffs) where the Seahawks have been a road favourite in the RWE between 3 and 4.5 points.
2013, Week 1: (-3 at Panthers) WON 12-7
2013, Week 10: (-4.5 at Falcons) WON 33-10
2014, Week 2: (-4.5 at Chargers) LOST 30-21
2014, Week 8: (-4.5 at Panthers) WON 13-9
2015, Week 1: (-3.5 at Rams) LOST 34-31 (OT)
2015, Week 8: (-4 at Cowboys) WON 13-12
A 2-4 record ATS, uninspiring fare if we're honest with ourselves and 0-4 ATS in the last four of those games.
When these teams met in Week 13, the Vikings were decimated by injuries on defense, an occurrence that is unlikely to have affected the outcome anyway, so destructive were the Seahawks offensively. Minnesota was without Linval Joseph before the game and lost Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith during the first quarter. Yes, it's unlikely Seattle would've lost that day, but it is difficult to ignore how significant their absences were and the return of all three for this er, return, coupled with the elements has me thinking that it's worth taking the Vikings +4.5. Yes, it's pragmatic, but never underestimate that approach when chucking away the hard earned. Taking everything into account, this could be too close; it may even turn out to be a classic.
Time to turn things over to those good folk at oddsshark.com:
Seattle is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games
Seattle is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games on the road
Seattle is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games against Minnesota
Minnesota is 13-2 ATS in its last 15 games (Blimey)
Minnesota is 10-3 ATS in its last 13 games at home
I've got a bad feeling about this. Quite possibly, the Norse awakens.
Please gamble responsibly.