Would you like the good news first?
Seattle's favoured by 4.5 points this week. Big deal, huh? Er, yep...you bet your life it is.
For those of you who, like me, may be incapable of escaping the pervading sense of trepidation before Monday night, it's probably time for some medicine. And not any ol' dose. Oh, no. Here's a fat, healthy dollop to warm the cockles: Russell Wilson always covers the spread when favoured by less than six points at home.
That makes Wilson sound as though he's superhuman and although he is, let's add some meat to those bones. OK, the Seahawks always cover the spread when favoured by less than six points at home in the Russell Wilson era. Here's the 4-0 breakdown:
You will have noticed that only one of those games was vaguely close, the game where Adrian Peterson rushed for 144 yards in the first half, the game where Adrian Peterson ran for 74 yards on the second play of the game, the game where Adrian Peterson's run for 74 yards on the second play of the game had us all sitting up thinking we could be watching Seattle's third loss on the bounce, following demoralising defeats in San Francisco and Detroit.
Am I saying that this week's spread makes the Seahawks a damn fine thing to bet on? If you believe in betting trends, then you already know the answer. However, the enormity of the game to us who follow this team's every move transcends the line somewhat this week as I'd be happy should Seattle win by one point, no matter how it may be achieved and with no money wagered whatsoever. That said, the voracious gambler in me does consider the 5.5 points available on New Orleans to be significant value and I'm dissuading not a single soul to lay their hard earned on the visitors.
I wanted to jump straight into the nuts and bolts of the spread this week as my routine Limey ramblings can wait plus I have to admit to myself that this does pertain to be a betting column. In addition, what better news could you wish to have read than the fact that the line on this game crowns itself neatly upon the crest of the wave Russ rides at home when the Seahawks are asked to cover by two field goals or less.
I happened to use the phrase ‘Don't meet your heroes' (more of that in a while) in my lead up to the Vikings game two weeks ago when comparing Wilson's poise (both on and off the field) to that of Joe Montana. Lofty praise indeed, yes, and I take any criticism of that squarely on the chin, but if Montana and accuracy do good bedfellows make, then Russ once again didn't disappoint when he pulled out of the hat one of the most beautiful throws I've ever seen during the Minnesota game. I refer to, of course, the 19 yard touchdown pass hauled in by Doug Baldwin on the stroke of the half.
I'm trying to be careful with my hyperbole here as I don't like to give the cannon too much free reign too often and these College Navy, Action Green and Wolf Grey coloured spectacles I wear can help to create extreme partisan. However, accuracy in a quarterback's armoury can never, ever be underestimated and Wilson placed the ball on that touchdown pass in the only centimetre square available that gave Baldwin the chance to catch it for the score. To gloss over Wilson's accuracy for a second (a ridiculous notion, I know), the catch in itself was pretty spectacular.
Our very own Mike Chan, in a follow up piece to Danny and Davis's truly excellent insight into Pete Carroll's offensive philosophy, noted that one of the most important aspects of Carroll's offense is to provide as many explosive plays as possible. Now, without those 19 yards being the most explosive in NFL history, the culmination of the play had me out of my chair and I would define that as an explosive play.
Let me add that all important, non-blowout win touchdowns have me out of my chair, but this upward movement happened quicker than normal and carried with it some extra verve.
The plays that "wow" are explosive plays and to come full circle on my original point, if I may, I've (we've?) seen something approaching what is thousands of passes over the past 29 years, but Wilson's pass on that play was one of the greatest I've ever, ever seen. Not the greatest, no, but it's high up there; every shred of bias aside, it was extremely beautiful to watch and will never bore me.
Don't meet your heroes, eh? Russ already has and plays against him for the first time on Monday night. I've actually loved reading Wilson's quotes this week about how he used to follow the Saints due to his admiration for Drew Brees.
The fact that he "probably did" wear a Saints cap the last time these two teams met (you were probably there...I was at my step sister's 40th birthday party because I "HAVE TO BE, SON") matters not one jot. Wilson's in love with Seattle, the Seahawks, the 12th Man. Sure, he may still follow the Saints and Brees's progress on the quiet, but there's nothing wrong with that. He's the undisputed leader of our team and has no intention of letting New Orleans get in the way of a Super Bowl run, even though we have to face up to the probability of facing them twice before we can even dream of elongating the season into February.
In the least earth shattering news you'll read this side of kickoff, the Saints aren't nearly as good on the road as they are in the Superdome. Yeah, I went there, but I was simply scrambling for a way to hit 1,000 words. Job done, now to get back to it.
When I envision how a matchup may go the closer we get to game time, it's not Wilson or the defense that actually springs to mind first. No, Marshawn Lynch is what the mind's eye puts first before me and nobody has previous with the New Orleans Saints more than Marshawn Lynch. Being somebody who vehemently believes in an offense needing to possess more than a semblance of balance to it, I love Carroll's (and John Schneider's) attitude towards a physical, punishing running game, but you must feel the same so preaching to the choir here isn't a habit I wish to develop.
The Xs & Os work undertaken here on Field Gulls is both stupendous and often jaw dropping, graft (and a craft) I can only aspire to, but to go base for a second, an offense simply has to show a requisite amount of guile to keep a defense honest. The Seahawks' offense, being built as it is, meant that Seattle was still able to achieve this without Percy Harvin. Having that one man's not inconsiderable talents available adds a myriad of dimensions to what may ultimately be seen on the scoreboard.
With the run game at the forefront of my football thoughts, I looked first at what we can expect from Lynch on Monday and if my opening salvo wasn't quite enough to ease the headache, I hope what follows assists further.
In plain black and white terms, New Orleans is giving up 111.9 rushing yards per game, a respectable enough stat I suppose, but a closer look reveals a glaring truth. Here's a look at what the Saints have given up on the ground on the road this season:
At Tampa Bay 160 RYPG, at Chicago 94 RYPG, at New England 141 RYPG, at New York Jets 198 RYPG, at Atlanta 91 RYPG.
Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, New Orleans has defended the run best in a dome this season (OK, just, when considering the Bears game) and if we include the Atlanta game, the Saints are allowing 136.8 RYPG on the road. However, discounting the Falcons, in the beautiful outdoor elements that figure jumps to 148.2 RYPG, a far cry from 111.9. This is staggeringly pertinent and our visitors will know exactly what to expect, not that they've had insufficient time to prepare for this as it's effectively been a bye week for both of these teams.
Carroll nailed it after the Vikings game when he said that he would much prefer it if the team could just keep on playing, without the bye, but there will also be those who'll argue from the other side of the fence. The bye week is inescapable, but the fear exists that it may have come at quite the most inopportune time this season. However, when the Seahawks have to turn it on, they've developed a propensity for doing just that in the Wilson era. Let's take a little trip.
Naturally, there's been the occasional hiccup along the way since Russ was initially given the keys, but even going back to Week 2 of the 2012 season, it was evident that this team wasn't lacking in the gumption department. A confident, nay cocky, Dallas Cowboys rolled into town on the back of beating the world champion Giants in their own backyard to face the 0-1 Seahawks. Not that it was must win for Seattle at that stage of the season, but the game wasn't even close.
Down 23-10 to the Patriots in the fourth quarter...had to turn it on and they did.
The aforementioned losses last year to the 49ers and Lions brought Seattle back to 4-4...Peterson's 74 yards two plays in, a week after Detroit, helped set up a 7-0 lead...had to turn it on and they did. Yes, it was kinda close, but they did.
The defeat in Miami didn't bode well for a trip to Chicago...had to turn it on and they did. That was big. Those two, late, long drives (including overtime) were the true making of this offense and I watch them frequently.
Down 14-0 in the wild card in Washington...had to turn it on and they did.
Down by fifty eight touchdowns in Atlanta...had to turn it on and they did. What eventually transpired there is old news, but when the time came to actually get busy living or get busy dying, the Seahawks got busy living...before getting busy dying pretty soon after.
Down 20-3 in Houston...had to turn it on and they did.
Down 21-0 to the Buccaneers...had to turn it on and they did.
We all know what was being remarked upon in the lead up to the Falcons rematch the week after the Tampa comeback. You got it...absolute guff. Why weren't sane, prudent, football intelligentsia truly recognising the effects of debilitating injuries on the offensive line? Yet still Seattle was 8-1. Travelled to Atlanta, had to put on a performance. Travelled to Atlanta, decided to put on not just a performance, but a show. Had to turn it on and they did.
Much is being made of the loss of Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond for this contest and while I concur that it would be bloomin' lovely to have the full deck available, I have to have the utmost faith in Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. This won't be an easy ride for either one of them, but we have to remember that their supporting cast in the secondary ain't none too shabby. They will already have been prepped to the nines for this one and three quarters of the Legion are still on hand to coax and cajole.
That said, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor promise to be busy enough immersed in their own battles with Jimmy Graham and it's that Brees-Graham conduit that we're going to love to hate. I do already.
Before this piece wraps itself up, let's look at a few trends, courtesy of our partners at oddsshark.com. Hmmm, encouraging news is that New Orleans is 2-3-1 ATS over its last six games and 1-4 ATS in its last five games on the road. Seattle, meanwhile, is 13-3 ATS in its last sixteen games at home.
Delving a little deeper, oddsshark also give us some MNF spread statistics. Over their last seven respective appearances on a Monday night, the Saints are 6-1 ATS, the Seahawks 5-1-1 ATS.
I can only imagine the hype this game will be getting over where you are and it's mouth watering fare, to be sure. I will struggle to enjoy a single second, if I'm honest, but I will also probably rarely have felt so alive. Very excitable words, yes, but seeing as I will miss all of the pre-game gushing due to work commitments, before having to get some shut-eye to wake up at 01:30 GMT to watch it, I need to make my own entertainment.
Oh, hell. I've just seen that Harvin's doubtful. Bugger.
Please gamble responsibly.