The best of times and the worst of times. How else to sum up what it feels like following the Seahawks after last Sunday?
As dispiriting as last week's loss was, Seattle finds itself with its destiny still in its own hands, which is all that any sports team can ask for heading into their final game of the regular season. The fact that this team doesn't have to rely upon anybody else this week, despite Arizona temporarily bursting our beautifully built bubble, is testament to the hard work already put in this season. However, your fate being out of your hands isn't necessarily a terrible thing. For a start, there's less pressure and that's what's really gnawing away at me heading into this game.
The Seahawks really blew it last week, but they were fortunate enough not to be supping away in the last chance saloon. Nor are they this week as they've already secured a playoff spot. All that's at stake is home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That's all. OK, on a serious note, Seattle has me worried. Defensively, the house is in order. Offensively, there's trouble at t'mill.
I mention pressure as I'm really, really sure that Russell Wilson can handle it. Well, of course he can. There was the Patriots at home last year, the Bears on the road, the two touchdown deficit in Washington to overcome. He's not suddenly become average, but there has been a discernible dip ever since he connected with Luke Willson for the TD in San Francisco.
You will no doubt have read Danny and Kenneth's thoughts on Russ this week. To borrow from Kenneth, if I may, two of Wilson's last three interceptions can almost be discounted. The desperate, last gasp heave against the 49ers is what it is while the pick against the Cardinals may actually never have happened so it's not Wilson throwing errant balls that I'm particularly concerned about. Having pored over the All-22 film, Danny isn't down on the offensive line and that's good enough for me.
So, Wilson isn't just chucking the ball anywhere and his line is holding up. Good news all round, but of all the plays that never happened last week, there's one that really bothered me at the time and has continued to do so all week. I refer to the 3rd and 1 at Seattle's 35 yard line with 1:40 to play in the second quarter.
Russ's initial reads weren't open and he was flushed out of the pocket, rolling left. Nothing unusual with that this season and this has often been something of a boon for the Seahawks. Wilson had the first down marker in his sights and not only that, but he could also have run out of bounds at Arizona's 38 yard line (approximately). Instead of the obvious, and the relative safety of a 1st and 10, albeit against a quite magnificent defense, Wilson opted to throw the ball to Doug Baldwin, who was positioned at the Cardinals' 44 yard line. Sure, Baldwin caught the ball, but he failed to complete the process, thus rendering it incomplete. I'm not a screamer by any means, but that play had me out of my chair going nuts. I'm not yet over it.
It's now Sunday morning (having written what's above on Saturday) and I've just realised that the previous paragraph should probably be discarded as I've been out of the loop more than I would have hoped this week and it appears that Wilson was under the impression that that third down was actually a first down. I apologise for wasting your time...hang on, even if Russ did think it was a first down, why didn't he run out of bounds anyway? OK, I'll quit with that thread as it opens up a whole new argument about the offense and I don't wish to be subjected to the brickbats...not at Christmas, anyway.
The long and the short of it is that I do fear the wheels are coming off, but that's just me being me with this half empty glass by my side.
As a contributor to Field Gulls, this column does feel somewhat redundant this week as, let's face it, nobody gives a toss about the spread. All that matters is that the Seahawks win. Or the 49ers lose. I should have dedicated this to a straight up betting piece, but that's covered elsewhere on Field Gulls and handsomely so. Right, reluctantly, let's look at the spread. St. Louis is available +11.5 and that's not just massive, it's MASSIVE.
In the Russell Wilson era, Seattle's 0-3 ATS versus the Rams, a pretty scary statistic with so much on the line this week, but, like I say, the spread's irrelevant. Still, I'm carrying on regardless.
The Seahawks were available -10.5 earlier in the week and the best you'll find now is -11 (Skybet), meaning the majority of the money has been on Seattle. Really? They're a braver bunch than me. Look, I hope they're proved right twice over. I just can't see it. I really should fill up this glass.
The Seahawks have been a double digit home favourite on five occasions this season and they ‘boast' a shaky 2-3 record ATS.
This is the heaviest underdog St. Louis has been this year, surpassing the nine points they were offered in Houston, a game they won straight up 38-13, and even that scoreline flattered the Texans. The Rams are 2-5 ATS on the road this season, each time as the ‘dog and if anybody may be seeking any trend in that, the two covers came on the two occasions when they were least expected to win. Hang on, that doesn't look quite right. I'll elaborate.
The five losses ATS came when they were given a start of 7.5 points or less. The two wins ATS came in the aforementioned victory in Houston and when they were eight point underdogs in Indianapolis. Curiously, they not only won straight up on both occasions, but they also scored 38 points in each contest. Any repeat of that and the road to the Super Bowl could be heading through San Francisco. However, if any team other than Seattle is motivated beyond belief this week, it's the Arizona Cardinals. I believe they'll beat the 49ers.
Due to huge time constraints this week, I need to cut this short, but wanted to post something this week having failed to do so last week. This is far from being my magnum opus so please accept my apologies. Less is quite often more. Not with this piece it ain't.
Please gamble responsibly.