I only have one NFL Game of the Year each season and, on Sunday, I released my 2013-2014 NFL Game of the Year on the Seattle Seahawks. Here is the analysis my clients receive on a daily basis:
Seattle Seahawks (-3) (-125) over San Francisco 49ers
Analysis: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is 16-1 SU at home and 24-11 ATS overall as a starter in the NFL, and he is the beneficiary of the strongest home field advantage in the history of sports. Indeed, Seattle is a remarkable 56-22 SU at CenturyLink Field, including 50-25-2 ATS since 2005. In light of those records, it is not surprising that domestic and off shore sports books have both reported sharp money favoring Seattle throughout the week. “This is a game where we’re seeing public money on the dog and sharp money on the favorite, and we kind of anticipated this scenario,” Michael Stewart, an oddsmaker with CarbonSportsag, said. “Our bettors have been all over the 49ers in the playoffs. We’ve seen sharp money support the Seahawks at home all season and unlike last week, they’ve gotten the money more times than not.”
The initial line movement in this game is also telling as BetOnline was the first to publish a point spread on the NFC Championship game (-3; -125 odds), and that number was immediately bet up to 3.5 by several professional bettors. Ed Salmons, head football oddsmaker at the LVH SuperBook, is baffled by the public’s infatuation with San Francisco and believes the “line is way short” in this game. I happen to agree with Salmon’s assessment for several reasons.
Seattle is 8-1 at home this season where the Seahawks are averaging 28.4 points per game at 4.2 yards per rush play, 8.0 yards per pass play, 5.8 yards per play and 12.0 yards per point. Overall, Seattle is 0.2 yards per rush play, 1.0 yards per pass attempt and 0.3 yards per play better than average offensively on the year. Wilson should have success throwing the ball against a decent San Francisco secondary that is 0.5 yards per pass play better than average (6.2 yards per pass attempt to teams that would combine to average 6.7 yards per pass play) as Seattle’s aerial attack possesses a 0.5 yards per pass play advantage in this game.
Seattle’s ground game behind Marshawn Lynch should also have success based upon previous results. The 49ers have allowed five 100-yard rushing games since the start of 2010, and three of those belong to Lynch. Moreover, since joining the Seahawks, Lynch has averaged 5.0 yards per rush between the guards against San Francisco. That statistic is very impressive in light of the fact that all other running backs have averaged just 3.5 yards per rush against the 49ers. Overall, Lynch accounts for 29% of Seattle’s offense and has eclipsed 1,200 rushing yards for the third consecutive season.
Seattle also possesses an outstanding defense that is allowing a mere 13.9 points per game at home at 3.6 yards per rush play, 5.5 yards per pass attempt and 4.6 yards per play. Overall, the Seahawks are 0.1 yards per rush play, 1.2 yards per pass attempt and 0.8 yards per play better than average defensively, which gives them a significant 0.7 yards per play advantage over San Francisco’s attack. Seattle boasts the best secondary in the league as the Seahawks are one of only three teams with more interceptions (28) than touchdowns allowed (16). Six of the seven members of Seattle’s secondary have at least one interception and the Seahawks are ranked #3 in the league with +82 net turnover points.
Over the last two seasons, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has thrown only eleven interceptions, but four of them came in two games in Seattle (42-13 and 29-3 San Francisco losses). Let’s also note that the 49ers are a money-burning 3-7 SU and 2-8 ATS in their last ten trips to Seattle, whereas the Seahawks are 21-9 ATS in their last thirty home games. Seattle has done something that no other team has done in order to contain Kaepernick. Specifically, the Seahawks have brought four or fewer pass rushers on 75% of Kaepernick’s dropbacks, thereby forcing him to throw into a crowded (and extremely talented) secondary. As a result, Kaepernick has completed just 47% of his attempts to wide receivers against the Seahawks with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
From a situational standpoint, this will be San Francisco’s fourth consecutive road game, including having to to fly back-and-forth to Green Bay and Carolina the past two weeks. From a technical standpoint, Super Bowl losers (i.e. San Francisco) are 0-11 SU and 2-8-1 ATS as playoff underdogs of three or more points. Look for Russell Wilson to improve to 17-1 at home as the Seahawks once again dominate San Francisco at CenturyLink Field. Take Seattle and invest with confidence.
Interesting Tidbit: Everyone knows that there is no love lost between these two teams, but the animosity runs deeper for Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. In 2009, Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford squad ran up the score on Carroll’s USC Trojans, which prompted Carroll to angrily ask Harbaugh, “what’s your deal” during the post-game handshake.