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NFC Playoff Preview: Who Can You Bet On To Beat The Seahawks?

  • Matt Rudnitsky

Pete Carroll Russell Wilson

The NFL playoffs are here. I would like to preview them. I hope you read these predictions, and discuss them with me. I started with the AFC. I showed no balls and picked the Denver Broncos. Now, it’s time for the NFC. Biggest question: Will my balls emerge?

What do the odds say?

Via 5dimes.eu, here are the odds for each team to win the NFC and make it to Super Bowl XLVIII in New York Jersey.

Seattle Seahawks: -120
Carolina Panthers: +460
San Francisco 49ers: +500
Green Bay Packers: +975
New Orleans Saints: +1150
Philadelphia Eagles: +1150

… but what about in terms of percentages?

(Here are the implied percentages, heavily approximated, because I was struggling to do the exact math, even though I used to be good at math. This is what blogging does to your brain. They all are definitely no more than a few percentage points off, at most.)

Seattle Seahawks: 50%
Carolina Panthers: 15%
San Francisco 49ers: 14%
Green Bay Packers: 7.5%
New Orleans Saints: 6.5%
Philadelphia Eagles: 6.5%

Seattle is ranked as the best team in the NFC, and they have home-field advantage. The biggest home-field advantage in the NFL, possibly/probably. Under Russell Wilson, the Seahawks are 15-1 at home (their only loss coming in Week 16 vs. Arizona), hence their massive edge here.

But are the odds accurate?

As I wrote in my AFC preview:

People like to say dumb things like “VEGAS IS UNDEFEATED” when games occasionally end precisely on point spreads, but that’s an incredibly misguided statement. For one, “Vegas” isn’t the only place setting odds. Respected offshore books like Pinnacle are the market leaders. Not Vegas. And oddsmakers aren’t trying to guess scores, they’re trying to make money. The betting market is… a market. It moves based on money, perception, varying interests… lots of things. The prices reflect what the market is saying. It’s not perfect.

While I am no expert, I am not clueless. I made money (HYPOTHETICALLY, IF I WOULD DO SUCH A HORRIBLE THING) betting on football this season. It happened. And because the few long-term winning NFL bettors would never disclose their fancy mathematical models publicly, checking out a random dude’s preview is about the best you can do. While I’m no expert; I’m confident I’m more of an expert than the uninformed people that call themselves experts.

I think the Seahawks are overrated at home. Incredibly good? Yes. Very, very difficult to beat? Yes. Overrated? Yes.

First, let’s look at who they’ve beaten to go 15-1.

Last year: They beat the Packers, Patriots and 49ers. That’s pretty damn good. But they beat the Pats by one and the Pack by two. Both games could’ve gone either way. But obviously, when you consider that this year’s team is significantly better, you come away impressed.

This year: The only good teams they’ve beaten at home were the 49ers and Saints. Of course, these are two of the best teams in the league, so this is very impressive. But the rest of the slate is not impressive, at all.

They beat the 49ers 29-3. It was a blowout. However, this was solely due to them winning the turnover battle 5-1, which is certainly not something that the Seahawks can count on to repeat, even in the tough environment. Both teams averaged 4.1 yards per play and struggled on offense. The 49ers actually ran the ball well, gaining 100 yards on 20 carries.

They annihilated the Saints all around. It was very impressive. However, it looks slightly less impressive when you realize that the Road Saints barely beat the Bucs and Falcons, and lost the the Jets and Rams. Beating the Road Saints isn’t beating the Saints.

Again, the Seahawks are really fucking good at home. But when you’re talking odds, you’re talking value, and given the fact that everyone goes nuts about the Seahawks at home should tell you all you need to know. They are likely overvalued, right now. Which is probably why, after going 8-0 against the spread at home last year, they went 5-3 ATS this year. (Though obviously betting on them and winning 5 of 8 times would obviously net you money, so my opinion isn’t necessarily fact.)

So… I should bet against the Seahawks?

This is more of a “don’t bet on the Seahawks, than a bet against the Seahawks. But, let’s see if anyone else has value.

Who can beat the Seahawks?

FACT: The Seahawks will make the Super Bowl, unless someone beats them.

In the second round, they will host the: New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers or Green Bay Packers. In the NFC Championship, they could host either the: 49ers, Packers, Philadelphia Eagles or Carolina Panthers.

GET TO IT ALREADY.

Oops. Sorry. How is your day going?

JUST DO IT

The Seahawks’ only home loss, to the Cardinals, had some weird stats. They lost 17-10, and these things happened:

- Arizona killed in time of possession, 37:24 to 22:36.
- In that same vein, they ran the ball 43 times… but averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.
- Arizona was 6-for-19 on third downs. Seattle was just 2-for-13.
- Arizona got 6 first downs… just from penalties!
- The Cardinals went 0-for-3 in the red zone.
- The Cardinals turned the ball over 4 times (the Seahawks did it twice).

So… the Cardinals sorta showed a blueprint to beating the Seahawks, but it was a weird game. Basically, they played really good defense, kept things close, and got a little lucky. They made a big play late. That’s about it. Third-down defense was huge.

So… who’s the best matchup?

Teams run the ball relatively often against the Seahawks. They’re good against the run…, but it’s their relative weakness. Opponents run the ball on 42.53% of plays vs. the Seahawks, which is 17th in the NFL… but since the Seahawks are really good and often playing with a lead, that’s a pretty high number. Also, they’re 8th in rush-defense DVOA as opposed to 1st in pass-defense DVOA.

I don’t really think anyone is a good matchup. The Panthers are third in defensive DVOA, right behind the Cardinals, so I’d think they could win in similar fashion, especially since they’re better on offense. They can also attack Seattle’s relative weakness, because they’re an excellent running team.

I think the Panthers are the best matchup, but they’ve been pretty underwhelming on the road, besides that huge win in San Francisco.

I’d have to think the 49ers have the next-best shot, but they still have to get through the Packers.

The Packers seem like a bad matchup, because there’s no way that defense can stop Seattle’s offense. If you can’t slow down Seattle in Seattle, you’re gonna have a tough time keeping up, even if you have Aaron Rodgers. They will slow down any and every offense.

I don’t like the Eagles’ chances on defense, so I don’t like their chances. But if anyone can get the Seahawks into a shootout and get lucky, it’s a team that averages 6.3 yards per play (T-1st in NFL), and 5.1 yards per rush, and is first in run-offense DVOA.

The Saints seem like the worst matchup, as evidenced by their beat-down earlier in the year.

How big of favorites will the Seahawks be for each matchup?

This is tough to call, but I’ll give it my best guess.

49ers vs. Seahawks -3.5
Panthers vs. Seahawks -5
Packers vs. Seahawks -6.5
Saints vs. Seahawks -7.5
Eagles vs. Seahawks -7.5

This is why it’s really hard to value futures bets on the Seahawks to win the NFC, because the odds will change significantly based on who wins the expected toss-up game between the Packers and Eagles. Screw you, NFL, for giving an 8-7-1 team home field.

WHO SHOULD I BET ON, DAMNIT

I don’t love any bets. I reaaaaaallly don’t see the Packers or Saints going into Seattle and winning. I’ve been wrong plenty of times before, but I’m staying far away from all three of them.

Which leaves: Carolina Panthers +460
San Francisco 49ers: +500
Philadelphia Eagles: +1150

The Panthers will play the Eagles, Packers or 49ers next round. They’ll be favored over all of them. It really depends on who they play to see if these odds are good, but they’re not horrible. Because the Panthers are playing one fewer game than the 49ers, and get one at home… the value on them is significantly better than the value on the 49ers.

Still, I don’t know if I love them.

The 49ers are currently around -150 to beat the Packers. If they win, they would either play the Panthers, where I’m guessing they’ll be something like -110 to win (I dunno), or the Seahawks, where they’ll be something like +180.

If I’m right, or close to right, then you’ll get significantly better odds by betting on the 49ers this round, then rolling over your winnings and betting them again next round, and so on. Don’t take +500.

The Eagles are around -135 to win, right now. If they win, they will definitely play the Panthers… where they’ll maybe be something like +150? (I really don’t know.) Then, they’d be something like +300 at Seattle.

Basically, if the 49ers or Eagles end up needing to get through the Seahawks, which is the likeliest scenario, you’ll get better odds by rolling over moneyline bets. So, if you like either team, do that. I think there might be value on both the 49ers and Eagles, but I’m a bit worried about their first-round matchups, so I might stay away. I’ll be analyzing the first round in another article, later.

If you want to take anything now, take the Panthers. But like I said, I don’t think I endorse that.

I actually think I like the Eagles, based on matchups. But, stay tuned.

PREDICTIONS

Packers over 49ers.
Eagles over Saints.
Eagles over Panthers.
Seahawks over Packers.
Eagles over Seahawks.

(I know I’m reaching a little bit… especially with that last one. But, this is the NFL playoffs. Shit happens, always.)

Give your own predictions and/or bets below, or hit me up on Twitter. I would love to hear from you, friend.

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