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The NFC Championship game this year will be held in Seattle as the Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers in another matchup that was hoped for and anticipated by most football fans. The Seahawks are currently -3.5 point favorites at most sportsbooks. 5 dimes has the Seahawks listed at -3 -130 with a total of 39.
The betting trends at sportsbook.com show that 70% of the wagers taken on this game have come in on the 49ers while 60% are on the over.
Let's start this write up with what I feel may very well be the biggest advantage the Seahawks have in this game and one that figures to go a long ways towards the ultimate outcome and that's the home field advantage. Now, home field advantage in sports can mean many things. By and large, teams, be it college or pro, play better at home. There are many reasons for this and in most cases, the crowd, and or the actual noise a crowd makes, has very little to do with that advantage. In the NBA for example, the edge a home team enjoys has nothing to do with crowd noise and that is also true in many NFL stadiums.
Teams play better at home for several reasons. One is officiating. Studies have been done that show that yes, in fact, home teams do get the calls. Travel of course is a major factor. One team has to hop on a plane and deal with all of the hassles and fatigue that go along with traveling, while the other team gets to eat dinner and sleep at home. Then there's simply playing in a familiar environment. A familiar field or court in which you know all of the nooks and crannies.
Then there's the crowd. Not ALL teams in ALL sports enjoy an edge because of the crowd. In fact, there are plenty of NFL stadiums that no matter how hard their fans cheer and no matter how loud they attempt to get, their fans simply cannot impact the actual game and if they ever can, it's extremely rare. Not so in Seattle. Seattle enjoys all of the usual advantages that every other NFL team does, from the familiar surroundings to the not having to travel, but their edge goes one step further in that their fans have a direct impact on what happens on the field, and that's BIG.
There was a game involving the Giants a half dozen years ago or so, where the Giants had 11 false start penalties and went to the NFL afterwards and asked them to investigate. They implied that the Seahawks were pumping in artificial noise. The NFL found no such thing.
Do an image search on Google of CenturyLink Field and you can clearly see that the way that stadium was built has everything to do with the noise level. Other NFL teams should take note. While not a dome, there is a partial roof, or overhang, on each side of the stadium. That overhang helps keep fans dry but it also traps the noise. Check out this you tube video for an explanation and also take note when they tell you that Seahawks opponents have had 141 false start penalties called on them since 2005, the most in the NFL.
It's generally accepted that the NFL home field advantage is worth 2 to 3 points. But in reality, every team is different. Some teams have a home field advantage of less than 1 point while the strongest home field in the NFL belongs to these Seahawks and is closer to 5 or 6 points and again, it's because they enjoy all of the usual advantages of playing at home but magnified because their fans actually impact what goes on, on the field.
These are two very good football teams that both deserve to be in this game. The 49ers really got a bum deal this year as a result of unfortunately being in the same division as these Seahawks. If not for the Seahawks, the 49ers record this year would have likely been good enough for at least a first round bye and a home game. It didn't work out that way and in the end, that may be the very thing that keeps them out of the Super Bowl.
We can look at the QB's here, we can look at each defense and each offense, and all you're going to find are two evenly matched teams right across the board. San Fran averages 25 points per game Seattle 26. Seahawks are #1 in points allowed at 15 ppg while the 49ers are 3rd at 17 ppg. The teams are tied for 3rd rushing the ball at 139 yards per game while neither has much of a passing game ranking 26th (sea) and 30th. San Fran is 4th against the run while Seattle is 7th. Seattle is 1st against the pass while the 49ers are 7th. Seattle is +21 in turnover margin and the 49ers are +13.
On a neutral field, I'd make this game a pick, possibly Seattle -1. That's how even these teams are. Even here in Seattle we have to be mindful of the fact that the 49ers were the best road team in the NFL this year with an 8-2 record including two playoff wins and outscoring their opponents 26-16. But that didn't matter when they played here early in the year. The Seahawks won that game 29-3 along with every stat category. They held the ball for 36 minutes. More 1st downs, more plays, more yards gained on the ground and thru the air, fewer penalties and fewer turnovers. Thank you 12th man.
If you were to simply read the box score of last weeks Saints/Seahawks game, you'd come away thinking it was a game that Seattle was lucky to win as they lost the 1st down battle 25 to 13 and were outgained thru the air 301 to 103. But if you watched the game, you know that the Seahawks basically dominated the Saints once again, getting it done on the ground behind Marshawn Lynch and his 140 yards and a defense that bottled up Drew Brees all day long. Chalk up some of those Saints yards thru the air to a prevent defense and a desperate Saints team. The game wasn't as close as the score may have indicated and was practically over before it even began.
Last week, we were worried about the playoff experience of Cam Newton as we took the Panthers over the 49ers. That proved to be a legitimate worry. This week, while Kaepernick has more playoff experience under his belt, including a Super Bowl appearance, Russell Wilson has a few games under his belt as well, winning in Washington last year before losing by 2 to the Falcons and then last weeks win over New Orleans. The pressure of performing on the big stage shouldn't be an issue.
Bottom line here for us is that in a game between two evenly matched teams, it's this home field advantage and this extremely loud crowd that will make this dominating defense of the Seahawks even better. Go back over the history of these Title games and you won't find too many teams with big time D's like these Seahawks have, losing at home in this spot. We often see a snowball effect that starts with a turnover or two, maybe a couple of false start penalties and before you know it the visitor is down a couple of scores, just as the Saints were a week ago. If that happens here, it will be very difficult for Kaepernick to take to the air against the #1 passing defense in the league.
This is a Seahawks call for us, but make sure you buy the hook and play this one at -3. Seattle -3 -130
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