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The Seattle Seahawks will host the New Orleans Saints in the first of 4 Divisional round playoff games this weekend. Kickoff for this game is set for 4:35pm est. and the game can be seen on FOX. The Seahawks are currently -8 point favorites at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 47.5.
The betting trends are always interesting to look at. They show the percentage of wagers taken on one side or the other for both sides and totals. We like to use the betting trends from sportsbook.com as they are one of the largest sportsbooks in the world and their percentages, in our opinion, best reflect the "public" as a whole. In this game, bettors are apparently impressed with the Saints road win in Philly last week as 61% of the wagers have come in on the Saints. Bettors also favor the under in this game as 70% of the wagers are on the under.
This game is a rematch of a regular season meeting between these two, here in Seattle, in which the Seahawks dominated the game, winning by a score of 34-7. It was Drew Brees and the Saints worst loss of the year both on the scoreboard and in the stat column. So what does that mean for this game? Well, it likely means that this game will be nothing like that one, and will likely be much, much, closer. The odds are against another Seahawks blowout. In the NFL, margins are thin. The difference between the top of the league and the bottom of the league is miniscule. In a rematch like this, film will be watched, adjustments will be made, and the cause of the blowout the first time around will be rectified.
But while we expect the Saints to make a much better account of themselves this time around and expect a much better, closer game, at the end of the day, when the dust clears, we think the Seahawks will be the ones left standing and the margin might just be by enough to get the money for their backers.
Last week we used the Saints as an NFL Key Release, our only official NFL play of the weekend. But that play for us, was just as much a play AGAINST the Eagles as it was a play ON the Saints. We saw plenty of holes in the Eagles on both sides of the ball. The Saints were the better team going in. We had the better team and we were getting points to boot. A nice set up. In this spot, there's no question who the better team is and that's the Seahawks.
Too much was made of the Saints road woes going into last weeks game. People were bringing up seasons past, which has no bearing on this season. While the Saints were 3-5 on the road this year, two of those losses were close games against the Pats and Panthers, two very good playoff teams. Playing the Eagles on the road, who were 4-4 at home and simply not a great football team, didn't figure to come into play last week. The Saints would have won that game regardless of the venue. But this week should be different. This week they face a Seahawks team that's simply better than them across the board AND they have perhaps THE best home field advantage in the NFL.
Let's talk turnovers. When I handicap a football game, college or pro, I make a chart for each game which highlights key stats. Front and center on my chart is turnovers. It is one of the most important predictive stats there is and it correlates to winning. Teams don't finish with a positive turnover margin ratio by accident. They hold onto the ball, their QB's don't throw picks, they likely do a better job protecting their QB and on the defensive side of the ball, they get to the QB, force him to get rid of the ball, force him to throw picks and force their backs to fumble. Yes, you can assume all of that based on that one little stat.
I read an article recently that talked about turnovers in NFL games. The stats provided were for games between 2008 and 2012, 5 full seasons. Teams that had a positive turnover margin ratio were 810-220-2. That's a 78.6 % winning percentage. That's enough to pay attention to and it all comes down to the number of possessions a team has. The number of chances a team has to score. Fewer possessions means fewer chances to score which means in all likelihood, you'll lose.
This is significant in this game because this game features the best against the worst in terms of turnover margin among the remaining NFL Playoff teams. The Seahawks are #1 with an eye popping +20, which is 9 more than the next two teams in line, Carolina and San Fran who are +11. The Saints are last, and the only playoff team with a negative margin, -2. The probability here is that the Seahawks win the turnover battle, and the game.
Next up, yards per point numbers. The Saints are the only remaining team with average yards per point numbers on both sides of the ball. Good offensive teams will have a ypp number of around 13. Good defensive teams will have a defensive ypp number of around 17. Anything lower than 13 on offense and higher than 17 on defense would be above average and very good. The Saints numbers are 15.5 on offense and 15.7 on defense. That's mediocre. The Seahawks numbers are 13 and 18.9. Their defensive number is 2nd only to the Panthers and their offensive number indicates they have no trouble turning yards gained into points.
We can look further into those numbers by looking at the Saints ypp numbers on the road and the Seahawks ypp numbers at home. Doing so, magnifies the difference between these two teams in this game and just how important the home field will likely be. The Saints numbers on the road are 19.5 on offense and 14.7 on defense. That's terrible. The Seahawks home numbers are 12 and 18.5. That makes the Saints a -4.8 in ypp differential on the road and the Seahawks +6.5 at home. Assuming an even schedule strength, that makes the Seahawks 11.3 points better in this spot.
Our model has an interesting take on this game as it not only supports a play on the Seahawks but also on the UNDER and in fact, as this is being written on Tuesday morning, the total on this game is getting hit, going from 47.5 to 46.5 at some shops. Our model suggests the total is way off, predicting finals of 24-16, 25-11 and 22-10 and that's using data from the entire season, the last 7 games and the last 4 games.
This one for us, has to be a Seahawks call. As you go over the stats that matter, all the edges start piling up in the Seahawks favor and the cherry on top is the home field advantage which is the best in the NFL for the Seahawks. The Saints will know rather quickly that "this ain't Philly we're playing this week". The Seahawks are the better team and should win this game. If the first meeting between these two was a close game, I'd like Seattle even more in this spot. But since the first game was a blowout, I'd expect a much closer game this time around. The model probably has it right. Something right along those lines sounds about right. Close, but enough to get the cover.
Right now there are a several -7.5's on the board. If you have access to that number, and you should, we'd suggest buying the hook and bringing the game down to -7. You may want to wait to see if any legitimate -7's show up, but that's not likely to happen.
Using the Seahawks in a teaser here and bringing them down to -1/2 is recommended as well. Anything can happen, but there's a high probability of the Seahawks winning this game straight up. So here's our recommendations on this game as of Tuesday morning: Seahawks -7 or better (buy half), Seattle/New Orleans UNDER 47 and lastly, consider the Seahawks as one leg of a teaser at -1/2.
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