Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 9:38 AM
It's been quite a ride for the Seattle Seahawks and we're only two games into the season! Seattle has gone from probable longshot...to media and market darling...to embarrassment...back to media darling just in time for Monday's showcase game with the storied Green Bay Packers.
Before their season opener with Arizona, Seattle was being tabbed as a playoff caliber team, with one notable pundit picking them to ride Russell Wilson's arm all the way to the Super Bowl. After losing to Arizona, it was hard to take any of that seriously. Wilson seemed overmatched. And, even if they're no longer a league doormat...Seattle didn't seem to be playoff material either. Not with San Francisco from their own NFC West division looking so great at Green Bay.
Well, last week a couple of things changed:
Seattle crushed respected Dallas 27-7, putting themselves back on the radar as a legitimate NFC hopeful.
Arizona stunned New England, meaning that a loss to Arizona may not have been as bad as first thought. Seattle may have lost a close game to a decent team rather than a close game to somebody who's going to finish 4-12.
Monday's game with Green Bay should answer very clearly whether or not Seattle is ready for prime time and serious playoff consideration. Big wins over Dallas AND Green Bay would be impressive indeed. But, a 1-2 start with a loss to the Packers (who lost at home to SF) would mean that Seattle was probably a bordeline Wildcard threat.
Let's crunch some numbers and see what they say about tonight's game...
GREEN BAY PACKERS at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8:35 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Green Bay by 3, total of 45
The market is saying Green Bay is six points better than Seattle on a neutral field. In current league Power Ratings, that would have Green Bay is a championship threat along with San Francisco in the NFC, with Seattle probably just below Wildcard consideration. It's a deep field in the NFC this year, with three teams from the NFC East, two or three teams from the NFC North, probably two from the NFC South, plus San Francisco and maybe Arizona all fighting for just six available playoff spots. For now, Seattle is probably on the outside looking in.
Green Bay: 1-1 (vs. San Francisco and Chicago)
Seattle: 1-1 (at Arizona and vs. Dallas)
Green Bay has played the tougher schedule, and will probably be favored to win the rest of their games. Wouldn't that be something if they finished 15-1 after starting 0-1? Of course, it's easy for avid fans to get ahead of themselves. The spread Monday Night is only three points...which means a win is far from a sure thing. Seattle has lost as a favorite and won as an underdog, which often becomes a theme for young teams on the rise. They get sky high for the toughest opponents, but can't stay focused for everyone else.
Green Bay: +1
A good sign for both teams that we're seeing positive differentials vs. the schedules they've faced. Through two weeks, the opponents had won all their games that weren't against Seattle. This isn't beating up on the likes of Oakland or St. Louis. That's a combined +3 vs. some teams who have been playing well. It's likely that Seattle's true potential to be a surprise team this year will come down to how well Wilson manages risk as he learns the ropes. It's rare for rookies to lead their teams to the playoffs. Turnovers are typically at the heart of why that's true.
Green Bay: 322.5 yards-per-game on 5.1 yards-per-play
Seattle: 284.5 yards-per-game on 4.3 yards-per-play
Last week's Green Bay-Chicago game was ugly...leading to stats that made it look like a titanic defensive struggle of epic proportions. If that was only because short preparation weeks are tough for offenses early in the season...then the game gave a false read. We believe Green Bay is better than those offensive numbers would suggest...though they'll certainly be challenged in front of a rabid home crowd Monday. Longterm Green Bay is better than those numbers. Seattle's numbers are so bad that they'd BETTER be better than those numbers. The excitement about Wilson will dim very quickly if that's going to represent par every two games.
Green Bay: 272.5 yards-per-game on 4.6 yards-per-play
Seattle: 274.5 yards-per-game on 4.8 yards-per-play
Fantastic numbers for both teams. Green Bay may be polluted because of that Thursday Night influence. Last year's defense was so bad that it's hard to believe that there was THIS big a turnaround. That will be more clear after Monday's action. Seattle shut down Tony Romo last week, so it's not like their averages are just the result of getting Arizona's sluggish offense in the opener. Be sure you're studying these defenses closely because what you learn will pay off in the coming weeks. Nobody's talking about Seattle's defense. Yet.
LAST WEEK'S BOXES
GREEN BAY 23, CHICAGO 10
Total Yardage: Chicago 168, Green Bay 321
Rushing Yards: Chicago 94, Green Bay 106
Passing Stats: Chicago 11-27-4-74, Green Bay 23-33-1-215
Turnovers: Chicago 4, Green Bay 2
Third Downs: Chicago 33%, Green Bay 28%
Vegas Line: Green Bay by 5, total of 50
Sorry...even though we consider Green Bay to be a serious championship threat, we don't believe they have the kind of defense that could normally post those numbers. Only 168 yards allowed while forcing four turnovers?! Let's see what happens tonight. For now, we're marking that up to Chicago's inability to fully prepare in a short week. Chicago, Green Bay, and Carolina have now been well below offensive norms in Thursday outings. Only Eli Manning managed to impress on an early Thursday so far.
SEATTLE 27, DALLAS 7
Total Yardage: Dallas 296, Seattle 345
Rushing Yards: Dallas 49, Seattle 182
Passing Stats: Dallas 23-40-1-247, Seattle 15-20-0-133
Turnovers: Dallas 2, Seattle 0
Third Downs: Dallas 53%, Seattle 35%
Vegas Line: Dallas by 3, total of 42
The good news for Seattle is that the defense was terrific and the running game did serious damage. The bad news is that Wilson only passed for 133 yards while not finding much success on third downs. Winning by 20 is terrific, don't get us wrong. But...Seattle may be in big trouble against defenses who can stop their running game. Wilson doesn't look like he's ready yet to carry this team on his shoulders. He can be an emotional leader...he's not yet "the man" in terms of making plays over a 60-minute challenge. Again, pay attention to Seattle's defense. Holding Dallas below 300 yards when the Cowboys had so much extra preparation time is strong indeed.
To us, it comes down to defense. Green Bay has the better offense by a mile. That won't matter if Seattle can disrupt them and then keep them off the field. If Seattle's running game can move the chains and run clock, then a home dog upset is certainly possible. But, if Green Bay can stop the run, then Rodgers over Wilson could get nasty unless the worst of GB's defensive efforts from last year rear their ugly heads again.
JIM HURLEY has been studying this game very closely all weekend, with a particular eye on what the Wise Guys are doing out in Las Vegas. Our Wise Guy connections always play a big role in the selection process. In this particular game, they look to be looming larger because of conflicting indicators in our other categories (stats, trends, systems, computer simulations, etc...).
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We have a feeling this is going to be a very special night of NFL football action. Be sure you GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!