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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 7:00 AM

We’ll be previewing all four divisional round NFL Playoff games for you over the next few days here in the NOTEBOOK. We’ll start today with the first kickoff Saturday featuring the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks. We’ll work our way through Colts/Patriots, 49ers/Panthers, and Chargers/Broncos through the Sunday report with the stats that have been working out so well for NOTEBOOK readers all season long.

The first game is one of three regular season rematches this weekend. Seattle was routed on this same field a few Monday Night’s ago. Sunday’s San Diego/Denver game will also be a “same field” rematch from a recent prime time TV game. Carolina and San Francisco played out west, where the Panthers won outright as a road underdog. Clearly REVENGE will be a popular theme this weekend. Can the Saints draw first blood with that angle in what’s shaping up to be a rainy Seattle?


Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

New Orleans: 11-5 (#8 schedule in USA Today)

Seattle: 13-3 (#6 schedule in USA today)

It’s going to be tough for the Saints, even an impressive season under their belts. Seattle had the single most impressive season in the whole NFL when you combine won-lost record with strength of schedule. Both teams had tough draws. Both teams had strong records. Seattle was better on both sides of the ball, and will now be adding in home field advantage and a week of rest to the data you see above. This game doesn’t have the biggest pointspread of the weekend. But, there is no tougher task right now in the NFL than trying to beat Seattle in Seattle. And, that’s true even when the weather is nice!


Yards-Per Play

New Orleans: 5.9 on offense, 5.2 on defense

Seattle: 5.6 on offense, 4.4 on defense

This is what we mean about Seattle’s quality. They were +1.2 in yards-per-play differential despite playing a very tough schedule, and despite playing a “grinder” style that doesn’t necessarily create big plays. The defense was just off the charts fantastic at the point of attack. You’ll see in a moment they were also strong at forcing turnovers. If the forecast for rain does come through, then New Orleans defense might get a bit better, but their offense might get a bit worse.


Turnover Differential

New Orleans: even

Seattle: +20

Wow…plus TWENTY! Like Seattle needs any help from imploding opponents! Even those handicappers who believe turnover differential is largely influenced by luck will admit that Seattle brings so much pressure that it’s bound to create turnovers. New Orleans only lost the ball once in the first meeting. But, that was a fumble that was returned for a TD. Seattle’s defense makes high impact plays whatever the game conditions are.


Market Performance

New Orleans: 8-8 ATS

Seattle: 11-5 ATS

As we mentioned during the bowls, often the best teams are very successful against the pointspread. You’ll hear old-timers say you’re supposed to bet against the elite because public betting drives the number too high. That hasn’t been true this year for Seattle…though they were prone to play flat every so often. Because Seattle doesn’t put up big offensive numbers like Denver, or New England’s best teams from recent seasons, they don’t get priced like a juggernaut.


Current Line: Seattle by 8, total of 46.5


That might seem high given the strong numbers you saw for New Orleans. But, Seattle (-6) beat the Saints 34-7 in the first meeting. And, that still would have been 27-7 if you take away the defensive touchdown. Seattle, when fired up, is a team that wins by big margins because their fired up defense allows so few points. Before you go assuming that this will be another Seattle blowout, remember that Seattle recent lost to playoff-caliber Arizona on this field. If opponents can slow down the Seattle offense…sometimes there are dramatic finishes.

*Seattle had to sweat a 12-7 defensive struggle with Carolina

*Seattle needed a miracle to steal a 23-20 overtime win at Houston

*Seattle had to sweat a 14-9 defensive struggle with St. Louis

*Seattle took Tampa Bay too lightly and had to go overtime to beat the Bucs

*Seattle lost at San Francisco 19-17 because they couldn’t get their offense going

*Seattle lost at home to Arizona 17-10 for the same reason

New Orleans brings a better than realized defense to the game, with an underdog attitude that might get some help from weather conditions. JIM HURLEY is aware of all that, and has been working very closely with his on-site sources to get a read on the mindset of each team entering this rematch. He’ll have the winner for you Saturday morning here at the website. In the meantime, you can build your bankroll with great nightly basketball!

If you have any questions about NFL playoff offers, or combination packages featuring football and basketball, call our handicapping office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

Here’s a quick reminder of this weekend’s NFL Preview publication schedule:

Friday: Indianapolis at New England

Saturday: San Francisco at Carolina

Sunday: San Diego at Denver

Remember to BET THE BASKETS in Las Vegas with JIM HURLEY to build your bankrolls for this weekend’s football. Whatever the sport…whatever the day…BIG JUICY WINNERS ARE JUST A FEW CLICKS AWAY!

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