Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:00 AM
It’s the game many were expecting before the season started. Relatively good health and great play have kept the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks on the short list of Super Bowl champions all year. They’ll meet for the third time this season Sunday afternoon with a Super Bowl invitation on the line.
Seattle is the host because they won the NFC West, forcing San Francisco (from the same division) into a Wildcard slot. The Niners won at Green Bay at Carolina to get battle ready. Seattle survived a defensive struggle in the rain last week against New Orleans after enjoying a bye week. Let’s see what our key indicators stats say about this much-anticipated game.
Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
San Francisco: 12-4 (#7 schedule in USA Today)
Seattle: 13-3 (#6 schedule in USA today)
Both teams posted great records despite playing tough schedules. They split the season series, with the home team winning each. That might create a true pick-em on a neutral field. But, the NFC Championship will be played in Seattle, one of the toughest home fields in pro football. The current pointspread basically reflects the value of home field at that site. Two terrific teams.
San Francisco: 5.4 on offense, 5.0 on defense
Seattle: 5.6 on offense, 4.4 on defense
Seattle had the much better season statistically, with a +1.2 differential in yards-per-play compared to only +0.4 for San Francisco. Remember though that receiver Michael Crabtree missed much of the season with an injury. He’s back in the lineup for the Niners, which gives them a better offense than that 5.4 mark would suggest. Seattle clearly has the better defense. If you believe that “defense wins championships,” then Seattle will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in a few weeks.
San Francisco: +12
Both teams did a stellar job in the risk/reward area. Both head coaches are conservative with their offenses, while emphasizing takeaways on defense. Seattle’s defense was better at stealing the ball…which is something they hope to do again versus young QB Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco. He’s thrown four interceptions in two career games at this stadium. Thus far, our numbers are suggesting Seattle is the better team, even after you account for SF’s better offensive health. Kaepernick can counteract that by avoiding turnovers….or the SF defense can counteract that by forcing miscues from Russell Wilson of the Seahawks.
San Francisco: 11-5 ATS
Seattle: 11-5 ATS
Both teams blew the doors off of expectations, even though expectations were extremely high entering the season! Sometimes oddsmakers just can’t recognize greatness when it’s staring them in the face…even after sharps bet heavily on that greatness week after week. Note that San Francisco is now 12-5-1 (or 13-5) counting their playoff games (depending on your line in GB), while Seattle is either 11-5-1 or 11-6 depending on your line vs. New Orleans. These teams just didn’t get breaks in the line, het still cashed in about two thirds of the time.
Current Line: Seattle by 3.5, total of 39
The market may finally be learning its lesson about Over/Unders when the top defensive teams in the NFC square off. All three postseason games involving these teams have stayed Under their totals. San Francisco played to 43 and 33 against totals of 46 and 41 against Green Bay and Carolina. Seattle needed a late flurry of points to get to 38 last week against a total of 44. The team side line keeps hopping between Seattle -3 and San Francisco +3.5…with disagreeing sharp contingents betting their side at the most favorable number.
JIM HURLEY has been planning a blockbuster CHAMPIONSHIP PARLAY all week. He’s left no stone unturned in this game or New England/Denver over in the AFC. You’ll be able to purchase the final word in both matchups Sunday morning here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office Saturday or Sunday morning before the first sports action of the day gets started. The number to call is 1-888-777-4155.
Back with you on Monday to study Baylor at Kansas from ESPN’s BIG MONDAY slate in college basketball. There’s something big happening every day on the sports schedule and right here at the website. Right now, the focus is on the AFC and NFC Championships games Sunday. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!