NFLbets would like to thank the sharps for balancing this line after an apparent tsunami of money from Dallas fanboys took the already laughable Cowboys +2½ down to Cowboys +1 versus the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC’s first wild card game. As this is written at approximately 9am ET on Thursday, January 4, this is back to
Seattle Seahawks +2 at Dallas Cowboys, over/under 43 points
The Seahawks money line (ML) is holding steady from Tuesday at +110. Fantastic – NFLbets is making this just our second Sure Bet of the 2018 season. (Though admittedly, we really should’ve listed the Seahawks minus whatever points against the Oakland/Las Vegas/London(?) Raiders in the U.K. as a Sure Bet.) Take the Seattle Seahawks ML (+110) at Dallas.
Come on, you’re not really fooled by the possum act Russell Wilson & Co. put on against the Arizona Cardinals in week 17 , are you? By the same token, NFLbets is sure you noticed how the Cowboys first-stringers running their standard game plan had their hands full with a New York Giants team missing Odell Beckham.
In how many ways are the Seahawks just flat-out better than these Cowboys? Let’s break it down this way.
Dallas offense vs Seattle defense
For a few weeks – weeks 10-14, to be precise – the Cowboys seemed to have a viable offense. New acquisition Amari Cooper’s incorporation into he Dallas offense finally gave Dak Prescott a proper weapon to throw to and the ’Pokes ran off a 5-0 SU/ATS which included three wins against playoff teams.
Since then, something has happened with the Prescott-Cooper-Jason Garrett triangle; maybe Amari’s not returning Dak’s calls or Garrett’s dog ate the least few remaining pages of his playbook. Whatever the cause, the Cowboys have looked bad first getting shut out by the Indianapolis Colts in week 15 before closing out the season on an 0-3 ATS run.
After snagging 10 passes for 217 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 14, Cooper has had 14 receptions combined in three games. Cooper’s 11 targets in the Giants game included two drops and two balls bounced yards in front of the receiver. Worse yet for Dallas, the Seahawks defense would likely prefer a steady diet of Ezekiel Elliott runs and Prescott doing improv anyway: Seattle’s D has been the proverbial bend-don’t-break in 2018, ranking just 30th in yards per run attempt but 4th in rushing TDs allowed and no. 1 overall in fumbles induced. Advantage: Seahawks.
Seattle offense vs Dallas defense
The Dallas defense is both flying under the radar and badass: They’re no. 9 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, including a top-five rushing defense. Fair enough, but who has been able to stop Wilson-to-Tyler Lockett in 2018? Exactly no one in 16 games, particularly the Cowboys, who in week 2 “held” Lockett to one TD on 82 total yards of offense plus 92 more on special teams returns.
Beyond Lockett, the Seattle offense isn’t exactly multi-faceted. Undrafted Cinderella story Chris Carson has been as good as the hype promises as 4.7 yards per carry for 1,151 total and 9 TDs, but his (and to some extent Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis’s) workload is due in no small part to a thin WR corps and the especially weak offensive line. At 51 sacks, the formerly more mobile Wilson has been rushed more often than anyone in the NFL except DeShaun Watson. This OL will be the Seahawks’ kryptonite in these playoffs, but not this week. Advantage: Seahawks.
Seattle vs Dallas special teams
Neither special teams unit is particularly, well, special; Football Outsiders have both on the bubble of the NFL’s bottom 10 in special-teams performance. The Seahawks do have Lockett, who as the team’s top non-QB “skill” player will likely see an increase in responsibilities in the postseason, as is Carroll’s typical wont; so call Tyler the X-factor in this game. And who are the Cowboys bringing…? Not much. Advantage: Seahawks.
Seattle coaching vs Dallas coaching
Come on, now – you’ve got the second-best head coach in the league who evolved his team into a Super Bowl contender in what was supposed to be a rebuild year versus a dude who doesn’t play-call for offense or defense and who thrives under the perpetual low bar set by ownership.
Then again, Jason Garrett’s Cowboys are 2-4 SU (3-3 ATS, 2-1 ATS at home) against Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, so maybe … uh, no. The sick truth is that Carroll’s Seahawks are an extremely impressive 9-5 SU (10-4 ATS) in postseason games. Advantage: Seahawks.
Other numbers and trends
All the home teams are naturally favored in the first round of this year’s playoffs, but the opening line of 2½ minus the 3-5 points typical assessed for the home side implies that bookmakers would make this a “pick ‘em” or even Seahawks +1 to +1½ on a neutral field. In fact, we’re not entirely sure why the Seahawks aren’t the straight-up favorites: Home teams went just 22-18 SU (20-19-1 ATS!) in wild card games in the past 10 postseasons.
Time is literally on the Seahawks’ side here as well. One of the great mostly-untold secrets of NFL betting is that since 2001, West Coast teams have enjoyed an advantage of just over 70% ATS in primetime games *regardless of location or day of week*. This has borne out once again in 2018, as Pacific Time-based teams went 7-4-1 ATS (8-4 SU) in these games – however many, including NFLbets, wagered on the Los Angeles Rams -7 vs Minnesota in week 4, thereby resulting in a 7-3-2 (70%!) win rate for West Coasters.
On their part, the Seahawks were 3-1 ATS/SU in prime time, with the sole loss coming in week 2 to the then-utterly unheralded Bears in Chicago.
Finally, the Cowboys are a big 1-2 SU (0-3 ATS) in the playoffs since Garrett’s move up to head coach in 2010. They’re also 2-6 SU/ATS in the 21st century and 3-9 SU/ATS since Super Bowl XXX. And in this case, NFLbets’d argue that historical precedent does matter. Why? In two words: Jerry. Jones. Advantage: Seahawks.
Best bets for Seattle at Dallas wild card game
In addition to the NFLbets Sure Bet noted above (Seattle ML at +110), we’re also hedging slightly with a bet on the Seahawks +2.
We’re also advising that NFL bettors take the under on an O/U of 43 points, figuring that the Cowboys defense will allow fewer points than the those of Carolina, San Francisco, Kansas City and Arizona. (The Seahawks have averaged a neat 30.0 points per in the past eight games.) With the Seahawks and Cowboys both boasting top-8 offenses in time of possession, this won’t be a free-flying aerial experience – and if Seattle shuts down Elliott early while going up, likesay, 13-0 or 13-3 at halftime, Dallas might just go without a TD the entire game.
So how ’bout them Cowboys waitin’ until next year??!?!?!?
NFLbets Best Bets record in 2018: 1-0.