You know my favorite intro style where I contrast the betting action for 2 games, as in, “The Reds and the Blues have a wildly-shifting point spread, while the Greens and the Yellows have a stable point spread.”
Well, this time, that just won’t work…because as subtle as line-movement might be on Saturday’s NFC Divisional Round playoff clash between San Francisco and Minnesota, it’s even more reserved for the upcoming prime-time contest in Green Bay.
Good lord, you would think nobody’s even betting on this thing.
Despite the venue of Lambeau Field primed to be a proverbial “frozen tundra” once again, handicappers are evenly split on which way any funny bounces of the ball will go. Green Bay opened as a (-3.5) favorite and the spread has ticked slightly in the Pack’s direction by Thursday morning, with little moneyline or O/U movement to speak of.
Who: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
When: Sunday, January 12th, 6:40 PM EST
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Lines: SEA (+4) at GB (-4) / O/U Total: (46.5)
Maybe the reason handicappers are still skeptical of the Pack is that there’s a reluctance to admit another coach could take the club to a higher ceiling than Mike McCarthy could at this stage. That’s all the more prescient as an angle now that Jerry Jones has hired the storied skipper in Big D.
But there’s no question that the paradigm has changed, and 13-3 W/L records tend to speak for themselves. Aaron Rodgers is still magnificent against healthy pass rushes when outcomes are on the line, and although I’m fond of McCarthy’s “fustest with the mostest” Civil War style of offense, there’s a time when a less frenetic snap-to-whistle tempo can actually come in handy – like against a wounded underdog at home with an offensive backfield on fire.
Matt LaFleur has transformed the Packers into a run-first team just as Aaron Jones emerges as a star NFL running back. That’s pretty good timing.
Green Bay’s defense has turned-in a number of phenomenal performances, buoyed by the offseason arrivals of ZaDarius Smith and Preston Smith patrolling mid-range passes and tackling runners in the backfield. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has schemed well for each team down the stretch, and the Green Bay defense has only allowed just 12.2 points-per-game during its current winning streak.
However, Preston Smith is dealing with an ankle injury and may be a limited athlete throughout the remainder of the playoffs.
Seattle’s defense should be able to limit a more-methodical offense, even with LaFleur’s modern-day John Robinson tactics of stalemating the teams at the LOS and letting Jones attack the stationary defense like a prizefighter. Pete Carroll could choose to commit more players in the box on certain downs to try to slow Jones and keep Rodgers behind the chains, as despite the lack of a consistent pass rush the secondary is among the best units in the NFL. But the defensive line seems to lack big-play ability and is often groping at potential tackles-for-loss. Seattle has accumulated just 27 sacks on the season.
Meanwhile, the offensive staff under Carroll has done a nifty job keeping QB Russell Wilson healthy for the final stretch run.
But the Seahawks are simply racked with injuries otherwise. There are injuries affecting most of the 2-deep along the front lines on offense and defense. Safeties, cornerbacks, wide receivers, and tailbacks Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny are sitting out with severe wounds.
In fact, you can argue that only a key injury for the Philadelphia Eagles allowed the Seahawks to prevail in the Wild Card Round. Jadeveon Clowney knocked Philly QB Carson Wentz out with a vicious take-down early in the contest, and Josh McCown did not appear fully prepared to step into the marquee role.
Unlike the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers this weekend – and Green Bay with veteran Mason Crosby for that matter – the Seahawks also do not have a rock-solid kicking game to turn to for points when a lack of numbers impacts long drives. Signing former Vikings kickers came to an end in 2019 as Seattle landed the top kicker in 2018 in Jason Myers, who had posted 129 points for the Jets. But Myers is just 23-of-28 for Seattle, missing 4 extra points along the way. Rookie safety Ugo Amadi is a daredevil on special teams who may need to force a fumble or draw a costly Packer foul on Sunday to help the visitors have a chance.
You can point to a couple of potential match-up advantages for Seattle, like the fact that Green Bay allowed a different dual-threat QB – Mitch Trubisky of the Chicago Bears – to rack-up nearly 400 combined yards in a mid-December scrum. But the Pack won that game to go 2-0 against a bitter rival, and has fared well against other QBs comparable-in-style to Wilson, with wins over the Cowboys and Chiefs on the team’s mantle already.
Seattle may be getting a lot of “reputation” wagers, and the Over/Under might be down at (42) or so if people were betting with heads and not cheering hearts.
Take the Packers (-4) and the low side of the O/U. Exact-outcome prop wagers like “Green Bay 24, Seattle 10” also make sense as a pennies-to-jackpot action opportunity for what should be a deliberate and predictable Divisional Round game in the bitter cold of Wisconsin.