Free NFL Picks: Can Cardinals Break Seahawks Winning Streak?

Jason Lake

Friday, December 19, 2014 12:59 PM UTC

Friday, Dec. 19, 2014 12:59 PM UTC

The Seattle Seahawks defense is back in full effect. But does their pop-gun offense have enough jam to cover the giant spread on the NFL odds board for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals?

Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals

They’re baaaaaaaack. The Seattle Seahawks, your reigning, defending, undisputed Super Bowl champions, are absolutely crushing it right now. They’ve won each of their last four games at 3-0-1 ATS, holding their opponents to a combined 27 points. Not coincidentally, this run began in Week 12 when LB Bobby Wagner came off the injured list. Now the Seahawks look a lot more like the team that won the championship. They’ve even vaulted to 13-4 on the Super Bowl XLIX futures market, just behind the New England Patriots at 3-1.

If only Seattle could bring back its 2013 offense. The Seahawks don’t have the same scoring punch they had last year, dropping from 26.1 to 24.2 points per game. And that dips even further to 19.8 points over the past four weeks. Seattle got away with it in Week 12 during a 19-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals (+7.5 away). Can the ‘Hawks do it again in Sunday night’s rematch (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) at The U, facing exactly the same football odds?

Experience Lindley Project
Most sharps think so. As we reported in our look at the opening NFL odds for Sunday’s game, the early consensus was roughly 60 percent on Seattle’s side. That 7.5-point spread eventually grew as high as –9.5 (+105), which is still available as we go to press. But most of our featured online sportsbooks have scaled back down to the original 7.5 points – at least for now.

It isn’t because anyone’s too optimistic about what Ryan Lindley (46.8 career passer rating) can do for the Cardinals. But it can’t be much worse than the three points the Cards offense mustered last time. As for the Seahawks, they only managed 293 yards of total offense in Week 12, and that was at home. Five times they reached the Arizona red zone, and four times they had to settle for field goals.

Taters Gonna Tate
We expect this from the Cardinals – they’ve got the No. 6-ranked defense in the league, just two spots behind Seattle on the DVOA charts at Football Outsiders. It isn’t just the Cards who’ve been giving the ‘Hawks problems this year, though. While they’ve got the most efficient rushing in the league, their air attack is No. 12 overall, down from No. 8 last year.

It would be simple to pin this on the departure of WR Percy Harvin, but don’t forget, he wasn’t around much last year until the playoffs. Let’s look instead at Golden Tate, Seattle’s leading receiver in 2013 (64 catches, five TDs), who signed with the Detroit Lions in the offseason. And let’s look at TE Zach Miller (33 catches, five TDs last year), who’s on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Don’t forget about oft-injured WR Sidney Rice (15 catches, three TDs) deciding to retire this summer.

With fewer established targets at his disposal, Russell Wilson (93.6 passer rating) has been calling his own number early and often. He easily leads the league in rushing DYAR at plus-254, after toting the ball a career-high 106 times at 7.1 yards a pop. But Wilson has also seen his passing efficiency drop every year since joining the league:

Wilson 2012: plus-19.7 percent DVOA (No. 6 overall)
Wilson 2013: plus-15.6 percent DVOA (No. 8 overall)
Wilson 2014: minus-0.6 percent DVOA (No. 22 overall)

This is not the stuff of Super Bowl dreams. Injuries to the offensive line have been problematic, too; former Pro Bowl LT Russell Okung will miss at least this game and maybe the season finale with a bruised lung. The Cardinals already managed to sack Wilson seven times when they met in Week 12. Call us crazy, but we’re adding Arizona to our NFL picks this week.

Free NFL Pick: Take the Cardinals

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