Round 1 of the Unofficial Super Bowl takes place this Sunday, and the NFL odds say there’s not much difference between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to September 10 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
Three points, or 2.5 points? Based on the last seven years of NFL football, it seems that home-field advantage isn’t worth quite as much as it used to be. Business Insider ran the numbers and found that home teams won by an average of 2.2 points between 2006 and 2012, down from three points between 1996 and 2005. No wonder more and more people who bet on the NFL for a living are downgrading their expectations for the home teams.
It must be contagious. Going into the 2013 campaign, it looked like the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks would be locked in mortal combat for NFC supremacy. The Seahawks get the first crack at hosting this hot new rivalry on Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC), and they opened as standard 3-point home faves against the Niners, but sure enough, the NFL odds have been cut to Seattle –2.5 in early trading.
This movement in the NFL betting lines would set off a stampede to the ticket window for just about any other matchup. Moving from three points to 2.5 points is already a pretty big deal, since more games are decided by a field goal than by any other margin of victory. It’s an even bigger deal in this contest. The 49ers are the more public team, and going into Week 2, they’re the second favorites on the Super Bowl futures market at 6-1, with the Seahawks close behind at 8-1. But the advanced stats suggest that Seattle was the better team in 2012, and will be again in 2013.
The advanced stats in this case, as they often do, come from Football Outsiders – they’re to modern football betting what the Farmers’ Almanac was to growing giant red tomatoes. Looking at their efficiency numbers from the 2012 regular season, Seattle ranked first overall in the league (No. 4 offense, No. 2 defense, No. 3 special teams). San Francisco was fourth overall (No. 5 offense, No. 3 defense, No. 20 special teams). For 2013, Football Outsiders projects the Seahawks to finish in third place on the efficiency charts, with the Niners in seventh.
Please forgive me if I sound like a broken record from the early ‘90s, but Seattle has far too many built-in advantages from an NFL betting standpoint that bear repeating. When it comes to regional markets, you can’t get much more regional than the Pacific Northwest – unless the NFL decides to expand into Alaska, or maybe the Outer Hebrides. Most people who bet on football don’t pay much attention to the Seahawks, and when they do, it’s either with surprise or dismissiveness. They’re certainly not looking at Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.
Then there’s Seattle’s vaunted 12th Man, the raucous home crowd at The Clink, where the Seahawks ran the table last year at 8-0 SU and ATS. This stadium leads the NFL in false starts called against the visiting team, with noise levels topping 110 decibels. That’s almost as loud as a jumbo jet. They might even set off another minor earthquake on Sunday.
And then you’ve got QB Russell Wilson. He was overlooked at the 2012 NFL Draft, perhaps literally at 5-foot-11, and was eventually snapped up in the third round. Wilson beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job in Seattle, and tore it up during the second half of the season to earn a Pro Bowl invitation. But even then, Wilson has taken a backseat in the public eye to the other breakout dual threats from 2012, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
As far as I can tell, nothing in particular came up in Week 1 to tip the balance of power between the Seahawks and Niners, so I’ll happily stick with the undervalued home team at –2.5 until people learn better.NFL Pick: Take the Seahawks –2.5 at Sports Interaction