The NFL odds have Sunday’s Big Game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks as a pick ‘em. So do the advanced stats. Even sharp handicappers are split between the two teams.
Jason’s 2014-15 postseason record: 3-3 ATS, 3-2-1 Totals
Where’s the earth-shattering ka-boom? When the Seattle Seahawks moved from –2 to as high as +3 for last year’s Super Bowl matchup with the Denver Broncos, it was as if the football odds had exploded and showered us with money. And Skittles. Picking the Seahawks was a breeze in what otherwise looked like a fairly close game between the No. 1 seeds from the NFC and AFC.
This year, no such explosion. Once again, it’s the two No. 1 seeds going at it, and once again, the Seahawks have moved from early favorites to underdogs, this time against the New England Patriots. But it’s not quite the same. While you can get the Seahawks at +2 on our NFL odds board as we go to press, most online sportsbooks still have Super Bowl XLIX as a pick ‘em. And on paper, Sunday’s matchup (6:30 p.m. ET, NBC) looks even closer than last year’s.
Weights and Measures
How close? Try a 50.5-49.5 split in New England’s favor, according to the advanced statistics at Football Outsiders. Their Weighted DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric has the Patriots very slightly ahead of Seattle in terms of overall efficiency. The Seahawks had the edge going into the Conference Round, but they needed a comeback of biblical proportions to beat the Green Bay Packers, while New England completely took the air out of the Indianapolis Colts.
These advanced metrics aren’t sacrosanct. Football Outsiders’ weighing process removed the first six games of the regular season from consideration, but what if they had started counting from Week 12, when Seattle got its full complement of defenders back on the field and won eight games in a row at 6-1-1 ATS? New England went 6-2 SU and 4-4 ATS during that span, or 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS if you prefer to throw Week 17’s result out of the mix.
The Great Divide
Having said that, we imagine you’d still find the two teams putting up fairly close DVOA numbers. So let’s turn our attention to some of the more popular computer simulations out there. Both TeamRankings and numberFire have Seattle coming out ahead at an average of less than one point. That’s about as coin-flippy as you can get. PredictionMachine sees it differently, with Seattle winning about 58 percent of the time in 50,000 simulations, at an average score of 23-20. And if you’re into the videogames, Madden 15 says it’ll be Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.
Sharp bettors are also somewhat divided when it comes to which of these No. 1 seeds to add to their NFL picks this Sunday. Word on the Strip is that gigantic bets have come in on both sides, although we still anticipate more sharps will end up betting Seattle as we get closer to kick-off. Our expanded consensus reports show a burst of big bets ($1,000 or more) coming in on the Seahawks since we last checked in.
Frankly, we’re delighted that Seattle is available at +2 when Super Bowl XLIX looks like such a toss-up. But it’s still not the same as it was last year. Getting all the way to +3 against the Broncos was such a bargain, even if that magic number never came into play in a 43-8 final. And putting this game indoors in Glendale should favor New England’s offense somewhat.
Let’s set aside the football odds for a moment, though. How nice would it be to see a competitive Super Bowl again? Last year’s cakewalk was only pleasurable for Seattle bettors and fans – and people who just tune in for the ads. With any luck, we’ll be treated to something a little more dramatic this time around.