Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 27 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
There’s only one game left in the NFL betting season, and we’ve still got nearly a week to go before Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off in East Rutherford (6:25 p.m. ET, FOX). What are we going to do with all this time? Well, there’s a giant boatload of Super Bowl props to consider, of course. But if your primary focus is on the Super Bowl point spread, then this is your chance to go deeper into the game plans for the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. You might find some mismatch problems that reveal which team’s more likely to prevail.
Bettors aren’t the only people scrambling to figure out what strategies to employ on Super Bowl Sunday. Aside from preseason games, these two teams have only played once since 2006, and that was three years ago, well before Peyton Manning and head coach John Fox came to Denver. Fox does have some passing familiarity with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, but their paths have barely crossed over the past 30-plus years each man has spent coaching football, both in college and in the NFL. So let’s start from Square One. First up: the Broncos, who are available between –2 and –3 on the NFL lines at press time.
This is the side of the ball most people are paying attention to, naturally. The Broncos have the No. 1 offense in the NFL through the Conference Championships, while the Seahawks have the No. 1 defense. However, Seattle is a bit less effective at stopping the run (No. 8 through the regular season), and given the possibility of inclement weather at the New Meadowlands, we’re likely to see the Broncos continue to focus on ball-control, as they did successfully in the Divisional and Conference rounds – producing two UNDERs in the process, by the way.
The soft spot on Seattle’s defensive line is on the right side. As Football Outsiders points out, the Seahawks are No. 24 in the league in efficiency stopping runs at the right end, compared to No. 5 on the left end. This is partly because former sack artist Chris Clemons is 33 years old and hasn’t been the same since tearing his ACL in last year’s playoff win over Washington. But Clemons and fellow RE Cliff Avril are both playing “Leo” (hybrid DE/LB) in Carroll’s 4-3 defense, so they’re more focussed on pass rushing anyway.
This is where Denver needs to step up. The Broncos ranked No. 14 in defensive efficiency through the Conference round, while the Seahawks were No. 11 on offense. And those are full-season numbers; Denver is handicapped now by the knee injuries to LB Von Miller and CB Chris Harris, and Seattle will have WR/KR Percy Harvin available after he missed most of the regular season and the NFC title game.
Having said that, Seattle’s offense hasn’t been very impressive the past month or so. Russell Wilson’s QB rating in these playoffs is 89.1, down from 101.2 during the regular season. The Seahawks offensive line ranked last in pass protection (9.6 percent adjusted sack rate) this year, and although LT Russell Okung and center Max Unger are now relatively healthy, Seattle doesn’t have much more to offer in the trenches. Denver can take advantage by bringing pressure on Wilson, putting the onus on him to scramble and make lower-percentage plays downfield. If that doesn’t work – well, the Broncos can always clothesline Harvin out of his boots.
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