On Saturday afternoon, perhaps the worst NFL team ever to make the playoffs in the modern era will take the field against the defending Super Bowl champs. Are the Seahawks bad? Yes. Utterly god awful? Check. Lack star power and dynamic playmakers? Touche. So why on earth would any sane punter with half a brain want to risk their hard earned cash on such a terrible squad? The answer is simply that “Mr. Obvious” perception often clouds the minds of the public, and nobody knows this fact better than the Vegas sports books. This is when situational handicapping comes in handy…
The Saints are coming into this game anywhere between a 10 and 11 point favorite depending on your book. That is an absurdly high number to lay on a road favorite playing in a harsh environment. Moreover, the Saints have several question marks of their own coming into this game. In the blink of an eye the Saints had their running game decimated by the loss of Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Now they’re forced to turn to a less-than-100 percent Reggie Bush and a washed up Julius Jones to carry the entire load. I think it’s safe to say that their power running game between the tackles will be close to non-existent, and that Drew Brees will be forced to throw even more than he normally does.
This wouldn’t be such a big problem if not for the fact that Brees has shown suspect decision making all season long, especially in the last few weeks of the season. He’s often been pressing a little bit and trying to force things that just aren’t there. With a fractured running game, I think this trend will continue for Brees in the playoffs and perhaps even be magnified. I doubt Brees will perform horribly, but I do think he has one or two turnovers in him which is more than enough for the Seahawks to cover this ridiculous 11 point spread.
Bad weather, which could potentially slow down the Saints high-flying offense, shouldn’t be a big factor in this game as the forecast calls for 40-degree temperatures in Seattle and possibly some rain (surprise, surprise). However, Qwest Field is one of the toughest places to play in the league, and the crowd will be loud enough to jiggle Drew Carey’s muffin-top. The players and fans have heard all the criticism about how they shouldn’t be here, let alone host a home playoff game. To say they’ll have a chip on their shoulder is an understatement. It’s like saying that playing Boo-Ray with O.J. Mayo & Tony Allen at 10,000 feet is a slightly bad idea.
The Seahawks have absolutely nothing to lose in this game; all the pressure is squarely on the Saints. Every sharp gambler knows that a large home underdog who plays in a venue with a significant home field advantage and is also in a very motivated situation is a good bet, and this game is no different.
The Seahawks are a bad team; there’s no way around it. But the bookmakers know this idea has been so etched into the minds of the public that they’re basically putting a tariff on people who want to bet Saints. In reality the Saints should be 7 or 8 point favorites in this game, but public perception allows the books to basically put a tax on the Saints. Don’t be a square… find a book where the Seahawks are +11 and get your money down.