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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 5: Seahawks vs Colts

Seattle Seahawks vs Indianapolis Colts: SEA -2.5 (5Dimes)

Market Watch

Last week the Seahawks were listed as -4.5 point favorites in the LVH look-ahead line. It re-opened at -3 after the weekend. Some support for the Colts has brought this line off the key number at some books though. Others have chosen to offer -3 at EVEN money.

There's no debating that the Colts have looked impressive this season, but adjusting this line down below the key number of 3 is questionable.

60% of bets are on the Seahawks.

When the Seahawks have the ball

According to Football Outsiders, Russell Wilson was only 3 for 12 for 25 yards outside of Seattle's own 40 yard line against the Texans. They also point out that he had 78 rushing yards on eight carries.

In a nutshell, this is the kind of x-factor that Wilson has become. Even if the Seahawks offense is struggling, they are capable of moving the chains, putting up points, and winning games. To be fair though, the Texans defense is no joke - especially in their own barn.

Still, without adequate pass protection, any offense will struggle. Seattle is missing pro-bowl players at left tackle and center - the two most important positions on the line. For good measure, they're missing their starting right tackle too. The silver lining here might be the play of Lemuel Jeanpierre. He was the only player on the line that didn't allow a pressure on Sunday.

The other saving grace is the Colts don't pose the same swarming pass rush that the Texans do. That said, they do boast some good players. Cory Redding is playing like a beast and is currently the highest graded 3-4 defensive end. They also have veteran Robert Mathis to cause some problems.

The other key area of this matchup will be on the ground. Indy's run defense still isn't where they hoped it would be, and the 'Hawks will put them to the test. With Lynch and Wilson moving the chains with their legs, the play-action pass remains a lethal weapon. Thus far, Wilson has used play-action more than any other QB in the league. Davis, Butler, and Toler have put up better than expected numbers, but containing Rice, Baldwin, and Tate is a big challenge - especially if they have extra time to get open.

Seattle also rank near the top in average starting field position and special teams, so Indy can't afford to make too many mistakes.

When the Colts have the ball

Given his pedigree, most people expected Trent Richardson to come in and become the Indy featured back rather quickly.  But Ahmad Bradshaw brings a lot to a football team. His veteran savvy is an asset on the ground, as a safety-outlet for Luck, and in blitz pickup. With him doubtful with a neck injury, Richardson becomes the go-to guy by default.

He hasn't put up great numbers so far, but he's still on a learning curve, both in a new system, and the NFL. But his presence alone will give Seattle's defense more to think about.  The tricky thing for Luck and company, is figuring out how to attack the Seahawks.

To date, they've run the ball 121 times, and thrown the ball 131 times. When Pep Hamilton said he's going to bring balance to this offense, he wasn't joking.

But Indy is going to need their skill players to win some one-on-one battles on Sunday - something the Seahawks defensive backs thrive on. Sherman and Browner love to match up one on one, and it allows the other nine defenders to squeeze the field.  Once you add Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor to the coverage unit, it requires consistent accuracy to beat this team deep.

Up front, Seattle has Irvin, Avril, Clemons, and Bennett to rush the passer. Irvin returns after serving a suspension, so it's a bit ridiculous how much firepower they have. Bennett has been even better than advertised. He's currently the third highest rated 4-3 defensive end.

Luck can take some solace that his blind side should be ok. Anthony Castonzo has been playing lights out, only giving up a handful of pressures over the previous three weeks. PFF has him as the 5th highest graded tackle.  The downside is the rest of the line has been just ok. They invested a lot in this unit due to all the hits Luck took last year, and we'll see how much of it paid off this weekend.

Can the Colts step up and win this game? They certainly have the weapons. Hilton, Wayne, and Fleener are nice targets for Luck, and it's just a matter of time before Richardson busts out. But ultimately, the Seahawks are as good as it gets on defense.  And if Seattle get up a couple scores, their front seven will tee off on Luck.

Bottom Line

The Seahawks defense is ridiculously good, and they add Bruce Irvin to the mix this week. The Colts offense is playing very balanced ball, but Seattle matches up well against any team.

The big issue for Seattle is their offensive line. Russell Wilson has been under constant pressure all year long due to the injuries up front, but as he proved again last week, Wilson nullifies most of the pressure with his legs. And it's not just his mobility that makes him dangerous. He doesn't panic in the face of pressure. He keeps his eyes downfield, and usually makes smart decisions if he runs out of options.

This could be a close game, but no matter which Seattle unit is on the field at the end of the game, I like their ability to come out on top.

NFL Pick: SEA -2.5.
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