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Sunday, December 1, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 13: Saints vs Seahawks

New Orleans Saints vs Seattle Seahawks: SEA -5 (Bovada)

Market Watch

When it comes to point spreads, the Seattle Seahawks are a nightmare for sportsbooks when they play at home. How much on the line should we grant them?  Most people give home teams 2.5 or 3 points for home field advantage, but some give Seattle as much as 5.

It's hard to argue with that given Seattle's record at CenturyLink.

A week ago, Las Vegas made the Hawks -4 point favorites for this game, but when the lines reopened after Week 12 action, they adjusted it to -4.5.  Early money pushed it as high as -6 by the middle of the week, but it's come back the other way since then. Currently, it sits at anywhere between -5 or -5.5, depending on where you look.

Keep an eye on

This could very well be a playoff preview and it's fitting that we get to see it unfold on Monday Night
Football. The last time these two faced off was in 2011 when the Saints went into Seattle for a playoff game as favorites. The result was a convincing spanking by the home team, despite Brees passing for over 400 yards without an interception.

Can we expect a repeat of that this time around?

It's quite possible that we do, except this time it won't be a surprise to anybody. Seattle is justifiably favored in this game. They've improved on both sides of the ball since 2011 and have more depth than anybody. They rank near the top of the league in nine critical categories - rushing offense, pass defense, adjusted sack rate, red zone offense and defense, net starting field position, special teams, and turnover differential.

The only area where they need to improve upon is pass protection, but that is mostly due to injuries.  Now that they have Okung and Unger in the lineup, it should be full steam ahead for this unit.

The big test for New Orleans will be whether or not they can stop Lynch, and to a lesser degree, Wilson. There are not many other teams that can utilize the run game as effectively as Seattle, and due to their efficiency, excellent passing opportunities arise. This is bad news for a Saints defense that have been better against the pass than the run this year. Even more concerning is their ranking in red zone defense, which sits in the bottom half of the NFL.

Perhaps the bigger question is whether or not Drew Brees can perform as well on the road as he does at home. He has already burned us a few times when he's had to play in an outdoor stadium this year, and it won't get any tougher than this. The crowd is going to be a big factor, especially on third down.

The key for the Saints will be Jimmy Graham. Unfortunately for them, Seattle have shut down almost every tight end they've faced this season, including Vernon Davis and Tony Gonzalez.

Instead, New Orleans might look towards the wide receiver position when you consider Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond are out of the lineup. Normally, Seattle boast the best secondary in the league, but they might have to keep a safety over the top to compensate for the injuries.

Either way, the Saints will focus on keeping Brees upright before they worry about open guys on the outside. The Seahawks defensive line is one of the most fearsome in the league, and that threat will be amplified with a deafening crowd.

Bottom Line

The tricky aspect about this point spread is the possibility of a backdoor cover. There's no question that Seattle should win this game, but a guy like Brees is more than capable of driving down the field and scoring a meaningless touchdown at the end of the game.

Aside from that, I feel pretty good about the Seahawks taking care of business on national TV. They usually raise their games for occasions like this, which could turn into a long night for Sean Payton and company.

It might even be better to wait to see if this can drop to -4, but since that is a key number I'd be a bit surprised if that happened. Keep an eye on line movement over the next 24 hours.

NFL Pick: SEA -5.
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