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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 14: Seahawks Vs. Eagles

Seattle Seahawks Vs. Philadelphia Eagles: SEA +1 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

There hasn't been much movement in this line (yet). Last week it was -1.5, it reopened at -2, and now we are seeing -1.  I think that latest move has more to do with getting it out of the teaser window than anything else, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a flip of the favorite by kickoff.  Thus far, 63% of the action is on the Hawks.

Bottom Line

If we went by overall ranking, we would be dealing with the #5 ranked Seahawks against the #7 ranked Eagles, and there would be a good argument that there is value on the home team.  Yet, a closer look reveals that there is a couple key reasons to like the road team in this spot.

For this matchup, we have to determine what we make of Mark Sanchez.  Last week I wrote that the game versus the Cowboys would largely depend on what the Eagles did with their offensive approach, and that it would be bad news for them if they fell behind. To their credit, they gained the lead and never looked back.

That's not going to happen this week because the Cowboys defense is nowhere near as good as the Seahawks. I still believe that if Sanchez is put in a position to carry the load and win the game, he's headed for implosion. The Green Bay game would be an extreme example, but it could get ugly here if the Seahawks defense plays to their potential.

Despite their flaws, Seattle's D is firmly entrenched in the top 10. If the Eagles intend to succeed on that side of the ball, they'll have to win a lot of one-on-one battles.  The biggest concern for Seattle is their red zone defense, but the Eagles have been equally inept on offense once they get inside the 20 as well.  I think their best chance is to grind the ball on the ground and hope the absence of Mebane becomes a factor.  I'm not sure that will work though because the Hawks back seven remains fast and talented.

Things are just as interesting when Seattle has the ball. The Eagles defense matches up well with them in most categories across the board, but there is one area where the Seahawks have the edge - 3rd/4th down. To date, there has been no better team in the NFL in these make-or-break situations, and most of it has to do with Wilson/Lynch.  When they need to sustain a drive, there's a high probability that one of these two will get it done, and that's exactly the kind of difference-maker you want in a key game in December.

Ultimately, this should be a pretty good game. The Eagles should be able to stay competitive all the way through, especially with their effectiveness on special teams. That said, when push comes to shove, we are still talking about Wilson vs Sanchez. This one is most likely to come down to who makes the big plays when the game is on the line, and there's no doubt who I want my money on.

NFL pick: SEA +1.

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