After missing the playoffs in 2017, the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys are back again for a crack at the Lombardi Trophy. By virtue of winning the NFC East, the Cowboys will host the Seahawks, despite identical 10-6 records for each team. The line does suggest that Dallas would be a favorite on a neutral, as Jerry World is believed to have one of the worst home field advantages in the league. The Cowboys are -2.5 with a total of 43.5 that is on the rise early in the week.
The side hasn’t moved much at all, but the total has climbed from 41.5 to 43.5. That is an interesting development to say the least, as the Cowboys have an excellent defense and a high-scoring game would seem to favor Seattle’s chances.
Week 17 Tune-Ups
You never want to read a whole lot into Week 17. There were some good things and some bad things for the Seahawks and the Cowboys. Chris Carson ran for 122 yards and a score, but half of his yards came on one of his 19 carries. Russell Wilson was sacked six times, which isn’t what you want to see just before a playoff game. He was also just 12-of-21.
Seattle also had some special teams breakdowns, as the Cardinals blocked a punt for a touchdown and had another punt partially blocked.
Dak Prescott got some confidence points with 387 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Giants. He only hooked up with Amari Cooper five times on 11 targets, but found Cole Beasley and some guy named Blake Jarwin early and often.
Most importantly, the Cowboys put up 36 points with two offensive linemen sitting out and Ezekiel Elliott in street clothes. That’s not bad.
On the other hand, with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both on the field for a decent chunk of the game, the Cowboys allowed 35 points of their own and 441 yards.
Ground and Pound
Even though the Cowboys have gotten more proficient in the passing game as the season has gone along, their bread is still buttered by the running game. Ezekiel Elliott didn’t want to sit out Week 17, but it made sense and a week off couldn’t have hurt Tyron Smith or Zack Martin. The Seahawks allowed 4.9 yards per carry in the regular season, so it is very possible to run on them.
The Ravens ultimately would lead in the rushing yards per game category if Joe Flacco hadn’t started the season, but by no means does that take away from the fact that the Seahawks are first in the NFL with 160 rushing yards per game and fifth with 4.8 yards per carry. Chris Carson, Mike Davis, and Rashaad Penny have all shined at times, but Carson is the feature back and the standout of the group. Maybe offensive line coach Mike Solari is the true standout.
Dallas, though, heads into this game fourth in yards per carry allowed with just 3.8. Athletic linebacker play is a big reason why. Some zone-read action from Seattle could help in that department, as the threat of Wilson’s legs may hold the linebackers up for that extra second that allows Carson to battle for an extra yard or two.
The Seahawks managed only 113 rushing yards in the first meeting and didn’t have a carry longer than 13 yards. The Cowboys ran for 166 yards.
Familiar Faces, New Places
Something that could really help Dallas in this meeting is that former Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard is the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator for the Cowboys. Richard oversaw this Seahawks defense from 2015-17. The personnel isn’t entirely the same as what he had, but he knows how Pete Carroll likes to operate. After all, Richard went with Pete Carroll from USC to Seattle, so we’re talking about knowing him for over a decade.
The Elephant in Jerry World
If you asked 10 sharp NFL bettors, or even 10 NFL media members, to rank the coaches 1 through 32, where would Jason Garrett fall? That has to be a concern this week for Cowboys backers. Garrett is not a good head coach according to most. Carroll is thought to be one of the league’s stronger coaches.
These two teams have changed a lot since Week 3, but the Cowboys lost that game 24-13 and were -3 in turnover margin. Will Richard help more this time around? Will Garrett be able to adjust? Does any of it matter since it was over four months ago? It may not end up a big factor, but it is a consideration.
Seeing Red Again
As mentioned in the Colts vs. Texans preview, the red zone could be the deciding factor in that AFC playoff matchup. The same could come into play here. The Cowboys only scored a touchdown in 48 percent of their red zone appearances. That ranked 29th in the league. They were much better defensively, but Seattle was eighth in scoring touchdowns and fourth in preventing them.
The Money Down
The Seahawks also hold a big edge on third down in this game. While the Seahawks were only 17th offensively on third down, they were fifth defensively. The Cowboys were 10th on third down offensively, but 27th on third down defensively. Those two key areas may end up having a huge impact on this game.
This is probably the hardest game of the Wild Card Weekend to pick. Dallas is the better team and has the more talented roster, but the coaching edge goes to Seattle and the Seahawks have excelled in the red zone and the Cowboys have not, at least on offense. With the total rising on this game, that would seem to benefit the Seahawks, who weren’t as stout on defense as the Cowboys.
The Cowboys were 1-5 when they allowed more than 100 rushing yards and their only win came last week against the Giants. Seattle has rushed for at least 113 yards in 13 of 16 games. Can Dallas do enough with its offense? We’ll have to see. The stronger pick in this game is the over, which is now 43.5, as both teams should move the football here.
As far as a side play, look for a live betting opportunity or focus on the sides in the other three Wild Card Weekend games as this one feels like it could go either way.
Theoretically, you could tease the Seahawks with the Chargers in a couple of games with low totals to get both underdogs through 3, 4, 6, and 7 to get some +EV on those two sides.