Sunday Night NFL Picks — Home Sweet Home? Not vs. Seahawks

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To a lot of people who are strictly hung up on analytics, the Seattle Seahawks are a team that just doesn’t figure. They don’t appear to be a dominant team on either side of the ball, yet here they are with a 10-2 record (7-5 ATS) and they have a win over the San Francisco 49ers, who have strong numbers all the way around.

The Seahawks are, by virtue of that win, the first-place team in the NFC West, and they will square off on Sunday night against a division rival, as they meet up with the Los Angeles Rams in a game that begins at 8:20 PM ET at the Coliseum.

There is obviously a big difference between being a division champion and being a wild card. So Seattle is still playing critical games. The Rams’ best playoff hopes are in snaring the second wild card spot, and with their 7-5 record (8-4 ATS) they are a game behind Minnesota in that race.

Jared Goff exploded for 417 yards through the air last week in an easy win over Arizona, but of course the Cardinals have one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. He’ll face something different here.

It’s hard to envision Russell Wilson encountering a situation that he can’t handle. Coming out of last week’s win over Minnesota, he has thrown 26 TD passes with only four INT’s, and he brings a true gift of improvisation to the table that Goff doesn’t. He has essentially willed this team to its current position, and for that reason he is about as good an MVP candidate as there is.

The previous meeting was a 30-29 Seattle victory on October 3 at CenturyLink Field, where the Rams missed a last-second field goal.

In the Sunday night NFL betting odds, the Rams are very slight favorites:

Los Angeles Rams -1 (-101)
Seattle Seahawks +1 (-109)

Over 47.5 points (-105)
Under 47.5 points (-105)

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Does this matchup work put well for the Los Angeles offense? After all, the Seahawks are third from the bottom in terms of Adjusted Sack Rate, so you’d figure Goff will get time to throw. And the numbers defending the run aren’t necessarily great (allowing 4.5 ypc). But there are some members of this stop unit who are “trending up” like Ziggy Ansah and Quandre Diggs. And Jadeveon Clowney is “all-in” as he will delay hip surgery until after the season (at least that’s the plan).

And while we recognize that Aaron Donald is the dominant defensive presence in this game, we also know that the Seahawks have made strides with the ground attack. And getting something out of Rashaad Penny has been a long time coming. Penny, last year’s first-round pick, had 107 yards from scrimmage against the Vikings and is averaging a little under six yards a carry.

It’s so interesting that in the first meeting, the Seahawks had a 43-23 ratio of runs to passes, while the Rams’ ratio was 18-49. Perhaps Sean McVay can find more success if he gets Todd Gurley (95 yards or more in two of last three) cranked up. As for Seattle’s ground game, what they’ve been doing at times is putting an extra offensive lineman in the game, to help compensate for a potential weak spot.

The idea among some people analyzing this game is that there is “value” with the Rams. And they are impressed with last week’s performance. But consider that the Seahawks are 6-0 straight-up on the road (5-1 ATS), while Los Angeles has averaged only 312 yards of offense in the Coliseum, and where is the real home field advantage? Probably nowhere. For what it’s worth, Wilson is 16-6-2 against the number as a road dog.

I’m content to go with the over-achieving Seahawks in this one.

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