The Lazy Line selections stumble into the Super Bowl showing a slight loss for the season. Battered sails be damned! There’s some durable duct tape keeping our bet-boat afloat. It’s our maximum-bet selections.

We nailed 8 of our 11 prime bets over the past two NFL seasons, including 4-unit wins in last year’s NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl. Those two plays not only salvaged a mediocre year of picks, they also washed us safely ashore with a tidy profit.

You can read our rather prophetic analysis of last year’s Super Bowl here.

The Lazy Line showed Seattle as the 7-point favorites, while Vegas, the betting public and most forms of life on Earth rated the Broncos as the better team. We see these creatures making a similar mistake this year.

Patriots vs. Seahawks
Official Line: Patriots –1
Lazy Line: Seahawks –7. Seahawks are a 6-unit bet.

Read on to see how we justify diverging so far from the standard betting line.

Seattle’s Offense vs. New England’s Defense

For weeks we’ve warned bettors of an impending Brandon Browner meltdown. This week the Patriots’ starting cornerback urged his teammates to target the injuries of Seahawks’ players. So the Patriots move a step closer to that completely nutso Browner penalty that costs them points or, even, the game.

Aside from the possibility of the oft-penalized Browner losing his cool, the Patriots defense looks pretty darn good, right? You’ll certainly hear accolades heaped upon their secondary, especially cornerback Darrelle Revis, from now until…hmmm…until the Seahawks grab the lead in the fourth quarter on Sunday.

This New England defense gave up 31 points to the Ravens a few weeks ago (including 4 TD passes), and it let beleaguered Jets QB Geno Smith play one of his best games as a pro a few weeks prior to that. As unimpressive as those defensive efforts were, bettors, fans and sportscasters spout similar superlatives about the Patriots’ high-priced defenders as they do about the #1 ranked Seattle defense. Lazy bettors needn’t peer too far over their footrest to marvel at the wide, roiling gulf between the two units.

In their past three games vs. teams fielding a decent running attack, the Patriots defense was exposed as ill suited for this Super Bowl matchup. They gave up 136 rushing yards to the Ravens, 116 to the Jets (who lost their starting center before halftime), and 130 to the Packers. On Sunday the human blocking sled known as the “New England front seven” must somehow flatten the tires of the monster truck that is the Seattle running game. It seems smarter to wager that the monster truck will do the flattening.

Well, at least the New England pass defense is solid. Or is it? The Patriots were the worst defense in the NFL in terms of the amount of time they gave opposing QBs to throw. (Thank you, ESPN Stats!) That might be the biggest reason they ended up just 17th in the NFL in passing defense after Mr. Kraft emptied his coffers to sign star-quality cornerbacks.

In short, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle offense square off against a defense that struggles to stop a solid run attack and doesn’t pressure the passer very well. And the offense lines up as healthy as they’ve been all year. Seattle center Max Unger and starting right tackle Justin Britt both show up healthy at the same time for one of the few times in the past 6 games or so. And Lynch looks like a 25-year-old lately, combining brute force between the tackles with halfback speed and gracefulness along the sidelines.

On the plus side for the New England defense is the matchup between the relatively slow Seattle receivers and a talented secondary. Again, though, the lack of a playoff-caliber pass rush for the Pats should give the Seahawks’ receivers time to work their way open. Whatever advantage the Patriots might have in this matchup between receivers and defensive backs is at least partially negated by their ineffective defensive line.

New England’s Offense vs. Seattle’s Defense

When these teams last met in 2012 the Patriots’ offense worked well overall. The Pats grabbed a 23-10 lead, and Brady successfully nickel and dimed his way down the field with short passes, complex formations and the usual New England bag of tricks. The points stopped coming, though, as Seattle’s pass pressure picked up in the 2nd half, and New England eventually lost 24-23.

Given the consistent 2nd-half domination we see from the Seahawks, the best the Patriots can hope to accomplish on Sunday is to build a huge first-half lead. Once Pete Carroll and his crew figure out the gimmicks Bill Belichick throws at them early, expect the Seattle defense to take control of the contest.

The Seahawks’ recent playoff history shows how masterful Carroll is at making those halftime adjustments:

  • Down 14-0 to Washington in the Wild Card round of 2012, Seattle ran off 24 unanswered points on the way to victory.
  • Down by 20 points in the Divisional round in Atlanta in 2012, Seattle stymied the Falcons’ offense despite missing its best pass rushers due to injury. The offense shifted into high gear and launched an unrelenting rally to tie the game in the final minutes.
  • And y’all know about that recent game Green Bay had all locked up.

If Carroll hasn’t already developed an antidote to the quick snaps, unbalanced formations, stacked receivers and other gimmicks, he will patent the cure at halftime. You should expect to see fewer symptoms of success from New England’s offense as the game progresses.

And don’t all those features of the Patriots offense sound a lot like Peyton Manning’s strengths entering last year’s Super Bowl?

Before you allow any “But Brady is better than Manning in the playoffs” thoughts to enter your head, consider Brady’s playoff record since his last Super Bowl win. To put it another way: consider New England’s playoff record with Brady carrying the team in the absence of a true power run game and top-shelf defense. Two Super Bowl losses, a few early-round exits and a weak showing in Denver last year. Not all that super, really.

This year the Patriots ran impressively against small defenses that were weak against the run. Against stronger run defenses, they abandoned the run almost entirely. And that’s what they’ll do here. Can the Patriots succeed by employing the same strategy that dumped Denver down into the seventh level of Super Bowl hell?

We think not.

The Intangibles

Nearly every year at this time NFL bettors and fans are reminded of a basic fact: football is a full contact sport.

Teams pursuing a strategy of avoiding contact fare poorly late in the playoffs and often perform horribly in the Super Bowl. Physical teams that survive or prosper during the grade-school dance of the regular season, excel as the refs silence their whistles and tuck away their flags during the conference championships and Super Bowl.

The Patriots, with the exception of TE Rob Gronkowski, avoid contact. They stack receivers so defensive backs can’t easily make contact at the line. Brady gets rid of the ball faster than any other NFL QB to avoid getting hit. On offense the Patriots look for chances to snap the ball before the defense gets set. It’s all clever, contact-light and croquet-like.

But the Super Bowl usually proves to be a sticky wicket for genteel teams. A game played with sharpened mallets. And balls that don’t deflate.

Seattle players, whether they’re carrying the ball or chasing it, will take the field looking to hit someone. The wide receivers will block downfield for the running back who smashes into bodies like a linebacker. And the defense? They started this Super Bowl run by brawling with each other in intersquad practices prior to the preseason. And now they’ll turn the intensity up a few notches past whatever bell-ringing, bone-crunching high point they were playing at already.

The bet here is the same as last year. Force over finesse. Seattle for 6 units, which is a slight increase to our typical maximum bet of 4 units. We think they’ll dominate the Patriots and land us squarely in the profit zone for the 2nd consecutive year.

LazyLine results for the year: 15 wins and 19 losses against the spread, with 37 winning units vs. 36 losing units. Using $100 units, that’s $3,700 in wins and $3,960 in losses.