by Roger LeBlanc and Terry Tortorich

Official Line: Denver -3
Lazy Line: Seahawks -7. Seahawks are a 4-unit play.
Comments: The opening line varied from one sports book to another, but for the most part the Seahawks opened as the favorites. By game time they might be 3-point ‘dogs everywhere.

After Richard Sherman’s infamous rant at the end of the NFC Championship game, we correctly surmised fans would choose to bet good (Manning) over evil (Sherman). And as usual, bettors would prefer explosive offense to rough and ugly (but dominating) defense. Regardless of how the bookies judged the potential of each team, Seattle seemed likely to end up as a bargain spread-wise.

We waited patiently. Now we feel rather comfortable sitting on a huge, cushion of 3 points.

Huge? Really? Yep, really.

The opening line pegged Seattle as the better team by 2 points. Worked into that opening spread was the bookmakers’ realization (we assume) that Manning would draw more public money. So the books might have viewed the Seahawks as 3 or 4 point favs and then lowered the opening offer to withstand the flood of “Manning Mania” money. But let’s work with the more factual 2-point opener.

Since then, the Seahawks announced that WR Percy Harvin will play. Harvin owns game-breaking ability. No other Seattle receiver offers his combination of speed and elusiveness. Harvin also adds to the enormous advantage the Seahawks have on special teams. With this news, the spread should have widened to Seattle by 4. Instead, money continued pouring in on the Broncos, driving them to clear, irreversibleĀ favoritism. Even if you’re skeptical about the Lazy Line spread of Seattle by 7, you can understand why we see Seattle getting 3 points as a great deal.

The Lazy Line picks are 8-8-1 this year, but show a profit in terms of betting units. Sixteen winning units vs. 13 losers (minus the vig) isn’t a banner year, but it is a profit. Over the past 2 years the most profitable teams for the Lazy Line picks were Denver and Seattle, so we have a history of evaluating them accurately. That adds to our comfort level with this pick.

How did we pump the line up toward blowout territory? Matchups.

Seattle is near the top of the NFL in all aspects of special teams play. They accomplished that almost entirely without Percy Harvin. Add Harvin to the mix and their league-leading totals in return yardage improve even more. Statistically, Denver’s special teams lag considerably.

We also give the Seahawks’ defense the edge over the Denver offense. In an earlier post we detailed the abysmal record of high-flying offenses in recent Super Bowls (two failures by the Brady-led Patriots, a loss by the Martz/Warner Rams, and losses by offensive-minded coaches Andy Reid andĀ Mike Holmgren). And although we don’t assess Manning’s playoff record as harshly as others do, the stats reveal it to be less than stellar or awe-inspiring. Just 2 weeks ago, he settled for field goals 3 times vs. an abysmal New England defense that never laid a hand on him. Prior to that, Manning failed to light up the scoreboard against the Chargers. Advantage Seahawks here.

The stats also point to Manning as the QB most likely to throw an INT or two, if for no other reason than he’ll throw many more passes. But Manning also faces the NFL’s leading defense in terms of forcing turnovers. So the Seahawks are more likely to win that important statistical battle.

And finally, when we turn the matchup around to the Seattle offense vs. the Denver defense, we see a big advantage for the Seahawks. Like the Panthers and Patriots, the Broncos enter a tough playoff matchup with no depth to their defensive lineup. Although the front seven have held up well this year despite injuries to key players, the secondary has not. And rotation-wise, the entire defense now plays without quality backups. That’s too large a handicap to overcome in a game of this magnitude.

Our profitability for this NFL season rides on our call here. After struggling to stay at or above the .500 mark all year, we believe we’ll find a nice wad of cash in this cushion and close out with a decent profit.