Please gamble responsibly. That’s the sage advice that rightfully accompanies any betting advertisement. Last year, I gave spread betting advice on every game of the 2011 season (that can still be seen at Rob’s NFL Yard, but why would you wish to revisit that?), which, while proving to be almost the most fun you can have on this side of the pond, I quickly grew to realise that tipping up teams based on the spread on offer in Vegas (or elsewhere, as I’ll be pointing out this season) can prove ridiculously treacherous; hardly responsible tipping. If I may be so bold as to type this, it’s one thing to pick your winners from scratch, quite another when trying to justify why your hard earned should be placed with faith on the Rams +7 points at home to the Cowboys.
I wish I knew why I picked the Rams there, a team I hold no love for aligned as they are along with Seattle in the NFC West. Perhaps I’m behaving like the jilted groom at the altar. After all, the city that boasts one half of The Golden Arches had the temerity to tease us Londoners with the promise of three ‘home’ games in 2012, ’13 and ’14, yet before we had time to discuss the honeymoon in Paris, off they scarpered back to Missouri after one outing against the Patriots this October.
Still, we’re not bitter. How can we be? We have the Jaguars coming to town. Never let it be said that us NFL Brits don’t ‘get’ the game.
So, aside from being subjected to the big cats from Florida once a year for four consecutive seasons, there are reasons to be cheerful for such small mercies and, not unconnected to that is the fact that, despite Week 1 of the NFL season ordinarily being one to keep your pennies firmly in your pocket, there are invariably gems to be had and, lo and behold, one of two to be had this week is Seattle in Arizona.
Conventional wisdom has it that the Seahawks don’t travel well and that this is a reason to be cautious when considering them this week. Where do I start on this one? We lost in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Dallas last season, no disgrace. Yes, the defeat to the Cardinals to finish the season was wholly dispiriting, but our wild card hopes had already gone up in smoke one week earlier so motivation levels were hardly where they should have been. In my opinion, Seattle gave that game to Arizona, which translates to those aforementioned motivation levels being the polar opposite to the feeling among the team right now.
Now, back to the Seahawks not travelling well. I do recall sitting through a turgid defeat to Cleveland last season, but if you look in the record books, the passing of time has relegated that to Mariners 3-6 Indians. The Seahawks were allowed an elongated bye week having performed like giants in New Jersey in Week 5 and, as it turns out, took the NFL up on its offer in Week 7.
Stunning the Big Blue was thoroughly deserved (as 11 point underdogs, no less) and although Seattle badly beat up on a badly beat up Bears team in Week 15, a 38-14 victory is no fluke so, even allowing for a little bias on my part, I don’t sit in the camp that states the Seahawks are to be avoided this week.
Seattle’s survived the recently completed preseason relatively unscathed, a turn of events that hasn’t befallen the Cardinals. Not only have they lost starting left tackle Levi Brown for the season, but now Jeremy Bridges, a solid backup on the line, is also done for the season, leaving D’Anthony Batiste protecting John Skelton’s blind side. Skelton’s been anointed the starter at QB, but, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is never coy in pointing out, all this means is that Skelton will be the first to lose the job because, something else Florio also likes to furnish us with is that when a team has two quarterbacks, they really have no quarterback and it has to be admitted that, right now, with the season upon us, Arizona really does appear to have no quarterback.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt can only look at Seattle’s QB situation with envy, but it’s amazing where solid drafting and shrewd free agency acquisitions can get you. Whisenhunt bought Andy Reid’s Jedi mind trick after the lockout last year when it came to giving up some of the Empire to acquire Kevin Kolb and the only comfort he can derive from it is that he’s in good company when it comes to teams being fleeced by the Philadelphia Skywalkers.
The line for this one opened with Seattle +2.5, an incredulous spread in hindsight, but who could’ve foreseen what Wilson would give us a glimpse of? The line has turned on its head and it’s the Seahawks who now find themselves -2.5 (-3 on some books) after a ton of public money on the team with the “sick” new uniforms, if Jermichael Finley is to be believed.
While all eyes will naturally be on Wilson, in case he should come up short (I love a pun as much as the next prognosticator, but this one honestly isn’t deliberate), Seattle’s offense shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball on the ground. Up against a Cardinals defense that ranked 21st against the run last year, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and Leon Washington should be able to find plenty of space and all this of course is without taking into account the scrambling ability of Wilson if/when the pocket collapses. Without tempting fate too much, now the games that count are here, the Seahawks could have a monster rushing day on Sunday, thus also controlling the clock.
When Arizona chooses to run it, they possess a dynamic attack themselves...on paper. Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams have everything an offense could want when associated with the Skelton/Kolb double headed monster under center, but Williams has yet to register a carry in the regular season after having his rookie year wiped through injury while Wells’ preseason only began in the fourth week of the meaningless schedule.
Seattle’s defense is primed for a big year and they really couldn’t have wished for a better team to make a statement of intent against than the Cardinals. A banged up backfield, a shaky offensive line and a dire quarterback situation is what awaits this opportunistic Seahawks D and if they can’t show the rest of the league the potential to be a top five defense on Sunday, then, frankly, they’ll struggle to prove it all season long, particularly when looking at a brutal early schedule.
I haven’t even mentioned Larry Fitzgerald. It’s because he shouldn’t even be a factor this week. Should Skelton (or Kolb) be afforded the requisite protection to thread the ball to him, he’ll likely find Seattle’s secondary all over him...and some.
I realise that I make this wager sound so easy, but it really should be. If the Seahawks can come away with a road W to open the season, that’s all we can ask for. However, with my head ruling my heart on matters of the wallet, that’s not all that I’m asking for; I’m asking for them to cover the spread. I don’t want us to just win by two, I need us to win by at least three in order to cover the spread.
Seattle can be backed -2.5 with, among others, Skybet, Blue Square, Paddy Power and William Hill. Let the games begin.Please gamble responsibly.