A total of six wild-card teams have won the Super Bowl, the last being the 2010 Green Bay Packers. I could make an argument that the 2015 Seattle Seahawks are the best No. 6 seed in NFL playoff history. They open Sunday's NFC playoff schedule by visiting NFC North champion Minnesota.
Seattle (10-6) had a shot to move up to the No. 5 spot in the NFC playoffs had Minnesota lost at Green Bay last weekend, which I honestly expected, but the Vikings pulled the upset. It's the fourth straight year in the postseason for the Seahawks, who are two-time NFC champions. They didn't have to play on the road in the past two postseasons. Seattle's last road playoff game was a thrilling divisional-round loss at top-seeded Atlanta following the 2012 regular season.
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Minnesota (11-5) won the North Division for the first time 2009; I expected this team to be a wild-card contender entering the season but surely didn't see the Vikings beating out Green Bay for the division. It's Minnesota's first postseason game since losing at Green Bay in the wild-card round following the 2012 season. This is a young team, led by second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater, so a lot of guys making their playoff debuts.
The Seahawks are +275 third-favorites to win the NFC title at Bovada. They will go to No. 1 seed Carolina next week with a win. The Vikings are +1400 to win the NFC, which they haven't done since the 1976 season. They will visit No. 2 Arizona next week with a victory. It's the first-ever playoff game between Seattle and Minnesota.
Seahawks at Vikings Betting Story Lines
Let's start with the biggest news first and that's the weather on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis. Remember that the Vikings are still playing outdoors at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, with the Vikings' new domed home set for next season. Thus, this is the team's first outdoor home playoff game in more than 39 years. And the temperatures are projected to hit a high of 1 (no snow). Yes, 1. Wind chills obviously will be well below that. So it looks to be one of the coldest in league annals. The coldest home game in Vikings history came on Dec. 3, 1972, with a temperature of minus-2 at kickoff at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Clearly that type of cold is going to affect the quarterbacks, receivers and kickers the most.
Now let's talk injuries to each team's top running back.
Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, who won his third rushing title this season (eighth player in NFL history with at least three), suffered a back injury in the Week 17 upset win at Green Bay. There's no question Peterson will play, however. And the Vikings aren't winning this game if he doesn't have a big one. Thing is, Peterson has really slowed down since the end of November. He is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in the past five games and has topped 70 yards once. Bridgewater isn't the kind of guy who is going to win games for you. Seattle led the NFL in scoring defense for a fourth straight year (first time for any team since Browns in 1950s) and was No. 1 against the rush (81.5 ypg) and No. 2 vs. the pass (210.3 ypg).
Seattle will get a boost in the backfield with the return of Marshawn Lynch in what likely will be his final game with the team should the Seahawks lose. "Beast Mode" hasn't played since Nov. 15 and had abdominal surgery not longer after. Lynch has carried 111 times for 417 yards (3.76 per carry) this season. But the Seahawks might now be a passing-first team under Russell Wilson, who ended the regular season as the NFL's hottest QB. He had 24 touchdown passes and just one pick over the final seven and Seattle won six of those. Wilson led the NFL in rating this season (110.1) and he made a star of receiver Doug Baldwin, who tied for the league lead with 14 TD catches.
Minnesota's defense is pretty good itself, ranking No. 5 in scoring (18.9 ppg). It was No. 12 vs. the pass (234.9 ypg) and No. 17 vs. the rush (109.3 ypg). It slipped for a few games around Thanksgiving due to some injuries, but that unit is pretty healthy now and looked great the final three games, not allowing more than 17 points in any.
Minnesota hosted Seattle in Week 13, and the Vikings played their worst game of the season or were simply outclassed. The Seahawks rolled 38-7. Wilson was nearly perfect, completing 21-for-27 for 274 yards and three scores while rushing for 51 yards and a TD. The Seahawks did have a healthy Thomas Rawls then (out for season) and he had 101 yards and a score on 19 carries. Minnesota was missing a few defensive starters. But there's no excuse for the Vikings offense totaling 125 yards, the lowest of any team this season. Peterson had 18 yards on eight carries; he'll at least double those carries Sunday barring injury.
Seahawks at Vikings Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Seattle is a 5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 39.5. On the moneyline, the Seahawks are -220 and Vikings +180. On the alternate lines, Seattle is -6.5 (+110), -6 (+103), -5.5 (-105), -4.5 (-115), -4 (-125) and -3.5 (-130). The Seahawks were 8-7-1 against the spread in the regular season (4-3-1 on road) and 7-9 "over/under" (3-5 on road). Minnesota was 13-3 ATS (6-2 at home) and 4-11-1 O/U (3-5 at home).
Seattle is 6-1 ATS in its past seven overall. It is 5-2 ATS in its past seven January games. Minnesota is 5-0 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning road record. It is 10-2 ATS in its past 12 after a win. The under is 4-0 in the Seahawks' past four overall. The under is 9-1 in the Vikings' past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Seahawks at Vikings Betting Predictions
I really don't see an advantage for Minnesota other than being home. I suppose at running back and tight end. Seattle is better at quarterback by far and on defense and special teams. The Seahawks have playoff experience and are familiar with playing in this stadium. Perhaps if Seattle was a dome team and now playing in these frigid elements, I might take Minnesota. But that's obviously not the case. The Vikings lead the NFL with 27 all-time playoff losses. It will be 28. Give the 3.5 points and go under (absolutely love the under).
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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