Free NFL Picks: 49ers at Seahawks Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/16/2014
Is this the greatest final four in the NFL playoffs this century? I'd definitely make the argument that it is indeed as it's pretty clearly the best four teams remaining -- and the four preseason Super Bowl favorites.
You have the greatest individual rivalry of this generation in the AFC Championship Game as future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady face off for the 15th time and perhaps last in the playoffs with both QBs on the downside of their unbelievable careers. Manning probably goes down as the greatest regular-season QB ever, while Brady can become the first to play in six Super Bowls.
However, I'm a bit Brady-Manning'd out, so I'm going to look at Seahawks-49ers, two mirror images and who absolutely despise one another. It's almost like they make moves just to counter one another. For example, shortly after Seattle traded for receiver Percy Harvin this offseason, the Niners countered by stealing Anquan Boldin from Baltimore. The two coaches love to one-up each other ever since Jim Harbaugh's huge underdog Stanford team routed USC in 2009 and Pete Carroll asked Harbaugh afterward "What's your deal?" in terms of Stanford going for a two-point conversion late in the game to presumably run up the score.
Both Seattle and San Francisco would rather run than pass and win with defense. Whereas Brady v. Manning was the rivalry of the 2000s, Russell Wilson vs. Colin Kaepernick could replace that as the top individual matchup for the next decade (not in individual statistics, though). And even better: Those two are guaranteed to play twice each regular season unless one leaves (no chance).
49ers at Seahawks Betting Story Lines
The 49ers look like the better team right now, having won eight straight games (5-3 ATS), with the past three on the road. The Arizona game in the regular-season finale was essentially a playoff game for the Cardinals, and it's the only time the Niners have been a dog since Nov. 17 at New Orleans, the team's last road defeat. Interestingly, San Francisco has scored exactly 23 points in the past three games. The only team to top 24 points against the Niners during the winning streak was Atlanta's 24 in the Candlestick Park finale on Dec. 23.
While the defense has been excellent all season, the difference in the winning streak has been the return of receiver Michael Crabtree, the Niners' version of Harvin (when Harvin is healthy, which he hasn't been all season). Other than two 100-yard games, Crabtree hasn't had big numbers, but obviously his presence on the field makes defenses pay attention and thus take a little less focus off WR Anquan Boldin and TE Vernon Davis. I still can't believe the Niners only gave up a sixth-round pick for Boldin just because Boldin told the Ravens he wouldn't take a $2 million pay cut (how'd that work out Ravens?). Boldin was a beast last postseason, and in these playoffs he has 11 catches for 174 yards. Last week, all but one of his eight catches against Carolina was for a first down. Davis isn't getting many targets, but when he does it usually ends in a touchdown. He has caught one in eight of the past nine games.
It will be interesting to see which Niners running game shows up in this one. Frank Gore had just 16 yards on nine carries in the Sept. 15 29-3 loss in Seattle. In the rematch on Dec. 8, he had 110 yards on 17 carries. Kaepernick, who has yet to lose a road playoff game in his career, hasn't been good in the two Seattle games. He was 13-of-28 for 127 yards and three picks in the loss and 15-of-29 for 175 yards, a TD and a pick in the win. He did rush for 87 yards in the loss and had a season-high 98 yards on the ground in the wild-card win over Green Bay. However, Carolina's excellent defense held him to 15 yards on eight carries.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have to be somewhat concerned about Russell Wilson. In the past five games, starting with that loss to the 49ers, Wilson has thrown for more than 199 yards once (206) with a total of four touchdowns and three interceptions. His completion percentage is way down. Wilson struggled in the Week 2 win over San Francisco, completing a season-low eight passes in 19 tries for 142 yards, a TD and an interception. He was 15-of-29 for 199 yards, a TD and interception in the loss at Candlestick. I think the Seahawks desperately need Harvin, but he's still iffy after suffering a concussion in last week's win over New Orleans. They just have no one to stretch the field with Sidney Rice also lost for the season. Huge, huge edge there to San Francisco.
Look for Seattle to ride Marshawn Lynch heavily again. He has done well against San Francisco, carrying 28 times for 98 yards and two scores in the first meeting and 20 times for 72 yards and a TD in the last one. That was the only game all season the Seahawks lost in which Lynch got 20 carries. He blew up the Saints last week with 140 yards and two scores on 28 carries.
49ers at Seahawks NFL Playoffs Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, Seattle is a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 38.5. The Niners were 11-5 against the spread the season (7-1 on road) and are 1-1 ATS on road in the playoffs. They were 8-8 "over/under" during the season (5-3 on road) and are 0-2 O/U in postseason. The Seahawks were 11-5 ATS during the season (5-3 at home) and 6-10 O/U (3-5 at home). They failed to cover last week, and it went under. The Niners are 10-1 ATS in their past 11 road games against teams with a winning home record. Seattle is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 after an ATS loss. It has covered 12 of its past 16 against teams with a winning record. The under is 5-1 in the Niners' past six following an ATS win. The under is 6-0 in Seattle's past six games. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings. Seattle has covered the past four.
Free NFL Picks: 49ers at Seahawks Betting Predictions
The other big injury to note outside of Harvin is to 49ers starting cornerback Carlos Rogers. He is expected to return after sitting out both playoff games thus far with a hamstring injury.
This game is tough to call because they are so even, although I give the offensive edge slightly to San Francisco. Defensively? Push. The Niners have been routed in their past two visits to Seattle, and the 12th Man will be at full throat this weekend. I'm sure Harbaugh has the Niners practicing in ear-splitting noise all week. It's very rare for both No. 1 seeds these days to reach the Super Bowl, and I think Denver does win. So I'm leaning 49ers here -- jump on 3.5 now because it's 3.0 at some books -- and the over (weather shouldn't be a big factor) because the total is so low. It's a whopping 17 points less than Patriots-Broncos.
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