By Jim Moore
Sunday at CenturyLink Field, it’s a classic matchup of two teams going in different directions.
The Seahawks are 7-5 and coming off a huge overtime win in Chicago that puts them in the thick of the playoff race and on the cusp of the NFC West race with San Francisco.
If the Seahawks can win the NFC West – and they’re only 1.5 games behind the 8-3-1 49ers – they could even earn the No. 2 playoff seed if they win their last four games to finish 11-5.
Atlanta owns the No. 1 spot at 11-1, but look at the other division leaders. The Packers are 8-4, but the Seahawks hold the tiebreaker edge thanks to Golden Tate; and the Giants are 7-5 and looking as if they’ll finish 10-6 or 9-7. They might even lose the NFC East to the 6-6 Redskins or 6-6 Cowboys.
As you know, Russell Wilson is playing lights out, and the Seahawks offense seems unstoppable now, compensating for a surprisingly suspect defense of late.
The Cardinals have the NFL’s worst offense but an opportunistic defense that ranks second in interceptions with 18. (AP)
The Cardinals have been horrible for two months. They haven’t won since Sept. 30, dropping eight in a row. They have the worst offense in the league, averaging 279 yards and 15.5 points a game. All of which has put coach Ken Whisenhunt on the hot seat.
So why am I taking the Cardinals plus-10 in this game? Why would I risk a 10-2 record against the spread in Seahawks games this season by taking the lowly Cardinals?
I don’t have great reasons. I don’t even have good reasons. But I’ll list them as follows:
• I’ve learned over the years that when a pointspread looks too good to be true, it is. I’m with you in thinking the Seahawks should hammer the Cardinals at CenturyLink. But it just looks too obvious, which makes me suspicious. Those guys in Vegas know what they’re doing when they set those lines. Be very, very careful if you’re thinking about betting big money on the Hawks this week.
• The Cardinals have a terrific defense. They’re ranked seventh in the NFL, which I guess doesn’t necessarily qualify as “terrific.” But it qualifies as very good, especially when you consider that Arizona has 18 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. The Cardinals are also plus-7 in turnover differential.
• The Seahawks are double-digit favorites for the first time this season. I’m not sure how they’ll handle that role. You could counter by saying that they’ll be just fine, particularly since Wilson is playing so well and they’re unbeaten at home. I hope you’re right.
• Whisenhunt gives the Cardinals a chance by replacing erratic rookie Ryan Lindley with erratic veteran John Skelton at quarterback. Skelton’s awful, too, just a little less awful than Lindley, but he’s 2-0 against the Seahawks and he should be better equipped to deal with the din at CenturyLink.
• I’m probably putting too much stock into this reason, but here it is – I was in Phoenix a few weeks ago and watched Arizona’s game at Atlanta. The Cardinals lost 23-19, but they intercepted five of Matt Ryan’s passes and recovered a fumble. They’re the definition of opportunistic on defense.
Again, you could counter by saying: “Hey Jim, are you ignoring the fact that the Cardinals’ run defense has been really vulnerable of late? Haven’t you noticed that three of their last four opponents have rushed for more than 170 yards?
“So wouldn’t you think that Marshawn Lynch will have a big game against them, especially when you consider that Beast Mode averages 101.8 yards a game at home this year?”
I’d reply by saying: “Ya know what, touché, you’re absolutely right.”
But something smells fishy with this game and that 10-point line. I’m taking the Seahawks to win but the Cardinals to cover the spread.
Prediction: Seahawks 17, Cardinals 9
Season record against the spread: 10-2