As you know, the Seahawks are 1-2 and awfully close to being 0-3 were it not for Russell Wilson’s game-saving fourth-quarter drive against the 49ers two weeks ago. They are 0-3 against the point spread, which matters in Las Vegas if nowhere else. But betting lines on games at least give you an idea of how a team is playing based on public perception.
In each game against Green Bay, San Francisco and Tennessee, they haven’t really come all that close to the lines on the games. With every team, that changes over the course of the season because adjustments are made. For instance, the Seahawks are favored by 13 this Sunday against the Colts. I’m guessing if the Seahawks were 0-3 and been blown out in every game, they’d be favored by single digits over the Colts.
Who knows what to make of Pete Carroll’s team anymore? You can make a great case for the Seahawks to pummel the Colts, using several factors to support your case:
• The Seahawks are 19-3-1 in prime-time games under Carroll.
• The Colts, without Andrew Luck, might be one of the worst teams in the league, avoiding a winless record mainly because they played the Browns last week.
• The Colts arrive with a quarterback making his fifth NFL start, Jacoby Brissett, and don’t you think a guy who was a third-stringer at New England last year will be rattled by the 12s Sunday night?
But the Seahawks have sputtered so much in their first three games it can also make you wonder why they can be 13-point favorites over any NFL team. For as much as we look at them and think they’ll be fine, that they’ll be a 10- or 11-win team by the end of the season, this might be the year they go 8-8 and the wheels come completely off.
Even with Oday Aboushi replacing Mark Glowinski at right guard last week, I still don’t think the offensive line is up to snuff – Super Bowl snuff, anyway. What you’re hoping for is the line to be OK at the very least – greatness is too much to expect. If the O-line is average, good things can happen, and at least the addition of Aboushi gave you the feeling that average is attainable.
For the first two weeks, we all complained about the offensive line, and last week in Nashville, there was something new to be concerned about. When San Francisco ran roughshod over the Seahawks, we thought it was an outlier, an aberration. When Tennessee did the same thing, now we’re worried about the defensive line too. What’s the matter with those guys? Isn’t that a strength of the team? How can they be trailing 31 other teams, allowing an average of 5.3 yards per rush?
I hear the stuff about it being easy to correct. Players need to have more gap integrity. They’re trying to do too much, and if they just handle their own personal responsibility on run plays, that will be the solution. Maybe so. Or maybe it’s something else that’s related to the personnel, as in, maybe the players aren’t as stout against the run as we thought they’d be.
Like everyone else, I expect the run defense to be better this week mainly because Frank Gore is 34 years old. When Gore was in his 20s he was tough to stop, and he seemed to have some of his best games against the Seahawks. But if he runs for 100 yards against the Seahawks at the age of 34, you know you have problems that are bigger than gap integrity.
On the other side, this might be the night when Chris Carson has his first 100-yard game, though when I look at Indianapolis’ stats, it appears that Russell Wilson will have more opportunities through the air than Carson will have on the ground.
I know this, if I’m Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy, I’m not happy with what Carroll had to say Wednesday at his press conference. It’s unlikely that C.J. Prosise will play because of a sprained ankle. If I’m Rawls and Lacy, I’m thinking: “Great, I’ll get more of a chance to play this week.” Not so fast. Carroll said we’ll see more of J.D. McKissic because McKissic is more of a third-down back like Prosise.
So I’m guessing this week will be a lot like last week for Rawls and Lacy – the only place you’ll see them is on the sideline, and in Lacy’s case, I think we’re a week or two away from him being released. It’s clear that Carson is Seattle’s best running back, and he’s apparently so much better than Rawls and Lacy that it doesn’t even allow for a few carries a game by his backups.
We’re either going to see the Seahawks snap out of it, and Carroll’s prime-time mark suggests that they will, but here’s another stat that says they won’t – according to ESPN’s Mike Sando, since 2011 the Seahawks are 28th in the NFL in scoring in the first half and fourth in the second half. Here’s one more – since 2011, they’re 25th in explosive plays in games 1 through 8 and third in games 9 through 16.
This team is known for slow starts in games AND seasons, and here we are in the fourth game this year. I’d also argue that they’re guilty of playing down to inferior opponents, which could be the case in this game.
I’ll predict another slog of a night with Brissett being better than anticipated, good enough to keep the Colts in the game until Wilson comes to the rescue again.
Colts (+13) at Seahawks: Seattle 24, Indianapolis 17
Washington (-26 1/2) at Oregon State: The Beavers needed a last-minute touchdown to beat Portland State, otherwise they’d be winless. I’m surprised how bad they are, and I’ll bet Beaver fans are too – when they lured Gary Andersen away from Wisconsin I thought it was a good hire, but he’s 7-21 at Oregon State. I’d say he’s on the hottest Pac-12 coaching seat next to Jim Mora, though come to think of it, Todd Graham at ASU and Rich Rodriguez at Arizona must be feeling the heat too. The Huskies looked terrific against Colorado last week and there’s no reason to think the Beavers have much of a chance at all. Huskies 52, Beavers 16.
USC (-4) at Washington State: Listen, I’m a homer when it comes to the Cougs, but I don’t know how good we are given the competition we’ve played and the good fortune we’ve had to beat Boise State in double overtime. USC narrowly beat big-underdog Texas in double overtime and had its hands full with Cal last week. The Trojans are still ranked No. 5 in the country for reasons that must be based on the fact that they’ve won 13 in a row over two seasons. I hate the whole “Fight On” thing with USC, and “Conquest” and the white horse and the two fingers their fans hold up when their band plays their annoying songs. But I also think their team is better than the Cougs, and it’s been that way for a long time unfortunately – USC holds a 57-9-4 edge in the all-time series. I’d like to see that nine switch to a 10, but actually think the 57 will turn into a 58. I’ve seen us wilt in big games before, and this one is wilt-worthy too, though I’d prefer to see us win so my kids can rush the field and meet their Snapchat hero Marcellus Pippins. Trojans 41, Cougars 27