Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:15 AM EST odds are subject to change.
Seattle +9½ over San Francisco
4:35 PM EST. Recent history of the expanded playoff format suggests the back of the field, as represented by these seven-seeds like the Seahawks, are likely to be out of their depth; that was certainly the case last year when both the Eagles and Steelers were outclassed, as were the Bears in 2020. While this might be one of Pete Carroll’s best coaching jobs to steer a team most expected to be in rebuild mode after the Russell Wilson trade into the playoffs instead, the ride likely ends here. That’s because the Niners are the hottest team in the NFL with 10 wins on the spin, as the DeMeco Ryans defense has been arguably the best in the league, and the offense now has most of its weapons back in place with Deebo Samuel’s return to active duty last week and Christian McCaffrey now completely versed in the Kyle Shanahan playbook.
You know who else is completely versed? Iowa State rookie QB Brock Purdy, whose story is well-known by now but whose poise and command of the offense continues to belie his first-year status, as no other rookie QB has won his first five NFL starts since Big Ben did so with Pittsburgh in 2004. If anything, Purdy has looked just as comfy at the controls, and less likely to make an error, than Jimmy G, who went out in the December 4 win vs. Miami but hasn’t been missed, as Purdy has passed for 13 TDs with just 3 picks since entering the lineup, and has developed a special rapport with big-play tight-end George Kittle.
Meanwhile, the Nick Bosa-led stop unit throttled Seattle in both regular-season meetings, allowing just one TD (the ‘Hawks notched their lone points in the 27-7 loss at Santa Clara on September 18 on a blocked-field goal return) and 106 yards across the pair of wins while also constantly in the face of Geno Smith, sacked five times across the two meetings and under constant duress. And while mentioning Bosa, must note his 18.5 sacks and 48 QB knockdowns, both NFL bests in 2022.
The X’s and O’s scream 49ers. San Francisco is the flavor of the month by a wide margin. Even Kirk Herbstreit proclaimed, “You had better watch out for San Francisco”. Such a bold statement, eh Herbie? Looking good Herbie. That’s a pretty suit you're wearing Herb.
Like every person on every panel and talk show, we, too, are not sure how Carroll is going to flip the script with so many fundamental edges seemingly the other way, and Geno's Seahawks offense hardly flying high into the postseason but we’ll repeat for the umpteenth time that we are not in the prediction business.
This is the playoffs. The reactions are strong. The books have to protect from the millions of teaser bets that will be pouring in and we promise you they won’t be on the Seachickens. San Francisco leading it off at -9½ -6 = -3½ for all teaser bettors. Books had to inflate the price on San Francisco here because they’re acutely aware of the liability had they not.
Just because the price is inflated doesn’t mean that the 49ers will not cover. It is a matchup nightmare for Pete Carroll on every level. The presence of both McCaffrey and Samuel in the same lineup means that no matter what personnel a defense puts on the field, they're going to be at a matchup disadvantage. And no coach is better at moving players around to create those disadvantages than Shanahan. Only the Dolphins use more pre-snap motion than the 49ers do; only the Chiefs join the two with motion on at least 65% of their snaps. Playing against this offense requires constant communication between defenders as the skill position players swap roles before the ball is snapped. Giving Shanahan an extra chess piece like this is frankly unfair.
This is where we should mention that the Seahawks are 30th in pass DVOA against running backs. McCaffrey against Cody Barton or Jonathan Abram is a nightmare. They're also 27th against tight ends, which is a problem when dealing with George Kittle, and 30th against second wide receivers. We could go on and on about the matchup nightmare but again, it’s X’s and O’s and an inflated price so while we are not playing the Seahawks, we cannot recommend playing an inflated price or a bad number. Recommendation: Seattle - No bets.
Seattle +9½ -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)