The anticipation for Super Bowl XLVIII was off the charts. It was taking place in the Meadowlands, a cold weather Super Bowl for that first time in a long time. It featured the two best teams in the league with the Denver Broncos from the AFC and the Seattle Seahawks from the NFC. The best offense was going up against the best defense. What happened was a beatdown of epic proportions by the Seahawks and they held the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history.
Here’s a list of what the Seahawks defense led the NFL in: Points per game, yards per game, points per play, yards per play, yards per pass, pass yards per game, opponent interception percentage, turnover margin per game, and takeaways per game. They struggled so much at stopping the other team in the red zone that they could only manage a second-place finish in preventing touchdowns.
While the defense got all the accolades and validated the “Defense wins championships!” crowd, the offense wasn’t too shabby either with just 19 turnovers, 0.426 points per play, which ranked fifth, and had the best field goal conversion percentage. Sure, there were areas where the Seahawks offense struggled, finishing in the bottom half of the league in third down conversion rate and first in highest percentage of sacks on dropbacks, but an elite defense can cover up a lot and the Seahawks rarely had to drive long fields.
It’s completely reasonable to ask about a Super Bowl hangover for the champion. The 2013 Baltimore Ravens went 8-8 after a 10-6 season and two straight 12-4 seasons the three years prior. The 2012 New York Giants repeated the same 9-7 record they when they won the Super Bowl in 2011. The 2011 Green Bay Packers went 15-1 after they won the 2010 Super Bowl, but lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The 2010 New Orleans Saints dropped from 13-3 to 11-5 the year after they hoisted the Lombardi. The 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers dropped to 9-7 after a 12-4 record during their championship run. So the last five Super Bowl champions have averaged a 10.4-5.6 record in the next season following a championship. The Packers obviously skew the data with their 15-1 record. The other four teams did the same or worse the following season.
Oddsmakers have high hopes for the Seahawks this season as Sportsbook.ag has the Seahawks at 11 wins with -115 on both the over and the under, while 5Dimes.eu has them pegged for the same 11 wins but -135 on the over and +105 on the under.
Lines courtesy of CG Technologies:
|2||@ San Diego||-2.5|
|5||@ Washington (Mon)||-4.5|
|7||@ St. Louis||-6|
|10||New York Giants||-10|
|11||@ Kansas City||-2.5|
|13||@ San Francisco (Thu)||+2.5|
The Seattle Seahawks certainly have a daunting schedule with the AFC West and NFC East to go along with six tough division games. They are favored in 14 of their 15 lined games with the lone underdog spot on a short week in Week 13 at San Francisco. The Seahawks are even favored at both Philadelphia and Carolina, which should give you some sort of idea about how high oddsmakers are on the Seahawks. This is a team with one of the best home-field advantages in all of sport, but their respect extends to road games as well.
Because of a first-place schedule, Carolina and Green Bay also appear on the docket. The first three weeks will be a great litmus test for the 2014 Seahawks with Green Bay, San Diego, and Denver right out of the gate before a very early bye week. On one hand, that softens up the rest of the schedule. On another hand, the Seahawks need to be ready from Week 1.
Division rival San Francisco appears on the schedule twice in three weeks and the final four home games for the Seahawks are in difficult places to play against teams that are very good at home. One of the saving graces for the Seahawks is that teams like Carolina and Kansas City are probably due for some regression.
This is hardly an easy schedule, especially because the Seahawks enjoyed playing doormats from the AFC South and NFC South last season, so this is a much stiffer test of their mettle.
Why bet the over?
Russell Wilson grew up a lot last year as a starting quarterback. He orchestrated five game-winning drives and a handful of fourth-quarter comebacks while posting a 26/9 TD/INT ratio and was the team’s second-leading rusher. His development is the major key for the Seahawks, especially this season with a key loss to the wide receiving corps. Wilson posted similar numbers to his 2012 rookie season, which is a good sign because consistency is one of the things that young players struggle with the most. Russell Okung’s return to the offensive line will be huge for Wilson.
Most of the defense returns in tact with a couple of losses but one big gain in defensive end Jared Allen. If there’s one area that the Seahawks were possibly lacking, it was in the sacks department. They still finished eighth with 44, but that was 16 behind Carolina, who had the most. Allen has recorded at least 11 sacks every year since 2007 and has led the league in that category twice. At 32, there should still be a lot left in the tank.
The Seahawks were a hard-hitting, physical defense, but they were also a big play defense, as they forced 39 turnovers. Of those turnovers, 28 of them were interceptions from their high-energy press coverage. The Seahawks weren’t afraid to commit pass interference penalties if it meant taking a shot at a turnover or making a wide receiver think twice. The biggest playmakers remain on defense.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn stuck around despite a few job offers to be a head coach and Pete Carroll is now 38-26 in his four seasons with the Seahawks. The hope is that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel will have the services of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin for more games this season and that makes this offense significantly better with some big play threats to complement the power running game. Second-round pick Paul Richardson could be a darkhorse for NFC Rookie of the Year because of his speed and big play ability when the defenses are cheating against the run.
Why bet the under?
The Seahawks were so good in so many areas last season that regression seems like an expectation. A +20 turnover margin seems difficult to replicate and the Seahawks went 4-2 in games in which they were outgained by the opposition, including their first playoff game against the Saints. They also matched the 49ers yardage output in the conference championship game.
The lloss of Golden Tate will be magnified if one or both of Rice and Harvin misses significant time. Tate was this team’s leading receiver, top punt returner, and his athleticism went a long way in opening up the ground and pound style that the Seahawks found success with.
Even though he was banged up, the loss of Brandon Browner hurts the Seahawks’ defensive depth. The same can be said about the loss of defensive end Chris Clemons. The Seahawks have a top-15 offense, but it’s hardly a group that will light up the scoreboard. Field position thanks to turnovers and other defensive/special teams plays made a marginal offense seem much better than it was. It’s fair to wonder what the Seahawks would be like if their turnover margin dropped to +10 instead of +20.
Pick: Over 11 (-115) (Sportsbook)
A Super Bowl hangover is a definite possibility and win totals this high in the NFL are always scary propositions, but the Seahawks are an elite defense that makes things happen and that has a trickle-down effect to the offense. The offense could be a stronger unit with better health and more options in the passing game for Russell Wilson. The running game is already a threat that defenses have to pay attention to and it only takes a couple Percy Harvin or Sidney Rice big plays to make the Seahawks a matchup problem. The schedule is a beast, but the Seahawks will be favored in 15 of their 16 games and the chances of them getting upset at least five times seem pretty low.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.