Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) @ Arizona Cardinals
JUST OVER A year ago, Pete Carroll’s decision to start a rookie quarterback in the Seattle Seahawks’ 2012 season opener in the University of Phoenix Stadium looked to have backfired spectacularly as his side lost 20-16.
Despite having seven snaps in the red zone (four from the six-yard line) in the final minute, Russell Wilson failed to get the game winning touchdown as Matt Flynn — the man being paid a king’s ransom by Seattle — watched from the sidelines, reminding everyone of that time he scored six touchdowns in a game.
It seems ridiculous now, but the calls for Flynn to start the following week’s game against the Cowboys were almost as loud as the famed ’12th man’ at CenturyLink Field. However, Carroll and Wilson persevered as the Seahawks posted an 11-5 regular season record (including a 58-0 win over the Cardinals in the return game) to reach the divisional round of the playoffs. Flynn, meanwhile, is currently getting ready to be the back-up quarterback in Buffalo.
While this Seahawks team looks even better than the 2012 version, it is worth pointing out that while Russell Wilson has only lost seven games as a starting NFL quarterback, five of them, starting with last year’s loss to the Cardinals, have come when playing under a dome.
Now, you might think that’s just some sort of statistical anomaly along the lines of Andy Dalton’s record against Super Bowl winning quarterbacks (now 5-0 in his last five games) or that it’s a wider reflection of the Seahawks’ struggles on the road but it is something that will continue to be of concern to those of us who see Seattle as Super Bowl contenders.
For the Cardinals, 2013 was always going to be a rebuilding season with a new coach and, while their 3-3 record reflects that, they still have an outside chance of a playoff spot in an unpredictable NFC. Key to them getting a result out of this game will be the league’s fifth ranked run defence. Stop Wilson and Lynch on the ground and you’ve a good chance against the Seahawks.
Verdict: I think the 6.5 point spread is too big on this one but Seahawks should still eke out a win. Seattle by 3.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
While the AFC West might be the best division in football right now — and that’s not a sentence I thought I’d ever write — the NFC East is the most open with even the 0-6 Giants just three games back. However, before anyone gets carried away in Philadelphia or Dallas, it’s worth remembering their three wins have come against teams with a 1-15 and 4-13 respectively. A vintage NFC East this is not.
That said, you can only beat what’s in front of you and Philly will take some confidence from the fact they’ve won two on the bounce and are undefeated inside the division. It looks like Nick Foles will be the man under centre again on Sunday and if he puts his team top of the East, Chip Kelly faces a difficult selection dilemma going forward.
The Cowboys look like they will be without running back DeMarco Murray for the game which isn’t ideal when your rushing attack only ranks 25th in the league (84.8 yards per game) and no other back has a rushing touchdown this season. If Dallas are to win this game, it will be through the air where 14 of their 18 offensive have come this year.
Verdict: Without Murray, the Cowboys will be too one dimensional and allow the Eagles to focus on getting to Tony Romo. Philadelphia by 5.
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
While it’s not really much of a surprise that one of these teams comes into the game with a 6-0 record and the other is struggling at 2-4, few would have predicted the franchise with the perfect record as we enter week seven would be the Chiefs. What Andy Reid is doing in Kansas City has to be commended but it is worth pointing out they weren’t — despite their record last year — a terrible team to begin with.
Now they’re potentially a great team with the stingiest defence in football (10.8 points per game) and a quarterback playing the best football of his professional career. However, all that must be tempered by the fact they’ve probably had the easiest opening six games in NFL history and have still to face a team with a winning record through six weeks.
The Texans, meanwhile, have the look of a team on the brink of a 4-12 season as Gary Kubiack struggles to find the right answers at quarterback. After starting the season as many people’s main threat to the Denver Broncos run at the AFC title, the sky is falling in Houston and if they don’t emerge from this slump soon, they might be able to sort out their QB issues much earlier in next year’s draft than anyone could have imagined.
Verdict: When you’re being beaten by the Rams at home, there’s very little cause for optimism. Chiefs by 10.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons (-7)
St Louis Rams @ Carolina Panthers (-6)
Cincinnati Bengals @ Detroit Lions (-3)
San Diego Chargers (-7.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins (-8.5)
New England Patriots (-4) @ New York Jets
Chicago Bears @ Washington (-1)
San Francisco 49ers (-4) @ Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers (-10)
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5)
Denver Broncos (-6.5) @ Indianapolis Colts
Minnesota Vikings @ New York Giants (-3)
*Note the team in bold has been picked to beat the spread, not necessarily win the game.