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Advantage - Seattle
Advantage: Denver · Seattle · Over · Under
The betting public is keen on Peyton Manning and the Broncos winning the Super Bowl as short favorites. However, Seattle's top-ranked defense may have something to say about the lack of respect shown to the top-seed in the NFC. The Seahawks own the top home-field advantage in the NFL, but Seattle shocked many people with its success on the highway this season.

Pete Carroll's club won six of eight games away from CenturyLink Field, including victories over Carolina and Arizona. The Seahawks fell short by six points at Indianapolis, while losing on a late field goal at San Francisco, 19-17. Seattle covered six times on the highway, as the Seahawks' defense limited five of those opponents to 19 points or less. In nine straight games overall, the Seahawks have allowed 20 points or less, winning seven times in this stretch.

Seattle won three of four games against AFC foes, while covering twice in these contests. The Seahawks failed to cash as three-point favorites at Indianapolis, while falling short of the 12 ½-point number in a 20-13 home triumph over the Titans. Since last season, Seattle has won six of eight interconference contests, with the two losses coming as a three-point road favorite.

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In spite of the Seahawks' numbers going down offensively of late, NFL Expert and VegasInsider.com handicapper Joe Nelson points out that the defenses they faced had something to do with it, "Seattle's offense struggled down the stretch by most measures, scoring just 22 points per game in the seven games after a Week 12 bye. In six of those seven games, the Seahawks faced a team that finished in top eight in the NFL in total defense. On the season, the Seahawks played eight games against teams that finished in the top six in the league in total defense, while Denver did not play a single one. The Broncos actually only played five games all season against teams that finished in the top 20 in the league in total defense."

Taking it a step further, Nelson says the Seahawks held their own considering their competition, "On a yards-per-play basis the numbers are just as glaring, Seattle faced a top 10 yards per play defense in half of its 18 games this season, while Denver only faced one such game all season as the record-setting numbers for the Broncos came against an incredibly weak slate of defenses. Turnovers often decide NFL games and Seattle was the best team in the league at creating turnovers, averaging 2.4 turnovers per game. The Seahawks were also one of the best teams at not giving the ball away while Denver struggled with turnovers this season with 1.6 giveaways per game and those mistakes came against much lesser defensive teams than Seattle."

VegasInsider.com handicapper Antony Dinero points to the weather as a positive for the Seahawks on Sunday, "Seattle is hoping inclement weather can join its pursuit of a championship. Not that the Seahawks are some sort of novelty act, but conditions that make it trickier on Manning and the Broncos passing game obviously favor the team with the top defense and power running game. If snow flurries accompany wind or rain, coach Carroll will undoubtedly be smiling while trying to keep warm, getting an assist from Mother Nature in cementing his game plan."

Nelson makes mention as well of Seattle's top flight passing defense as a major factor, "While the Saints wound up with 301 yards passing in the divisional playoff game with a few big plays in a late rally after Seattle built a lead, no other team topped 214 yards passing against Seattle all season long and it is certainly difficult to envision a scenario where the Broncos win without success in the air."

The Seahawks won their first two playoff games at home against the Saints and 49ers, but Seattle is no stranger to playing on the highway in the postseason. Last season, the Seahawks won at Washington as three-point favorites, before falling short in the divisional round at Atlanta, 30-28 as 2 ½-point underdogs. In Carroll's four postseason road games as coach of the Seahawks, they have covered three times with the lone ATS loss coming at Chicago in 2011 as 10-point 'dogs one week after shocking the Saints in the Wild Card round.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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