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NFC semifinals previews

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Editor's note: Don't miss out on ASA's Seattle-Washington winner

SEATTLE -9 (41) VS. WASHINGTON


Tampa Bay playing with a fairly inexperienced QB in Chris Simms struggled last week.  Turnovers did them in as Washington scored on a 51-yard fumble return for one of their two touchdowns.  The Skins scored their only offensive TD on miniscule drive that was set up by a Lavar Arrington interception return to the Tampa Bay 6-yard line.  Washington only had 120 yards of total offense.  That’s it.  Only 25 of those yards came through the air.  That was the fewest total yards ever for a team that won a playoff game.  However, that was against a Tampa defense that allowed the fewest yards in the NFL this year.  Tampa Bay out gained Washington 243 to 120 and had a nine minute time of possession edge, but lost by a TD.  The Bucs also ran 63 offensive plays to just 47 for the Redskins.  Turnovers and where the turnovers were committed were once again the deciding factor.  That seems to be the norm in the NFL. 


This week Washington makes the cross country trip to Seattle.  The Hawks are favored by 9 points with the total currently set at 41.  This will be the Redskins third straight road game after traveling to Philly to end the regular season and then to Tampa last weekend.  That is not a great situation for Washington to be in.  In fact, NFL teams playing their third straight road game are just 80-113 (41%) vs. the point spread dating back to 1980.  In this same set, if that road team is off an outright win as an underdog, then they are just 17-38 ATS (31%) in their third road game. 


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Seattle is a perfect 8-0 at home (6-2 vs. the number) winning by an average margin of 17 PPG.  The downside for the Seahawks is, they played an extremely weak schedule.  The Birds played in the very poor NFC West (St. Louis, Arizona & San Francisco).  Those three teams all had losing records and were a combined 15-33 on the season.  Of their 8 home games, Seattle played four teams with a record of .500 or better.  They won three of those four games by just three points each (Atlanta, NY Giants & Dallas).  The fourth was a 15 point win over Indianapolis which has a big asterisk next to it.  Indy had already wrapped everything up and played their back ups for most of the game.  Seattle needed the win to guarantee home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Thus, we’ll throw that game out. 


These two teams met in Washington in week four of the regular season.  The Redskins were two point favorites in that game and won 20-17.  Seattle’s defense did give up 141 yards rushing in that game which they can’t do in this one and expect to cover.  Because of that, Washington had a whopping 13 minute time of possession edge in that game.  Finally, home teams in the NFL playoffs with rest and off a SU loss (Seattle lost @ GB to end the season) are 22 & 7 ATS, including 5 & 1 the last 6.  In the five most recent wins the average margin of victory has been 17.4 ppg.   

 

 

CHICAGO -3 (30) vs. CAROLINA        

 

The first thing that jumped out at us in this game was the total.  Thirty points?  Wow, that is low.  In fact, we took a look back in our database and since 1987, the lowest total for an NFL playoff game was 31.5.  That was until this one.  Heck, if these two can somehow get the score to 14-14 it’s going over this total.  While both teams play stout defense that seems very low to us.  We understand why it is where it is, but that still seems low.  To put that total in perspective, since 2002 there have been 48 playoff games.  Only seven of those games (14%) have landed under 30 total points.  However, two of those seven have already come this year with Carolina 23, NY Giants 0 and Washington 17, Tampa Bay 10.   One thing that can factor into a total late in the year and during the playoffs is the weather if a “northern” team plays host.  Snow and wind can make it tough for teams to operate on offense resulting in a more conservative game plan which favors the under.  However, that shouldn’t be the case in Chicago this weekend as the current forecast is for the temperature to be in the mid to upper 40’s on Sunday with no precipitation.  If that’s the case, it’s going to feel like summer time in the windy city.  Obviously we don’t want to play weatherman a week in advance here, so you may want to keep an eye on this as we get closer to game time. 


These two teams met up on at this same venue back on November 20th.  The Panthers were actually a three point favorite in Chicago for that game.  The total was set at 34.  The Bears completely shut down Carolina’s offense winning the game 13-3.  Chicago led the game 13-0 at half and allowed a fourth quarter field goal to the Panthers.  Carolina QB Jake Delhomme passed for 235 yards but threw two interceptions.  Kyle Orton was under center for the Bears that day and had problems moving the team.  The starter on Sunday will be Rex Grossman who has shown some signs that he can spark a bit of life into the passing game. 


Carolina is one of the best underdog teams in the NFL.  Dating back to the middle of the 2002 season, the Cats have covered 16 of the last 18 times they’ve been tabbed an underdog.  However, they are also playing their third consecutive road game which doesn’t bode well for them (see Washington – Seattle analysis).  Chicago falls into a nice 75% system (22-7 ATS, same as Seattle above) that deals with a rested home playoff team coming off an outright loss to end the regular season.

 

  
HEADLINES
Rogers: Saturday's Preseason Tips
Marshall: Ravens rising up
Mejia: Week 2 Preseason Notes - NFC
Lawrence: 2014 AFC Season Preview
Mejia: Week 2 Preseason Notes - AFC
ASA: NFC North Notebook
ASA: NFC South Notebook
Marshall: Philadelphia Hype
Rogers: AFC North Preview
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