The Seattle Seahawks already have put together their most successful season and deepest playoff run since the 2005 campaign. The question is whether the years of excitement and months of Super Bowl buzz will be enough to help this team thrive when it matters most Sunday.
As Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos take on longtime rival Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (four-point underdogs), Russell Wilson and the Seahawks face the task of stamping their own ticket to highly anticipated Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Seahawks not only lead current NFL futures with 2-1 odds of winning the Super Bowl but are also three-point favorites heading into their NFC Championship Game matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
These division rivals know each other all too well, each having reemerged as legitimate forces on the football landscape over the past few years. The two share a coastline and the NFC West division, and they also boast similarly talented young and athletic quarterbacks, monstrous running backs, beloved coaches with media appeal and vaunted defensive units capable of changing the fate of a game. Both are also tied at 11-5 against the spread during the regular season.
While the 49ers and Seahawks might be near clones of each other in many respects, there’s a reason Seattle has jostled for the top spot in the sportsbook all season long.
One of the greatest strengths working in Seattle’s favor is that even though the Seahawks focus primarily on pushing their ground game thanks to immovable force Marshawn Lynch, they also can take to the air. During their Week 2 onslaught on the Niners at CenturyLink Field, which they won 29-3, Lynch ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Over the course of the year, however, Wilson has thrown a respectable 26 touchdowns.
To beat the slightly more athletic and arguably more innovative Colin Kaepernick, Wilson will have to be patient and disciplined. The second-year man under center doesn’t have to outplay Manning or Brady on the stat sheet. He only needs to provide just enough of a passing threat to keep the San Francisco defense honest.
Aside from that, Seattle did manage to showcase a level of consistency over the course of the entire 2013 campaign from which the 49ers could learn. While San Francisco’s streakiness led to the Niners’ current eight-game win streak (5-3 against the spread), Seattle has looked solid since Week 1.
Bettors might be in for one of the greatest and most equally matched games of the postseason, but Seattle’s slight betting line advantage is no accident.