Tonight's NFL matchup (FOX, 8:20 p.m. ET) featuring the Green Bay Packers (4-4-1) and the Seattle Seahawks (4-5) is already a virtual playoff game in the crowded NFC field.
Heading into the new week, 11 of 15 conference teams have won-lost records of 4-5 or better. If you assume that the current top two seeds New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams are shoo-ins, that leaves four spots for the other NINE contenders. Neither the Packers nor the Seahawks can afford a loss.
Here’s a quick look at odds for those 11 contenders to win the NFC according to William Hill: LA Rams 130, New Orleans 140, Minnesota 8/1, Green Bay 13/1, Chicago 15/1, Carolina 17/1, Washington 25/1, Philadelphia 25/1, Dallas 35/1, Atlanta 35/1, Seattle 150/1.
Seattle sure sticks out like a sore thumb on that list. The Seahawks are basically in the “no chance” category rather than being thought of as a threat. Is that fair? Consider:
- Seattle has played the fewest home games of any NFC team (3)
- Seattle has played the most road games of any NFC team (6)
- Seattle ranks #4 in NFC point differential anyway
- Seattle has already played both games vs. the Rams
Seattle’s perception as an also-ran may be more due to early scheduling quirks than anything else. Flip a road game for a home game, maybe the record is 5-4 instead of 4-5. That would probably equate to a futures price near the 35/1 marks we see for Dallas and Atlanta. The schedule WILL flip because everyone ultimately plays eight home games and eight road games.
Based on early betting, “the market” sees Green Bay as slightly superior to Seattle. An opening line of Seahawks -2.5 has stood pat, even though home field advantage is generally worth three points in the NFL, (more in Seattle). Clearly oddsmakers and sharps agree that the Packers would be slight favorites in a neutral field meeting.
Can Seattle rate as “slightly worse than Green Bay” and still be good enough to reach the playoffs? It’s a tough needle the thread. Unless, Seattle proves Thursday it’s not slightly worse than Green Bay! If you believe Seattle is a value bet at -2.5 Thursday, you should probably consider taking flyers at those huge futures prices. Seattle at 5-5 with extra home games ahead isn’t 150/1 to win the NFC, even if it remains a longshot.