Put yourself in the shoes of the Seattle Seahawks.
You won a huge showdown against the Saints on Monday night to improve to 11-1. You lead the Panthers and Saints (with the tiebreaker over both) by two games, and every other NFC division leader by four games. You lead the 49ers by three games in the NFC West, and your final three games are at the Giants, then home to the Cardinals and Rams. You'll be heavy favorites in each game.
So, what exactly is your motivation for this week's game against the 49ers?
The Seahawks are likely going to be the No. 1 seed regardless of what happens this week. Sure, beating a key rival would be nice, but is that enough?
Meanwhile the 49ers are coming into this game with a lot of motivation. They are just a game ahead of Arizona and the Eagles/Cowboys for the sixth seed in the NFC, and are trying to avenge a Week 2 loss at Seattle. The 49ers want to make a statement that they're a team to fear going into the playoffs.
The Seahawks made that statement on Monday night already. I expect a fired-up 49ers team to easily cover the 2.5-point spread. It won't change what I think of the Seahawks if they lose. And if they can beat a tough 49ers team on the road, without a ton of urgency to win, then you know the 2013 Seahawks really might be a very special team.
Here are the rest of this week's picks:
Jacksonville (+3) over Houston (picked earlier): I know NFL teams hate firing coaches during the season, but the Gary Kubiak firing might have been the right move. Maybe it snaps Houston to attention and they finish the season on a positive note.
Cincinnati (-6.5) over Indianapolis: That's a lot of points to give the Colts, but they're just not playing good football right now.
New England (off) over Cleveland: It looks like the Browns will be between 10- and 13-point underdogs now that Jason Campbell has been named starting quarterback. I don't think it really matters who starts.
N.Y. Jets (-2.5) over Oakland: If the Jets can't get this one, the Rex Ryan watch will start to heat up.
Detroit (+2.5) over Philadelphia: Just got a feeling that the Nick Foles regression should be starting about now.
Pittsburgh (-3) over Miami: Maybe, combined, these two teams can come up with five good offensive linemen. Maybe those five could play for both teams. I doubt either quarterback would vote against that plan.
Tampa Bay (-2.5) over Buffalo: I like the Bills in general, but that loss last week to the Falcons is a morale killer.
Kansas City (-3) over Washington: OK, here's your weird line of the week. I know Vegas doesn't love the Chiefs, but come on now. If they lose this game, there are real problems in K.C.
Minnesota (+6.5) over Baltimore: The race for the AFC sixth seed just has to end up with like four teams at 6-7 after this week, right? That's the only possible way it can go.
Tennessee (+12) over Denver: Let me see Peyton Manning play really well in frigid temperatures before giving 12 points to anyone. The forecast calls for a high of 16 degrees in Denver on Sunday.
St. Louis (+6.5) over Arizona: The Rams do just enough to make them interesting. I wouldn't be totally shocked if they won this game. Wouldn't be shocked if they lost by three touchdowns, either.
San Diego (-3) over N.Y. Giants: This line could be three times what it is, I still take the Chargers. The far superior team is at home and only giving a field goal? Sure.
New Orleans (-3) over Carolina: I've been riding the Panthers bandwagon since early in the offseason, but it's dumb to pick against the Saints at the Superdome.
Dallas (+1) over Chicago: We know this much – neither defense will be able to get a key stop when it needs one. No idea who wins this game, and the coin came up Cowboys.
Last week: 6-9-1
Season to date: 77-111-6
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