Breakdowns

Monday Night Football Preview: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team

Here’s a preview of Monday night’s matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Football Team, courtesy of STAT Stack:

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (3-7) AT WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (4-6), 8:15ET

Line: Pick’em, Total: 46.5

ONE THING THAT EVERY FAN NEEDS TO KNOW

Playoffs? You Talkin’ about … Playoffs???

The NFL playoffs without the Seattle Seahawks?? That would be like having the College Football Playoff without Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Alabama! Wait, never mind.

It’s been a strange season in football, especially in the college ranks, where we are likely to see some new competitors vying for the CFP title this season. The Seahawks, an NFL Playoff staple, are currently 3-7 and the only team in the NFC West with a losing record. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 5% chance to make the playoffs this season, which would be only the second time they’ve missed the postseason in the past 10 years (2017). They’re also in danger of failing to post a winning record, something they haven’t done since a 7-9 season in 2011 — the year before they drafted quarterback Russell Wilson with the #75 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

They currently sit in last place in their division, somewhere they’ve never been this late in the season with Wilson at the helm. The Seahawks have never finished a season last in the division since re-alignment in 2002; they are the only team in the NFC West who can stake that claim.

The good news for Seattle is that its schedule sets up well for the rest of the way. The only remaining games against teams with winning records are divisional opponents — facing the Rams (7-3) and the Cardinals (9-2). The Seahawks will also face the 49ers, who are 5-5 and their non-divisional opponents — Washington, Houston, Chicago, and Detroit — have 10 combined wins this season (and two of the Bears wins have come against the winless Lions). The Seahawks have a chance to win games against lower-level competition and to get back into the divisional race by beating the teams ahead of them. Whether or not they can do it is another story, but the opportunity is there.

TRENDS THAT EVERY SPORTS BETTOR NEEDS TO KNOW

The Importance of the Line  

This line has been all over the place in the past 10 days. For everyone’s information, we use the line posted at ESPN.com at the time of publishing for our purposes — that’s the one you will see under each game. But we like to highlight what we see in other books from time to time and that seems very important for this matchup. DraftKings posts their lines over a week in advance, and prior to Week 11 games, they had Seattle as 3.5-point favorites in this one. After the Seahawks second straight loss and WFT’s second straight win, that number dropped to 2.5. Then the bets started coming in on Washington quickly, moving it all the way in their favor (WFT -1) by mid-morning on Monday. However, it would move to WFT -1.5 before turning all the way back in Seattle’s favor, before shifting back to WFT (-1) and then BACK again to Seattle at -1, where their line currently sits. This is one of those rare games where the books have different favorites; several books have Seattle favored, several have Washington and several more have this as a pick’em game. Why does it matter? It shows how volatile this line has been, which means the sportsbooks are struggling to handicap it.

If the line ultimately settles with Washington favored, the trends lean toward Seattle. While the Seahawks are 3-8 against the spread in their past 11 road games, they are 11-4 ATS when they are road underdogs. They’ve also been strong on Monday Nights, going 4-1 ATS in their last five Monday games. Washington, meanwhile, has struggled to a 3-7 ATS record this season, including 1-4 ATS at home. If WFT closes as the favorite, it puts a 1-6 ATS record as a home favorite in its past seven attempts into play (losing five of those games outright). These two teams met in December of last season, with WFT covering the 6-point spread while losing the game 20-15.

According to Action Network, this game is setting up for a “Pros vs. Joes” matchup: 60% of the bets are on Washington (Joes) while 71% of the money, including sharp money (Pros), is on Seattle.

ANALYTICAL ANALYSIS THAT EVERY SPORTS NERD NEEDS TO KNOW

Just a Little Off

Arguably the NFL’s most prolific deep-ball artist, Wilson hasn’t been connecting on the long-ball with the same frequency that he did prior to the finger surgery that cost him 3.5 games this season. But it hasn’t been for lack of effort; according to Next Gen Stats, Wilson has attempted 12 deep passes (balls that travel 20+ air yards beyond the line of scrimmage) over the past two weeks, which leads the NFL.

In his first five starts of the season, Wilson completed 47.4% of deep passing attempts, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions. His expected completion percentage on those throws was just 35.0%, so his completion percentage over expected (CPOE) was +12.4 points. However, over the past two weeks, he’s connected on just two of the 12 deep shots (16.7%) while tossing zero touchdowns and throwing a pick. His expected completion percentage on those throws was 23.3%, so he actually has had a negative CPOE since the start of Week 10 (minus-6.6).

Now he faces a Washington team that struggles to cover the deep ball. WFT has allowed 17 completions of 20+ yards this season, which is tied for fifth-most in the NFL. Washington allows quarterbacks to connect on 50% of deep pass attempts, which is worst in the league, as is its opposing CPOE on deep balls of +17.6.

Wilson’s ability to connect on long passes has been one of the biggest factors of why he’s consistently among the NFL’s leaders in CPOE. He’s the only passer who has ranked in the Top 10 in that category every season since the NFL began tracking the stat (2016). Along with Kirk Cousins, they are the only two quarterbacks who have a CPOE of +4 or higher in each of the past three seasons. But this season, Wilson’s CPOE is just +1.4, which would be his lowest mark ever. He continues to push the ball down the field, averaging 10.0 air yards per pass (third-highest behind Justin Fields and Lamar Jackson) and 0.9 air yards to the sticks (tied for second-highest with Jackson, trailing only Fields). But he’ll need to start connecting with better efficiency on those throws if he wants to turn around both his season and the Seahawks season, whose playoff hopes are dwindling.