Week 11 Monday Night Football Preview: Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| November 17, 2017 12:00 am PST
falcons-vs-seahawks

In the Week 11 edition of Monday Night Football, fans and gamblers across the nation get to watch what should be a thrilling rematch of last year’s NFC Divisional Playoff round: It’s the Atlanta Falcons taking on the Seattle Seahawks. But this time, it’s at Seattle’s place.

Last year, Seattle played Atlanta without Earl Thomas. This year, they’ll be without Richard Sherman.

The Seahawks’ star quarterback and Legion of Boom member is one of the most intelligent players in the league, and one of the most well-spoken. And many people don’t know the most tragic thing about Richard Sherman tearing his Achilles on Thursday Night Football last week against the Arizona Cardinals:

Last year, Richard Sherman wrote an article for The Players’ Tribune about how much he hates Thursday Night Football. The main thrust of his argument? It disregards player safety.

For many Seattle fans, losing Sherman – who has played all 16 games every single year since being drafted by the Seahawks in 2011 – was unthinkable. But Sherman had thought about it. And now, to add insult to injury, (literally), his season-ending Achilles tear came during a Thursday Night Football game.

Without Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ Super Bowl dreams suffer a huge blow.

  • Who: Atlanta Falcons (5–4) vs. Seattle Seahawks (6–3)
  • Where: CenturyLink Field. Seattle, Washington
  • When: Monday, November 20, 2017. 8:30 PM (EST) on ESPN

Either way, though, if they hope to even make the playoffs they have to go through Atlanta first, who are also fighting for their playoff lives. Below, I’ll preview everything you need to know for the following:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

Last year, the Falcons beat up on the Seahawks in the playoffs. Seahawks fans will cite the fact that they were missing Earl Thomas. But this year, they’ll be without Richard Sherman, and, to foreshadow, I’m not so sure that the result will be any different.

Falcons vs. Seahawks Betting

FootballMoneyLine
  • Falcons +120
  • Seahawks -140

In picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the two teams match up holistically, in order to assign a mental advantage to one team or the other.

In my experience, when a team is able to maintain its mental toughness for the entire 60-minute game, they will generally be able to limit the mental mistakes that cost games. On the other hand, if a team loses its mental edge, it will begin making mental mistakes like errant throws, dropped passes, blown coverages, penalties, missed blocking assignments, and a whole host of others.

And when these mistakes pile up, the momentum of the game can easily spiral out of control. A team gets behind in the down and distance, can’t stay on the field on offense, their defense gets gassed, and the mistakes continue to pile up. The game spirals out of control and ends in a loss.

The first place I look for a mental edge is home-field advantage, which the Seahawks have in Seattle.

CenturyLink Field is known for having an excellent home-field advantage. The 12th Man culture is real, and a Seattle home game in 2014 actually set the Guinness World Record for the loudest decibel count inside of an outdoor stadium. It will be loud for Matt Ryan and the Falcons.

However, home-field advantage operates by impacting the communication between quarterback and offensive line. And the Falcons have one of the most well-disciplined lines in the game.

Even though Matt Ryan hasn’t played at anywhere near the level of his MVP season last year, it’s important to remember that a great season is built from multiple different puzzle pieces. The “scheme” piece has taken a huge step backward, moving from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian. But the O-line and communication piece has remained constant, so I think the Falcons will be fine in Seattle.

Seattle has won 4 of their last 5 against the spread when hosting an East Coast team, and they’ve also won 11 straight on MNF. I see both of these trends equalizing.

No one could deny that Russell Wilson and the Seahawks perform incredibly well on national TV. They rise to the occasion: Wilson has a 6–0 record with 12 TDs and no picks for his career on Monday Night Football. And sometimes, statistical trends indicate that a pattern is going to continue. Most of the time, though, a statistical trend just means dumb luck, which will ultimately regress back to the mean.

In this game, the trends equalize. I’m envisioning the same result that happened last year when the Seahawks lost Earl Thomas: They finished out the game with a win (40–7, over the Panthers), but then the next game they got torched on defense against a good offense (10–38, to the Packers).

Last week, they lost Sherman, but still beat the Cardinals. This week, their defense gets torched.

Pick: Falcons to win

FootballSpread
  • Falcons +3 (-110)
  • Seahawks -3 (-110)

Given that the Falcons are road underdogs in this game, the fact that I’ve already picked Atlanta to win straight-up means that I’ve obviously already made my pick against the spread as well.

Usually, when I pick games against the spread, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In my experience, when a team is both able to stay mentally tough enough to win and also matches up well enough on offense to score points, they’ll generally be able to win both straight-up and against the spread. On the other hand, if the losing team’s defense can generate stops, they’ll usually cover.

In order to shore up my case for a Falcons win, take a closer look at Atlanta’s offense vs. Seattle’s D.

The conventional narrative for the Falcons’ offense this year is that they have this enormous Super Bowl hangover, and now they’re back to being mediocre after being best in the league last year. The conventional narrative points out that after a 5-game losing streak against the spread, the Falcons “got back on track” last week by hammering the Cowboys 27–7, notching three TDs.

Unfortunately, this conventional narrative just doesn’t tell the whole story about the Falcons’ offense this season, which has been better than they’ve been getting credit for all season.

The Falcons have been moving the ball, they just haven’t been scoring. Even with the 15th-ranked scoring offense, they’re ranked 5th in the league in both net yards per pass attempt and yards per carry (an impressive 4.5). They hold the ball for the 6th-longest per offensive drive in the league.

Atlanta gains the 3rd-most yards per drive in the NFL, but these long drives don’t turn into points because they have the worst average starting position in the league.

Meanwhile, Julio Jones has been quiet for two straight weeks. Against the Panthers, he dropped a wide-open TD. Against the Cowboys, the Falcons stopped throwing in the second half of the blowout, so he didn’t get any targets.

Last year, Ryan had a perfect passer rating throwing to Julio – when Richard Sherman wasn’t on him.

And luckily, Steve Sarkisian will be able to study all of the game film from these matchups – he’ll basically have Kyle Shanahan on film, teaching him how to beat the Seahawks’ Cover-3 scheme.

Don’t overthink this: Seattle will start Jeremy Lane in place of Sherman (who, let’s not forget, they tried to trade to the Texans, but who then failed his physical), and just picked up Byron Maxwell off the street after he was cut by the Dolphins last month. Opposing passers’ completion percentages go up by 25% when they’re not throwing on Sherman, and their passer ratings double. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have been looking for a spark to reignite their passing offense: They’ll light up Atlanta’s D this week.

Pick: Falcons to win, covering the spread

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 45 (-110)
  • Under 45 (-110)

Now that I’ve made my pick for the Falcons to win because of how atrocious the Seahawks’ record has been when the full Legion of Boom is not on the field, and I’ve supported this pick by looking at how underrated the Falcons’ offense has been this season, it’s now time to answer the question of whether this will be a generally high- or low-scoring game.

When picking games for the total score over/under bet, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In my experience, when a team both scores enough points to win the game against the spread and can also generate stops on defense, they will generally be able to control the flow and timing of the game to such a degree that the total score goes under. On the other hand, if the losing team can score points of their own, the game can turn into a shootout that pushes the total score over.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the total score over/under is whether Atlanta can get stops.

Everyone’s heard by now about the Falcons’ defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who, in a single game, last week against the Cowboys, rocketed up from 2.0 sacks to 8.0 on the season. In doing so, Clayborn hit one of his contract incentives and earned a $750,000 pay-day.

If Clayborn were a true gentleman, he would send $100,000 of that cash in a manila envelope to Chaz Green, who basically gifted him 5 of his 6 sacks last week.

My point is that before you crown Adrian Clayborn and declare that the Falcons’ pass rush (or their defense in general) is “back,” let’s not forget that if you take away the 5 sacks on a backup left tackle who had a HORRIBLE game, the Falcons are ranked 17th in the league in total team sacks.

It’s true that the Seahawks could be without starting left tackle Duane Brown, a recent trade pickup.

But either way, the matchup between the Seahawks’ O-line and the Falcons’ pass rush doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether the Falcons can keep Russell Wilson in the pocket. Two weeks ago, the Falcons were gashed by Cam Newton, who gained 80+ yards on scrambles. They responded last week by keeping Dak in the pocket (to great effect). And now they face another mobile QB in Wilson.

Ultimately, I believe that Wilson will be able to get outside the pocket and scramble, and I do think that the Seahawks will be able to move the ball in the passing game.

The Cowboys tried to execute their same ground-and-pound attack for over three-quarters last week with Alfred Morris in for Zeke Elliott and Chaz Green in for Tyron Smith. That was a stupid idea. The Seahawks haven’t been able to run the ball much at all this year, so they’ll come out with guns blazing.

I’m envisioning a shoot-out, as usual: The total has gone over 6 of the last 7 between these two teams.

Pick: Seahawks 21, Falcons 30

FootballProp Bets

Now that I’ve established my overall prediction for the game, it’s time to take a look at some prop bets that will give us another opportunity to profit off of this view of the game. Specifically, I believe that the following props will hold value in this game:

  • Julio Jones to go over his posted total for receiving yards. The Falcons’ star receiver has been held in check for several weeks now, with a strange drop & flop against the Panthers, and then a lack of passing in the blowout win against the Cowboys. This week, with no Sherman, he surges.
  • The Falcons to have the longest touchdown yardage. The Falcons have a disciplined defense that does not allow the big play. The Seahawks just lost Richard Sherman, and could also be without Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, or Shaq Griffin (or at least one of them). I see a bomb.
  • Tevin Coleman as an anytime touchdown scorer. With Devonta Freeman suffering his second concussion of the season, Coleman is the primary workhorse. And with the Seahawks having given up the 22nd-most rushing TDs in the league, I like Coleman’s odds to get in the end zone.

In addition to the in-game props above, I also believe the following future bets hold value:

  • The Atlanta Falcons to make the playoffs. If they win on Monday, the Falcons would be 6–4, meaning they’d have to go 3–3 or better the rest of the way to have a shot. Luckily (or unluckily), two of these six games are against the Saints: If they win those, they should be in.
  • Shaq Griffin for Defensive Rookie of the Year. In a year that hasn’t featured any obvious candidate to take the defensive rookie award, Shaq Griffin’s presence among the Legion of Boom (and now his much greater role in the Seahawks’ D) could propel him to the award.
  • The Seattle Seahawks to miss the playoffs. The Seahawks should end up 6–4, and the Rams are 7–2. If the Rams take the division, the ‘hawks need a Wild Card. If they lose their games (without Richard Sherman) against the Eagles, Jaguars, Rams, and Cowboys, they could easily end up 8–8.

It’s not enough to just gamble on individual games. Keep your eyes peeled for any clues that will tip you off for the futures above, and thank me later.

Summary: Best Bets

The Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons met last year in the playoffs, and the Seahawks’ defense got torched by Matt Ryan. Seahawks fans point to the fact that they didn’t have Earl Thomas on the field, and their record without the full Legion of Boom is atrocious. But this year, they just lost Richard Sherman last week to a torn Achilles, so they’re back in the same spot.

I believe that the loss of Sherman means disaster for Seattle, and I think it means a home loss. I see Julio Jones torching Jeremy Lane, and Atlanta’s offense rolling. On defense, though, I believe that most of Adrian Clayborn’s success last week was actually just Chaz Green’s failure, so I’m not expecting the Falcons to be able to get after Russell Wilson. I like Seattle to score points in the passing game.

In order to profit off of this prediction for the game, here are my best bets:

  • Falcons +120 moneyline
  • Falcons +3 against the spread (-110)
  • The total score to go over 45 (-110)
  • Julio Jones to go over his posted total for receiving yards
  • The Falcons to have the longest touchdown yardage
  • Tevin Coleman as an anytime touchdown scorer

The Seahawks haven’t played a game without Richard Sherman since they drafted him: It’s not going to be pretty.

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