Sunday Night Football Betting Preview: Can the Seahawks Remain Undefeated?
Sunday Night Football saw a late schedule change in Week 7, as the last-minute COVID-19 issues for the Las Vegas Raiders caused a scheduling shift. The clash between the Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been moved to the late afternoon slate, while we get a fun matchup of exciting quarterbacks in its place.
Our new Sunday night showdown has the Seattle Seahawks facing the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC West battle. Two teams with winning records and two teams with playmaking quarterbacks? We certainly shouldn't complain about it.
Even on the road in a divisional matchup, the Seahawks deserve respect, and the oddsmakers agree with Seattle favored by 3.5 points. The betting public is on board, as well, with 72% of the bets and 73% of the money backing the Seahawks side of the spread. The moneyline is a bit closer, as some bettors are drawn to Arizona (+152), but we are still seeing 56% of the bets and 64% of the money coming in on Seattle (-180). With a lofty point total of 54.5 for the over/under, bettors are still going for the over, with 64% of the bets and 49% of the money supporting the over. There has been a surge on the under as we get closer to kickoff, however, as this line opened at 56.0.
At first glance, this looks like a Seattle win in a shootout, but we have seen some unexpected outcomes in these NFC West battles in the past. Let's see what our projections expect on Sunday night.
Passing Game Preview
The Seahawks enter Week 7 with our top-rated offense, with the passing game leading the way. Seattle has produced 0.29 Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, good for fourth-best in the league.
Russell Wilson continues to play at an MVP level, and his Passing Success Rate of 55% ranks fourth in the league as he combines big plays and efficient throws in an impressive display of quarterbacking. And while Wilson doesn't run as much as the top-end rushers at the position, his 0.46 Rushing NEP per carry ranks as the seventh-best number among players with 15 or more carries. He's the complete package, and betting against him is a scary proposition.
We all know by now that this offense is funneled through D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Metcalf is posting a ridiculous 1.23 Reception NEP per target on the season and has produced 92 or more receiving yards in each game despite less-than-elite target volume. He's also got five touchdowns through five games and would have had a sixth if not for a mental error back in Week 3.
Lockett has seen his workload drop over his last two games, failing to reach 50 receiving yards in either outing and combining for just six receptions as Metcalf, Chris Carson, and some secondary options have seen their volume increase. Lockett's 0.85 Reception NEP per target still ranks third on the team, though, and he had a three-touchdown game as recently as Week 3, so he's capable of a big week at any moment.
It's actually shocking looking through the pass-catchers in Seattle, as Wilson makes them all efficient options. Every pass catcher has produced positive Reception NEP per target on the year, and all but one has produced at least 0.38 Reception NEP per target. Anyone that Wilson locks onto is a productive option in 2020.
Arizona's passing defense has held its own this year, ranking 14th in the league while allowing 0.17 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back. They have admittedly had a very easy schedule of opposing passing offenses thus far, so this will be their first big-time test. Regardless, the most passing yards they have allowed this year was 276 to the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, so the Cards have certainly taken advantage of their schedule. The loss of pass rusher Chandler Jones to injury will be an issue to watch, as he had a sack to go along with seven hits on the quarterback through the first four weeks and has perennially recorded double-digit sacks each year.
Despite the highlight-worthy play of Kyler Murray, the Cardinals' passing offense ranks just 22nd in the league, producing 0.12 Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back on the season. Obviously, the passing game flows through DeAndre Hopkins, who is questionable with a nagging ankle injury. His limited participation in practice Friday is encouraging, but this does seem like a real concern.
Hopkins leads the team with a 38.1% target share, but the efficiency has been a bit lackluster so far. Among the 27 players who have received 40 or more targets this year, Hopkins ranks 11th with 0.78 Reception NEP per target on 61 looks. Not bad numbers by any means, but you have to wonder if they would be better served getting the ball to other options instead of forcing such a massive workload on Hopkins.
Of the secondary pass-catching targets, Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella have been the most productive, each registering 0.90 Reception NEP per target on 24 and 14 targets, respectively. Unfortunately, they are not getting a ton of usage thanks in part to the presence of Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is undoubtedly an all-time great, but at this stage of his career, he is producing just 0.39 Reception NEP per target on 29 targets (second to only Hopkins), and his 80% snap share is second on the team, as well.
As long as Fitzgerald is being used as a primary option in the passing game, the efficiency of this offense is likely to suffer. Last week we did see Kirk out-snap Fitzgerald for the first time this season, so maybe we will see a gradual change in Arizona.
Defensively, Seattle has struggled against the pass, ranking 24th at 0.24 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back. Safety Jamal Adams remains out for a unit that has struggled all year, with Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings being the only time the 'Hawks have held an opponent under 300 yards passing in 2020. Of course, that was at the expense of their run defense, as they surrendered 201 yards on the ground versus the Vikings.
Rushing Game Preview
Seattle brings in the seventh-best rushing offense on the year, grinding out 0.12 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry. In addition to Wilson's efficiency on the ground, Chris Carson is having one of his better seasons to date, producing 0.14 Rushing NEP per carry. His volume hasn't been as high as in past seasons -- no-doubt helping his efficiency -- and he is contributing in the passing game with three or more receptions in each game played.
Arizona is ranked 17th on the year versus the run, allowing 0.07 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry heading into Week 7. Each of their opponents has rushed for 90 or more yards against them, and most have racked up a healthy yards per carry. Even the New York Jets were able to rush 28 times for 123 yards against the Cardinals, so this is not a matchup to shy away from.
Arizona brings the league's best rushing attack into this matchup with 0.27 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry. Murray is a large part of the reason why, and his 0.79 Rushing NEP per carry on 45 attempts is a real weapon.
Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds have been positive assets in the rushing game, as well, even though they haven't passed the eye-test at times this year. Drake is getting the volume and has produced a healthy 0.11 Rushing NEP per carry on 105 attempts, while Edmonds has been more efficient with 0.22 Rushing NEP per carry, though it has come on just 24 attempts. Drake, however, has been close to a zero in the passing game, while Edmonds has seen 25 targets on the year, trailing only Hopkins and Fitzgerald on Arizona. If the Cardinals fall behind, Edmonds could be very involved.
Seattle's defense ranks eighth in the league, allowing 0.00 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry on the year. They had been really stout prior to their last two games, where they allowed 103 yards on 4.7 yards per carry to the Miami Dolphins and 201 yards on 4.9 yards per rush to the Vikings. This will no doubt be the focus of the defense, and how much they can contain Murray on the ground should go a long way toward deciding the outcome.
Of the 10 most comparable games to this matchup, we've seen the favorite win outright 8 of 10 times. The outcomes on the spread have been a little more even, with the favorite covering on 6 of 10 occasions. And it has been an even split on the over/under, providing little help in handicapping the point total this week. It is interesting to note that each time the underdog won outright and three of the four times that they covered the spread, the game landed under the listed total.
Game Projections and Props
Our algorithm gives the Seahawks a 60.1% chance to win on the road, which is not enough to make their side of the moneyline worth betting. In fact, we give a very slim 2.1% projected return on investment (ROI) on Arizona at +152, but that's probably not enough to warrant a bet on its own. Similarly, we give a miniscule 2.4% projected ROI on Arizona (+3.5) on the spread, so not a lot going on there, either.
The point total is a different story, however, as we project a healthy 22.6% ROI on the under of 54.5, so you should certainly target that.
Let's look to some props to spice up our betting, and get some higher returns on our money.
On FanDuel Sportsbook, there are some intriguing same-game parlays to provide some more upside on our bets. If this game turns into a shootout, I would expect more Chase Edmonds than we've seen recently, as a high score would likely mean more passing opportunities for the Cards. We can parlay the over with an Edmonds touchdown (+230) to give us +418 on our bets -- a nice longshot play that feels realistic.
If you believe our algorithms, however, we may want to bet some parlays that reflect a lower-scoring game. We project both Murray (251.2 passing yards) and Wilson (279.9) to come in below their listed passing props on FanDuel Sportsbook. Parlaying the under on Wilson's passing yardage (289.5) with the under on Murray's passing yardage (268.5) gives us +258 on our bets. There are plenty of other interesting parlays, and this should be an entertaining game, so check out some more options. Good luck this week.