Seattle Seahawks (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: September 13th, 1:00 PM E
Where: Edward Jones Dome
by Jeff Hochman, Professional Handicapper, jhsportsline.com
Point Spread: Sea. -4.5/St. Louis +4.5
Over/Under Total: 41
After losing Super Bowl 49 in heartbreak fashion, the Seattle Seahawks travel to St. Louis in this opening Week NFC West matchup. I’m sure you all saw it. All the Seahawks had to do was hand off the rock to Marshawn Lynch and he would have two chances to gain 1 yard and be named Super Bowl MVP. I’m happy it ended the way it did because we had a 5* on New England here at JH-Sportsline. I bring up what happened last season as it relates to the hangover affect. Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks always did very well in the preseason. Coming into this preseason Seattle was 23-14 SU and 25-11-1. This year was different. Seattle went 2-2 SU & 2-2 ATS while allowing more yards than gained. The Seahawks’ depth will be tested with the trading of All-Pro Center Max Unger, safety Earl Thomas recovering from shoulder surgery, and Kam Chancellor’s lengthy holdout.
The Rams went winless in the preseason, but that’s not really surprising. Jeff Fisher is more interested in evaluating his younger guys. Coming into this season, Fisher was .500 (38-38) in all preseason games. He played it very conservative with his first team defense. Speaking of the Rams defense, the front seven should be the strength of the team and one of the best in all of football. The Rams recorded 40 sacks last season, good for ranking No. 15. I would expect that number to go up 2015. It’s important to note the defense improved in the second half ranking No. 5 in sacks. Nick Fairley was the 13th pick in the 2011 draft. Fairley gives the Rams’ front seven eight top-40 draft picks. Playing with Chris Long, Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn should make a very formidable foursome this season.
The big question is how will the Rams’ secondary hold up if the front seven is not pressuring the quarterback. The Seahawks like to run the ball, but you might be surprised that Seattle had 54 passes of 20-plus yards last season. Add in 83 rushes of 10-plus yards and you had the makings of a very explosive offense. The Seahawks are a lock to take advantage of newly acquired Jimmy Graham in the red-zone. The former Saint caught eight touchdowns on 10 targets from the 1-yard line last season.
The Rams’ season will be successful if their offense line is able to protect. You can probably say that for just about every team in the league. Nick Foles has shown the ability to produce at a high level with a very good offensive line, ample weapons, and a cutting-edge scheme. Unfortunately for Foles, the Rams added six rookie lineman and we still don’t know who will be starting. Most NFL games are won and lost with the play of both lines. It doesn’t bode well for the long term success of the Rams offense, unless these rookies figure things out sooner than later. First round pick RB Todd Gurley is a stud, but he did not play in the preseason and is doubtful for this game. He is going to be really good once he gets his feet under him and when the Rams’ begin to gel on the offensive line. You can steal him in round 10 of your fantasy draft this season.
I saw some holes in the Seahawks’ offensive line this preseason no matter who was in the lineup. They were not able to protect nor did they produce many holes for their running backs. Former NFL scout Matt Williamson, who now works for ESPN, has the Seahawks’ offensive line ranked No. 30 this season. Only Russell Wilson makes the line a tad better with his ability to elude the rush and gain positive yards. This is something to keep an eye on this season. When the Seahawks are favored and matched-up against a team with a ferocious pass rush, consider fading the Seahawks on the road.
These two teams split the season series last year with each team winning and covering at home. The Rams defeated Seattle 28-26 as 6.5-point home underdogs last October. Seattle got revenge with a 20-6 thumping as 11-point home chalk last December. Seattle could have easily won both games. The Seahawks outgained the Rams 817-520. The Seahawks are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 meetings. The home team is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings. The Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: St. Louis Rams +4.5
The big key for me is that Seahawks are not playing with a full deck. Not to mention some issues on their offensive line. The public is backing the Seahawks by a 7:1 ticket count at one sportsbook. I think Nick Foles will make enough plays to keep this one close. The Rams defense should create a lot of havoc up front behind a fired up Edward Jones Dome. Keep in mind, this is a division game so both teams are very familiar with each other. Jeff Fisher has been a solid money maker when his team is an underdog, especially at home. I will lean to the home dog in this one.