How unlikely is it that the Seattle Seahawks would be road favorites in the playoffs? The answer is not in the stats, even though both their scoring offense and defense are in the top 10 in the league, producing a differential that is among the NFL's best. It's in what the perception of this team from the Pacific Northwest has been throughout the NFL season. Just two months ago, after Week 8, Seattle was as lightly regarded by bookmakers -- and the betting public - as it was at any point in the season.
Back in late October the Seahawks had lost their second game in a row, both on the road. The first was to the San Francisco 49ers, a game in which Russell Wilson had gone 9-of-23 in prime time on a Thursday night. The second was at Detroit. Wilson played better, throwing for 236 yards and two touchdowns. But the team was 4-4.
At that moment, the odds on the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl were at their highest point of the year: 80-1. That was the same as the San Diego Chargers and more than double those of the Miami Dolphins, who were 30-1. The only time Seattle's odds were even close to that high came after a Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals (also on the road). Following that game the number jumped from 40-1 to 75-1.
They bounced back after that Detroit loss with a win against Minnesota at home, and the odds dropped to 40-1. Then they fell to 35-1 after a win over the New York Jets heading into their bye. The team was a respectable 6-4, but against the spread Seattle was 7-3, including a stretch of 5-1 in their last six games. My point is, as Bob Scucci from The Orleans told me a few weeks ago, wiseguys were cashing tickets on this team all season long.
"But we couldn't get any action from the public on them," Scucci said. "It seemed like every week we needed whoever the Seahawks were playing to win."
That didn't change after the Seahawks went on the road and lost to Miami coming out of their bye. The average fan saw a team that played to type: Great at home, weak on the road.
But a funny thing happened the next week. The Seahawks won on the road, in overtime, against the Chicago Bears. Bookmakers still couldn't sell a Seahawks ticket, but the team found a rhythm. A week later, Seattle bludgeoned Arizona (that Monday the Seahawks' Super Bowl odds fell to 18-1). Then it was the blowout of the Buffalo Bills which, while not in Buffalo, was technically on the road. That knocked the odds down to 15-1. Now the Seahawks were a public team, just in time for a rematch with the 49ers.
Well, when you beat the odds-on favorite from your conference to win the Super Bowl, you become a public team. That's how your Super Bowl number drops to 8-1. And that's how Seattle, a mediocre road team, winds up as a road favorite in the playoffs.