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Are the Seahawks legit playoff contenders?

Super Bowl LIII odds (As of Oct. 31)

Los Angeles Rams: 3.80
New England Patriots: 4.80
Kansas City Chiefs: 6.50
Los Angeles Chargers: 18.00
Seattle Seahawks: 45.00

The Seattle Seahawks weren’t short on doubters at the beginning of the season.

The reasons were obvious: Their coaching staff underwent a major overhaul in the offseason; the Legion of Boom on defence had been all but completely dismantled, prompting significant turnover in personnel on that side of the ball; and there were serious concerns about the offensive line and whether their offence could run the ball or protect Russell Wilson.

A playoff team from 2012 to 2016 and a Super Bowl title, the Seahawks preseason win total this year was set at 8.0 – a modest number considering the last time they finished with fewer than eight wins in a season was 2011, the second year of the Pete Carroll tenure.

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Seattle’s Super Bowl outright odds were 20.00 when the market opened following the Philadelphia Eagles championship in early February. They became real long shots early on in the season with odds of 100.00 on three occasions. Those odds went as low as 150.00 in the immediate aftermath of that pitiful showing against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 2.

Almost two months later, the Seahawks have flipped the script.

They came back from a bye week and put up a solid 14-point road victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 8. That followed a 24-point win over the faltering Oakland Raiders in London and that promising yet still frustrating 33-31 loss to the (so far perfect 8-0) Los Angeles Rams – a game the Seahawks could’ve won.

It all sets up a key matchup in Week 9.

The Seahawks welcome the Los Angeles Chargers to CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Win, and Seattle moves to 5-3 on the season. Good news if this team wants to contend for a playoff spot. Right now, given what has transpired over these last four weeks, you would have to certainly include them in the conversation for a postseason contender at this point.

That would be good news, too, for those who took the Over on the Seahawks’ win total. About 89 per cent of money wagered on the Seahawks win total was on Over 8.0.

As of Wednesday, the Seahawks were listed as narrow 1.5-point home favourites, with Money Line odds of 1.80 to win.

The Chargers – with Super Bowl odds of 18.00 at – are second in the AFC West with a 5-2 record. They have also won four in a row with an offence that is sixth in the league in yards per game and eighth in the league in points per game.

It will be up to the Seahawks defence to try to limit, as best they can, running back Melvin Gordon, who has been dealing with hamstring issues for the better part of a couple of weeks but is reportedly on the right track to play Sunday.

Philip Rivers has been impressive at quarterback for the Chargers, as well.

The 36-year-old veteran pivot has thrown 17 touchdown passes, but only three interceptions this season. That poses a challenge for the Seahawks defence, which has not only been stingy in allowing points – an average of 8.5 points against over their last two games – but opportunistic in forcing turnovers. Seattle has a plus-10 differential in the turnover game.

To put it another way, the Chargers are substantially better than the Lions and Raiders. This shapes up to be the proverbial ‘measuring stick’ game for those looking for answers to the question, ‘Are the Seahawks legitimate playoff contenders?’

Yet, the last few weeks would indicate that the Seahawks have found – or are finding – the identity with which they want to play, where they run the ball effectively and allow Russell Wilson to be far more efficient in the pass game. That’s on offence. On defence, they’ve limited the opposition while making them pay for mistakes that lead to turnovers.

Following their loss to the Rams, the Seahawks’ odds of making the playoffs fell to 5.60 – which represents their lowest point of the season so far. Back-to-back wins, and a style of play that should garner some outside attention, have shifted the Seahawks’ odds to make the playoffs to 2.70.

Despite the odds, and lowered expectations from outsiders earlier on, the Seahawks currently sit in a playoff position following the NFL trade deadline earlier this week. A look at the playoff picture, however, shows some good teams – Minnesota, Green Bay and Philadelphia – right behind the Seahawks in the hunt.

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