In the final week of the NFL regular season, the San Francisco 49ers travel to the Seattle Seahawks with both teams looking to clinch the NFC West title. Looking for value in the NFL Week 17 odds? Read on to inform your predictions.
The state of play ahead of Week 17
All but two spots in the NFL playoffs have been decided following Week 16. Dallas handed the advantage to Philadelphia in the NFC East by losing to the Eagles and now need a favour from the New York Giants in the final week and a victory against Washington to prolong their season.
Elsewhere, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and outsiders Oakland enter the final regular season week scrapping over the sixth and final AFC playoff slot. Despite the settling of the majority of divisional titles and playoff spots, there is still a lot to play for in the final week.
Only current Super Bowl favourites the Baltimore Ravens can coast through their final regular season game, having secured not only the AFC North title, but also the top seeding and home field advantage throughout their stay in the postseason.
The advantage gained by a top two conference seeding is not to be underestimated. The other postseason teams beneath the top two seeds from each conference will need to play four games to lift the Super Bowl, rather than just the three for the top two seeded sides.
The third to sixth seeds will also clock up air miles with guaranteed road trips included in their playoff schedule, particularly for the lowest sixth seed who will need to win three consecutive away matches to reach Super Bowl LIV.
Home field advantage is a nominal three points in the NFL, so being the visitor poses a considerable obstacle to overcome on top of the extended schedule. In such a competitive environment, losing out on a divisional title and slipping into a wildcard spot can dramatically reduce a team’s overall chances of winning the Super Bowl.
How have the 49ers and Seahawks performed?
This is something both teams will want to avoid in Sunday’s game of the week. Hosts Seattle and visiting divisional rivals San Francisco are already assured of a playoff spot, but the divisional and postseason pecking order is very much up for grabs.
San Francisco are the standout team in the division based on their points differential.
A win for San Francisco will secure the division, a bye week in the playoffs and a double-digit likelihood of becoming champions. Conversely, a loss would leave their chances hovering around 5% and send them into the postseason as potential wildcard fodder.
Victory for the hosts could secure the coveted bye week, although that would be dependent upon the final Week 16 game between Minnesota and Green Bay. A win for Minnesota would leave the potential prize of a bye week in Seattle’s own hands for Sunday.
As with all divisional rivals, Seattle and San Francisco have played ten common opponents in 2019, meaning we can gauge the quality of the two sides quickly by reviewing simple season-long metrics.
San Francisco are the standout team in the division based on their points differential. They have scored 453 points to date, second only to the Baltimore Ravens, and conceded 289. That record is consistent with a 12-win team over a 16-game regular season.
Overall the 49ers are the more talented team, although both sides have unexpectedly lost against lesser opponents in recent weeks.
They have convincingly defeated their opponents with big margin wins, although did so more predominately in the first part of the season, and their four narrow wins are nearly balanced by three such defeats.
Seattle have only outscored their opponents by a net 12 points, scoring 384 and conceding 372. This is typically the record of a team that would produce little more than an 8-8 record over the year.
Invariably, Seattle’s wins have been by eight points or fewer, with ten of their eleven victories grounded out in this manner and four wins by a field goal or fewer points, including an overtime victory in San Francisco. They have lost just once by a similar margin.
They’ve also faltered at home, traditionally a stronghold where they are raucously encouraged by their fans. A loss on Sunday would return a disappointing 4-4 home record compared to their more typical expectation of six or seven wins.
Offensive and defensive comparisons
Seattle have the third best turnover differential of +12, whereas San Francisco have achieved their more imposing wins with less net help from their opponent. Indeed, they have taken the ball just four more times than they have squandered it.
The offensive strengths of both rivals are well established. Both comprise a top ten overall offense, although Seattle has a slight edge aerially and especially on the ground, where the 49ers are merely an averagely efficient rushing unit.
Defensively, the edge is with San Francisco. They defend the pass as well as any side bar New England and are just outside the top ten against the running game. Seattle have performed no better than the league average defensively and are just outside the top ten against the pass whilst languishing in the bottom third against the run.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: Where is the value?
Overall the 49ers are the more talented team, although both sides have unexpectedly lost against lesser opponents in recent weeks, against Arizona and Atlanta respectively. The visitors are more efficient, particularly when Seattle go aerial, and Pythagorean comparisons against broadly similar opponents favour San Francisco to win around 65% of the time.
This equates a four points average margin of victory, which is currently slight value compared to the spread of San Francisco -3.
It is a final regular season fixture to savour, with no postseason places to lose but much to gain for two teams aiming to ease their passage to the Super Bowl.