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Seahawks’ streak, postseason pedigree plays into NFL Wild Card odds
By Colin Kelly

The NFL’s regular season wrapped up Sunday, and with it came a statement game from the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. At midseason, Pete Carroll’s troops looked like they had no chance of making the playoffs, but they don’t look that way anymore.

Seattle was locked into the No. 6 seed as a Wild Card heading into its game at Arizona, but played as if a lot more was on the line, plowing to a 36-6 victory as a 6-point underdog. The Seahawks (10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) went 6-1 SU and ATS in their last seven games, salvaging a season that was heading the wrong direction.

Now, the Super Bowl champ of two years ago and the team that was one play away from being the two-time defending champ, will head to Minnesota for a Sunday Wild Card contest. The Vikings (11-5 SU) clinched the NFC North title and the No. 3 seed with a 20-13 victory catching 3 points at Green Bay on Sunday night, winning for the third straight week and cashing for the fourth week in a row.

In fact, the Vikes finished No. 1 in the league against the number at 13-3 ATS.

John Lester, senior lines manager for online sportsbook Bookmaker, installed the Seahawks as sizable 6-point road chalk – primarily due to Seattle’s 38-7 drubbing of Minnesota at the same venue just a month ago.

“Given the outcome of that game, as well as the Seahawks’ playoff history and strong finish, we expect the bettors to favor Seattle, so we were generous on that side,” Lester told Covers. “In the first meeting at Minnesota, the line opened at a pick ‘em and closed Seahawks -3.”

Johnny Avello, executive director of race and sports for Wynn Las Vegas, agreed with Lester’s sentiment, noting the outcome last month was too much to overlook.

“The Hawks were only a 2.5-point favorite, they won that one 38-7, and fresh in your mind is the 36-6 win over the Cards on Sunday,” Avello told Covers. “I must make this line at least a field goal higher to find the balance of action.”

Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins (-1)

Washington (9-7 SU and ATS) has the worst record of any NFC playoff team, but it won the lowly NFC East Division to get the No. 4 seed and therefore gets to host a Wild Card game Sunday. To the Redskins’ credit, they finished the regular season with a flourish, going 4-0 SU and ATS to get a stranglehold on a division seemingly nobody wanted to win prior to that.

On Sunday, the Skins went off as 3-point pups at Dallas, raced out to a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter and coasted to a 34-23 victory.

Green Bay, on the flip side, finished the season with more of a thud, losing its last two SU and ATS while blowing a chance to claim the No. 3 seed and a home playoff game next weekend. The Packers (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS), who won their first six games, got drubbed at Arizona 38-8 in Week 16, then tumbled to Minnesota 20-13 Sunday night as 3-point home favorites.

“The Packers are making the last minute of their games very exciting, but not coming away with W’s,” Avello said. “The Skins, on the other hand, are playing their best football in years. How things change. The Pack would have been a 6- to 7-point favorite six weeks ago, and now you’re looking at pretty much a pick ‘em.”

Lester said these two teams seem made for each other in the opening round.

“These are a couple of mercurial teams that might be viewed as the weakest in the NFC,” Lester said. “We opened the line at Washington -1, essentially a toss-up, so we’ll see where the wagering world will take it. Our expectation is that the public will back the Packers, while the sharps grab the Redskins.”