Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (-14.5, 43.5 o/u)
Coming off two tough road losses to open the year, the Seattle Seahawks (0-2, 0-0 Home) will make their home debut this weekend against the reeling Chicago Bears (0-2, 0-0 Away). The Seahawks will have safety Kam Chancellor back when they face the also winless Bears at CenturyLink Field on Sunday (4:25 PM Eastern).
Seattle lost to the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 (34-31 in OT) and then fell to the Packers at Lambeau (27-17). Averaging just over 30 points against per game, fourth-worst in the league, Seattle has to be ecstatic to see Chancellor end his contract holdout. The safety isn’t necessarily the most skilled player the Seahawks have on the defensive side of the ball (which also features Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Earl Thomas); but he is uber-talented and has been described as the “heart and soul” of the unit, which has been the most dominant in the league over the last couple seasons.
Head coach Pete Carroll is confident his defense can get back to its high level of play.
“To play at the level that we have played at the last three years, we’ve done a lot of things really well and to play at that level you have to because you’re challenged at every turn,” Carroll said in his pre-game presser. “There is a lot of fine-tuning to get that done. There are a lot of teams that almost get on top but it’s very challenging. We’re in the fine-tuning of it and not starting well doesn’t mean we won’t finish well.”
On offense, the Seahawks still have decent numbers on the ground, despite losing center Max Unger in the offseason, averaging 121.5 yards per game. But a lot of that is thanks to QB Russell Wilson’s scrambling ability; Marshawn Lynch was held to just 45 yards in the loss to Green Bay.
Meanwhile, the passing game hasn’t improved as expected with the arrival of TE Jimmy Graham. Graham only has seven receptions on the year for 62 yards, and there were several reports this week that the tight end was frustrated with his role.
Wilson and the offense will probably look better this week, though, facing a Chicago defense that is allowing 39.5 points per game, worst in the NFL. The Bears were crushed by the Cardinals last week, 48-23, and watched the aging Larry Fitzgerald torch their secondary for three majors. That was the second home loss in a row for the squad, which also fell to the Packers to open the year (31-23).
The lopsided score against Arizona can partially be pinned on the absence of starting QB Jay Cutler. The pivot injured his hamstring early in the contest trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception. Cutler will also sit out this week, meaning backup Jimmy Clausen will get the start, a proposition which must have the Seattle corners salivating. Clausen went 14 of 23 for 121 yards and one interception in relief last week. The sixth-year man out of Notre Dame has connected on just 53.2-percent of his throws, career, with five touchdowns and 11 picks.
Head coach John Fox realizes Clausen was put in a tough position last week. “I think at the quarterback position it’s a little tougher [to prepare as a backup] because you have to be in tune to everybody else completely. But I think all in all he did OK [last week],” said the coach.
Seattle is 4-1 SU in its last five games at home against Chicago. The team is also 5-2-1 ATS in its last eight as a favorite. Given that the Bears allowed 13 TDs to opposing tight ends last season, expect Jimmy Graham to finally have a big game. Add in the prospect of Clausen trying to move the ball against a reinvigorated Seattle defense, and you have a recipe for a blowout.
Pick: Seahawks 14.5.
(Photo credit: Mike Morris (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)