The final Inside the Numbers this season will be up soon at Danny O'Neil's Seattle Times blog. It's worth mentioning again that Danny's one of the good guys. Anyhoo, here's an excerpt that begins to explain the Arizona Cardinals' Month of Suck:
The Worst of First
The NFC West has produced some dicey division champs in the last five seasons -- really, only the 2005 Seahawks resembled a top-flight team among division winners since 2004. In 2004 and 2006, the Seahawks won the West with negative total DVOA. But of all those teams, none has gone into the end of the season with such a worrisome curve as the 2008 Arizona Cardinals.
One month ago, we were talking about Kurt Warner as a legitimate MVP candidate, running back Tim Hightower was chasing a rookie record for touchdowns, and the only thing that could stop the Cards' trip to a deep playoff run was a somewhat undisciplined defense. Then, it all started unraveling. Like many dome-advantaged teams, the Cardinals showed their weaknesses in the late-season war of attrition, when toughness and persistence become far more important than explosiveness and stat-collecting. When it came time to play smashmouth, Arizona had a glass jaw.
According to FO Big Kahuna Aaron Schatz in this week's DVOA Rankings article, the Cardinals allowed the second-best single-game DVOA in the history of our stats, which currently go back to 1995, in last week's 47-7 loss to the New England Patriots. Arizona gained 64 "real-time" passing yards, which is what I would call their 142 total aerial yards minus the garbage-time 78-yard touchdown from Matt Leinart to Larry Fitzgerald. Warner completed six passes in 18 attempts for a grand total of 30 yards, and a single-game DYAR of -53. With his two fumbles, Leinart had a DYAR of -88. New England's Matt Cassell, Leinart's former backup at USC, ripped that Arizona defense for 345 yards and three touchdowns. It's not clear what was more indefensible -- Arizona's overall performance, or New England's receivers against the Cards' secondary. They couldn't run with any consistency, and the hothouse passing offense was a fool's bet in the Foxboro snow.
Three quarterbacks put up worse single-game DYAR last week -- Cleveland's Ken Dorsey, San Francisco's Shaun Hill … and Brett Favre of the New York Jets,. Favre's DYAR of -91 was brought to the Seattle Seahawks, in large part, by the efforts of Defensive Player of the Week Josh Wilson, who picked off two passes in what we can only hope is a breakout game, given how bad Seattle's pass defense has been this year.
The moral of this story? For several reasons, this game is eminently winnable for the Seahawks, who could send their coach out a victor both home and away.