It may be the postSEAson but the Advanced NFL Stats post goes on. With just one more win, the SEAhawks will be going to their second Super Bowl in franchise history, but they'll also be establishing themselves as every bit as successful as their division foe.
With as much shit as we've thrown back and forth between the two blogs over the last three SEAsons, somehow this game feels like the most important of all. Of course, it's not, but it's about as big as it gets outside of the Super Bowl.
SEAttle played their 22nd playoff game in franchise history last Saturday, beating the New Orleans Saints 23-15. The SEAhawks are now 10-12 all-time in those games, and they've won at least one game in their last six trips to the postSEAson. However, they've only won two games in the same postSEAson twice in franchise history. They look to change that this Sunday at home against the San FranSEAsco 49ers.
Here is a closer look at what they did against Drew SEAs and the Saints, why Marshawn Lynch apparently wasn't all that good, why Rafael Bush is a fool, why Richard Sherman is still highly effective and why we should be more concerned about the Niners passing offense instead of Frank Gore -- as long as we can stop Vernon Davis.
All that and more, here on today's Advanced NFL Stats - SEA Edition
That's right. If you just take a look, it's in a
book internet web page, Sea this rain, yo.
Even when the game started to take that "Seattle vibe" turn in the fourth quarter, with Robert Meachem's improbable 52-yard grab (just being able to tackle Meachem after letting him get behind you, was monumental. In case you forgot the timeline of that play, like I did, it led to a missed 48-yard field goal by Shayne Graham, instead of, well, a touchdown. Insert more commas, here.) and the recovered onside kick, the Seahawks were never close to not being the favorite to win this game.
"Cool" and "Fool" of the Divisional Round (via Advanced NFL Stats)
Saints fans were probably drinking like it was Seaving Las Vegas after the eight-point loss, and who could blame 'em? It's never easy to lose, especially with such a dominant performance by Marques Colston.
However, I don't think WPA or EPA ever had this damning of a game during the entire regular season. Marshawn Lynch was credited with a negative WPA and just barely crept into the black for EPA. Lower EPA than Jermaine Kearse or Khiry Robinson or Josh Hill or, well... anybody?! I don't get it, America. ("I don't get it, America" is my patented catch phrase that didn't catch on last year, but we're bringing it back.)
In other news, Michael Bennett led the defense in both WPA and EPA, forcing two fumbles and working in tandem with Cliff Avril again to disrupt the quarterback's pocket. Don't keep your stupid quarterbacks in the pocket. (This isn't a random dig at Drew Brees, but rather a reference to the Academy-award winning* film, The Room.) According to Pro Football Focus in their SeaFo article, Bennett had six QB pressures from the inside of the defensive line against All-Pro guard Jahri Evans.
*We just told him we were with the academy.
PFF also credited Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas with impressive performances, limiting Jimmy Graham to one catch for eight yards and keeping Brees in check when he attempted any throws in the middle of the field (5-of-11.)
I noted in a previous article that Brees was 0-for-8 on deep targets in the Saints-Seahawks first matchup, but he was 4-of-6 for 117 yards this time, including that throw to Meachem. However, all six of those targets went to the left side of the field, and Brees never once tested the middle of the field deep or the right side of the field, presumably where Richard Sherman was for most, if not all of the game.
Brees was 4-of-10 for 24 yards when throwing to the right side of the field. PFF says that Sherman was thrown at only once, and it was not complete. It actually appears that Brees tested anyone but Sherman and Byron Maxwell on Saturday, and was mostly successful when he didn't.
Still, of course one player stands out above the rest.
"Cool" of the Week - Marshawn Lynch, 28 carries for 140 yards, one touchdown, 13 missed tackles
Both PFF and Advanced NFL Stats agree that Lynch had 13 missed tackles against the Saints on Saturday. That gives him more than any other player in the league during this postseason, and Lynch has only played in one game. By comparison, Frank Gore has 37 carries and just three missed tackles. In fact, Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram combined for 13 missed tackles, over two games and 49 attempts.
Behind the offensive line that PFF rated as just the 26th-best in the league this year, Lynch seemed to do most of the work by himself. They rated it as his second-best game of the year, behind his 145-yard performance against the Falcons.
I hope that against the 49ers, Lynch is just as effective, but not nearly as necessary.
"Fool" of the Week - Rafael Bush and sending the wrong message
New Orleans basically had a season taken away from them because they targeted opposing players with the intention of hurting them, to the point that they were monetarily awarded for such actions. It's ironic that the whole "bounty scandal" was exposed after a documentary crew was following around Steve Gleason in Saints headquarters, a player suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, possibly because of hits he sustained playing football.
I don't think that Bush laid out Percy Harvin because he was told he'd get a big, fat check if he did so, but I do think he was trying to "de-cleat" him. He was trying to make a highlight reel. He was trying to make a name for himself, because Bush is a third-year nobody that's not guaranteed a roster spot on any team next year. The fact that he did so against Harvin, on a national stage, and while playing for "that bounty team" is probably just coincidence.
But to have Saints fans tweet that they hope Harvin has to sit out the rest of the game in a dark room and so on and so forth, is in terribly poor taste. I don't want to harp on the issue, but seriously? And with New Orleans as the team in question?
Maybe not such a good idea.
sEaVE-6 says Put My Heart in a Blender for the Inside-Outsiders DVOA Update (via Football Outsiders)
I'm a little surprised by this myself, but even in the postseason the DVOA show must go on! And so too goes the Seahawks dominance in this statistic, while surprisingly the New England Patriots have overtaken the Denver Broncos, though we only have "Weighted DVOA" now, not overall DVOA.
I think both the Pats and the Broncos have their flaws, but I probably like New England better. They have a pass defense that should at least slow down Peyton Manning and make him think, but they've also sort of got this Bill Russell versus Wilt Chamberlain strangehold over Manning and whatever team he's playing for that year. No matter what the numbers say, they always seem to get the better of him.
(Wait... Bill Russell... Russell Billson... Bill is another name for Will... Guys, we're gonna win like eight championships!)
Seattle's defense is so freaking far ahead of all the remaining teams that it's not even funny, but then it becomes funny again, Family Guy-style. Even San Francisco has slipped to 12th in Weighted DVOA, and while that would be nice to completely buy into, I don't think I could name 11 defenses that are better than the Niners defense. Any time you have Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith on the same team, you got a hell of a start.
Still, the 49ers probably do struggle a bit against the pass and we will get to that in a minute.
The Seahawks boast the best defense in the league by a wide margin and hopefully that will carry them to the Super Bowl. If not (that is, if they aren't carried by the defense) they're still 10th in Weighted Offense and 5th in Weighted Special Teams. And when all three units are on their game at the same time, lopsided scores happen.
Please Lord Russell Wilson, let us start celebrating by early in the second half.
Seaper Bowl odds - And then there were four...
We've been tracking Seattle's Super Bowl odds all season long and while it always seemed a fun game to play, it was still a dim little light at the end of a very long tunnel. Though the Seahawks were usually first or second in Super Bowl odds, what does "18-percent to win!" really mean after nine games? Nothing.
Well, now they are just two wins away. As are the other three teams, and again, what are the odds? Is it fair to say that each team has a one-in-four chance? Do Denver and Seattle get slight boosts based on hosting the conference title games? Well, the Broncos got a very slight boost, per FO, but the Seahawks are getting every bit of advantage thanks to playing at the CLink.
62.8 to 37.2 against the Niners to make the Super Bowl.
At this point though, nothing would surprise me. And odds are still meaningless, when compared to rings.
NFSea Championship Opponent - The San Franseasco 49ers
As you can see above, the Niners are fifth in Weighted DVOA -- the lowest of the remaining four teams and still below the ousted Philadelphia Eagles. Still, this is the final four we would have expected a year ago, when the Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and 49ers seemed to be well ahead of the rest of the field.
(Instead, we got the Patriots, Ravens, 49ers and Falcons. And Baltimore won it all? This is why confidence in football is a fool's errand.)
On Offense - Eighth Weighted, fourth in passing, 14th in rushing, played the third-toughest schedule (Weighted number up-to-date, other numbers only go through reg. season)
San Francisco's passing offense actually ranked higher than their rushing offense this season. They finished 10th in net yards per pass attempt and 11th in yards per carry, while throwing the fewest interceptions in the league. That's at least partly due to the fact that the 49ers had the fewest pass attempts in the NFL and the third-most carries.
Still, they were efficient, and San Francisco has had just one turnover in their last five games.
The Niners had 404 passing yards in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers, but never had 300 passing yards in any of their following 17 games. The last time they were in Seattle, they turned it over five times. That's 26.3-percent of their total turnovers over their 18 games this season.
Gore averaged 4.1 yards per carry, the lowest such mark of his career. It's not really fair to talk about any other back on the team, as Gore had 198 more carries than Kendall Hunter.
A lot was made of the fact that Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin had caught all of Colin Kaepernick's touchdown passes without Michael Crabtree, but after Crabs returned, little changed. Kaep threw 21 touchdowns this year and 20 of them went to Davis and Boldin, with the other going to Crabtree, who played five games.
Kaepernick has thrown two touchdowns in the playoffs, and both have gone to Davis. Moral of the story? Davis has caught 65.2-percent of Kaepernick's touchdowns this season, so go ahead and cover him in the red zone. Kam Chancellor knows a thing or two about that. (The difference between Chancellor and Bush is as obvious as watching the replays and knowing the difference between who knows how to hit someone hard safely and someone who doesn't.)
Getting K.J. Wright back would be huge, in regards to Davis. Or in regards to anything.
On Defense - 12th Weighted, 10th against the pass, 14th against the run, played 25th-toughest schedule
If you're concerned about whether or not Gore is going to break out backs again, as effectively running the ball will be pivotal for either team, think about how concerned you might be as a 49ers fan with the 14th-ranked run defense going against Lynch. Or at least, if you were a Niners fan and were rational with common sense.
(Think I'm trolling? I just told you I am concerned about Gore and respect your running game.)
In Week 2, the 49ers allowed 172 rushing yards to Seattle, the second-most they've given up all season long. The Seahawks had 174 rushing yards against the Saints on Saturday.
Still, it would be nice to effectively pass the ball, and maybe San Francisco's corners will allow it. Pro Football Focus has tracked all 115 postseason snaps by 49ers' corners Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown.
They say that Brock has been thrown at 13 times and allowed eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, while Brown has been targeted eight times and allowed seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. If Wilson can target Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Kearse, and possibly even Harvin, it could end up being a much smoother day than if he has to throw at San Fran's linebackers or if he has to spend too much time in the pocket against those aggressive pass rushers.
Having Harvin healthy would go a long way towards opening the field and having a reliable target that you can trust to get open or make space to run.
On Special Teams - seventh overall, fourth weighted, great in field goals, kickoffs and punts, below-average on kick returns and punt returns
Both teams feature solid special teams units. Seattle has an advantage on punt returns thanks to Tate, but would have an even bigger advantage if Harvin was returning kick offs. That doesn't seem likely right now, but at worst, it should come out about even when comparing the two teams.
I Love Russeall Wilson
As per usual, I love Wilson. He was sixth out of eight quarterbacks in DYAR last weekend, but we won and Brees had the most DYAR of any QB last weekend. He'll be the fifth NFL quarterback in the modern era to make at least four postseason starts over his first two seasons (Marino, Flacco, Roethlisberger, Sanchez) and could become one of the few to make the Super Bowl in his first two years.
It's an unbelievable turn of events to go from a middling 7-9 team in 2011 with a good defense and a bad offense to maybe the best team in the NFL in the two years since, but it's even more unbelievable when you consider how much of that turnaround has to do with a third round pick.
It's not unprecedented. Not when you think about guys like Kurt Warner and Tom Brady and Joe Montana, but it's barely precedented. It's not even something you should consider as a possibility for your franchise, if you're the Arizona Cardinals or Tampa Bay Buccaneers for example. When it does happen, you search for reasons why it happened so that maybe you can crack the "code" but there isn't any.
We got educated lucky.
And while some fans may read this and say "Don't compare your second-year QB to some of the greatest of all-time," trust me when I'm saying that I'm not doing that. Wilson still hasn't accomplished the biggest goal of all yet that would even get him in the conversation with those guys, maybe. In order for me to even start to do that with any amount of credibility, it won't take an advanced stat, but the simplest stat of all:
Because Wilson still needs two more wins, and the first one starts this Sunday.