49ers vs Seahawks, NFC Championship game: 4 stats that say Seattle will win

"is this how harbaugh does it?!" - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In their last 11 home games against San Fran, the average score has been 27.45 - 12.45. What other numbers are in Pete Carroll's favor for this Sunday?

I love numbers.

Numbers don't make you fat, they don't ignore your OKCupid messages, and if they could throw a party, they'd invite you. Hell, if you threw a party and invited every number you knew, you would see a giant gift from number three and the card attached would say, "Go Hawks."

But the truth is that numbers and I haven't always gotten along. After some early advancement in school, and I'm talking elementary and middle, I started to go in the opposite direction. All of a sudden, me and numbers weren't getting along so well. I mean, who puts letters in their numbers? I didn't cosine up for this, am I right?!

If I wanted letters, I'd go be a stupid writer!

Instead, I just focused on very basic math; which in reality, is the only math 99-percent of us will ever need. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. I can do all of that pretty well. I like averages, I like means, I like blues, I like greens.

I'm not perfect, but numbers are. Here are a few that do my absolute favorite thing: Say nice things about the Seattle Seahawks.

Colin all angles - 61.75

I spent a little bit of time isolating a span of the most recent games, trying to determine if the Seahawks have been even better against the pass lately. What I found wasn't surprising though: It doesn't really matter what numbers you look at, everything is "cherry picking" because this secondary is historically good.

I started with going back to the 20-13 win over the Titans in Week 6, and showed that in the 12 games since (including playoffs) Seattle has held opposing teams to 239-of-400 passing, 59.7% completions, 2,088 yards, 5.22 yards per attempt, 12 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, 32 sacks and a pass rating of 61.75.

Slightly better than their overall season pass rating allowed of 63.4 -- which is just as impressive as 61.75 when you consider that it accounts for 16 games.

Over the course of the year, the Seahawks faced Carson Palmer twice, Colin Kaepernick twice, Drew Brees twice (including playoffs), Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan. On the contrary, it also included Kellen Clemens twice, Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chad Henne, Matt Schaub, Mike Glennon and Christian Ponder.

Overall it seems to be a fairly.... umm, fair, slate of quarterbacks to judge a secondary off of, and this judge rules in favor of "Amazing."

Look at the last six games, including playoffs:

118-of-200, 59%, 1,069 yards, 178.1 YPG, 5.34 Y/A, five touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a pass rating of 56.8.

That's against a double-dose of Brees, Kaepernick, Manning (the bad one), Clemens, and Palmer.

Seattle didn't allow more than 170 team passing yards in any of their last five regular season games and they held three of those opponents to less than 200 total yards. Kaepernick is now 1-2 in three career starts against the Seahawks -- the win was at home, of course -- and completed 47-of-93 pass attempts, 50.5%, 546 yards, 5.87 Y/A, two touchdowns, five interceptions and a pass rating of 53.4.

In his two games in Seattle, he is 32-of-64, 371 yards, 5.79 Y/A, one touchdown and four interceptions. He has, however, rushed for 118 yards in those two games, with 87 of them coming in Week 2 of this season.

Then again, most of his "productive" passing has come when the game is all but over.

I don't think that Kaepernick has to "take the game over" in order for his team to win, but a poor game by Kaeper could have the Seahawks as the keepers. In his 24 career wins, Kaepernick has thrown 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In his seven career losses, Kaepernick has three touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The 49ers have lost six of the last 10 games in which Kaepernick has thrown an interception (including playoffs and including one interception in their Super Bowl loss) and only Seattle has forced him to throw more than one in the same game. In fact, he has thrown at least one interception in all three games against the Seahawks.

Kaepernick was outstanding over the final six games of the regular season, throwing 10 touchdowns and one interception with a 6-0 record. But that one interception came against Seattle and that was also the one time they were close to losing. If there's a team out there that can stop Kaepernick, it's the Seahawks, and if there's one way to beat San Francisco, it's to force Kaepernick to make costly mistakes.

Jim Class Zeroes - No turnovers

If there's a set of numbers that could ultimately foretell the winner of this game, it's: 4, 1, 2, and 6.

That's the NFL ranking of turnovers and turnovers forced by the Seahawks and Niners. Seattle was fourth in turnovers this season and first in turnovers forced, while San Francisco was second in turnovers and sixth in turnovers forced. The 49ers lost the turnover battle just twice all season (Seattle and Indy in Week 2 and 3, respectively) and they lost both of those games. Badly.

They also happened to lose the turnover battle to the Packers in the wild card round, but managed to pull it out 23-20.

The Seahawks lost the turnover battle just once this year, but won that game -- turning it over three times to Tampa Bay but winning 27-24 in OT.

Seattle has turned it over just four times in their last eight games. San Francisco has turned it over four times in the last eight games. The Seahawks have forced 19 turnovers in that time, the Niners have forced 11 in that time.

These teams have fought hard all season long and prepared over and over again for this one game, but (as San Fran saw in the NFC title game two years ago) that could all be for naught with just a single turnover.

The Sea-Francsico treat - +22.5

Some people say that Seattle has a "homefield advantage." Those rumors are so incredibly substantiated you wouldn't believe it.

The 49ers have lost eight of their last 11 games in Seattle. In those eight wins by the Seahawks, the average score is 30.1 - 7.6.

Yes, that's right.

In Seattle's last eight home wins against San Francisco, they've won by an average of 22.5 points. In that time, they've shut out the 49ers twice (2004, 2007), and they've held them to six points or less three other times (2005, 2010, 2013).

The three times that San Francisco has managed to pull off the upset in Seattle, they've won by an average of 25.3 - 20.3. (If you're keeping track at home, that means that the Seahawks have scored 61 points in those three home losses, which is the same number of points as what San Francisco scored in Seattle over their eight losses.)

So if the Seahawks win, it could get out of hand early, and if the 49ers win, it could very well mean that at least we had a shot at it. And I'd much rather have a shot at it than lose by 22.5 points. Imagine the outcry if San Francisco starts losing by fractions.

A Seattle win over the Niners hasn't been close since Olindo Mare kicked us to a 20-17 win on the final play of a December 6, 2009 game.

While the all-time series between the two teams is all tied 15-15, it's not evenly matched at all when you simply look at the home records for each team during that time. It's a major advantage for whoever has it, and right now that's the Seahawks.

Free Wilson - Ninth in net yards per pass attempt allowed

There's been some talk this week about the 49ers defense, and the fact that Football Outsiders only ranks them 13th by DVOA and 11th by Weighted DVOA. Actually, in their "updated-through-the-playoffs" DVOA rankings, San Francisco is just 12th in Weighted DVOA. Overall, they're 10th against the pass and 14th against the run.

"But the Niners are basically built on their amazing defense, so what're you talkin' about Patrick Willis?"

User michealfox99 (please be MJF) had this to say in the comment section of my Advanced Stats article:

So what’s up with the FO ranking? The important thing to understand about FO’s stats is that they aren’t based on season aggregate data. Instead, they essentially score each play individually and then average the result. They take into account things like down and distance to measure success on each play against appropriate benchmarks. They also apply opponent adjustments. This is why their rankings won’t necessarily match rankings based on things like total points or yards. The key difference is that FO tends to downweight the effect of big plays and turnovers. Many games are swung by things like a single missed tackle or lost fumble. However, FO caps the amount of influence any one play has on their stats. There isn’t much difference between a 15 yard run and a 50 yard run in their stats, both are considered big wins. There is a big difference in total yards (and often points) though. Both perspectives are valid, in my opinion.

I don’t hesitate much in saying FO is wrong about SF. This is not necessarily an indictment of their methods. There are probably many particular issues, but two jump out right away. First, SF has two wins against GB where they kept that offense in check. However, when FO does opponent adjustments they use half a season of GB without Rodgers. This artificially diminishes what SF achieved against an excellent GB offense with Rodgers at the helm. Second, FO is only looking at SF’s production in this season. Most observers factor in that SF has had a top-3 scoring defense for three straight seasons with the same defensive coaching staff and very little turnover in personnel. Teams rarely have such little turnover so FO doesn’t use multi-year data since it’s generally misleading. Overall scoring numbers tend to be unreliable over a short sample of games because they are skewed by fluky big plays. This is where FO’s numbers have an advantage. However, over a broader set of games these fluky plays ought to even out and the total stats start being reliable. I think this is the case with the 49ers.

I can't say that anything Fox said was wrong (that's a name assumption on my part -- what if is his name is actually Miche Alfox?) but I will say this:

Fox's opinion that the Niners defense is better than FO says it is, is exactly that. An opinion.

Football Outsiders ranking of the 49ers as the 10th or 11th or 12th best defense in the NFL is.... an opinion.

It's also important to note that FO doesn't necessarily say that San Francisco is an average or slightly-above-average defense as much as they're saying that right now they're the 12th-best defense in the league. What if we're living in the golden age of defense?! Okay, we probably aren't, but we are living in the golden age of passing, are we not? Here is what I do feel confident in saying as a fact:

The Seahawks are incredible, amazing, awesome at stopping the pass and they are far better at that than the 49ers are. In comparison, there is no comparison.

And while Alfox -- and many others, I don't mean to call him out -- may believe that San Francisco is better than FO gives them credit for, I'm actually not entirely sure that they are all that much better. I know what they are capable of, both negatively and positively.

In Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons at home, they gave up 348 yards passing to Matt Ryan on 48 attempts.

In Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals, they gave up 407 yards passing to Carson Palmer on 49 attempts.

In the divisional round against the Carolina Panthers, they gave up 267 yards passing to Cam Newton on 25 attempts.

While "passing yards" isn't a great stat with which to measure overall success, the truth is that:

A) A great defense like Seattle's hardly ever gives up as many as that.

B) Those players still put up good yards per attempt.

When you look at the 49ers cornerbacks in Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock, you can see that there's a reason that San Francisco will probably be looking to upgrade that position in the offseason. The 49ers survived not by shutting their opponents down in the passing game -- because that's probably not possible for them to do right now -- but by forcing mistakes. They finished ninth in net yards per pass attempt allowed, a stat that looks at yards, attempts and sacks. (Of course, Seattle finished first in this category.) Though resident "sacks guy" Aldon Smith missed a big portion of the season and is back now. Smith had 1.5 sacks against the Packers in round one.

In adjusted passing yards per attempt, which takes into account touchdowns and interceptions, San Francisco allowed 5.8 and finished fifth. Seattle allowed 4.0 and finished first.

No other team was lower than 5.2.

Rogers has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury but is hoping to return this week, meaning that the Niners might also be starting a cornerback who might not be at full strength. That could be good news for Russell Wilson, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.

In addition to those successful passers listed above, of course they had successful receivers.

Ted Ginn Jr caught four passes for 104 yards, while Steve Smith had four for 74.

Larry Fitzgerald had six catches for 113 yards, while Michael Floyd had six for 91.

Roddy White had 12 catches for 141 yards, while Drew Davis had three for 70 and Tony Gonzalez had eight for 63.

In our last meeting against San Francisco, Luke Willson had three catches for 70 yards and Tate had six for 65. It actually seems like teams are targeting their tight ends more and more lately, despite the fact that the 49ers are known for their linebackers. Having both Willson and Zach Miller healthy for Sunday could definitely prove to be a difference-maker for Seattle on offense.

Of course, we talked about Kaepernick's struggles against the Seahawks, but Wilson has his struggles against the Niners too.

In four games, Wilson is completing just 53.4% of his passes for 7.2 Y/A, six touchdowns, four interceptions, and a pass rating of 80.4. But at home against the 49ers, he has five touchdowns, two interceptions, and most importantly, two wins.

Hopefully his home-cooking is stronger than his intra-divisional-cooking.

But when it comes to whipping our pass defenses out and comparing them side-by-side, Seattle is the one going "Haha, mine's smaller!"

Thanks, numbers! See you Sunday.

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