We all know about the infamous 12th man by now....the name given the best home field advantage in all of professional football. However, I would like to offer another term I have coined for the 12th man in the playoffs, which is undeniably even more crazy and fanatical than it typically is on Sundays....which is the 13th man(I was never skilled in the creative naming department).
It's no shock to anyone that the Seattle Seahawks enjoy a pretty luxurious home field advantage in Century Link field. In the last two years, the Seahawks have lost exactly one game at home in 16 games (15-1), and were a batted pass, or ground/arm bounce away from being perfect. The CenturyLink crowd also set a World Record of loudest crowd noise this season at 137.6 decibels.
We know our crowd is mind-numbingly loud, and gives the team a distinct advantage...whether it be due to the lack of opposing offenses to communicate, or the raised level of adrenaline it gives the team, the sexyness it gives to Michael Bennett...there is no denying the aura of the 12th man.
As impressive as that 15-1 regular season record has been, I believe it's nothing compared to the insane levels of noise and energy that the upcoming playoff atmosphere will bring via the 12th man. In the playoffs, the now infamous 12th man will become more like the 12th and 13th man, as it will take nothing short of an act of God this year for an opposing NFC team to beat Seattle at home in the playoffs.
For perspective-I have been a season ticket holder since 2006. I unfortunately missed the glorious 2005 season due to me living in California at that time, but I remember seeing the games on TV, and how the crowd seemed to "will" the Seahawks to the Superbowl that year.
The Seahawks have only lost once in the playoffs at home in the building that is now known at Century Link field. That was in 2004, when the 12th man was just really in its infancy stages. It was loud, but not quite like it has been since 2005.
Since 2005, here are the games that the Seahawks have played at home...and the opponents they faced.
2005: Divisional Game, vs Washington Redskins. Seahawks DVOA: 3rd overall. Redskins DVOA: 7th overall.
On paper, this was a relatively even game. The difference between a 3rd ranked and 7th ranked team is pretty marginal by NFL standards. The Seahawks lost their MVP, Shaun Alexander for most of the game, but they still won the game in a fairly close, but still convincing fashion. Plus it was the year they "got the monkey off their back" in terms of playoff victories.
Seahawks win 20-10 in a nerve-wracking, fist-fight.
Many experts prior to this game thought the Panthers would not only win, but they might even blow out the Seahawks. There was no answer to Steve Smith at the time, who shredded the Bears the week prior. While the Seahawks had the statistical advantage, no one could have predicted the 34-14 blowout on the way to a Seahawk Super Bowl berth. This was also probably the beginning of the "discombobulated quarterback" play that the 12th man is now known for inducing.
2006: Wild Card Game, vs. Dallas Cowboys. Seahawks DVOA: 24th overall. Cowboys DVOA: 9th overall
This is the first real example of a game in which the Seahawks won that they had no business winning. It was the unveiling of a new gunslinger in Dallas named Tony Romo, coupled with the notorious failing of the Seahawks to simply franchise the best left guard in the league at that time...Hutchinson-gate. Everything was going to hell in a handbasket for the Seahawks, while the Cowboys were supposed to make a serious run in the playoffs.
Well, thanks to a sub-par NFL playoff system in which the Seahawks hosted the game with a 9-7 record, we saw the complete unravelling of a team that was supposed to win....and a play in which still lives vividly in Tony Romo's darkest dreams. As improbable as the "Beastquake" play was in 2010, I would argue a chip shot from the 3 yard line to essentially ice the game, which ended up with the Romo fumble, is one of the most unlikely plays you will ever witness.
Hawks win 21-20, and the legend of the 12th man continues to grow.
2007: Wild Card Game vs. Washington Redskins. Seahawks DVOA: 9th overall. Redskins DVOA: 13th overall.
You would have thought that the Redskins would have learned the lesson the first time around...it's now becoming painfully obvious that it is almost impossible to beat the Seahawks at home, particularly in the playoffs. Looking at the score now, you would've thought it was a blowout, but people might forget that the Redskins actually had the lead in the 4th quarter. It took a series of "miracles" (I use that term loosely when referring to seemingly impossible plays at CenturyLink field) to have the Seahawks score 22 unanswered points to win it...including a missed field goal, two interceptions, one by Trufant for a pick 6, and a little 12th man mojo.
On a neutral field, difficult to tell who wins that game. At CLink? Fuhgetaboutit.
Seahawks win 35-14.
2010: Wild Card Game vs. New Orleans Saints. Seahawks DVOA: 30th overall. Saints DVOA: 10th overall.
In one of the biggest WTF moments in the NFL history, the worst team to ever make the playoffs, both statistically and record wise, hosted the Saints in the now infamous "Beastquake" game. That 2010 Seahawks team was an amazing 30th overall in DVOA, yet still found enough "win forever" mojo to sneak into the playoffs in the worst division (at that time) in history.
I don't need to tell you how that game turned out...if you're new, simply google the term "Beast quake" to find out more about the game. The 12th man figuratively willed the team to a victory that day, as no one outside of King county thought the Seahawks were going to win.
The legend of the 12th man grew that day to epic, Mebane jelly roll, sized proportions.
Seahawks won 41-36 in yet another game they had no business winning.
That's it! It's confounding to realize the Seahawks haven't hosted a playoff game since 2010, considering the great teams they put together in the past few years. Blame the playoff system (I do), but that's the reality. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett and many others have yet to experience the power of the 12th man in the playoffs, and many others like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Golden Tate, etc..were just young pups when it happened last.
If standard home field advantage is worth 3 points, then the 12th man in the regular season must be worth about 6 points. I would argue further that CenturyLink in the playoffs is good for AT LEAST 10 points, given the history. A 10 point advantage for a team that is not only ranked #1 this year in DVOA, but one of the best DVOA's of all time, should be enough for the Seahawks to win out to the Superbowl, which I believe they will...decisively. The best team the Seahawks could potentially face is the Panthers, a team that the Seahawks beat in week 1, and that they are better than in DVOA by a pretty good margin (40% to 25%).
Now, as the Arizona Cardinals proved in week 16, beating the Seahawks at home is possible, albeit highly unlikely. And yes, of course this is still football. But as pointed out numerous times above, there is a difference between the "12th man" and the "13th man". Beating Seattle at home in January is going to take a David against Goliath type of effort. It's just hard to imagine Seattle losing at home.
Let's hope the 13th man can carry us to the Big Apple.
Check me out @_lenny_lens and www.theseattleslew.com