Prior to the season, I put together my view of how stats guide or correlate to the success of an NFL team. I like advanced stats, and Football Outsiders' DVOA & Advanced Football Stats are excellent resources, but for this exercise I kept it to the basics of traditional stats, because that's what I have access to. They don't tell you everything (no stats do), but I did find that they were pretty interesting, as sure enough, my baseline predictions ended up being fairly accurate.
I developed my stats by compiling and averaging the stats of top ten teams in the NFL for the last five years. Doing this, I hoped to develop solid endgame benchmarks Seattle should approach in order to reach the playoffs. Until the Buffalo game, I didn't think that Seattle would threaten the for the playoffs, based on some of the numbers I had laid out. So let's go through my "NFL Playoff Team" benchmark average for certain stat categories, and see how the Hawks stack up.
1. Passing touchdown average - 25 to 28; Seahawks season total: 26
Russell Wilson's rookie season was amazing in many ways. A key focus for me was on the Seahawks' 2005 team. Matt Hasselbeck had 24 TDs vs 9 INTs on 294 competions on 449 attempts. Compare this against Russell Wilson, who finished with 26 TDs vs 10 INTs with 252 completions on just 373 attempts. Not only did Wilson meet the average mark of a top team, he did it in a whole lot fewer attempts.
2. Rushing touchdown average - 15 to 17; Seahawks season total: 16
Marshawn Lynch returned to form despite his off the field issues and in the shadow of a new large contract. Aided by a re-tooled offense in the 2nd half, including the read-option, a package that he seems to be super adept in, he became a well oiled Steamroller instead of a slow plodding bulldozer. His 315 attempts were well mixed in to a high powered rushing attack. He marked 11 of the Seahawks 16 TDs, with Russell Wilson notching 4 and Leon Washington finishing off with 1.
3. Passing yards average - 3500; Seahawks season total: 3234
The Seahawks' slow offensive start left them with a bit of catchup to do. However, this is the only mark they missed by a significant margin. The offense was built on running, and thus fewer passes were attempted; something that was exacerbated with some blow outs. This wasn't really a case for ineptitude or any negative conotation thereof. This Seahawks team just didn't need 3500 passing yards.
4. Rushing yards average - 1800; Seahawks' season total: 2579
With nearly 2100 yards coming from the Seahawks top two position players on offense -- Marshawn Lynch with 1590 and Russell Wilson 489 -- it's no wonder the Seahawks eclipsed the mark of 2457 set by the fabled 2005 team. The rest of the team mopped up, with Turbin spelling Lynch down the stretch, including his own game over 100 yards. This team looks loaded to run the ball.
5. Field goals average per season - 28-30 makes on 32-37 attempts; Seahawks season total: 24 makes on 27 attempts.
Field goals are a key component of any offense, and especially one that wants to be a top flight offense in the NFL. If you gave Stephen Hauschka the opportunity for 5 more attempts in the season, it might not seem like much, but you may have been able to turn 1 or 2 games in your favor.
Side note on offensive stats: I have talked about offensive balance a great deal. I even did an write up on some of the great dynasties in the modern era and how balance assists in creating a good consistency of production. When compared by yards produced, the Seahawks' QB position accounted for 54% of offensive yards, while the HB postition accounted for about 46%. See end of article for my formula in calculating this stat.
The next five keys are defensive stats. These are averaged from teams that finished in the top ten in defense.
1. Points per game average - 17; Seahawks season total: 15
The Seahawks' defense stayed consistent all year, and teams never cracked thirty points in any game this year. They also only cracked 20 or more 5 times all year. All of those save for the patriots game were on the the road. This is the best key stat for defense. You can't win if you don't score.
2. Yards per game average - 282; Seahawks season total: 306
The 24 yard per game difference may not seem like a ton, but added up in a few tight games, will strip you of some victories in the season. The Seahawks ranked 4th overall in the category, but have been a bit unsettled in stopping opponents this season consistently. A flurry of beat downs at the end of the year helped mask an inconsistent 3-4 weeks in the middle of the year.
3. Sacks average - 40-42; Seahawks season total: 36
Again, the disparity doesn't seem that large, but a deficit of 6 sacks is huge, when you think about the close games good teams can play in. If the Seahawks could have notched a few sacks and a extra field goal, we may be talking about the #1 seed (though of course, this is highly speculative). Regardless, sacks are often drive killers, so sacks can be as important as turnovers, in some cases.
4. Turnover margin average: +8; Seahawks season total: +13
The Seahawks minimized their own mistakes and took advantage of short fields as often as possible. Though turnovers do come in bunches, and Seattle piled them up at the end of the year, they helped protect and expand leads later in the year as this team began to find itself.
5. Total point differential average: +185 points; Seahawks season total: +167 points
This isn't necessarily an offensive or defensive stat, but it is key to let you know how effective the team is as a whole on both offense and defense. At the start of the year I said that the Seahawks needed to average 22 points on offense and then only give up about 17 points per game on defense. The Seahawks not only beat those they beat them by a solid margin of 25 ppg on offense and 16 points per game on defense.
1) These numbers have been rounded. Though decimal points are nice, it just made me have to run more calculator stuff than I wanted and the meat is there anyway. Though it'd be nice to list the defense as giving up only 15.3 points per game it doesn't matter because half points don't exist in scoring for the game.
2) Figuring the position balance of production of offensive yards is pretty simple. When I compiled the numbers I added in Russell Wilson's rushing yards to his final total and thus elevated the QB's to 54% from a meager 46% However, when calculating for the HB position, I added their receiving yards to their total rushing yards subtracting that from the QB position and coming up with 46%. The logic behind this is that passes to the back are usually for the most part around the line of scrimmage and therefore the back is more runner still than receiver. Thus taking away about 534 yards from the QB totals and adding it to the HB. Obviously, this isn't a scientific method, but it is just meant to give you a ballpark idea of the production from each position group.
All stats were provided by http://www.pro-football-reference.com.