Mentioned all the time: Seahawks and 49ers split the season series! This year, and last!
Mentioned all the time: Niners won the close games at home in '12 and and '13; Hawks have won blowouts here the last two years.
Mentioned all the time: Wilson vs. Kaepernick subplot. The Hawk's overall numbers are better, and Jason's superb postcovers this topic... superbly.
Not mentioned all the time: what does the team's body of work against common opponents show us? And does that mean anything for Sunday? (Assuming that Sunday ever arrives, because this interminable week has already lasted longer than most months.)
I love mining a season, or a career, or a franchise history, for the buried stat. Isolating the Niners' and Hawks' recently completed seasons to just the 12 games against shared foes (four NFCW, four AFCS and four NFCS) yields some pretty nifty treasure.
Table 1a: Point Differential
Fine, let's take it game by game, then.
Table 2a: Weekly, Not Weakly Results
|Bad Guys' Result||Opponent||Good Guys' Result||Advantage Who?|
|W, 33-14||Buccaneers||W, 27-24||49ers|
|W, 23-20||at Cardinals||W, 34-22||Hawks|
|W, 32-20||vs. Cardinals||L, 10-17||49ers|
|L, 7-27||Colts||L, 28-34||Hawks|
|W, 34-24||Falcons||W, 33-10||Hawks|
|W, 42-10||Jags go "Ow, ow ow"||W-45-17||push|
|L, 9-10||Panthers||W, 12-7||Hawks|
|W, 35-11||at Rams||W, 14-9||49ers|
|W, 23-13||vs. Rams||W, 27-9||push|
|L, 20-23||Saints||W, 34-7||Hawks!|
|W, 34-3||Texans||W, 23-20||49ers|
|W, 31-17||Titans||W, 20-13||49ers|
|Total "advantage":||------------->||5-5-2, push|
It's an extremely even slate of team performances, when you set the results side by side. (Note: the Hawks are awarded a clear advantage for their road performance vs. Colts even though it was a loss; the 49ers are awarded a clear advantage for their prettier win vs. Houston even though they had home field and the Hawks did not.)
Next, the running attacks have performed at equally high levels against common foes.
Table 3a: Beastly Run Games
|Those 2 Niners||289||1353||11|
|Those 2 Hawks||304||1400||6|
The two squads ran over the rest of the league at the same pace. Receptions are included in touches. Once again, evenly matched teams: while the Niners scored more times with their running weapons, the Hawks' backs made more plays through the air.
(Note: adding in the QB's running stats makes only a negligible difference, as RW netted 440 yards and CK posted 364 in the same 12 games.)
A final comparison, then -- turnovers. You'll be unsurprised at the similarity, again.
Table 4a: Takeaway Time
|Turnovers forced||Turnover margin|
And this means... what? Hmmmmmm
If there are any good conclusions to be drawn from the above data, they're not obvious. What we're seeing here is that both teams owned the rest of the NFL -- with the two teams generating points, preventing points, and running the ball with the same amount of success against common opponents while coming out way ahead in the takeaway department.
They rule the league in the same way, basically.
Digging a little deeper only further equalizes the teams. Even their special teams are both highly ranked. For the 2013 season, Football Outsiders places Seattle 5th and San Fran 7th in ST DVOA, only to flip them in weighted DVOA with the Niners fifth and the Hawks sixth.
Expand the categories, then! Well, the most superficial research shows us that the 49ers win in a comparison of O-line; meanwhile, fifteen seconds on pro-football-reference.com, and our eyes, teach us that Russell Wilson wins in a comparison of quarterbacks. If you figure that the superior offensive line helps the Niners impose their will on opponents, and the superior play of Wilson allows the Hawks to make more plays out of challenging circumstances, then another stalemate is reached.
So what -- both teams are really good? Like, the same amount? That's some deep #analysis! Stop the pixels!
Well, if they beat up the league in exactly the same way, when they're not playing each other, then the tie-breaker has to be head-to-head performance. Let's try this: how about all the same stats, the matchy-matchy ones from above, only now culled from the 2012 and 2013 rivalry games. Maybe then a conclusion will materialize.
Table 1b: Points Is The Only Stat That Matters You Nerdz
|Games in Seattle||71||16|
|Games in San Fran||20||32|
Table 2b would be super, but superfluous. Each team is 2-0 at home. Onward.
Table 3b: Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink, Say No Gore
|Hawks' Touches-Yds-TD||Niners' Touches-Yds-TD|
Not much to see from the Niners once they leave Candlestick. The Hawks travel pretty well though.
Table 4b: What I Got You Got To Give It To Your Sherman
|Games in Seattle||2||7!|
|Games in San Fran||2||2|
Verdict: every advantage that was previously shared now points decisively to Seattle.
A summary does present itself after all
It's fun to conclude that these two teams are just as talented, because they spend most of their season destroying common opponents. But when they are playing each other, one team is clearly better than the other in the same categories that show their league-wide dominance. This holds true even when each team is given two home games to account for home-field advantage.
So, even if the game were played on a neutral field, the Seahawks would be favored.
But it's not.
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