Things are going so well for the Seattle Seahawks right now that even during their bye week, they won. (Please ignore news about Walter Thurmond III, thanks.)
With the Denver Broncos blowing a 24-0 lead at half and the Kansas City Chiefs proving to be, at best, evenly matched with the San Diego Chargers, there's one really simple way to breakdown who the best team in the NFL is right now: The Seahawks are the only team in the league to have 10 wins.
There are no more bye weeks, everyone has played 11 games (Monday pending),
we don't have to do any weird math fuck you, Packers/Vikings, and if your power rankings don't list Seattle as number one you're either wrong or you're the almighty unPower Rankings! The Seahawks are 10-1 and that is the sole best record in the league. This is the first time in franchise history that Seattle has had the best record in the NFL after 11 games, so remember to take my previous advice and Enjoy It!
While many people have looked for reasons to see why Seattle might not be as good as their record, such as close games against the Buccaneers and Texans, plus a loss to the Colts, we can't just ignore a few things that also really matter:
- What we know now
- How the Seahawks rank in relation to other teams in the league
That's how we will truly know how after 11 games that there is one team that's the best and 31 teams that are, as I like to say, the rest. What factors say that the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL?
Going into this week I had thought it was possible that either the Broncos or Chiefs would lose, but I didn't really think it over and consider that they both would. When ESPN Stats & Info made some tweet last week about how the last three teams to have the best record at this point didn't win the Super Bowl, I thought that wasn't fair because Denver and Kansas City hadn't yet played and so all three of those teams could have been 10-1.
But then Dennis Nedry came in and was like nuh-uh-uh.
Never before could Seattle say that they had won the most and lost the least at this point in the year but here we are. The most simple way to say that the Seahawks are the best team in the NFL is right there in the standings.
I've made many points here over the last two years about how the best record does not determine Super Bowl-winner and I can't start arguing against that now. Instead, I will say that rather than think about Seattle's record I would focus on their path to and through the playoffs:
If the Seahawks beat the Saints, almost nothing stands in their way of the number one seed. That means that they get to play one less game than the Panthers or 49ers or Cardinals may have to. That means that every other team in the NFC playoffs has to win in Seattle to win in the playoffs, and nobody besides the Seahawks has done that since 2011. Rather than focus on having the best record, I'd say instead that Seattle has the best chance.
Simple Rating System from Pro-Football-Reference
One thing I like about PFR's SRS is that it is simple. Margin of Victory + Strength of Schedule = Offensive SRS + Defensive SRS.
To sum: PFR's SRS = MOV + SOS = OSRS +DSRS. When looked over by the CIA and the FBI, the 411 is that SRS is A-OKAY.
Football Outsiders has already proven that it matters how much you win by and everyone should know by now that it matters who you beat. The Chiefs had haters at 9-0 because they hadn't played anyone good and now they're 9-2 with another upcoming showdown with the Broncos. The best teams that Denver has beaten are the 6-5 Eagles (before they were good), the 6-5 Cowboys (barely) and the Chiefs. They haven't beaten anyone else with a winning record, they lost to the collapsing Colts and now the Patriots.
However, SRS does not have Seattle as number one. Denver is still first with an SRS of 11.0 but now the Seahawks have closed that gap to barely nothing and stand at 10.9. I've monitored SRS all year and this is Seattle's highpoint and it seems to only be getting better.
Carolina is at 10.8, New Orleans is at 9.4, San Francisco at 8.4 and then like Cosby's kids at the pool, there's a big dropoff.
I think that the one caveat to that is the Patriots, a team that actually has a pretty good defense and played most of the season without their best offensive weapon. At full strength, New England could very well be one of the best three teams in the NFL.
If the Niners are at 8.4 and the Patriots are at 5.6, clearly there's some adjustment there.
The Seahawks DSRS of 6.4 is second-best in the NFL, well behind the Panthers at 10.3 and just ahead of the Chiefs at 6.3.
But Carolina has a OSRS of 0.6. Seattle has a OSRS of 4.5, best in the NFC and second-best in the NFL, well behind the Broncos 15.6. But Denver has a DSRS of -4.6. Nobody is nearly as balanced as the Seahawks.
We will know tomorrow who ranks first in DVOA but I think it's pretty obvious. The Broncos lost and were only a hair above Seattle. The Panthers won but barely, and over the 21st-ranked Dolphins, and even in third place they were well behind the Seahawks.
Seattle will be the number one team in DVOA tomorrow.
What have you done for me lately?
The Seahawks have won six in a row, one of their longest winning streaks in team history. They've won their last two games by 44 points. Despite a reputation for keeping games "too close" they've won six of their ten games by at least a touchdown and five by double-digits. Despite a once-enormous lead in point differential it's now:
Over the Broncos last seven games, they are 5-2 with a point differential of +52. The combined record of their opponents is 40-37.
Over the Seahawks last seven games, they are 6-1 with a point differential of +64. The combined record of their opponents is 31-45-1.
I wanted strength of schedule to be more in our favor but oh well, can't cherry pick. Both teams lost the Colts, the Broncos added a loss to New England. Seattle did beat the Cardinals pretty good in Arizona and now the Cards are technical wild card-leaders.
The Chiefs have lost two in a row. They face Denver, then two road games, then the Colts, then at San Diego.
The Colts are 3-3 since beating Seattle. Though they beat the Broncos, they only beat the Texans and Titans by a field goal each, while getting blown out by the Rams and Cardinals. Chuck Pagano is 9-6 as a head coach and some might wonder how much of their success last year had to do with Bruce Arians, especially given the success of Arizona.
The Patriots are 4-3 over their last seven with losses to the Bengals, Jets and Panthers. They beat the Saints and Broncos, blew out the Steelers and beat Miami by 10.
The Panthers have won seven in a row with a point differential of +91. Among their wins are the Rams, 49ers and Patriots. They have two games left against the Saints.
The Saints are 5-2 in their last seven, point differential of +56, with wins over the Bears, Cowboys and 49ers. They lost to the Patriots and Jets. Their remaining games are: at Seattle, Carolina, at St. Louis, at Carolina, Tampa Bay.
The Niners are 5-2 in their last seven but lost their last two games. Their point differential in the last seven is still +109 with wins over the Rams, Texans, Cardinals, Titans and Jaguars with losses to the Panthers and Saints. They play the Redskins tonight. They are 2-4 against teams with winning records. The Seahawks are 3-1 against teams with winning records.
Other teams of interest include the Eagles, Cowboys, Lions, Rams, Cardinals, Bears, Bengals... but none would obviously be in the running for "best" in the league right now. Not even San Francisco or Indianapolis is in that conversation at the moment.
- Nine of the last 20 teams to have a point differential of +120 or better through 11 games have made the Super Bowl.
- After turning it over at least once in each of their first seven games and exactly twice in five straight games, the Seahawks have turned it over zero times in three of their last four games. They turned it over three times against the Bucs. Seattle is now tied for 10th in fewest turnovers on offense.
Only the Chiefs (5) have thrown fewer interceptions than Seattle (6)
- The Seahawks are second in rushing yards, 30 yards behind the Eagles. They are also fifth in net yards per pass attempt and are third in passer rating.
- 44% of their drives end in a score, third in the NFL.
- Seattle has also forced the most turnovers in the NFL (26) and are second in TO differential (+11) behind the Chiefs (+13.)
- Teams have run 697 offensive plays against the Seahawks defense for 4.6 yards per play. The amount of plays is only 20th in the NFL but the yards per play is just a hair worse than the first-ranked Cleveland Browns at 4.4. So teams are kept off of the field and then when they get on the field: They screwed.
Updated through Week 11 (until tomorrow) the Football Outsiders Drive Stats really show an interesting indicator of what makes Seattle successful. They are only 28th in opponents time of possession per drive and number of plays per drive but they were fourth in points per drive. Why would teams be able to hold the ball that much per drive and be unsuccessful?
Bend, don't break, don't allow explosive plays, let the other team play until they screw up.
Opponents also start at the 25.48 yard line (sixth) so they have a longer distance to travel. Browns' opponents start past the 30.
The Seahawks, on average, start just shy of the 32.
There are a lot of reasons statistically they you could call Seattle the best team in the league, and none of them are "wrong" as you can imagine I'd say, but there's one really big reason why the Seahawks are where they are and it's always the most obvious.
Why was Gus Bradley's defense unsuccessful until 2011?
Why couldn't Pete Carroll start winning like he did during his USC days until the middle of 2012?
Why are the Seahawks and Broncos and Patriots and Panthers and Saints successful?
Why are the Packers now terrible?
I'm a pretty open-minded person and I love a good tale of a dog or a 12-year-old leading a team to a professional championship. I'd love to think that it would only take a Rookie of the Year in the Little Big Leagues in order for a team to succeed. And certainly there are plenty of examples of a team without the most talent winning it all, but at the end of the day:
Phil Jackson --- Michael Jordan.
Bill Belichick --- Tom Brady.
Joe Torre --- Derek Jeter.
I think Wayne Gretzky probably had some coaches, but I don't know.
The turnaround of the defense of Seattle almost perfectly lines up with the inclusion of Richard Sherman in the starting lineup. He started 10 games during his rookie season and over the final eight games, the Seahawks allowed 16.25 points per game and have actually only gotten better since then.
Even better than when Bradley was the defensive coordinator.
Having Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, Clinton McDonald... If you want to make an argument for a defense that's better than Seattle's start with something that shows you have more than 11 quality starters and at least perhaps seven or eight guys that have arguments as being top 10 or top 5 at their position.
Carroll and John Schneider are the chess masters but Bobby Fischer couldn't beat a See N' Say if you took away his queen and rook.
It also so happens that as soon as Russell Wilson started to find himself in the middle of 2012, this team has lost a total of three games, all on the road, by a combined 11 points.
Show me an offense with a top five quarterback, a top five running back, a top five left tackle, a potential top five wide receiver (arguably number two last season) and two other top 20 or 30 receivers (Doug Baldwin was ninth in DYAR going into Week 12, Golden Tate was 29) and a fairly good tight end duo.
I wouldn't argue against the Denver Broncos offense (though Ryan Clady is on injured reserve, Knowshon Moreno isn't Marshawn Lynch) but again we go back to overall talent.
Top-to-bottom there isn't a more talented active roster in the NFL as of November 25, 2013 than the Seattle Seahawks. I don't know where they will place on February 2, 2014 but today I'm confident.
The Seahawks are the best.