It's another week of the Advanced Stats roundup, and though Seattle lost this week it didn't really do much harm to them in the standings or in the stats department.
Russell Wilson added an interception (sad face, it was so unnecessary!) and the Seahawks added a loss, but they maintain their lead in overall DVOA and defensive DVOA, while the San Francisco 49ers went from sixth to...eighth. Of course, that probably just means that 49ers fans are running to delete "FootballOutsiders.com" from the internet, but it also just goes to show that maybe we didn't have as bad a game as many might think.
It was a tight game between two foes of near-even talent, but Seattle's playoff odds remain 100% and their chances of getting the number one seed are still a virtual lock. Here are the advanced stats as we head into the third-to-last game of the year:
Seahawks at 49ers, Win Probability Chart
As you may have expected between these two teams, things stayed close to 50/50 and rarely veered very far into anyone's favor, up until that one moment that took the air out of Seattle's sails.
While you should never say "we lost because of THIS," Frank Gore's 51-yard run dropped the Seahawks' chances of winning -31.3%. Had they managed to stop him for a nine or ten yard gain, who knows. If they had just stopped him and the 49ers entirely, then it would have swung 30% the other way. But that's not what happened and this was definitely one of the biggest fourth quarter swings against Seattle all year.
"Cool" and "Fool" of the Week
It's a testament to the defense to see that many positive performances, even if single-game WPA and EPA results for defensive players are misleading. I still think you'd be foolish to not assume that the Seahawks had a great day on defense, other than a big misstep against Gore. Consider that they went on the road, in probably the toughest environment they've played in all year, mostly-without their top coverage linebacker, with the Niners working Michael Crabtree back into the lineup, and they held them to one touchdown, four field goals, four punts and an interception.
At this point, I have to wonder if Byron Maxwell has won the starting cornerback job for 2014. I know that there is always going to be competition for most spots, but Maxwell's performance over the last two games is enough to make you wonder if they can move on without Brandon Browner and without having to spend much on finding other secondary help.
A week after having a Defensive-MVP type performance against the Saints, Maxwell had three pass deflections a crucial interception against San Francisco.
We don't talk about Brandon Mebane a lot anymore, but he had a crucial stop of Bruce Miller on third-and-one at the Seattle five-yard-line in the first quarter and nearly setup the Seahawks to get the ball back with more time left in the fourth quarter. He stopped Frank Gore for a two-yard gain to setup third-and-seven, but Colin Kaepernick came back with an eight-yard run on the next play to run off an additional two minutes.
Mebane isn't the complete package like Gerald McCoy or Ndamokung Suh, but as a run defender, he's up there with any DT in the NFL.
We also haven't talked as much about Kam Chancellor and Red Bryant this season, which goes to show how talented and deep this team is now and how boring and not deep they were three years ago. It's the shrewd moves by John Schneider and company over the last two years that really put the Seahawks on top, such as this one
"Cool" of the Week - Cool Hand Luke Willson
The tight end so nice, they gave him the L's twice? No, let's keep that one to ourselves and not publish it in this article. (oops)
Lucas caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, much like he did when playing with Charlie Sheen back in the eighties. I think it's now important to spotlight the athletic tight end out of Rice that was drafted after 157 other players this year.
Willson is 18th among tight ends in DYAR (51 DYAR) sandwiched between Kellen Winslow (I know) and Brent Celek, and ahead of people like Zach Miller, Jared Cook and Antonio Gates. He is seventh in DVOA for his position, which basically just means he's had some important plays when we've needed it and that showed big time on Sunday in San Francisco.
In a year when a lot of people were wondering if Seattle was going to take a tight end in the first round (before they traded it away), Willson has 16 catches for 242 yards, which is more than players taken ahead of him like Gavin Escobar, Vance McDonald and Dion Sims. Of course, with tight ends it's not all about catches (schemes are so different, team-to-team) but you couldn't ask him to do more given the targets he has received.
He's one of only seven tight ends in the NFL to catch at least 70% of his targets on a minimum of 20 targets. (Willson has caught 70% of 23 targets, for 15.1 yards per catch and 10.52 yards per target.) ProFootballFocus credits Willson with 10.8 yards per catch after the catch, the most in the NFL among tight ends.
He definitely looks like he could become one of those "premier fantasy receiving tight ends" I've heard so much about.
"Fool" of the Week - The refs
There were 16 flags and they still managed to miss some crucial calls. It was a horrible week for refs all around the league, here's my article on the matter from earlier today.
Put My Heart In A Blender: Inside-Outsiders Update
Seattle maintains a healthy lead in DVOA, going from 41.8% overall a week ago to 38.7% after 14 weeks of football. They had slight dings on offense and defense, but the biggest drop was special teams, going from 6.8% to 5.8% thanks to that darn-tootin' blocked punt and other things.
They still own the top spot on defense, but the Cardinals are charging hard and now enter the top 10 of DVOA overall as the offense improves as Carson Palmer improves. Still, they could win out and not make the playoffs.
As I noted in my quick recap this week, the game hard barely any effect on the Seahawks chances of doing just about anything. It proved that San Francisco was a good team, but I think we could always agree on that without bias. It didn't prove that they could beat Seattle in Seattle.
The Seahawks playoff odds remain almost the same from last week, in every regard. They are better than 95% to get the number one seed and their odds of winning the Super Bowl fell by less than 2-percent. The Seattle-Denver Super Bowl is still a heavy favorite, but I'd still use caution and say that nobody is ever a really "heavy favorite" for a Super Bowl.
Those two teams have simply set themselves up with the best hands to play, but it hardly puts a ring on anyone's finger. There is a long way to go before that happens.
Stat of the Week: 56.3%
I've been working ProFootballFocus into my knowledge base over the last two weeks and while some of our notable statisticians around Field Gulls hate their grades with quite the passion, I'll take them at their word for the counting stats. By that I mean, erase their opinions and stick with what they tell you about things like dropped passes, number of times Richard Sherman has been thrown at, QB hurries for Chris Clemons, and the like.
Such as deep passing.
It's been noted all season long that Wilson is one of the best deep passers in the NFL, if not the best. Of course, we've seen first-hand how some of his passes simply are not on the mark or we've seen players like Jermaine Kearse, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate make extraordinary catches, or we've just seen some really wide-open dudes thanks to excellent playcalling.
But what we don't see is the other 31 starting quarterbacks (or more depending on if we're watching the Oakland Raiders, Gold help us) and so we don't know what to compare him to. When you do start to compare them, it can make you quite happy in pants.
According to PFF, Wilson is 25-of-48 on deep passes (throwing the ball 20 or more yards downfield) for 847 yards, eight touchdowns, three interceptions and 56.3% completions. No other QB in the NFL is even over 50% on deep passes, with Alex Smith checking in second at 48.6%.
Wilson is third overall in yards on deep passes after Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, but on a yards per attempt basis: Wilson is at 17.64 Y/A, Manning is at 15.96 Y/A and Brees is at 13.79 Y/A.
Manning's 66 deep attempts have accounted for the same number of touchdowns as Wilson and one extra interception. Brees has 64 attempts, 12 touchdowns and one interception but just 39.1% completions. Cam Newton is last in the NFL among qualified passers on completion percentage of deep passes, with just 27.8% of them connecting.
Carson Palmer and Nick Foles are the only two players to not suffer from any drops on deep passes, Wilson's receivers have dropped two. Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford have had six drops each.
Week 15 Opponent
The Giants are 27th in DVOA right now, which would make them the third-worst opponent that Seattle has faced this year, as of right now. However, they are 22nd in Weighted DVOA (last eight games weighed more heavily) and that's because they are 5-2 over their last seven. Still, the Giants have beaten the likes of Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers, Oakland, Washington, Minnesota, and Philadelphia when they played Matt Barkley for most of the game.
They lost to the Cowboys and got blown out last week in San Diego.
Despite their turnaround to 5-8 on the season, New York is still just in a position where you feel like if you'd reverse their schedule they would have started 5-2 and then lost their last six games against good opponents. It doesn't mean that the Seahawks can't lose at 10 AM in New Jersey coming off of the San Francisco hangover (if such a thing exists) it just means that Seattle is the much, much better team.
The Giants are 28th in offensive DVOA, 31st on special teams and 10th on defense. That's really where they excel but they have an abysmal running game that should allow Seattle to pay special attention to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks with Richard Sherman, Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. While tight end Brandon Myers has improved as the season has gone along, what if he becomes their only weapon on offense?
On defense, the Giants are 13th against the pass and sixth against the run.
I'd expect the Seahawks to gain a few extra points thanks to special teams, hold New York to no more than one offensive touchdown, and have Wilson throw a couple of touchdown passes, potentially one to his tight end. The Giants are decent against every position on defense except defending the running back in the passing game. In that category, they are ranked 25th.
Russell Wilson Stats Update
Week 14 - 15-of-25, 199 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one rush for two yards, one fumble, 75 DYAR (12th in NFL for Week 14.)
Well, it went slightly better than his first career game in San Francisco.
In the pantheon of Russell -
Wilson fell just shy of what would have been his 17th career game of 200 yards passing. It was his seventh straight game with a touchdown pass and only the second time in the last eight games that he threw an interception. I don't mind sounding like a broken record when I say that the interception wasn't really his fault.
On the season - 213-of-330, 64.5%, 2,871 yards, 23 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 8.7 yards per attempt, 9.1 adjusted yards per attempt, 106.5 passer rating, 66.1 QBR, 81 rushes for 458 yards and one touchdown, nine fumbles.
Wilson has the fifth best passer rating in his second season of any QB, behind Kurt Warner, Otto Graham, Dan Marino, and first overall... Nick Foles (120.0.)
Wilson is only the fourth player in history to have two 20-TD seasons in his first two years. Wilson and Graham are the only two players in NFL history to have two seasons of 100+ passer rating in each of their first two years. (As long as Wilson keeps it up.)
Wilson is one touchdown shy of 50 for his career. He would be the fourth player in history to do that, joining Carson Palmer (50 exactly, sat for his entire rookie season), Peyton Manning (52) and Dan Marino (68.)
He has a career passer rating of 103.0. Marino had a pass rating through two seasons of 104.5.
Around the League
- The Arizona Cardinals are 8-5 and at +48 in point differential. The Cards have never been 11-5 or better in franchise history (they've had better winning percentages prior to the 16-game schedule) and could reasonably post their best point differential since 1984 (+78.)
- Speaking of improvement and new coaches, I've been doing a lot of thinking about that subject this week.
Bruce Arians has Arizona playing their best football in years, the Eagles have won twice as many games this year under Chip Kelly as they did last year with Andy Reid, the Chiefs have won eight more games this year with Reid, the Jaguars have also won twice as many games as they did last year.
So that's +8 for KC, +4 for Philadelphia, +3 for Arizona and +2 for Jacksonville.
Other teams to hire new coaches were Buffalo (6-10 last season, 4-9 this season), Cleveland (5-11 last season, 4-9 this season), San Diego (7-9 last season, 6-7 this season), and Chicago (10-6 last season 7-6 this season.)
Four teams have improved and four teams have stayed basically the same. No first-year head coaches will be fired and some others are going to be up for coach of the year.
We know that Houston is going to have a new coach next season, but my guess is that Minnesota, Washington, Tennessee and Oakland will be on the market. It seems like Greg Schiano has bought himself another year in Tampa Bay. Some surprise fires could be Jason Garrett in Dallas, Jim Schwartz in Detroit, Mike Smith in Atlanta and Rex Ryan in New York.
Is it better to fire or not to fire?
If you looked around at teams that could have fired their coaches last season but didn't, you see the Raiders, Lions, Titans. Are they better off? Another question to ask might be, "Would the Chiefs have been just as successful with Romeo Crennel, once they had acquired Alex Smith and gotten a bit healthier against this terrible schedule of opponents?"
It's interesting to think about. I'm glad the Seahawks don't have to.
- Seahawks penalty count: Seattle may draw a lot of flags, but is that always a bad thing?
- NFL Playoffs picture, Draft order & rooting interest guide: The Watch, Week 15
- Seahawks Replay Booth: Breaking down Frank Gore's 51-yard run
- NFL unPower Rankings, Week 15: Nuclear reactions
- Coffee & Cigarettes: Seahawks links for Wednesday