clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Candidates for Regression, Part 3: The Red Zones

And some field goal goodies too.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
ah, yes. that. i wanted that
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

(For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click around here somewhere.)

The regression series has been... somewhat less than optimistic. As a commenter put it last week, the Seattle Seahawks lived on the positive side of variance in 2018. Your tl;dr is exactly that: 2019 might have some unpleasant luck-related surprises. And not of the Andrew variety. He is so pleasant.

Not everything went exceptionally right for the Seahawks last year. Only fumbles, first downs via penalty, Tyler Lockett’s performance, and now red zone possessions. Opponent kicking too. Only that. No more. (Okay there’s more. John Gilbert took a stab at some Russell Wilson stuff too, but what does that guy know, besides everything.)

Red Zone Redemption

Long story short: The 2018 Seahawks were the best version of themselves, the best we’ve seen since Russell Wilson arrived in Seattle, in the red zone. On offense, they were good, gooder than usual.

Carroll-Wilson Red Zone Offense

Season Red Zone TD % NFL Rank
Season Red Zone TD % NFL Rank
2012 53.9 16
2013 53.2 14
2014 51.5 20
2015 55.6 16
2016 47.6 25
2017 55.6 12
2018 65.5 7

The PC-RW Seahawks are pretty much always a middle-of-the-road red zone team. Sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse. A lot worse in 2016. Their mean isn’t “a top 10 red zone offense.” They’re likely to regress in 2019. (Please don’t. We can see it coming. But please don’t.)

The bigger problem with red zoniness is that in 2018, the Seahawks combined a historically — for them — good offensive season with an almost LOB-esque performance on defense. Their red zone TD percentage differential, a stat I just made up, was their best since 2013.

TD Percentage Differential

Season TD % -- offense TD % -- defense TD % -- differential
Season TD % -- offense TD % -- defense TD % -- differential
2012 53.9 48.8 5.1
2013 53.2 39 14.2
2014 51.5 56.8 -5.3
2015 55.6 44.2 11.4
2016 47.6 56.6 -9
2017 55.6 47.2 8.4
2018 65.5 50.9 14.6

The 2018 differential result, 14.6 percentage points, is the highest of any PC-RW Seahawks team. Better than the stingy 2013 LOB, better than the 2015 video game mode offense.

Observation 1 — please allow me to take a moment to appreciate how the 2014 team won the NFC and led the league in scoring defense without any sort of red zone prowess whatsoever.

Observation 2 — look at 2013 and how it’s a little bit of an outlier. Seattle’s defensive numbers are in the 40s and 50s every other season. They’re also in the 40s and 50s every other season for every other team since 2012. Save for four exceptions:

Observation 3 — 2018 is an outlier in terms of offense, even more than you might suppose at first glance. Only 23 times this decade has a single team exceeded 65.5 percent in a single season. In 256 tries this decade, 232 teams have done worse than the Seahawks from last season. Seattle, suddenly, was a top 10 percent red zone offense of the decade.

Observation 4 — Across the NFL, Jacksonville went from 69.0 to 44.1 TD percentage in the space of a year. Not nice. The Chargers rose from 46.8 to 64.4. The red zone is a volatile place.

It’s also where rushing matters the most. A compressed field makes explosive pass plays far less likely; reaching third and manageable is a worthy goal instead of a fool’s errand. The Seahawks are built to succeed in the red zone. But are they a top-tier offense of the entire decade down there? Ehhhhh.

Opponent FG against

Let us talk about the Atlanta Falcons, which is what you came here for. Our Falcons. Dan Quinn forever, to be perfectly honest. Don’t even talk to me about 28-3.

In 2018, no team was more unfortunate, field-goal-wise, than the Falcons watching their opponents from the sidelines. Falcons foes made 100 percent of their field goals. Not one miss. Seahawks fans know what that’s like, kind of. In ‘14, ‘15 and ‘17, Seattle was bottom-seven lucky. It seemed like every kicker made everything against the Seahawks, and it was almost true. On the flipside, Seattle in ‘16 and ‘17 was top-five lucky.

If you’re looking for a stat that varies without rhyme or reason, opponent field goal percentage is as good a candidate as any.

Their kicker makes them all, or is clumsy

Season Opponent FG % How lucky?
Season Opponent FG % How lucky?
2012 92.9 28th
2013 90 24th
2014 90 27th
2015 93.9 29th, wtf
2016 74.2 3rd
2017 88.6 25th
2018 77.1 5th

Don’t look too hard for a pattern. Instead, let’s express 2018 in a way we can all understand, by identifying who played the part of Blair Walsh.

As a Seahawk, Walsh attempted 67 kicks. He made 58. Not great. He was worse on field goals, 72.4 percent, but he missed nine total attempts all year.

In 2018, a year later, Seahawks opponents also attempted 67 kicks. They made 57. Swap a couple three-point misses for a couple extra-point misses, and the Seahawks essentially faced Bad Blair Walsh in every game of 2018. You can call that regression (it’s not), payback (it’s not), irony (still not) or chance (yes that’s what it is).

There’s literally no way to anticipate what 2019 will look like. It could be anything! But probably worse than fifth-luckiest against kickers. Or! Maybe bring on a series of Walshes again. We accept. Football’s weird. The sample sizes are small and the random variation from year to year is so critical to a team’s final record. Surprise us, upcoming season. But, probability, if you’re listening, maybe don’t make all the surprises unpleasant, even though so far the omens are bad.