Here they come, here they come
The Seattle Seahawks started the season as the top team in the NFL by almost any measure. Traditionally speaking, they were the defending champions and had retained almost all of their important core players as they geared up for a repeat. Power Rankings almost universally had them at the top, unPower Rankings rightfully had them at the bottom, and most agreed that they were the favorite in the NFC, if not the NFL. Advanced stats agreed.
The next week, the Seahawks lost to the Rams and dropped to fourth overall, and second in the conference behind the team they beat in Week 1, the Green Bay Packers. They were 3-3 and many started to lose faith that a repeat was possible, something that even I was not immune to as I wrote that Seattle was not going to win the Super Bowl this season.
The following week after I said that, the Seahawks went into the "60/30 game" against the Arizona Cardinals; they'd have 60-percent odds to make the playoffs if they won, 30-percent if they lost. They won.
And five days after that they beat the San Francisco 49ers. 10 days after that they beat the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the course of two weeks they went improved to 9-4, became the number one defense again, closed the Cardinals lead in the NFC West from three games to one, opened a lead over the 49ers from no games to two, set themselves up to win the division if they win their final three games, and perhaps get the number one seed as well. And as of Tuesday, after being seventh a couple weeks ago, they moved back up to third in DVOA, tops in the NFC.
Nobody's had a fortnight this hot since Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock in their hit movie Two Weeks Notice, am I correct, mate?
Seattle just got through what I thought looked like the toughest three-game stretch possible with three wins, so should we expect three wins because they're on fire like Denzel Washington when he played "Man" in that movie, or should we expect losses because we should expect the unexpected? I don't know what to expect, I'm not Expector Gadget, but this we do know:
Anything can change in three games.
Seahawks at Eagles Win Probability Chart (via Pro-Football-Reference)
If you knew the odds at the time like I did from having done these posts every week, the Seahawks were in terrible shape when they went down 7-0 in the first quarter on the road. At that point, the Eagles were greater than 75% to win the game. But there's also those pesky percentage points leftover in a glass half-empty.
Seattle nearly evened the odds on Russell Wilson's 26-yard touchdown run and then overtook them for good following a 20-yard completion to Paul Richardson on 3rd-and-15 in the second quarter. (Where it says -11.8%)
Pretty soon they whittled 'em down to nada and won the game quite easily once you let Mark Sanchez do his thing.
Play of the Game
The penalty on Bradley Fletcher for pass interference on Doug Baldwin was indeed very costly, but this game really turned on LeSean McCoy's fumble to start the second half. Philly was only down 10-7 at that point and could've easily gone down and re-taken the lead, but two plays after he did that, Wilson hit Marshawn Lynch for an easy score to make it a 10-point lead. The Eagles nearly (or may have) fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff, but retained possession and easily scored to close the gap to three again, but that just highlights the fact that they could score, but the team with more turnovers than anyone else in the NFL once again didn't make it easy on themselves.
McCoy's fumble wasn't just the play of the game for Seattle, but a microcosm for why Philly isn't all that scary of a playoff team. They're doing the work for you.
Sea-lulz and Sea-dullz (chart via Advanced Football Analytics)
Doug Baldwin - Good
Baldwin had five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown (and three punt returns for five yards, but I digress) but an outstanding 88 of those yards came on four deep targets, of which he caught all four: Two to the right side, two to the left. He converted first downs on 2nd-and-16, 2nd-and-10, 3rd-and-13, and his pass interference play was worth 44 yards. His final catch of the day was a 23-yard touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 10-point lead.
This was Baldwin's piece of resistance.
As hard as I am on Doug, it's not because I think he's a bad player. He's a very good player. He's just playing out of position and being asked to do (or not really being "asked to") too much. They don't lean on him as heavily as most number one receivers because he's not a number one receiver. He's just the best receiver on this team. If he becomes a slot receiver that has a big, over-the-top receiver drawing away defenders, then he'll be even more dangerous. Baldwin had 63 DYAR, fourth-highest in the NFL this week.
Justin Britt and Russell Okung - Bad
Okung was pretty bad, drawing another penalty and allowing four QB hurries, but Britt allowed a sack, a QB hit, and three hurries on his own. On the other side of the field, the Eagles can say they have two tackles that would be an upgrade at left tackle for Seattle.
But they can't say they won on Sunday, so there's that.
Byron Maxwell - Good
Why did Andy Benoit say this?
#Seahawks Film: Maxwell was MVP of this game.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) December 10, 2014
Maxwell was targeted seven times and did allow four catches, but they only went for 31 yards and he added two pass deflections. He also added four tackles, three of which were stops. While Richard Sherman hasn't allowed a catch since Week 11, Maxwell stepped up and outshined him not because he was avoided, but because he was targeted and didn't bend, let alone break.
What sort of contract Maxwell gets in the offseason will come down to how he plays over the next few games. Brandon Browner got a three-year, $16.1 million deal from the Patriots, and he was facing suspension and coming off some minor injuries. Maxwell should be able to do much better than that. Especially since Browner is kinda killin' it this year and proving that Seattle DB's do work outside of Seattle.
Jon Ryan - WTF?
Ya gotta love Jon Ryan but seriously, what the fudge?
Heart in a blender inside-Outsiders DVOA update (via Football Outsiders)
The Seahawks now boast a top five offense and defense -- a distinction they share with only one other team, the Broncos -- while having one of the best seasons of rushing offense in DVOA history. Seattle's rush DVOA is 27.3-percent above average, and second-best Kansas City is at 9.7-percent.
The top defense in the NFL belongs to the Detroit Lions, but they are just the six seed in the NFC right now. The second-best defense is in Buffalo, but the Bills aren't even in the playoffs right now. Both of these facts are classic "truths about the Lions and Bills."
Denver is third in defense but while they aren't as good as their hot start and not as bad as their midseason skid, the Broncos are certainly quite beatable -- even if they probably won't be falling out of the top spot in DVOA by season's end. At the very least, the Seahawks can easily catch up to the second-place Patriots, as they are just a less than a percentage point behind them.
Seattle has now beaten three of the top seven teams in DVOA, and they are one of the top seven teams so obviously they couldn't beat themselves. (Unless you're talking about the Rams game.)
Perhaps the most interesting team to me in DVOA is the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco actually doesn't suck this year, Justin Forsett has turned the showerpill into a powerpill, and Elvis Dumervill is leading the NFL in sacks (16) for the second time in the last five years. The Ravens are fifth in DVOA, third in weighted DVOA, but at 8-5 with a 2-3 division record, Baltimore isn't currently in the playoff seedings. I recently remembered that when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012, they lost four of their last five games in the regular season.
You just never know when they'll get hot, so they could be the most dangerous team in the AFC.
Seattle's final three games are against the three other NFC West teams and they are ranked 14th, 17th, and 20th in DVOA. St. Louis is in fourth in the division but they are actually ranked higher than the Cardinals in DVOA...
Week 15 opponent - San Francisco 49ers
Overall - 14 ; Offense - 19 ; Defense - 5 ; Special teams - 28
For the first three years of his career as San Francisco's offensive coordinator, Greg Roman's quarterbacks threw the fewest interceptions in the NFL in each of those years. There was plenty to be desired of course, the 49ers are not an explosive offense and they ranked 11th in scoring in all three years as well, but they didn't shoot themselves in the foot. It was an offense built on being the best that you could be, or at least that's how it seemed.
In his fourth year, now that San Francisco is 26th in scoring, Colin Kaepernick has thrown 10 interceptions, and they are 15th in giveaways, Roman's days are numeraled.
The important thing to remember when preparing your expectations for this week's game against the 49ers is exactly what I said about the Seahawks in the opening segment of this article. In two weeks, everything can change. Seattle turned themselves around with that unexpected easy win over San Francisco in Santa Clara, and it's not unfathomable to think that the 49ers can re-motivate themselves with an upset over the Seahawks this weekend.
None of the coaches are really loved in San Francisco right now, but emotions would change in a heartbeat if they beat the Hawks in Seattle.
Russell Wilson isn't Colin Kaepernick stats update
In Week 14: 22-of-37, 263 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 99.3 passer rating, 7.11 Y/A, 10 rushes for 48 yards and one touchdown
One thing that's often overlooked in the question to cite passing yards is the ability to score points, not punts. The ability to turn it into six, not turn it over. Andrew Luck has about 650 more passing yards than Aaron Rodgers and one more touchdown, but the difference between Luck and Rodgers (and yeah, Wilson and Rodgers) is massive. Luck has 10 more interceptions than Rodgers and 0.9 fewer yards for every attempt.
Touchdowns, not turnovers. Why do I bring this up?
Wilson now has 17 career games with at least two touchdowns and no interceptions. That's not just the NFL record for a QB through three seasons, its the NFL record by far. Jeff Garcia is second all-time with 13, Luck, Joe Flacco and Dan Marino each have 12. Wilson also had an 18th such game in the playoffs, which happened to be in the biggest game of his life.
He also has 29 career games (incl. playoffs) with a passer rating of 99 or better, which is eight more than any other player through three years.
Since I already brought him up ... Rodgers doesn't qualify in any of these because he sat for three years before starting. He had 14 regular season games with at least two touchdowns and no picks through his first three seasons, 17 if you include playoffs. He also had 29 career games with a passer rating of 99 or better. So does Wilson's first three seasons compare favorably to Rodgers in at least a few ways?
Indeed, it holds true. Your honor, I rest my case.
"You're held in contempt! Take this man away!"
But your honor, this is just a bit within an article! You're not even real.
"I sentence you to ... write the rest of this article."
In Season 3: 236-of-372, 63.4%, 2,729, 17 touchdowns, five interceptions, 7.3 Y/A, 95.2 passer rating, 101 rushes for 727 yards and five touchdowns.
Wilson is the sixth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to rush for at least 700 yards in a season. Can you name the other five?
His completion percentage is now slightly higher than it was last year (63.1% in 2013), his TD% is down from 6.4 to 4.6 but his interception percentage is down from 2.2 to 1.3. His TD% is actually league average, while of course his interception percentage is well above-average. Or below-average? It's good. His yards per game is now up by 0.1 yards per game! He's taking more attempts to get there though, so his Y/A is a career-low.
Wilson's rushing prowess going into the game against Philadelphia, via FO:
Through 12 games, Russell Wilson has 233 rushing DYAR. That’s already the third-best single-season total for a quarterback since 1989, behind Michael Vick’s 241 in 2004 and 261 in 2006. Wilson needs 29 DYAR to break Vick’s 2006 mark; he has already topped 29 DYAR in a game three times this season (against Washington, St. Louis, and the Giants), so there’s a reasonable chance Wilson will be the record-holder come Monday morning.
Wilson added eight rushing DYAR on Sunday, tying him with Vick's mark in 2004 and now needs 21 more to break the record.
Here they come, here they come.