The only thing you need to know about Pro Bowl rosters is that they are announced before the season is over. Which I guess could also be said about other sports, except their All-Star games are in the middle of the year. It would have been nice if in school, they handed out grades in like, October and March and said, "Go fuck about for the next couple months, if you'd like."
That being said, five Seahawks are on the official roster as of right now and another five are alternates. It wasn't long ago that nobody from Seattle was going to
Hawaii Glendale, Arizona. It's not like professional athletes could afford a Hawaiian Glendalian vacation on their salaries or anything.
It's easy to sit here from our side and say "Well, the rosters are dumb, but they got those five Seahawks right!" but it's not like I agree with all of it. I do think that Seattle has the most talented roster in the NFL, and I do think it's great to see Bobby Wagner get that kind of recognition in his third season, despite missing considerable playing time. I also think that Russell Okung's selection as an alternate goes to show that offensive line gets picked by only two things: Name recognition and where the team ranks in rushing yards.
Which is a flawed way to appoint "the best" offensive lineman. Okung still gets too many penalties, and with Alvin Bailey at left tackle against the Cardinals, Marshawn Lynch had the second-best run of his career. Releasing Lynch saves $7 million next season, releasing Okung saves $5 million. Are we sure that the front office wouldn't choose the latter over the former?
The other "controversial" choice is that Russell Wilson is a third alternate instead of a on-team-not-alternate, but touchdowns speak louder than rushing yards: The six quarterbacks on the roster are all in the top eight for passing touchdowns. This is despite the fact that Andrew Luck is tied for third in interceptions and Peyton Manning is tied for fifth. Wilson is 17th in passing yards, but if you're going to give credence to yards, why is a passing yard better than a rushing yard? Both advance the football down the field equally, you don't get extra points for a passing touchdown instead of a rushing touchdown.
If you added his rushing yards total to his passing yards total, Wilson would be seventh, just behind Aaron Rodgers, and above Tom Brady and Tony Romo. And while Romo is among those credited for being in a "passing offense," the reality is that he has 26 fewer pass attempts than Wilson. Even though he missed a game, that would really only tie Wilson's total if you added it back in.
But Romo is having a great season and I don't necessarily think that Wilson should be going over him, or even Luck, because you could argue either side due to it being a fairly close year for almost everyone involved. You could make a solid case for him over Ben Roethlisberger and Manning too. (Though Wilson did face the eight-hardest schedule of defenses according to DVOA. Rodgers faced the 21st-toughest; Romo the 19th-toughest; Roethlisberger the 23rd-toughest; Luck the 17th-toughest; Tom Brady the 12th-toughest; Peyton Manning the 5th-toughest.)
If he doesn't get an official nod, oh well, but him, Marino, and Luck would be the only quarterbacks in history to get a Pro Bowl nod in each of their first three seasons. However, Wilson hasn't completely escaped honors this week: He was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.
In many ways I think that Wilson is having the best season of his career, but he's also learned a few things and struggled at times ... just like every other NFL player. Wilson's had the best rushing season by a quarterback ever by DYAR standards. He became the only player to pass for 300 and rush for 100 in the same game, and then he almost did it again a couple months later. (But he still became the only player to pass for 300 and rush for 85+ twice in a career.) He really just had a downtrodden middle of the season, sandwiched by perhaps the most impressive six-game stretches of his career.
In his first six games, Wilson had 13 touchdowns (rushing included) and two interceptions, earning wins over the Packers and Broncos. In his last six games, Wilson has 11 touchdowns and one interception, with key road wins in Philly, San Francisco, and Arizona. It was really just three underwhelming games in the middle of the year (in which the Seahawks still went 3-0) that has his overall numbers looking down for the season, but headed into the playoffs, Wilson looks as good as ever.
And that's what really matters. Not some Pro Bowl vote based only on a chunk of the season.
However, those five Seahawks that did get in, those votes are correct and only those votes. Let's give out some more honors this week, this time for some advanced stats.
Seahawks at Cardinals, Win Probability Chart (via Pro-Football-Reference)
A 10-4 team goes on the road to play an 11-3 team and is 75-percent to win at kickoff. I think it's safe to say that has never happened before.
The best that the Cardinals managed to do was make it a coin-flip a few minutes into the second quarter, only because it was still 0-0 at that point. Not long after that however, it was not a coin flip. After Arizona settled for a field goal, Luke Willson's 80-yard touchdown catch and Lynch's six-yard rushing touchdown all but assured that it would take a Ryan Lindley-sized miracle for the Cards to win this game.
Unfortunately for Arizona, he Lindley'd, so then they didn't lead.
Play of the Game
Lynch's run was so good that it kind of overshadowed a shit-ton of amazing individual performances. Willson had an 80-yard catch. Wilson had a 55-yard run, that was arguably less impressive than his five-yard run for a touchdown. Richard Sherman had an interception. Four different players had a sack. Doug Baldwin had a 49-yard catch. Paul Richardson had a 22-yard catch. Bryan Walters had a zero-yard punt return.
All good things.
But nothing can compare to BQ2. NFL.com made it their play of the week, and it wasn't even a competish.
Honors and Yawners (chart via Advanced Football Analytics)
On one play alone, Willson had a new career-high for a game. Luke Willson's previous career high was 78 yards and his best game of this season went for 51. He came into the game with two career touchdowns, and then doubled it on Sunday night against the Cards. It was more yards and the same number of touchdowns as Willson had as a senior at Rice. He was drafted as an athletic "freak" and a project, and while he deserves criticism for drops, he could also be getting closer to that ceiling. Willson was fifth in receiving DYAR this week, and that includes wide receivers.
Russell Wilson is church.
Marshawn Lynch is church. He led all running backs in DYAR (46) this week, despite only carrying the ball 10 times and gaining nothing in the passing game. He's the NFL leader in DYAR for running backs, just ahead of DeMarco Murray. He's also first in DVOA. His MVP case is solid, but I want to get even less wrapped up in that then I do about the Pro Bowl. JJ Watt is the MVP.*
*Why don't leagues include the playoffs in MVP voting? Isn't it just as important -- if not more important -- to be valuable for three or four games in the playoffs as it is during the entire regular season? And if it's unfair because it excludes people who don't make the playoffs or lose early, isn't that kind of the point? Would Peyton Manning have been the unanimous MVP if you had gotten to see his Super Bowl performance against the best defense in the league? It's like the voters are my last date: In a hurry to get this over with.
Doug Baldwin "quietly" had seven catches for 113 yards, the third-highest total of his career. He is seven yards shy of a new career-high. He has a career high in catches and targets. His 74.1% catch rate is ninth-best in the league among wide receivers.
Alvin Bailey seems good enough to start at left tackle in this league.
Paul Richardson had a career-high 52 yards. It's a bummer that Jermaine Kearse got hurt, but a good opportunity for Richardson to show what he can do. It's crazy to think that when he was drafted, Richardson was maybe fifth on the depth chart, and now he could be starting in the playoffs.
Justin Britt struggled again.
If there's "something wrong" with Steven Hauschka, as many people are wondering, it's that he's an NFL kicker. These guys are all over the place, and it's not atypical to have one bad game. You're lucky if your Pro Bowl kicker doesn't have a terrible season. Let's not forget that Hauschka was released by the Ravens and Broncos before he made his way to Seattle. I presume he had all the same kicking skills back then as he does now. You just get an opportunity and then you roll with it for as long as possible. Kickers are killing it right now, and the experiment to narrow the goal post in the Pro Bowl will probably lead to narrower goal posts. I'm not as concerned that he missed two 50+ field goals on Sunday; I'm more worried about the miss from inside 50, his fourth such miss of the year. Those should be automatic. But congrats on the Pro Bowl alternate nod!
PFF's Worst Grade of the Week (via ProFootballFocus)
I don't know why it took me so long to think of adding this section.
Earl Thomas: 1.0 (30th among safeties)
It could be said that Thomas is the best non-Watt defensive player in the entire NFL at any position (if not number one) but he's never really been all that liked by PFF. For the season, they only have him graded as the 11th-best safety in the league, behind two players from Detroit (Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo), Mike Adams, Dawan Landry, Reshad Jones, George Ilaka, and a few others. Kam Chancellor is 19th.
Thomas shuts off parts of the field like it's made of Christmas lights, but is only ranked 11th in coverage. He is a voracious and hungry tackler, but is only 20th in run defense. He shines bright like a diamond, often noted as one of the fastest players in the league, but part of his gift is that he will distract you from the real threat.
Think of the Seahawks defense as a pack of velociraptors.
That's clearly (another) flaw in PFF's grading system.
I don't have a clever name for the DVOA section (via Football Outsiders)
Go read that link from Football Outsiders, it's very Seahawks-centric. That's because they have jumped up to second in DVOA, having slowly climbed the charts to what has now become a rapid ascension that leaves them just 0.3% from the lead. That would be their third straight number one finish in DVOA.
That's got to be some kind of dynasty.
I was arguing with someone the other day why I think that Denver and New England aren't the same teams they were a year ago and why the Super Bowl, no matter who it would be facing the Broncos and Patriots, is going to be much different. That's because Denver actually has a legit defense now after adding Aqib Talib, TJ Ward, DeMarcus Ware and getting back Von Miller. Chris Harris has also joined the ranks of the "elite" cornerbacks.
If the Super Bowl were to be a rematch, I don't think it would necessarily be a repeat. As evidenced with their game back in September, the teams are more evenly matched now and it could down to a final play of the game, rather than being over by the first play of the
game second half.
Week 17 Opponent - St. Louis Rams
The Rams are 19th in DVOA, 23rd on offense, 12th on defense, and eighth on special teams. Their defense was on fire but just gave up 37 to the New York Giants, including a touchdown given up to Orleans Darkwa, which I think also happens to be the name of the black stormtrooper in the Star Wars trailer.
Russell Wilson has one more game left in this third regular season
In Week 16: 20-of-31, 339 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 10.94 Y/A, 122.9 rating, six rushes for 88 yards and one touchdown, 204 DYAR (2nd in NFL this week)
It was another 2/0 game for Wilson. Remember, he has far more 2 TD/0 INT games than anyone in NFL history through three seasons, and there's one more game to go.
It was his fourth career 300+ passing game, and a new career-high for the regular season.
It was only his 10th-highest passer rating for a game in his regular season career. Most quarterbacks rarely hit 122.9 or better.
It was the fifth-highest Y/A of his career. He has a Y/A of 8.95 over the last five games, highest in the NFL on a minimum of 60 pass attempts. He has the third-highest passer rating during that time, at 106.2. Seattle is also the only team to go 5-0 over the last five.
Wilson on the year: 268-of-427, 3,236 yards, 20 TD, six interceptions, 7.6 Y/A, 95.7 passer rating, 112 rushes for 854 yards, six touchdowns, 7.5 Y/A, nine fumbles. He's ranked 14th in DYAR and 13th in DVOA.
Wilson has a career-high in pass attempts and rush attempts. He needs 122 more passing yards to have a new best in that category. He is well short of a career-high in passing touchdowns (26 each of last two years), but combined with rushing touchdowns, he only needs one more score to match his total from last season.
His 1.4% interception rate is a new career-low by far.
Wilson would need to go 25-of-30 for 300 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions against the Rams to finish with a passer rating over 100 this year. If he did that, he'd be the first player in NFL history to go 100+ in each of his first three seasons. And if he were on his way to doing that, you'd think Pete would pull him before he got the chance; as soon as this game is locked up for Seattle, if it is locked up by Seattle, it's gonna be T-Time. (Tarvaris Time.)
There's always the rushing game:
Wilson, like Manning, was best when throwing deep, going 5-of-7 for 208 yards and two scores. Wilson had six carries for 88 yards and a touchdown against Arizona, and now has 284 rushing DYAR on the season, which would surpass Michael Vick's record for quarterbacks set in 2006. Opponent adjustments won't change much in the last week of the year, so Wilson's grasp on the record seems safe, unless he coughs up multiple fumbles agaisnt the Rams. He had just one game with negative rushing DYAR this season, in Week 13 against San Francisco, when he gained 35 yards on seven runs with a fumble.
It's an honor to watch him play.