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Seahawks Advanced Stats, Week 1: Back II The Super Bowl

An adventure 39 seasons in the making.

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Otto Greule Jr

*Power of Love fades off in the distance, as I kick back on the porch with my main squeeze Jennifer*

"You know Jen, that was one hell of an adventure and we'll never, ever, ever be able to do something quite that amazing ever again."

Jen looks up at me with her big doe eyes and says, "You know Arty, I think you're right about that." And just then ... nothing happened.

Until three days later. That's when Jen and I were playing pickleball and that classic DeLorean comes screaming in at 88 miles per hour from out of nowhere and right into the middle of our pickleball game. Which really pissed me off because I was two points away from skunking her ass. As expected, my old friend with the frizzly white hair jumps out in a tizzy.

*Audience erupts in applause for a full 15 seconds*

"Arty, it's me, your old friend Hawk Brown."

*Hawk Brown looks directly into the camera, knowing how awful this pun is. Audience hisses*

"Hawk, what are you doing here?!"

The old man (though about 20 years younger than you would have actually imagined based on his hair and demeanor in the original film I mean, real life story) gets right up in my face and tugs on my vest with two hands. "Arty, it's your kids."

"My -- gulp -- KIDS?!"

"Your kids, Arty. They bet on the ... They bet on the ... They b-b-b-b"

"Spit it out, Hawk!!"

"The 49ers, Arty!!! They bet on the Niners to win the Super Bowl in the year 2015!"

It wasn't so much that I was distraught as I was confused. After all, the year was 1985 and the San Francisco 49ers had just won two recent Super Bowl championships. Perhaps my kids were just trying to make some easy money. After all, there's no way that the Niners would go 20 years without a ring and still find themselves delusional about the glory days.

*I look at the camera and wink*

"We have to go back, Arty."

"Back? What are you talking about, Hawk?! We just got back. We can't go back."

"We have to go back, Arty."

"Back WHERE?!"

"Back ... II the Super Bowl."

*The opening credits and score come up and you are absolutely losing your fucking minds right now*

Seahawks vs Packers Win Probability Chart (via Pro-Football-Reference)

Screenshot_2014-09-10_at_7.02.27_am_medium

PFR popped off this season by giving the Seahawks a 68.1% chance to go 1-0 at kickoff. It rarely dipped below that figure, with the best thing to happen to Green Bay all night being a Bobby Wagner pass interference penalty on Randall Cobb midway through the second quarter. On the downside, that play dropped Seattle's chances by 15.1% and just 54.6% to win, but on the upside holy shit Bobby Wagner is one fast hombre.

On the tripside, I feel like we all sort of forgot about Wagner's TMNT obsession.

After his cowabungle on Cobb, the Seahawks did what they do and regrouped. The Packers had a first-and-goal at the seven and gained two yards on the ensuing three plays.

Mason Crosby kicked a field goal to tie the game at 10-10, and then Seattle ran a drive that lasted about three minutes and ended in a Marshawn Lynch nine-yard touchdown. The Seahawks ran off 19 unanswered points and were able to fairly easily put the game away.

Play of the Game

Remember in an advanced stats post the "play of the game" isn't a highlight necessarily or an emotionally-crushing touchdown, but typically revolves around a deal-sealing moment that send 1.21 gigawatts to a stat nerd's bone zone.

Seattle has largely been successful over the last year and a half due to turnovers forced and an uncanny ability to not fuck up golden opportunities. Somewhere behind closed doors Pete Carroll's actual secret is four hours of "hot potato" per day.

Down just seven points in the third quarter after forcing a Jon Ryan punt on the Seahawks opening possession of the second half, Green Bay had a chance to tie the game and make a statement about their Aaron Rodgers offense against the L.O.B. defense. A statement was definitely made, but instead of "We Ready" it was "We Scared." On the very first play of the drive, Rodgers threw a quick pass to Jordy Nelson that was only slightly inaccurate, but just inaccurate enough. The ball ricocheted off the hands of Nelson and into the arms of Byron Maxwell, who has the unenviable task this season of not being the Ringo Starr of the four members of the Legion of Boom currently residing on the game screen of Madden.

Maxwell wrangled it in, his fifth interception in his last five regular season games, and returned it 21 yards. Though the Seahawks failed to score a touchdown from eight yards out, they did kick a field goal and make it a 10 point game. Being up 10 at home with 25 minutes of game left to play made Seattle better than 95% to win, and win without any doubt left in the minds of viewers.

Perhaps the Packers were actually wishing the replacement refs would come back, just so the game could've maybe been a little closer.

Sea-Hot and Sea-Not

A wise man once said, "Pump p p Pump Pump p p Pump Pump p p Pump It Up!"

No wait, that was Joe Budden.

What I mean to say is that it's always good to keep it fresh and change it up, so Cools and Fools has a new name, and it's like, super clever. Probably gonna win a Pullytser.

Sea-Hot: Percy Harvin (.24 WPA per AdvancedNFLStats.com)

So in case you were wondering, Harvin is not destined to be "an amazing gimmick" in this offense, he's the focal point. Except he's sort of like a "focal point" in the way that a neutron star is just a dot in the sky. "Oh you see that dot doing nothing? Stupid-ass non-doing-anything dot! Yeah, it's actually spinning at a trillion miles an hour and spreading light beams for zillions of light years and could one day kill us all!"

Harvin was targeted seven times in the passing game and caught all seven targets. Last season, there were 17 instances of a Seahawks player being targeted at least seven times, and none of them caught 100% of their targets. While Harvin had only 8.4 yards per catch, which is a low number for any receiver without a trace of doubt, he's not just any receiver. The point of Percy Harvin in the passing game is that he's almost always a running back, even when he's a receiver.

A handoff to Marshawn Lynch is basically like a high-percentage pass. Like a 99.7% high-percentage pass. Very rarely can Russell Wilson not complete that handoff to Lynch and then Lynch goes and gets roughly four or five yards after that, on average.

A pass to Harvin is basically like a low-percentage handoff, but still an extremely high-percentage pass. At this rate, Harvin could catch perhaps 80% of his targets if Seattle maintains a similar offensive structure throughout the season (which is pretty much an impossibility but we can't guess what Carroll's gonna do next) and then he becomes a de facto outside running back. But instead of four or five yards, Harvin is gaining eight or nine. In addition to his numbers in the passing game, Harvin rushed for 41 yards on four carries, actually out-gaining himself on a per-touch basis with his carries than his catches. He also had 60 kick return yards and by playing in three phases of the game, really makes a nice one-week case for MVP.

The truth is that when you factor in the differences between what Lynch does and what Harvin does, they both pretty much come out somewhere similar in terms of value, but for the Seahawks that's an amazing advantage because few teams have two highly-effective, elite "running backs."

Consider this:

Last season, Wilson had 56.9% of his passing yards come in the air, per ProFootballFocus, ranked 11th-highest in the NFL. That means that 57% of his passing yards were accounted for just between the time the ball left his hand, traveled down field, and then hit the hands of another player. This helps eliminate some of the outside factors that lead to QB yards, like having a player like Harvin who can make unfathomable things happen with the ball in his hands. It doesn't necessarily mean that a QB shouldn't get some credit for some yards after catch; if a QB hits a player in the right spot, he's going to be partly responsible for what happens next.

In Week 1, Wilson had 38.7% air yards, which was 30th in the NFL.

That has to be highly attributable to the presence of Seattle's neutron star.

Sea-Not: Ticky-Tackles

You won't say "Great Scott!" when you hear that Seattle had a piss-poor tackling game against Green Bay, due to it getting more publicity than J-Law's iCloud account. Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, Cliff Avril, Cassius Marsh, and O'Brien Schofield. No, it's not just your starting defense for the next Pro Bowl (obligatory "Can't attend, must Super Bowl") it's also the list of players that had softer wraps than Chipotle.

Eddie Lacy sure looked like a mini-beast out there, but perhaps that had at least something to do with a mini-effort by the defense to make the tackle rather than make an astonishing GIF.

GIFs: Posters for the future! (Hey, sort of like a 3D movie trailer for the new JAWS, am I rite-aid?? See, it all ties together.)

Future Football Outsiders DVOA Update (per F.O.)

If you've managed to flux capacitate an understanding for DVOA, then prepare yourself for a blast to the past to re-think some of those thoughts because things are different in the early part of the year. The first important thing to remember is that these rankings are not defense-adjusted because F.O. doesn't know how to adjust for defenses without any data on the defenses. We can't compare the Seahawks performance against Green Bay to any other performance because they haven't happened yet. (Or have they?) So really these are just "VOA" standings that will become DVOA standings in Week 4.

Second of all, there's this stat called DAVE ("DVOA Adjusted for Variation Early" which I assume is weirdly worded so that it can be called Dave) which is currently 90% based on preseason projections. Yes, nine-zero-percent. Take what you knew about these players and teams headed into the season and add a dash of 2014 regular season football, and you get DAVE.

Which all brings us back to the shit you actually want to know: Seattle is number one.

Screenshot_2014-09-11_at_5.47.35_am_medium

Seattle ranks first in VOA over Minnesota (not adjusted for defense, or a myriad of other things, remember) and second in DAVE behind the Broncos. The Seahawks are third on offense, number eight on defense, and 16th on special teams.

It'll be interesting to see how much the offense does pick up the defense this year, especially with Harvin and the maturation of Wilson for another year.

Playoff odds

It was interesting to track these last year and see the Seahawks inevitably climb up and past Denver as the season wore on. It happened almost exactly as I pictured it in my mind's eye when I fell down and hit my head on the toilet. I don't think it'll be that interesting this year, simply because so many of us expect them to be just as good as they were a year ago.

Still, it's a climb up because the AFC is so weak and the NFC is so peaked.

The Seahawks are 80.6% to make the playoffs and 12.5% to win the Super Bowl, both numbers second to the Broncos. The 49ers aren't far behind. The road to the Super Bowl?

Where we're going, we don't need roads to the Super Bowl.

Stat of the Week

I've done an excellent job of providing non-credited stats to other writers around the web over the past week, so let's kick it up a notch so they'll have something even cooler to "borrow"!

Well, Lynch rushed for 110 yards. Not a lot of people knew that. Take a step further and you'll actually find this crazy nugget of information: 110 yards is actually 10 yards more than 100 yards, which is considered to be "triple digits." No problem, I'll wait while you pick up pieces of your brain from the floor.

Since 2012, the Seahawks are 18-1 at home, with the second-best record being the Denver Broncos at 17-3. They've scored at least 20 points in 17 of those 19 games. They've held their opponents to under 20 points in 14 of those games. They haven't allowed more than 24 points at home since October 30, 2011 against the Cincinnati Bengals, a string of 24 games.

Seattle is 8-0 at home during that stretch against playoff teams. They hold a .733 winning percentage against playoff teams since 2012, best in the NFL. Second-best is the Bengals at .600.

The Seahawks have scored first in 28 of their last 38 games. They are 14-9 in games that they were trailing in at one point. (The nine is a given since every game they lose means they were trailing. The 14 is good.)

Oh, and the last time the Seahawks played a game in which they never held the lead was January 1, 2012 in the final game of the 2011 regular season, a 23-20 OT loss to the Arizona Cardinals. They have had a lead in 38 straight games.

Take that!

(Fantasy football writer says, "Don't mind if I do!")

Week 2 Opponent: San Diego Chargers

When it comes to the Chargers passing offense and Philip Rivers, I was telling people that that sucker was nuclear, but perhaps it's not that explosive.

San Diego lost to the Cardinals 18-17 on Monday Night, providing us with the 13th such score in NFL history. In fact, Arizona has won two of the last four 18-17 games. As far as interesting facts go, this isn't one of them.

What is interesting is that Rivers, a top five QB statistically across the board last season, was mediocre on Monday: 21-of-36, 238 yards, one touchdown, one interception. It appears that either Rivers had a bad game because he simply had a bad night or because the Cardinals defense doesn't miss Daryl Washington, Darnell Dockett, and Karlos Dansby all that much.

I'd much prefer that the former was true and not the latter. And honestly that might be the case.

As a football doctor, I am diagnosing Rivers with a case of badreceiveritis and he needs a running backeotomy. The Chargers had seven dropped passes on Monday, second-worst in the NFL behind the Ravens. There were two drops by Keenan Allen and three by Eddie Royal.

By comparison, Doug Baldwin had two drops ... in 2013.

Teams like San Diego are basically a blueprint of what doesn't work against Seattle. The teams that can beat the Seahawks are ones that are dangerous even without much of a passing threat. Really the biggest exception to that rule over the last couple of years has been the Indianapolis Colts who (ironically enough) were able to beat Seattle in the air multiple times, but the Colts slayed numerous giants during the 2013 season that they had no business beating.

The Chargers, by all accounts, can not beat you with defense. They can't beat you with a pass rush. They can't beat you with a run-stuffing imposition in the middle of the defensive line. They can't rush for 250 yards. Instead, San Diego features an exciting big player receiver with Allen, a potential Hall of Fame tight end with Antonio Gates, and a versatile running game that's good but not great. They got a ton of help from Danny Woodhead last season, who caught 70 passes, but Football Outsiders ranked the 2013 Seahawks defense as the best in the NFL against running backs in the receiving game.

They are also among the best in the league at neutralizing big play receivers and gargantuan tight ends. The defense is built to stifle offenses constructed almost precisely like the Chargers. Teams like the Saints, 49ers, and Broncos. The difference is that New Orleans and San Francisco also played great defense last year, and so that's why those games were close.

This one probably won't be.

Russell Wilson stats update

Week 1 line: 19-of-28, 67.9%, 191 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions, 6.8 yards per attempt, 110.9 passer rating, seven rushes for 29 yards

PFF detailed why Wilson's game was actually a bit worse than his stat line would tell you, because there were a couple of throws that probably should have been interceptions but weren't.

Yes, Wilson got lucky a couple of times, but players get lucky and unlucky on just about every play. I'm not making excuses for Wilson, just like I don't have to make excuses for every player in the National Football League that has to abide by the same rules of nature. Later this season, Wilson will throw a perfect rope to one of his tight ends, that pass will bounce off of his hands, into the air, and into the arms of a defender who had no idea he was about to bump his stats simply by being in the right area at the right time and who actually failed at his job a split-second earlier but was fortunate enough to get a pick instead.

Maxwell was in the right place to catch Nelson's bobble, but also Rodgers could have had a completion if he had hit Nelson in the numbers instead of the digits.

This was Wilson's 12th career game with at least two touchdowns and no interceptions, tying him with Dan Marino and Joe Flacco for second-most through three seasons, all-time. He needs just one more to tie Jeff Garcia for the record and then he'll likely gain a very large lead in this particular category.

Seattle is 11-1 when Wilson has at least two touchdowns and no picks.

Including playoffs, Wilson is now 18-1 at home with 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions, with a passer rating of 110.3.

Since the start of 2013, Wilson is completing 63% of his passes for 31 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 8.10 Y/A, and a passer rating of 101.8.

In his 2.barely career, Wilson has 21 games (including playoffs) with a passer rating of at least 100. That's a record for a QB over his first three seasons. Wilson still has 15 games left to go just in the regular season of his third year.

*Huey Lewis's less popular but still prominent "Back in Time" fades in*

A flash appears in the sky and then the DeLorean appears before safely landing in front of my home sweet home in the year 1985. Both doors pop open like Daniel-san preparing to lop your head off with a crane kick and Hawk Brown and I emerge from either side.

"Well, we did it, Hawk. We convinced my kids not to bet on the 49ers and go with the Seahawks instead. It seems like finally all is right in the future."

"Yes, Arty. And I got this iWatch."

"I don't get it, Hawk. What sort of practical purpose will that watch serve you in 1985?"

"Oh, Arty. In the future, devices no longer need to have a purpose."

"Oh, Hawk."

"Arty."

"Hawk."

"Artyyyyyy."

"Hawkeeee."

"Jen?"

"Jen??"

"We forgot your girlfriend, future wife, and mother of your kids Arty! Without her, you'll never have kids!!! Rendering this whole trip ... moot!"

"Eh, that's alright, Hawk. I think my future is gonna be filled with girls and dates."

*Arty pulls down his sunglasses to reveal his eyes and the screen freezes into frame and slowly zooms in as "Back in Time" fades up*

CUT TO:

Almost 30 years later, Arty is laying on a couch in his studio apartment, writing this very sentence, all alone.

I'll be back in time //

Gotta get back in time //

I'll be back in time //