Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Super Bowl XLIX Preview
Super Bowl XLIX Preview
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

If you've been reading Football Outsiders the last couple weeks, you know the drill on this one. Super Bowl XLIX is a close matchup if you look at our standard regular-season DVOA, where the Seattle Seahawks finished No. 1 and the New England Patriots No. 4. But it's really, really close if you use our weighted DVOA ratings that include playoff performance and gradually lower the weight of games from more than two months ago. In fact, it might be the closest Super Bowl matchup ever.

... but again, it's only the closest Super Bowl matchup ever if you don't consider the first few weeks of the season. This gets to what has been a running theme this year: just how much data is appropriate to judge a team, and is it really more accurate to judge a team without including its early-season games? We've written about how surprisingly, total regular-season DVOA tends to predict playoff performance better than weighted (although also regular-season only) DVOA. At the same time, you don't want to allow tiny differences in correlations to overwhelm common sense.

There's no doubt that the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are better teams now than they were in September and early October. It's not a question of just looking at the records, where the Patriots began 2-2 and the Seahawks 3-3. There are major personnel changes that help to explain the statistical improvement in the second half of the year, in particular players who either returned from injury/suspension (Jeremy Lane, Brandon Browner) or played through early injury and then improved as they got healthier (Rob Gronkowski, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor). The Seahawks offense improved when they stopped desperately trying to run the entire scheme around Percy Harvin. The Patriots offense improved when they finally installed rookie Bryan Stork at center, then again when they picked up LeGarrette Blount off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Analysis of the stat matchups in this game is made more confusing by the way those stats changed dramatically over the course of the year as the two teams improved -- or, in a handful of areas declined. The running theme of this preview is to ask "which Seahawks team are we looking at, and which Patriots team are we really looking at?"

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link. Please remember that all stats represent regular season only, except for weighted DVOA and anything else specifically noted. All game charting for these two teams is now complete; any game charting data that appears with a asterisk appears courtesy of the ESPN Stats & Information Group. This preview has two different week-to-week charts for each team, one for offense and one for defense. Because defensive DVOA is opposite of offensive DVOA, the defensive charts are flipped upside-down; thus, the higher dots still represent better games.

You also might want to read the rest of our Super Bowl XLIX content from over the last couple weeks.

All readers can click here for in-game discussion on our message boards. If you have FO Premium, you can click here to see all the matchup of DVOA splits for this game.

Seahawks on Offense
DVOA 16.7% (5) -3.4% (11)
WEI DVOA 16.0% (4) -12.4% (12)
PASS 19.6% (10) 2.0% (12)
RUSH 29.9% (1) -10.4% (14)
RED ZONE 23.2% (4) -11.4% (10)

Patriots on Offense
DVOA 13.6% (6) -16.3% (1)
WEI DVOA 21.3% (3) -25.2% (1)
PASS 35.0% (5) -9.3% (3)
RUSH -3.6% (14) -25.1% (2)
RED ZONE 5.2% (11) 10.0% (28)*

Special Teams
DVOA -1.7% (19) 5.5% (5)
SEA kickoff +4.5 (11) +0.5 (13)
NE kickoff -7.5 (31) +8.4 (3)
SEA punts -4.0 (21) +8.4 (5)
NE punts -2.4 (15) -0.6 (18)
FG/XP +0.8 (13) +10.8 (1)

*In keeping with the theme of these two teams transforming after the early weeks of the season, this is no longer an issue for the Seahawks, as explained further here.


Seattle is one of the few NFL offenses still based around the ground game despite the pass-heavy environment of the modern NFL. The Seahawks run more than almost any other team, and they do it with remarkable efficiency that mixes steady gains with huge game-breaking highlight runs. Seattle's run offense DVOA, which incorporates both runs by the running backs and by quarterback Russell Wilson, was the fifth highest of any team since 1989.

A quick look at New England's season-long stats suggests that the Seahawks won't find it too tough to run on the Patriots. They've been an average run defense over the course of the entire season... but this is the first of many places where one of these teams has changed dramatically since the early part of the season.

From their Week 10 bye until the end of the regular season, the Patriots had the best run defense in the league according to DVOA. There's no clear change that seems to explain such a strong turnaround. It's not really an issue of linebackers, as both Jamie Collins and Donta Hightower were playing plenty even before Jerod Mayo went out for the season in Week 6. The Pats added defensive tackle Alan Branch in Week 11, but he didn't play 40 percent of the snaps in a game until Week 16. Another rotation tackle, Sealver Siliga, returned from the IR-designated list, but not until Week 14.

Patriots Run Defense, 2014
Weeks DVOA Rk RB Yards Rk ALY Rk Stuff Power SLY OFY
Weeks 1-9 1.6% 26 4.63 25 4.43 28 11% 88% 1.33 0.54
Weeks 11-17 -28.2% 1 3.25 2 3.26 4 23% 73% 0.97 0.39
Shaded cells are stats that include all runs, while the other stats are for running backs and Wildcat plays only.

The improved run defense disappeared in the two playoff games, although that's obviously a small sample size. The Patriots allowed a combined 4.79 yards per carry and 13.7% DVOA to the Baltimore and Indianapolis running backs.

The Patriots don't allow a lot of long runs (No. 3 in the league, allowing just 0.47 Open Field Yards per carry) but they don't force a lot of short runs either. They stuff opposing running backs on just 15.7 percent of runs (28th in the NFL) while Seattle running backs are stuffed for a loss or no gain on just 17.5 percent of runs (sixth among offenses). The numbers look even worse for the Patriots in those must-convert situations. Seattle converted 81 percent of short-yardage runs, tied for the league lead, while the Patriots allowed conversions on 81 percent of these runs, the worst of any defense in the league. Like all the Pats' run defense numbers, these stats got better in the second half fo the season. The stuff percentage is particularly improved after Week 11, but the ability to stop opponents in short-yardage situations was still a problem.

Another issue is that the Seahawks run best where the Patriots' run defense is at its worst. Our ALY numbers show the Pats as strongest against runs on the left and weakest against runs up the middle or to the right. And the Seahawks running backs are strongest when running to the right, and weaker when running to the left, though they are better running "left end" than "left tackle."

There's also the type of run we're talking about here. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, the Patriots faced 38 read option plays this year, exactly the NFL average, and did allow a less-than-average 4.18 yards per carry. Cian Fahey talked about it a bit in his piece on the Patriots' linebackers last week, but 33 of those 38 plays came against two teams, the Dolphins and Jets. The Dolphins only ran one zone read in Week 1, so we're really just talking three games, plus a handful of plays by the Raiders and Bengals. There was a blown handoff by the Jets charged to Geno Smith, but only two of the other 37 plays were quarterback keepers, Ryan Tannehill runs for 15 and 6 yards in Week 15. That's 5.4 percent of the zone reads against the Pats. By comparison, Russell Wilson kept the ball on 18.8 percent of Seattle zone reads this season, not counting blown handoffs. So the Patriots' defense against the Jets and Dolphins doesn't tell us what they'll do against a better running back and a quarterback more likely to keep the ball.

Connected to the read option, in part, is the play-action game. The Seahawks used play-action on 31 percent of pass plays this year, second in the NFL, and many of those fakes were built to look like zone reads (or were actually zone reads where Wilson kept and threw instead of handing off). Seattle actually got a below-average benefit from play-action, with average yards going from 6.6 without to 7.4. That's an 0.8-yard advantage, compared to the NFL average of 1.3 yards. The Patriots faced very little play-action -- 17.7 percent of passes, 30th in the NFL -- and were average against it, allowing 7.4 yards per pass with play-action and 6.0 yards per pass without.

New England's pass defense improved at the same time the run defense did, from 10.2% DVOA in Weeks 1-9 to -8.1% DVOA after the Week 10 bye. Pass defense around the entire league improved significantly in the second half of this season, so that only took the Patriots from ranking 16th in pass defense in the first half of the year to 11th in the second half. However, there is a clear personnel change here that led to the improvement in the pass defense: the activation of Brandon Browner after an early-season suspension and a couple of games missed due to an ankle injury. More importantly, activating Browner meant the Patriots didn't need to depend on undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler or the suddenly, inexplicably terrible Alfonzo Dennard.

New England Cornerbacks, 2014
Player Charted
Yd/Pass Suc Rate Avg
Pass Dist
Darrelle Revis 72 7.1 63% 13.8
Logan Ryan 52 8.0 50% 12.2
Brandon Browner 48 7.6 56% 14.3
Kyle Arrington 40 6.6 55% 12.0
Malcolm Butler 28 9.7 54% 16.9
Alfonzo Dennard 22 11.1 36% 10.6

Darrelle Revis led the Patriots in targets mostly because Browner only played nine games, but make no mistake, he's not Revis Island anymore. He's just Revis, Very Good Cornerback. Opponents were perfectly find throwing at Revis a few times per game. His coverage stats are similar to those for Richard Sherman, with a slightly higher Success Rate but more yards allowed per pass. As you might expect, Revis moves around the field more than almost any cornerback in the league. We have him charted with 28 targets on the left side, 30 on the right. Some thought that the Patriots might revert to cornerbacks-by-sides once Browner was healthy since he had been used to always playing on one side in Seattle, but he moved around too, with 26 targets charted on the left and 18 on the right. Revis generally does cover the opponent's No. 1 receiver and I suppose that means Doug Baldwin in this game, with safety help likely rolling towards Browner covering Jermaine Kearse. Kyle Arrington is the preferred slot corner. Ryan is the utility guy, who covered for Browner early in the season, covered for Arrington late in the year, and came in when the Pats went to a four-corner, one-safety "penny" set like they did against the Colts in the AFC Championship. Butler is primarily a special teams player who will only play defense if there's an injury; Dennard lost his job early in the season and has only two charted targets after Week 7.

Seattle's passing game improved after the early part of the season, just like the New England pass defense, and again a specific personnel change is clearly part of the improvement. After Week 6, the Seahawks weren't trying to build their entire offense around 2-yard passes to Percy Harvin, and they went from 10.4% passing DVOA and 6.12 net yards per pass before the trade of Harvin to 23.8% DVOA and 6.71 net yards per pass afterwards. Harvin actually had the worst DVOA of any of the Seattle wide receivers this season.

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The wide receivers are not the strongest part of the Seattle offense. Doug Baldwin is very good, as noted in this piece about catch radius before the season, but he still had just 5.4% receiving DVOA. The other starting receiver, Jermaine Kearse, was just 61st in DVOA among wideouts with at least 50 passes. Paul Richardson, the only other receiver with more than 15 targets, is out with a torn ACL.

Making up for that weakness are the running backs, who are very good as receivers, as well as tight end Luke Willson, a 2013 fifth-round pick who has broken out big in the second half of the season. Since Week 10, including the postseason, Willson has 47.6% DVOA, catching 20 of 29 targets for 362 yards and three touchdowns. Willson could have a huge game because the Patriots have had major problems covering tight ends all season, ranking 30th in the NFL. Their DVOA against tight ends improved slightly in the second half of the year, but was still poor at 13.4%, and they actually allowed a higher catch rate to opposing tight ends after Week 10 (68 percent, as opposed to 63 percent before Week 10).

The Patriots are likely to use either Collins or Hightower as a spy to try to prevent Wilson scrambles, just as they did against Andrew Luck in the AFC Championship Game. They are not likely to blitz very much to try to pressure Wilson. Wilson is very good against the blitz, going from 6.7 yards per play with three or four pass rushers to 7.7 yards per play with five or more.* Meanwhile, Jacksonville was the only defense in the league to send five or more pass rushers less often than the Patriots, who blitzed 20.7 percent of pass plays. The Pats actually allowed more yards per pass blitzing (6.6) than not blitzing (6.3) and they were particularly gruesome on the rare occasion that they sent a defensive back blitz (only 5.8 percent of pass plays, but they allowed an average of 9.7 yards on those 34 plays).

One more stat I couldn't fit in elsewhere above: We've written a few times about the Seahawks' tendency to start games slow and then improve in the second half. They rank 13th on offense and seventh on defense before halftime, then lead the league in both offensive and defensive DVOA after halftime. The offense, at least, has to tangle with a Patriots defense that shows the same trend. In fact, New England's trend is more specific. The Patriots this year ranked just 30th with 11.8% defensive DVOA in the first quarter of games. Only Tampa Bay and Oakland were worse defenses for the first 15 minutes. After the first quarter, the Patriots had -8.4% DVOA, making them the league's No. 7 ranked defense from the second quarter on.


You may remember that our preview of the AFC Divisional matchup between Baltimore and New England pointed out that Joe Flacco seems to have his best games against the league's worst pass defenses, even after adjusting for quality of opponent. Kenneth Arthur pointed out this week in a piece over on that the opposite seems to be true for Tom Brady, at least this season. For the most part, Brady had his best games this year against the best pass defenses on the schedule. His best game by DVOA came against Chicago, ranked 29th in pass defense, but he also clobbered Buffalo (No. 1) and Cincinnati (No. 7). Not counting the Week 17 game against Buffalo, where he played only one half with a number of other starters sitting on the bench, Brady's bottom four games in unadjusted VOA all came against pass defenses ranked between No. 13 and No. 25.

This trend doesn't stick out quite as much with a larger sample, but yes, Brady really does seem to play best against his best opponents -- and his worst opponents. I took every game from the last three seasons, including the playoffs, and broke them down into four categories based on the final regular-season pass defense DVOA rank of the opponent.

Tom Brady Pass DVOA/VOA Based on Opponent Quality, 2012-2014
All Games Only Games with Gronk Active
Opponents DVOA VOA Games DVOA VOA Games
Pass Ds 1-8 31.3% 15.4% 17 46.8% 31.3% 9
Pass Ds 9-16 14.3% 11.2% 16 6.5% 3.5% 10
Pass Ds 17-24 19.6% 25.6% 16 25.4% 31.5% 12
Pass Ds 25-32 35.1% 50.4% 5 43.5% 56.0% 4

The numbers for the "Pass Ds 9-16" category actually go down with Gronk active because that includes the two worst games from early this season when Gronk wasn't yet fully healthy, against Miami and Kansas City. The "Pass Ds 1-8" category includes the Week 6 game from 2012 where Brady had 12.3% passing DVOA (which was -5.8% VOA before adjustment) against Seattle. And yes, there's a little bit of arbitary endpoint-picking going on here but I tried to make a big scatter plot and it just looked messy. So I went with the table.

Looking at Brady's numbers with and without Rob Gronkowski is extra important since covering the tight end has been a (relative) weakness of the Seattle defense this season. They rank only 18th in DVOA against tight ends, which could certainly present a problem when dealing with one of the best tight ends in NFL history.

Like the Patriots defense, the Patriots offense had some absurdly strong splits if you look at the first half of the season compared to the second half of the season. For example, the Patriots had the absolute worst rushing DVOA in the league through Week 9. Then came the big Jonas Gray game against the Colts followed by the return of LeGarrette Blount. As a result, the Patriots from Week 10-17 were the second best rushing team in the entire NFL, behind only the Seahawks. Blount's numbers for the entire season may not be that impressive, but that's because he had only -10.2% DVOA in Pittsburgh. He had 15.2% DVOA in New England during the regular season, with 18.3% DVOA during the playoffs.

The Seahawks' ALY numbers show them as stronger defending runs to the offense's right than the offense's left. The Pats' ALY numbers are... well, really kind of strange. The Patriots are top four in ALY in runs marked as left end, left tackle, right end, or right tackle. They are 25th in runs up the middle (listed as middle, left guard, or right guard). And those numbers actually went down, not up, when the Patriots' rushing DVOA started to improve with the return of Blount in Week 12. The Patriots went from 4.15 ALY on runs up the middle in Weeks 1-11 to 2.62 in Weeks 12-17. On other runs, they went from 4.57 ALY in Weeks 1-11 to 5.32 in Weeks 12-17.

The threat of Blount sets up the play-action pass, which the Patriots use more than you might expect. The Pats used play-action on 25 percent of passes this year, not as frequently as Seattle but still in the NFL's top ten. They got a nice bump, going from 5.9 yards per pass without play-action to 8.0 with play-action. That's 2.1 yards per play, compared to the NFL average increase of 1.3 yards per play. The Seahawks' gap between yards allowed with and without play-action was roughly around the NFL average, but of course since they're the Seahawks, that means they were better than average in both cases.

The Seattle defense also improved in the second half of the season, as players like Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor finally got fully healthy. If you are alarmed by the Seahawks' red zone defensive DVOA listed in the tables at the start of this preview, don't be. Our NFC Championship preview pointed out the way the Seahawks had solved this problem in the second half of the year. Here's that table again in case you missed it last week.

Seattle Defense in Red Zone, 2014
DVOA Rk Yd/Play Rk Suc Rate Rk Pts/RZ Rk TD/RZ Rk
Weeks 1-11 28.3% 31 3.52 31 42% 32 5.66 31 69% 31
Weeks 12-17 -51.5% 4 2.22 6 70% 5 4.49 9 44% 3

Seattle's improved red zone defense continued in their first two postseason games, with -36.4% DVOA in the red zone against Carolina and -7.6% DVOA against Green Bay. (The Seahawks do get docked a bit in DVOA for letting the Packers get down to the 1 twice, even though they also stopped the Packers on the 1 twice.)

The Patriots, strangely, have both improved and declined in the red zone over the course of the season. It depends if you are talking about rushing or passing. For the entire 2014 regular season, were sixth with 28.4% DVOA passing in the red zone, but 18th with -1.9% DVOA rushing. As you might expect, considering the other improvements in the New England running game since midseason, that red-zone rushing DVOA has gone up since Week 12. The Pats had -22.3% rushing DVOA in the red zone through Week 11, but have 36.6% rushing DVOA in the red zone since Week 12, including the playoffs. However, the passing rating declined in that same time period, from 87.9% passing DVOA through Week 11 to a horrid -6.9% passing DVOA in Weeks 12-20. A big part of that is Brady's two red-zone interceptions, both on passes intended for Rob Gronkowski. However, that bad passing DVOA in the red zone is all about the regular season. It breaks down into -60.7% passing DVOA in the red zone in Weeks 12-17, and then 93.8% passing DVOA in the red zone in the postseason.

The Patriots were so bad passing in the red zone in those last few weeks that it dragged down their entire passing DVOA rating. The Patriots had 46.2% passing DVOA in Weeks 1-9, third in the NFL, and then dropped to 20.8% in Weeks 10-17, eighth in the NFL. And the drop was all because of the red zone.

New England Passing DVOA, Red Zone vs. Rest of Field, 2014
Weeks Red Zone Not Red Zone
Weeks 1-9 95.9% 36.4%
Weeks 11-17 -52.1% 36.4%
Weeks 19-20 93.8% 44.6%

There's a similar trend regarding third-and-short. Overall, the Patriots ranked 30th in third/fourth-and-short DVOA this season. They were good passing in these situations early in the year, but not running, and then they were good running in the second half of the year, but not passing. Seattle's defense ranked ninth in DVOA on third-and-short. The Seahawks' real strength on defense came on first downs and third-and-long. Seattle ranked first in the NFL in DVOA in both situations, and the Patriots' offense ranked fourth in both situations.

Seattle Cornerbacks, 2014
Player Charted
Yd/Pass Suc Rate Avg
Pass Dist
Byron Maxwell 65 8.1 48% 13.2
Richard Sherman 59 6.3 61% 15.1
Marcus Burley 28 6.1 54% 11.1
Tharold Simon 20 4.4 65% 14.8
Jeremy Lane 18 4.7 67% 9.5

Josh McDaniels has told the media that the Patriots won't deliberately avoid Richard Sherman but I doubt they'll throw much at him either. Not only is Sherman one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but the Tom Brady wasn't very good throwing to the right side of the field this season. He had 12.7% DVOA and 6.3 yards per pass to the right side, both lower than the NFL averages of 16.3% DVOA and 7.1 yards. Brady was slightly above average throwing to the left, but he really shines in two areas:

  • Brady is great throwing to the middle of the field. Brady had 63.5% DVOA, much higher than the NFL average of 38.3% DVOA, although his average of 8.8 yards per pass isn't much higher than the NFL average of 8.6 yards. The Seahawks ranked eighth in the league against throws up the middle, not quite as good as they were against throws to the outside. Shockingly, despite the presence of Earl Thomas, the Seahawks were 24th against "deep middle" passes with 53.8% DVOA allowed. Once again, the spectre of Gronk rears its head. But so do the spectres of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. Jeremy Lane, not Richard Sherman, may be Seattle's most important cornerback in this Super Bowl.
  • Brady is great at avoiding sacks. In case you are wondering how the league's "value over average" could be above average in all three directions, left, middle, and right, it's because those passes are balanced out by sacks, which don't come with a pass direction listed and are always negative. The Patriots were second in the NFL with an Adjusted Sack Rate of 4.4 percent. In the Week 5-15 period when they finally had their offensive line sorted out, before shuffling things due to injury in the final two weeks, the Patriots had a remarkably low ASR of 2.7 percent. However, while Seattle's pass rush struggled in the first half of the season, the Seahawks ranked third in the NFL from Week 10-17 with 9.6 percent ASR on defense.

The recipe for beating the Patriots in their last two Super Bowl appearances was for the New York Giants to bring intensive pressure with just their front four. There's been some discussion that perhaps Seattle is the same kind of defense that could cause Brady the same problems. But will they? With trouble getting pass pressure in the first few weeks of the season, the Seahawks started blitzing more, and they ended up blitzing on 28 percent of pass plays this year. That ranked them 11th in the NFL.* When the Seahawks do blitz, it's an intriguing matchup of strength against strength. The Seahawks allowed 6.0 net yards per pass this year with three or four pass rushers, but that dropped to 4.7 with five pass rushers and a really stingy 3.7 with six or more pass rushers. However, Tom Brady is excellent against the blitz. Brady gained 6.4 net yards per pass with three or four pass rushers, but 7.8 with five pass rushers and 7.6 with six or more.*

The best way to pressure Brady may be a strategy the Seahawks don't use much: the defensive back blitz. Brady only averaged 4.0 net yards per pass on 40 plays this year where opponents sent at least one defensive back in the pass rush. The Seahawks only sent a DB blitz on 5.5 percent of passes -- only two teams used the strategy less often -- but allowed just 4.8 net yards per pass on these plays.*

One more stat I couldn't fit in elsewhere above: You may remember that the Patriots were at the forefront of the movement towards more shotgun formations a few years ago. Well, they've gone backwards since. They used shotgun on just 47 percent of plays this year. Once upon a time that would have been close to the league lead, but this year that ranked 29th. The Pats actually like to... gasp!... put the quarterback under center. The problem with this is that shotgun formations are still better than other formations. The Pats rank sixth in the NFL in DVOA both using shotgun and not using shotgun, but the former is 23.6% DVOA and the latter is 6.4% DVOA. However, going with tighter formations and less shotgun might be the right response to the Seahawks defense, which had a better DVOA against shotgun (-17.2%, best in the NFL) than not shotgun (-14.9%, fifth in the NFL). (Note: these stats all include pistol formations in the shotgun category.)


New England's clearest advantage over the Seattle is also, of course, the least predictable part of any football game. The Patriots are more likely than the Seahawks to make steady field position gains in the kicking game, but the steady field position gains are rarely what we remember when we think of a game turning on special teams. We remember that one big play or that one big mistake. And those plays and mistakes are rarely predictable.

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Plus, if we consider the small sample sizes of special teams and judge these teams based on the last two or three years rather than just one, New England's advantage is not quite as big as it looks from the tables at the start of this preview. The Seahawks, like the Patriots, ranked in the top five of our special teams ratings for both 2012 and 2013. Stephen Gostkowski had a better 2014 season than Steven Hauschka but the two kickers have been fairly equal (amd among the league's best) over a multiple-year period when it comes to field-goal percentage, field-goal distance, and the ability to boom kickoffs. The Patriots did have superior kickoff coverage this year. Not including squibs, the Patriots stopped 18 of 40 returns short of 20 yards. The Seahawks only stopped 7 of 39 returns short of 20 yards.

The Seahawks punt coverage unit is famous for never really allowing returns, but it's not as valuable as you might think if Jon Ryan isn't punting the ball far enough downfield, which is part of why the Seahawks came out as negative in both our gross punting and net punting metrics. Opposing punt returners only tried to return 17 of Ryan's punts this season. One of those was the crazy Stedman Bailey touchdown where the Rams fooled the entire Seattle punt coverage unit, but there were three other returns of 15 or more yards.

The real difference here is in the return men, one place where the Seahawks' stats prior to 2014 don't say much about their performance in this game. With Paul Richardson now out for the year, the Seahawks used Doug Baldwin on kickoff returns in the NFC Championship game, and he fumbled once while his other two returns couldn't get past the 13-yard line. Bryan Walters is better as a punt returner, in that he's average. On the other hand, the Patriots have an above-average kick returner in Danny Amendola -- their stats for the season would be better if not for a handful of mediocre kick returns by Patrick Chung early in the year -- and one of the best punt returners in NFL history in Julian Edelman. Edelman is one of just seven players in NFL history (minimum 75 punt returns) to average over 12 yards per return during his career.


We're back to the question: do we judge these teams only on the second half of the season, or on the entire season? If the Patriots run defense from the second half of the season shows up, it's going to be hard for the run-heavy Seahawks to win this game, unless the Patriots' red-zone passing problems from the second half of the season also show up. Of course, the Patriots won't have those kinds of troubles passing in the red zone if the Seattle red-zone defense from the first few weeks of the season shows up. And so on.

I will note that asked me to make a pick for their "expert's page," including a score. I hate picking scores of games, but I did it, and I went with Seattle, 23-20. My thought was that all things being equal, the top defenses generally shut down the top offenses more often than the top offenses take out the top defenses, as Andrew Healy showed in this Any Given Sunday article two months ago. Of course, as we showed above, that's not necessarily true where Tom Brady is concerned. My confidence in Seattle to win this game is about as strong as our playoff odds equation's confidence in New England to win this game, which is to say it's only the tiniest bit more than 50-50. But if you put a gun to my head and made me pick, I would pick the Seahawks.


DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.

Team DVOA numbers incorporate all plays; since passing is generally more efficient than rushing, the average for passing is actually above 0% while the average for rushing is below 0%.

SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense. Those numbers are explained here.

Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) We also list red zone DVOA and WEIGHTED DVOA (WEI DVOA), which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here).


277 comments, Last at 01 Feb 2015, 5:56pm

#1 by PaddyPat // Jan 29, 2015 - 3:37pm

I would wager that New England's running success on the edges and not up the gut is influenced by the blocking of the tight ends, and the pseudo tight ends from their many 6-man line formations.

Points: 0

#275 by alan frankel // Feb 01, 2015 - 5:37pm

Expect new england to try the sherman vs gronk marchup early on a quick screen to see if sherman can tackle

Points: 0

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 29, 2015 - 4:07pm

How did NWE rank in rushing DYAR?

They usually have a good DVOA, but they rarely rush when expected to and rush very little.

Given two teams with similar DVOA, I'm inclined to consider the team with more DYAR the better rushing team, given that suggests they are capable of rushing even when the defense expects the rush.

Points: 0

#3 by PaddyPat // Jan 29, 2015 - 4:34pm

New England rushed very little this season, outside of games against Indianapolis. "Trusty" gives us 1727 total reg season yards for 3.9 per carry. Ridley had century games against Minnesota and Cincinnati. Gray had some decent production on 17 carries against Chicago. They couldn't run on Buffalo the first time: 27 attempts for 50. But they hit 4.6 ypc on 25 attempts the second time. Yardage totals also suggest surprising efficiency against Green Bay, Detroit, and Miami (the second time) but they never really committed. Those don't really look like inflated totals, though I imagine DVOA would have something to say about this, because there were virtually no big plays and decent averages. Honestly, it looks like the Pats running games of several recent years, where they get decent production but hardly use it, and perhaps there's a relationship there.

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#276 by alan frankel // Feb 01, 2015 - 5:45pm

It usually would give seattle the advantage but ne short passing game is similar to sea run game in that regard. T/f the more relevent comparison is both teams respective weakness seattles passing game against ne run and deep passing game which seems to also point in seattles favor unless ne can loosen sea up early

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#4 by goathead // Jan 29, 2015 - 5:25pm

I have a feeling Aaron is hedging his bets picking Seattle. This happened last time the Pats were in the SB, all the stats were pointing to NE, yet somehow the pick was the Giants - OK it was right, but the stats said unlikely.

My view of this one is NE is designed perfectly to beat Seattle. Wilfork and Collins will make it hard to run, and are unlikely to just get run over by Beast mode. Seattle's lack of receivers will make it easy for NE to bring pressure, or bring in extra run stoppers. In the end, they SHOULD be able to force Wilson to beat them through the air, and I just don't see them having the receivers for that.

Meanwhile, NE will get their points, I suspect the injuries to Seattle will help spring open receivers/tight ends, and let the running game be a bit more effective.

Honestly, I think this is more likely an easy win for NE than a tight nail-biter.

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#5 by LyleNM // Jan 29, 2015 - 5:35pm

Honestly, I think this is more likely an easy win for NE than a tight nail-biter.

NOBODY has had an easy win against Seattle in the Wilson era. Nobody. Sure, the closest to an easy win was 2 weeks ago but look how that turned out.

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#8 by goathead // Jan 29, 2015 - 5:57pm

It wasn't "easy" but Dallas dominated Seattle. OK, that was a long time ago. I can't see how GB would have lost last week with Rodgers healthy - although they did seem determined to find a way... The last game showed the weaknesses of Seattle's offense, right up until the D got tired. As I said, I think NE's D is designed perfectly for Seattle, Browner and Revis will need no help, leaving the D able to focus on Wilson and Beast Mode. And NE will not take their foot off the gas like the Pack did.

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#13 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:15pm

You have a strange definition of dominate, considering Dallas needed to complete a miraculous 3rd-and-20 with 5 minutes left just to keep their game-winning drive alive.

The last game showed the weaknesses of Seattle's offense, right up until the D got tired.

So the weakness of the Seattle offense is in constantly committing four turnovers, most of them completely unforced? It'd be as ridiculous to say that the Baltimore game demonstrated the weakness of the Patriots defense. You don't think that if they play that game 10 times Seattle will play better on offense for every single one of them?

And NE will not take their foot off the gas like the Pack did.

Like when Belichick knelt three times against Baltimore and almost lost that game at the end, right?

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#16 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:22pm

"Almost lost the game"?

Choosing to allow a desperation hail mary rather than risk a turnover doesn't seem all that comparable to systematically neutering your offense for nearly a half like McCarthy did. At least, not to me.

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#20 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:29pm

Or, they could've chosen to not give Baltimore any chance whatsoever on offense by just holding onto the ball for a few extra seconds. Tell me how McCarthy neutered their offense when he had Rodgers go 5-and-out on all passes with 4:44 in the third. Or when Green Bay got a 57-yard drive on nearly all runs the very next drive, which only stalled on two incomplete Rodgers passes. And I didn't even mention that Rodgers hurt his ankle in the second half, which is an even bigger reason for running the ball. The revisionist history is astonishing.

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#22 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:33pm

Not really. I actually didn't have much of a problem with their approach, it was the coaching from the fake FG on that I thought was an abomination. But McCarthy clearly played it close to the vest.

NE could have done outside stretch runs to run more time, but that would involve several opportunities for a turnover. Consider that the Ravens had dominated against the run and that NE had already fumbled 4 times *and* that Blount has a checked history with ball security, Bill's approach was entirely reasonable. Still not seeing the comparison, sorry.

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#25 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:46pm

I just don't see why Belichick has a reputation of being unconservative with regards to late-game lead-holding. I'm pretty sure they gave up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter the last time they faced Seattle, including the infamous run-run-pass-punt on their penultimate offensive possession.

Bill's approach was entirely reasonable.

You didn't have a problem with McCarthy's approach either, so I don't know what you're even arguing.

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#27 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:08pm

I think I've been perfectly clear.

1) McCarthy played it close to the vest for long stretches of the game.

2) McCarthy's approach isn't comparable to a coach choosing a hail mary than play calls with an increased risk of turnover.

I never said I supported McCarthy's approach, just that it wasn't nearly as problematic as the other coaching gaffes. I'm also not sure when I said Bill has never gone into a shell at the very end of a game. You are still equating final (or hopefully final) drive conservativism with being conservative most of the game.

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#30 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:17pm

Since you pointed out the Miami game, you should know that a Hail Mary isn't the only possibility that Baltimore had. Besides getting a great punt return, they could've also blocked the punt.

Besides, my original reply wasn't to you. I simply disagreed that NE will not take their foot off the gas like the Pack did.

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#40 by goathead // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:20pm

Dallas had almost twice the total yardage as Seattle, 23 first downs to 9 for Seattle, and held the ball for over 37 minutes. Seattle was lucky to even be in the game. It was early in the year, but truly the only reason it was close was Dallas mistakes.

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#51 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:56pm

And the only reason why Seattle's offense was so bad is because they kept trying to force the ball to someone who isn't even on the team anymore. That and Wagner's injury are far more important reasons why that game is useless as a point of comparison than the fact that it was early in the year.

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#72 by SuperGrover // Jan 30, 2015 - 12:08am

Seattle's special teams has a huge impact on that game, forcing Dallas into starting positions of 20, 20, 20, 5, 20, 27, 18, 19, 12, and 20 (there was late poss that started deep in Sea territory after a failed 4th down conversion) and blocked a punt for a TD. One of the primary reasons Dallas' yardage advantage was so large is that every drive had a long way to go. Alternatively, Seattle had drives start at the 42, Dall 14, Dall 20, and Dall 42. That skewed the yardage into making it look like a blow out when in actuality it was a close game, but one that Dallas controlled a good portion.

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#86 by goathead // Jan 30, 2015 - 9:17am

So, Dallas had lousy starting field position, Seattle had great starting field position, and the Seattle Special Teams were rocking, helping Seattle jump out to a 10 point lead early. And then Dallas dominated yardage, time of possession, first downs, and points. Honestly Seattle was totally outplayed in that game.

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#262 by SuperGrover // Jan 31, 2015 - 4:31pm

Sorry but you cannot discount the special teams advantage in the game. You are acting as if that was just a random occurrence that Seattle had nothing to do with. They absolutely dominated in that phase of the game.

Yes Dallas out played them, but there is a suggestion it was a blow out due to yardage differential. I am exposing why that thinking is flawed.

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#263 by goathead // Jan 31, 2015 - 5:38pm

Not discounting the special teams. But the reality of that game was that apart from Seattle's special teams effort, Dallas looked like the much stronger team. The reason I remember that game so vividly is that it seemed like bizarro-world watching Dallas look that good in Seattle. And yes, ST is part of the game, but that's the one part I think everyone will agree NE has the advantage.

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#43 by RickD // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:24pm

"Like when Belichick knelt three times against Baltimore and almost lost that game at the end, right?"

That's hilarious.

There's a huge, huge gap between "being forced to punt" and "giving up a TD in one play on a Hail Mary". Long passes are very low probability plays. Equating that with the need to convert an onside kick while scoring two TDs in the last two minutes and winning in overtime?

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#62 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 10:27pm

Equating that with the need to convert an onside kick while scoring two TDs in the last two minutes and winning in overtime?

Um... yeah, I would. Advanced Football Analytics' Live Win Probability gave Seattle had a 2 percent chance to win after Wilson's fourth interception, and a 3 percent chance when they punted on their previous drive. Compare that with Baltimore's 8 percent chance after they got their ball back.

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#273 by Vandal // Feb 01, 2015 - 11:44am

I think you need help with "equating".

One outcome is 4 times as likely as the other. By no realistic definition, are they comparable.

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#88 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 30, 2015 - 9:32am

You can also have the Lions Hail Mary conversion -- DPI on the first pass, then TD on the untimed snap from the 1. Just throw it at Browner.

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#6 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 29, 2015 - 5:38pm

It seems what KC does exploits both teams' weaknesses. Seattle can be had by short, extremely accurate passing combined with great running. So can NWE.

NWE can execute the passing portion reliably, and SEA can execute the running portion reliably. Thing is, I think SEA run O vs NWE run D (strength vs weakness) is a better advantage than NWE pass O vs SEA pass D (strength vs strength).

NWE's DB talent is wasted on SEA's WRs.

What sold me on SEA's advantage on defense is the second GB game. Seattle didn't get effective pressure. Rodgers still didn't have anyone open to pass to. He had 6 seconds in a clean pocket on one play and still had to make a dump-off pass!

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#7 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 5:48pm

I got reamed for saying this a little over a month ago, but I'd still avoid reading anything into NE's performance against the Chiefs. This isn't a case of cherry picking, there are legitimate reasons to take those results - as well as the other September games - with a serious grain of salt.

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#9 by goathead // Jan 29, 2015 - 5:58pm

I agree, mostly because the Pats O-Line puzzle hadn't been put together yet. Yes, September is a long time ago.

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#11 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:13pm

Yup. And Gronk wasn't GRONK! And LaFell hadn't been worked into the offense yet. And Chandler Jones was bizarrely being used as a 3-4 DE, getting pushing all over the field. And Browner was still suspended. And fatties Branch/Siliga were either on IR or unsigned. And while Mayo was around, Collins/HT weren't playing anywhere near where they are now.

In the interest of fairness, I don't really count much that KC was able to do against Seattle as being all that predictive, either. That defense is playing at another level since November.

If I were a Seattle fan, the numbers that would worry me the most are 9, 13, 10, 3, 14, 0, 10 and 0. That is the total first half points for every game they've played since the KC game. Of the four times they cracked double digits, two involved short fields after turnovers and that was with the benefit of a lot short opponent drives.

Are they just taking their time to grind opponents down? If you go to the end of the 3rd quarter, things improve to 19, 16, 24, 10, 14, 6, 10 and 7, but that is still five straight games where they only mustered two scores through the first 45 minutes. I know the defense is great, but I'm not sure that is a formula that will work against the Patriots.

As for weakness for the Pats, they are much better when they can defend out of the sub, which obviously won't be much against Seattle. I'm also still ambivalent about Blount. He's a load, but he depends on the OL to initially win more than you'd expect a 250lb guy to. If Seattle is able to get penetration, NE's running game is going nowhere.

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#21 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:33pm

If I were a Patriots fan, the numbers that would worry me the most are 23, 14, 13, 10, 17, 21, and 7. That is the total first half points for every opponent they've played since the Detroit game.

Looks like Seattle's weakness is New England's weakness too.

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#24 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:42pm

The real concern (for me) is actually buried in those numbers.

GB was held to 16 before NE allowed a ridiculous long TD on a pass that was designed to simply get into FG territory.

Miami had been held to six points before an awful offensive possession (one that would be a much better example in the above conversation than the Baltimore game ender) led to a last second TD.

Baltimore opened hot, but NE had shut them down the rest of the half before a stupid pick and another half ending TD. Indy had a similar score in both of their games. Brady can't have that kind of careless throw this week.

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#28 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:11pm

GB was held to 16 before NE allowed a ridiculous long TD on a pass that was designed to simply get into FG territory.

That's an interesting take on "held," considering Green Bay scored every time they touched the ball, and none of it on short fields either. In your words, I don't think New England's defensive plan was to let Green Bay march down the field on every drive and hold them off in the red zone.

one that would be a much better example in the above conversation than the Baltimore game ender

Why would three runs that took 15 seconds off the clock be a better example than three kneels that took approximately 7 seconds off? The fact that Miami got off a great punt return is an even worse reason to give Baltimore the ball back.

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#29 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:14pm

1) Miami was at the end of the first half, so they could have used a FG whereas Baltimore needed a TD.

2) A long punt return could very well run all the time off the clock.

3) NE was only trying to kill clock against Baltimore, whereas against Miami they still had plenty of time for a two minute drive, and even a couple TOs in their pocket.

4) The play calling against Miami was terrible - three draws! If they knew they were just going to run it, they should have at least tried plays that might actually have generated a first down.

I'm honestly befuddled why you think the amount of time the plays took off the clock is the most important part of the equation. Frankly, it probably is the *least* important factor when comparing the two.

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#32 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:20pm

2) A long punt return could very well run all the time off the clock.

The returner can go out of bounds or give himself up to leave time on the clock.

4) The play calling against Miami was terrible - three draws! If they knew they were just going to run it, they should have at least tried plays that might actually have generated a first down.

Which would've had a greater chance for a turnover, which you seem to emphasize for the Baltimore game.

I'm honestly befuddled why you think the amount of time the plays took off the clock is the most important part of the equation. Frankly, it probably is the *least* important factor when comparing the two.

Um, because New England could've taken off all the time on the clock against Baltimore with very little risk? Are you not seeing that possibility?

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#34 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:28pm

2) Of course, but then it's not that long of a punt return. Only if it goes for a TD is that really much of a concern.

4) A turnover when milking a 4 point lead at the end of the game isn't remotely the same circumstance as a turnover with an 8 point lead at half-time. Something tells me you know this.

"very little risk"? According to who? Why is the risk of a hail mary that much higher when NE had already fumbled four times, they couldn't run block and Blount has a sketchy history?

Not that I wasn't a little surprised, but you are wildly overstating the difference in win% between the two strategies, as well as ignoring game specific circumstances.

I think I've made my point well enough by this point.

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#36 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:53pm

And you are wildly overstating the chances that New England would fumble when not fumbling is the only thing on their minds. Most of New England's fumbles that day were on receptions, which is a completely different scenario. If they didn't trust Blount, they could've direct-snapped it to someone with good hands.

And I don't know why you give going on about the Hail Mary being the only other option. Baltimore themselves screwed up by half-heartedly trying to run it back. They could've fair-caught it, and either tried two Hail Marys, or more likely, thrown a short pass for a shorter field, which gives them more options than a Hail Mary.

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#112 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:03pm

Actually, he's wildly overstating the chances that New England would fumble had it been the very last thing on their minds. If one thing DeflateGate has taught us, it is that New England has been deflating their balls since 2007 precisely because it means they are very unlikely to fumble.

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#122 by Vincent Verhei // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:44pm

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#131 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:56pm

FO poster Pat's reply to the proposition is most sound, when he establishes that the drop from 2007 onward is pretty much all due to Brady fumbling less frequently. I don't have any opinion as to why that is.

Burke also says the Deadspin piece stinks.

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#146 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:17pm

There are lots of other reasons to realize that the the fumble article is nonsense. I posted some long-ish replies in the "Taint" thread, but the highlights are

* The distribution of for/against NE is far more random than the totals imply, and the information appears to be inaccurate.

* The lost at home is not nearly as odd when you consider that NE fumbled several times, they were just lucky enough to recover them, plus they just fumbled five times in two home playoff games.

* The "bad weather QB" results is nonsense since NE famously practices in it more than most teams, they are a gameplan team that can adapt better than most as well as the fact that they just outscored Indy 28-0 during the period we know for certain the balls were fine.

It really is just fun with numbers.

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#149 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:22pm

Neither you or I have any insight whatsoever with regards to the distribution of practice environments for the 32 teams. What is "famous" is a function of media exposure, and not a good proxy for actual events.

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#152 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:29pm

I'll grant some on this, but not all. I've seen numerous instances across the years when NE would be practicing in the snow and the opponent would move inside their practice bubble.

Obviously it is purely anecdotal, which is why I agree we can't say anything with certainty, but I've heard enough examples - and it has been so consistent with NE outdoors and the opponent inside/warm weather - that I could have come up with that hypothesis on my own even if had never been discussed in the media.

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#158 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:45pm

Yeah, what partisans draw from anecdotes is not something that generally interests me. Like I said, I'm pretty convinced the fumbling disparity, from 2007 on, is almost all due to Brady fumbling less, and I don't have any hard information as to why that is. The first place I'd look to is sacks, and if that didn't drop significantly, I'd start looking at other factors.

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#163 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:57pm

It certainly changed. He went from 4-5 a year with the occasional 9-10 season to 4-5 a year with the sporadic 1.* I've heard Brady lament his early career ball security and discuss how hard he worked. I'm not sure why it appears to be so sudden, but there are reasonable explanations. The fact that he peaked in 2006 could be because they had truly abominable receivers that year and Tom had to hold onto the ball longer. Tom also seems to eat the ball more than he used to, something that Pats fans have complained about since it will sometimes happen before the pressure is really there.

Or it could be a millimeter of total squeeze-ability.

* These fumble numbers are based on his ESPN passing stats. I don't know how to interpret the rushing stat fumbles.

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#150 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:25pm

Really? I mean REALLY? New England practices in the rain more than Seattle? They practice in bad weather more than Green Bay and Minnesota?

Got truth stretch?

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#154 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:35pm

Since when does "most teams" = "more than every other team in the history of the league, period"?

NE's weather advantage is snow related and not rain, FWIW.

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#155 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:39pm

Since the fumble stats say that NE benefits from lack of fumbles mroe than any other team in the history of the league period.

ALL teams, not most teams, are within standard deviations of fumbles per play, except NE from 2007 on.

ALL players fumble less when they leave another team and play for NE during that span. ALL players, not most players, go back to their old fumbling averages when they leave NE and play for another team.

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#156 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:41pm

Two things:

1) "ALL players fumble less when they leave another team and play for NE during that span. ALL players, not most players, go back to their old fumbling averages when they leave NE and play for another team."

This is literally refuted by the very link you provided.

2) Please take any further deflategate discussion to the "Taint" thread. No one is interested.

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#160 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:46pm

It is unfortunate that one of the FO writers engaged in the fumbling debate in this thread.

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#167 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:06pm

I think it would be great fortune for the readership if FO actually dug into the stats and analysis and did some of their own. Not an opinion piece like "Taint" was, but an actual statistical evaluation.

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#184 by Vincent Verhei // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:53pm

It is a mistake I regret and wish I could take back.

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#166 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:05pm

From the second link I posted"

"While my initial analysis into the player statistics did not properly remove “K” ball plays as mentioned earlier, after removing the kicks and punts, we still see these Patriots players fumble 23% more on average when playing for other teams immediately after playing for the Patriots."

Got truth stretch?

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#168 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:14pm

Those are the totals, Pen, you need to actually review the chart if you want individual player results.

I'm really interested in discussing this game, but I won't be replying directly to you again. Enjoy the last word.

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#169 by blan // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:16pm

Burke also says the Deadspin piece stinks.

Will, I had too high an opinion of you to think that you'd reduce yourself to using argument from authority.

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#173 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:28pm

I didn't say that the Deadspin piece must stink because Burke said so. Here's a way of looking at it. If a NFL qb coach told me that he thought a college prospect had mechanics which were too poor for him to warrant a high pick, I'd consider that worthy of mention. Burke's not a hack. If he thinks a piece uses stats in a very poor way, that is worthy of mention.

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#202 by blan // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:33pm

I disagree strongly with your analogy. This site is dedicated to statistical analysis. Many (if not most) of the commenters on this site have enough of a statistics background to independently evaluate arguments based in statistics. As such, statistical arguments should always be presented for independent evaluation.

If this were a site dedicated to throwing mechanics, do you think that commenters would be satisfied with hearing whether a qb coach thought a player's mechanics were poor? Wouldn't they want to know more details? Maybe not, but I believe one of the founding principles of this site is a deep intellectual curiosity, and commenters won't be satisfied with appeals to authority nor should they be.

With regards to whether Brian Burke is a hack, it should't matter. Hacks can sometimes have correct arguments and great statisticians can make mistakes. I can tell you one thing though: My opinion of Burke is lower now that I've seen him respond to a statistical analysis with nothing more than a tweet saying, "bad ... bad ... bad ... bad." That's not how a scientist or mathematician addresses an argument.

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#241 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 7:01pm

Yes, I think a site dedicated to throwing mechanics would think it worthy of mention that a NFL qb coach was willing to say that a college prospect's mechanics were to poor to make him worthy of a high draft pick. In fact, it would be somewhat insane if such a site did not think it worthy of mention.

I don't think you understand what an appeal to authority is. It isn't a mention that someone who is known for work in a field has put forth opinion x. It is an argument that x must be correct, because such a person holds that opinion. Ya' know, when Warren Buffett famously said in the mid 70s that he felt like an oversexed guy in a brothel, so attractive were stock prices relative to value, that was an noteworthy statement, without regard to Buffett putting forth a detailed analysis to support the sentiment.

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#251 by blan // Jan 31, 2015 - 12:05pm

You are making a distinction where I don't think one is really warranted.

On a technical level, you are correct. An argument from authority can be written as:
1. Authority X says Y about topic Z.
2. X can be trusted on Z.
3. Therefore Z is correct.

Your argument seems to be that you are only saying 1, which is a fact. Therefore there's no problem with saying it. Okay. But isn't 2 and 3 implied? Aren't you offering 1 for people who want to use 2 and 3 themselves? Otherwise why is 1 even interesting?

An appeal to authority argument is not always wrong. If the Pope says that 27 angels can dance on the head of a pin, and you are a devout Catholic, then the argument from authority is valid for you. But that's never been very satisfying to me, which is why I prefer scientific fields of study. People in quantitative fields aren't typically satisfied with "Authority X says Y about Z." They would like to go read X's paper about Z and see the details of Y themselves.

Now maybe your argument is that some commenters don't have the math background to understand the details of this debate, and the only way they can come to an opinion on the matter is to reason from authority. There are a couple of problems with that. First you should probably make this intention explicit so people don't assume you are arguing from authority yourself, as I did. But the bigger problem is that the way Burke presents his argument undermines his authority. Those tweets are quite possibly the least scientific thing I've seen done by someone purported to be working in a quantitative field.

No one who is serious about the quantitive analysis of some subject should give his conclusion on said subject without providing the details of his objective reasoning that led to that conclusion. It just looks really bad. Doesn't it?

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#252 by Will Allen // Jan 31, 2015 - 12:25pm

No, 2 and 3 are not implied. What is implied is that 1 suggests further inquiry is very much warranted, prior to stating with confidence that the contra-argument put forth in 1 is accurate. If Warren Buffet says "x" about the investment environment, one should exercise great caution prior to making a confident assertion "not x", because Warren Buffett has demonstrated great expertise with regard to the investment environment.

I think you are applying the standards of peer review to twitter blurbs or blogs. If you want to state that no person should make assertions via twitter or blogs, fine, but I think it pretty well understood what the limitations of the medium are, and as long as the reader has enough sense to grasp that such formats should not be used to inform confident assertions of fact, it really isn't a problem. If people don't have enough sense to adopt that understanding, well, the senseless are likely going to behave senselessly, no matter what.

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#253 by blan // Jan 31, 2015 - 1:32pm

Sure 1 suggests further inquiry. I clicked on the link and found an assertion without any support. I went to Burke's site and couldn't find a blog post explaining his position. I even found a Q and A where he talked about the Regressing piece without providing specific criticisms about the analysis itself. Since I couldn't find any support for his assertion I dismissed it. So I just don't find 1 very useful, and I don't see why anyone else here should either.

If Warren Buffet says "x" about the investment environment, one should exercise great caution prior to making a confident assertion "not x", because Warren Buffett has demonstrated great expertise with regard to the investment environment.
I see this as a form of argument from authority. Although, Buffet's statement above is humorous, I don't find any assertions he makes particularly interesting. We don't have any information why he's saying x; maybe he's only saying x because it helps his investments y even though x is not true.

I'm not trying to turn this website into a peer reviewed journal, but scientific codes of conduct should apply to any open field of quantitative analysis. There's a reason these codes of conduct exist. Look at how people on both sides are going crazy on this issue. The point of the codes of conduct is to minimize the effects of our personal biases on our objective reasoning.

I understand most people on twitter and blogs are making unfounded assertions, but that doesn't give anyone who cares about objective quantitive analysis an excuse to do the same. A blog provides plenty of room to explain the details of an argument for those who care about that kind of thing. Twitter doesn't and, if used to make an assertion based in objective reasoning, should point people to the details of the argument on a blog.

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#256 by Will Allen // Jan 31, 2015 - 2:22pm

Yeah, your reasoning, when applied to, say, mushroom picking, or the operation of a watercraft, among other things, would get a lot of people killed. My suggestion is that when someone, with a good track record, issues a strong opinion pertaining to the field in which they developed that track record, it is unwise to dismiss that opinion quickly, simply because they did not provide the body of analytical work which provides the foundation of that opinion. Now, in time, it may be warranted, but it is foolish to do so quickly. There is nothing about caution which entails an argument from authority, unless you don't understand what an argument from authority is.

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#257 by blan // Jan 31, 2015 - 2:59pm

Sure, the importance of authority opinion is very dependent on the field of study. If a field is more subjective or if intuition plays a larger role then authority opinion is going to be more important. Also if the field is more closed, then it would be less common for authorities to explain themselves (e.g. Buffett has the excuse that he's trying to make money rather than elucidate the detail of market dynamics).

But I'm the type of person who doesn't like deferring to authorities, and I think that's one of the reasons why I prefer more scientific or mathematical fields. The genesis of the field of sports analytics seems to have been a desire to look at sports from a more scientific perspective. That's what I like about it, and I think we should strive to be more scientific rather than getting lazy and becoming less so.

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#258 by Will Allen // Jan 31, 2015 - 4:00pm

Again, I just don't understand the manner in which you employ language, in this instance, "deferring to to authorities". Noting the opinion of someone who has previously demonstrated an ability to do good work in a given area, and thus deciding that a matter in dispute should be examined further, prior to making a strong conclusion, isn't "deferring" to anyone. It's gathering all available data, in the time available, prior to drawing a conclusion.

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#174 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:32pm

Interestingly, Brady's INTs improved dramatically after 2007 as well. 78 ints pre 2007 for a 2.548 INT %. 2007 onwards, he threw 65 ints for a 1.588 INT %.

That's a pretty significant drop off in interception rate over a rather large sample size.

So his fumbles drop off dramatically and his interceptions drop off as well. Then we find out that 11 of 12 balls are under inflated. Then he lies and says he can't tell the difference when every NFL QB not playing can immediately tell the difference. Annnnd this coincides when TOM BRADY convinced the NFL to let teams handle their own balls.

This starts looking a lot less like circumstantial evidence and more like expert testimony by the prosecutors witness in court.

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#151 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:26pm

Vince! No Vince No!

In that ridiculous deadspin hit piece the very article itself says this:

"We'd also encourage interested readers to check out Brian Burke's post at Advanced Football Analytics for a more reasoned take on fumble rates."

And Brian Burke has this to say about the Regressing article:

"To be clear. The Regressing article is problematic. Bad numbers. Bad model. Bad assumptions. Bad logic."..."This article is so disingenuous it makes stat guys look bad and I don't like it."

You guys at FO shouldn't be ignoring Sharp's analysis, you should be discussing and exploring it.

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#153 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:34pm

It has been discuss and explored, which is why it is known to be pretty much nonsense. Feel free to take this discussion to the "Taint" thread if you want, but the rest of us are no longer interested in further deflategate conversation.

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#157 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:42pm

You really want to push this aside don't you? Now you speak for the entire reading public? Push deflategate fatigue all you want. This isn't going away. Not now that the true effects of NE's cheating is finally being revealed. For once, a scandal worthy of the -Gate suffix. Like Watergate, this scandal just keeps exposing more and more revelations.

No matter how much defenders cry Ignore that man behind the curtain!

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#123 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:45pm

{Sighs} Not this again...

Please tell me this is an attempt at humor that doesn't come across in text.

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#31 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:19pm

"That's an interesting take on "held," considering Green Bay scored every time they touched the ball, and none of it on short fields either. In your words, I don't think New England's defensive plan was to let Green Bay march down the field on every drive and hold them off in the red zone."

GB successfully drove down the field several times, but were unsuccessful at punching it into the end zone on three of them. That's a credit to the defense.

That aside, unless you are simply trolling for an argument, I see no reason why you should pull out "held" when it had nothing to do with the primary point of my post. I'd much prefer if we just focus on the points made rather than pedantic arguing-for-the-sake-of-arguing.

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#33 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:25pm

The point of your post appears to be that New England did okay in several games except for the final drive, and while that's true for the other games you mentioned, they didn't do okay against Green Bay at all.

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#35 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:30pm

No, they didn't. Not on a drive chart, anyway. But on the scoreboard, particularly with how unstoppable GB was at home, 16 points - or even 19 with the FG - was respectable.

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#46 by RickD // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:36pm

Yes, the Packers dominated the first half on the field far more than they did on the scoreboard. That's similar to what they did against Seattle. They got away with it against the Pats.

Being unable to convert when in the Red Zone seems to be the Packers' biggest flaw. Blame it on the coaching or the players, but that is at least half of the reason they didn't make the Super Bowl.

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#49 by theslothook // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:48pm

Red Zone defense is notoriously noisy. In fact, I dislike the term bend but don't break - as if that's an actual strategy.

Defense is about trying to stop a team period. Yes, its harder to punch it in the red zone, but red zone performance is notoriously noisy. Fact is, if you are a bad defense and you give up few red zone conversions, it more likely that you just got lucky.

Having watched that game, I had two takeaways. GBs offense torched NE on D - but I thought it mostly because Rodgers was unreal that day.

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#73 by SuperGrover // Jan 30, 2015 - 12:12am

Right except for the fact that, as the article states, full year results have typically been a better predictor of playoff success that recent performances.

I think I like NE in this game but it is very, very close. While NE's run defense has been solid the majority of the year, they have struggled at times, including as recently as two weeks ago. I feel this game could go either way and don't see a blowout possible unless the Russel Wilson imposter who played the first 50 minutes of the NFC Championship game shows up again.

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#41 by Otis Taylor89 // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:23pm

I think the fact that Rodgers was nowhere near 100% in the NFCCG really can't be overlooked. Rodgers was nowhere near the player he was against NE, a game played with a very good home field advantage.

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#78 by Duff Soviet Union // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:39am

"Seattle can be had by short, extremely accurate passing combined with great running."

Seattle ranked 2nd in rush defense DVOA and that Kansas City game looks like a real outlier. Another interesting reason KC matches up well with Seattle's defense is that they're already terrible at the thing Seattle is the best at taking away. Seattle's strength over the last 4 seasons has been taking away #1 and #2 receivers. Kansas City's receivers are famously terrible. Smith only had 108 yards, but his NY/A was solid at 6.75 and his success rate was an excellent 62.5% (I'm giving him a success for a play that ended in a fumble. That's not his fault.), and it all came on passes to RB's and TE's. KC were perfectly happy not to try and challenge the strength of the Seattle D because that's just not their game.

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#89 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 30, 2015 - 9:40am

All well and good. Except Dallas and to a lesser extent SD and StL did it as well. The StL game is the one that looks like the real outlier. KC, DAL, and SD exploited their great players beating SEA's great players. StL used a Madden cheat code.

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#18 by D2K // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:24pm

"Honestly, I think this is more likely an easy win for NE than a tight nail-biter"

Seattle has only lost ONE game by more than 7 points over the last 3 years.

If anyone gets an "easy win" in this game, it will be Seattle.

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#42 by goathead // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:24pm

Trust me, I hope this is a tight well played game. But my expectation from what I've seen from both teams this year (which is a lot) is the specific matchups favor NE.

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#113 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:06pm

You keep saying that, but outside of special teams, I don't see a single matchup AT ALL that favors NE. Unless Wagner is forced to cover Gronk the entire game I will just have to borrow your rose colored glasses or drink the Kool Aid you're drinking to see these matchups that favor NE.

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#129 by goathead // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:56pm

Leaving aside the special teams, I expect Gronk to attract a lot of attention. That should open up either Edelman or Amendola. I expect the injuries to ET and Sherman to help the NE running game. NE has excellent blocking and catching from their running backs, which gives them a lot of options to audible into depending on the defensive set. I'm not saying NE will roll over the Defense, but they'll get their points.

To me the matchup that really skews this is Seattle's lack of depth at receiver. I expect this will let BB craft a gameplan intended to contain Wilson's running. Lynch will get some yards, but NE simply doesn't get run over for huge gains. Simply put (again) I see this as a perfect match for NE's D. BTW, it was a good matchup for GB as well, the reason Wilson made those horrible throws was he had nobody open and no running lanes. I expect BB to be able to design a D that exploits the limited downfield threats of Seattle.

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#164 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:03pm

Gronk attracting attention won't open up Edelman or Amendola. Chancellor, Wright or Wagner will be covering Gronk. Sherman will be on one of those receivers so not opened up. Maxwell, with ET over the top, will be on the other. Throwing in a third wideout will open up the run and put the pressure on Lane, but no way does Gronk open up any of the WR's you listed.

ET and Sherman may be injured enough to help NE's running game. No one knows. They did finish their games, but we will have to see. This, again, goes back to what I keep saying is how NE will have to succeed this game: Blount running the ball. NE RB's might very well make some catches.

But if NE wins this, it will be because they gutted it out on both sides of the ball, not because they match up well. It most certainly won't be an easy win, as you claim it will be.

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#48 by Otis Taylor89 // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:45pm

A few reasons I'm pretty positive on the Pats winning:
- Gronk is healthy. Probably the most dominate non-QB in the NFL and he won't be only a decoy, like he was last SB.
- SEA won't have any home field advantage. They really didn't play a high end team on the road this year and they had some troubles with KC and SD on the road (although NE did too, with KC being pre healthy Gronk).
- Deflategate will probably be a huge motivation for the "Us against the world" Pats.
- I believe SEAs DVOA was more than slightly inflated this year by playing multiple backup QBs, a backup to a backup and even an injured Rodgers - we know Brady is no backup.
Having said that, it's tough to beat the champ. Even that 2012 game the Pats had total control for most of it - until they didn't.

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#65 by Vincent Verhei // Jan 29, 2015 - 11:04pm

- Deflategate will probably be a huge motivation for the "Us against the world" Pats.

It's the Super Bowl. I'm pretty sure they'd be motivated either way.

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#83 by Lance // Jan 30, 2015 - 8:09am

Ture. Moreover, I've never been convinced that "motivation" contributes much to winning-- at least at the professional level.

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#70 by steveNC // Jan 30, 2015 - 12:05am

I agree. I imagine it is likely to be an easy win for NE. Second most likely would be NE winning a close one, probably due in part to getting more of the close calls.

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#10 by blarneyforbreakfast // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:12pm

"do we judge these teams only on the second half of the season, or on the entire season?"

Well the problem with using the second half is that you're introducing the small sample-size reasoning that FO typically avoids. Sure the Patriots had a great running defense from week 11-17, but the only good RBs they faced were L.Miller (2.9ypc in a blowout) and Lacy (4.7ypc). The other teams they faced were all bad running teams.
Similarly, Brady’s improved performance against good pass defenses is based on an arbitrary cutoff--he's performed poorly against the 2nd quartile. The whole point of analytics is to avoid reading too much into the last 7 games (even if there are some personnel changes)!

There are two mysteries going into the game. Can the Pats LBs tackle Lynch and spy Wilson? (probably not) And can Belichek’s dark sorcery unravel the Seattle defense (maybe).

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#14 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:18pm

The quality of opposition is absolutely something that should be considered, but NE's latter year run defense wasn't just arbitrary cut off induced. They added two fatties, Branch and Siliga, and saw substantial improvement from Collins. It should also be noted that Lacy had one good drive and from then on was largely a non-factor. I'd be perfectly fine if Lynch gets 40 yards on two carries, leading to a game opening FG for Seattle, only to go 75/23 from that point on.

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#17 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:23pm

So what happened against Baltimore? Did those three players struggle in that game, or was it another reason?

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#19 by Anon Ymous // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:28pm

I don't know. No one on the DL did very well either pass rushing or defending the run.

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#52 by dryheat // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:57pm

The Ravens OLine just kicked NEs ass all day. Wilfork was getting blown two yards off the ball and turned with stunning regularity. Ben Muth had a nice review of it.

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#71 by RickD // Jan 30, 2015 - 12:07am

Well, "all day" was more like "the first quarter". As bad as that looked, the Ravens only rushed for 136 yards that day. It's just that they averaged 8 yards/carry in the first quarter. Was down to 4.9 by the end of the game. Not good, but not "kicked ass all day".

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#103 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 12:16pm

True, but if NE gets blown off the line early vs Seattle, they won't be bringing that ypc down, it will go up even further come the fourth quarter.

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#124 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:47pm

Why? There are no ways for NE to adjust? They were "blown off the line" early against Green Bay as well and that didn't hold despite the fact that NE was primarily concerned about the passing game.

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#15 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:19pm

The whole point of analytics is to avoid reading too much into the last 7 games (even if there are some personnel changes)!

It's possible to reach a point where personnel changes matter more than small sample sizes, particularly when it's clear that the new personnel played a major role in effecting those changes. For instance, you obviously would throw out Green Bay's struggles on offense last season when Rodgers was out.

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#23 by blarneyforbreakfast // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:37pm

But even missing some of the best players in the league, Seattle still had a good defense. QBs may be the only case where it's worth throwing out past performance entirely.

There may be a way to estimate the incremental effect on team DVOA (or variance) of replacing a top player with a replacement-level alternative. Even just adjusting DVOA by 1/11 over that period!

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#120 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:29pm

A lot is being made out of the quality of the QB's Seattle faced at the end of the season. Let's take a look at that:

Drew Stanton vs Seattle: 54,8 rating
The week before, against a very good Detroit defense Stanton threw 2 TD's and had a 91.4 rating. The week before THAT he had a 141,8 rating against a good Rams defense.

Kaepernicks 36.7 rating vs Seattle was his worst of the season. In fact, you take out the games vs Seattle and rumors of Kaps demise may have been greatly exaggerated. He had games of 108.5, 93.5 and 87.8 as well in his final six weeks. So while SF may have been falling apart, Kap was still a dangerous and talented QB. The only thing exposed on Kap was that he actually didn't have "greater potential" than RW.

Sanchez. The guy who was coming off a 102.2 rating vs the Cowboys had his second worse game of the season vs Seattle.

Hill. I'm pretty sure Denver had a much improved secondary and a pretty good overall defense. Hill had a 102.7 rating against them. To go with his 133, his 116 and his 110 games. He had a 65.5 game against Seattle.

seeing a pattern here?

Ryan Lindley. So Seattle played one horrific QB and suddenly what the fact they've gone 11-0 vs Super Bowl winning QB's means hey, maybe their defense is suspect? nah, not buying that jive.

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#127 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:51pm

Yes, I see a pattern of mediocre to poor QBs that you can cherry pick recent solid games and build a mildly disingenuous narrative.

No one says Seattle's defense isn't good, they just say that quality of opposition can inflate just how dominant they appeared to be down the stretch. It was a much easier case to make before the Seahawks tamed Rodgers, of course, but there is still some truth to it.

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#172 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:27pm

For all Seattle caught Lindley and not Palmer or Sanchez, they also got to face healthy Cam Newton, not the injured shell who played most of the year. Cam was actually decent in the closing stretch.

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#178 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:37pm

quality of opposition only deflates your opinion of how dominant they are, "not appeared to be".

Denver Broncos, SB XLVIII. 306 yds on 65 plays. Gave up 4 turnovers. Routed 43-8. Defensive domination.

Green Bay Packers, NFCCG. 306 yds on 65 plays. Got handed 5 turnovers. Lost 28-22. Even Greater defensive domination.

Perception is nine tenths reality. Statistics are the other tenth. Statistically, therefore, 9/10ths of what we think we see is bullshit. Statistics don't lie. :)

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#183 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:51pm

On this you are entirely correct, it seems to me. Seattle's defensive performance against the Packers was more impressive than what they did in the Super Bowl. To get put out there on short fields, some of them very, very, short, and only give up 16 points in the 1st half, was extremely impressive, even if Rodgers wasn't full go.

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#254 by Otis Taylor89 // Jan 31, 2015 - 2:06pm

You failed to mention that Fitzgerald played the week before against DET but was out against SEA and really wasn't the same the rest of the year.
I think SEAs best win during that stretch was against the Eagles, on the road - then again DAL had a dominant game on the road against them too so maybe it wasn't such a great win.

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#259 by Perfundle // Jan 31, 2015 - 4:10pm

And Philadelphia blew out Dallas on the road too. Diminishing a win by comparing it to a bigger win another team got over them is pretty weak. It'd be like saying Seattle's loss against St. Louis wasn't so bad because they blew out Denver at home too. Each game need to be considered on its own merits against the opponent's entire season of work.

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#261 by Otis Taylor89 // Jan 31, 2015 - 4:23pm

I'm just blowing up your argument that the QBS SEA has faced are better than people think. in reality they are who we thought they were - bunch of career backups, the man formerly know as Sanchize and a QB in SF who's coaching staff was already out the door.

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#264 by Perfundle // Jan 31, 2015 - 5:57pm

News to me that I argued that the QBs Seattle has faced are better than people think.

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#12 by ClavisRa // Jan 29, 2015 - 6:14pm

Logan Ryan pick six on a late out throw.

Ineligible Vereen gets a delayed screen-type pass lateral for a 15+ yards, because Seattle "knows" not to cover him.

Brady eats up the deep middle on passses to Gronk, Edelman, LaFell, Amendola and even Hoomanawanui.

Lynch averages under 3 ypc excepting one big run.

Luke Wilson piles up a good stat line by the end of the game, but the cumulative effect doesn't sustain enough drives.

Edelman returns a kick to the house.

Seahawks attempt a surprise on side kick early in the game. Pats are ready and recover.

Brady attempts a Tyms bomb, but it falls incomplete.

Doug Baldwin appears on a milk carton, and nowhere else. NFL launches an investigation into Revis.

Collins causes a fumble with an A-gap blitz hitting the mesh point of a read option with Wilson holding the ball in Lynch's gut. Wilfork recovers.

Read option is a disaster for Seattle, no successful plays.

Seattle converts 40% of 3rd and long. However they are constantly in 3rd and long and offense stalls out repeatedly.

Pats in a blow out.

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#26 by young curmudgeon // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:04pm

You forgot "I get married to Morgan Fairchild."

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#55 by theslothook // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:59pm

I suspect the majority of FO readers probably don't know who Morgan Fairchild is. I am about to turn 30 and I feel old.

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#126 by ChrisS // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:48pm

I remember her, but why was she famous (besides looks)? I looked at the list of her movies and they all sucked

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#191 by CM // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:05pm

Jon Lovitz played a habitual liar character that would constantly mention his wife, Morgan Fairchild.

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#212 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:51pm

"I remember her, but why was she famous (besides looks)?"

I don't understand this question.

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#37 by Will Allen // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:53pm

Could a tremendously athletic and smart defense have a bad day, and thus allow its team get blown out? Sure, anything's possible. That's kind of a dumb way to bet, however, and I say that as somebody who is picking the Pats. For that to happen, the most likely path is the Russell has a 2nd historically hideous game in a row, and that isn't all that likely.

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#44 by goathead // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:30pm

Note: I'm not endorsing the short story above, but... I don't think he has to be tragically hideous. I think NE needs to contain his running, and keep Lynch moderately under control (both easier said than done). With Browner and Revis in pass coverage, I think a defense as well coached as NE should hold Seattle in check - unless somehow Seattle's receivers truly elevate their games.

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#57 by Will Allen // Jan 29, 2015 - 9:33pm

Of course he doesn't have to be hideous for the Patriot to win. I'd wager, however, that the odds of the Patriots winning in a blow-out, absent a hideous Wilson performance, are pretty darned slim.

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#104 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 12:20pm

This whole thread has turned to pure fanboy fantasy now and not analytical thinking. Seattle has the #1 defense, possibly one of the greatest of all time. NE has a good defense. Who is most likely to hold the other one in check? The defense that last year shut down the most prolific offense in NFL history or the defense that is up against the offense that creates the most explosive plays in the NFL?

Honestly, which team is most likely to blow out the other in those circumstances?

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#133 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:00pm

Yes, a few of the comments are over the top, but this isn't exactly the bastion of objectivity either.

For instance....

* Seattle's defense isn't as deep as it was last year, particularly on the line.

* NE is a much tougher match up than Denver was last year for several reasons

1) Denver wasn't the toughest team last year.
2) It's been pretty well documented that Manning is a control freak and he doesn't react nearly as well when the timing is thrown off.
3) Denver's defense wasn't as good as NE's, particularly at the end of the year.
4) Like the 2007 Patriots, Denver's offense had slowed down in the playoffs even before the SB.

It also seems odd that you isolate "most explosive plays" for Seattle rather than simply looking at their match up with NE overall.

Personally, I think both teams are too mentally tough and too talented to get blown off the field. The only scenario I can envision with one team winning by double digits is a late score, perhaps aided by a turnover, that extends a 4 point lead to an 11 point one. I just think you might have, in your defensiveness to the NE comments, swung the pendulum too far in the other direction.

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#175 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:33pm

2013 DEN had a weighted defensive DVOA the same as 2014 NWE's.
2013 DEN had a weighted offensive DVOA better than 2014 NWE's.

Now, Seattle's D was better in 2013, but their O was better in 2014.

We can fight about what "toughest" means.

BTW -- 2014 GB looks a lot like 2013 DEN. Not quite as good, but very similar trends.

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#182 by Anon Ymous // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:50pm

As a Pats fan, I've seen plenty of teams that are skilled but don't like to play too physical. Even early in the season when Denver was putting 40-burgers up with ease, I felt like Seattle would handle them pretty easily. Of course I could be creating a narrative out of anecdotal evidence, but the fact that I was right makes me feel there was some truth to it. ;-)

I'm also aware that some of my impressions of Denver are more subjective than objective, but, again, that they appear accurate in retrospect makes me feel good about them. Not the most convincing argument, I know, but one I stand by for now.

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#179 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:46pm

In reply to your last comment, not at all. I think same as you do. Neither team is likely to blow out the other. Last year, I got reamed on this website for being a homer because I alone predicted that Seattle would pretty much have their way with Denver. Not this year. Seattle is missing Mebane and Hill. Rushing up the middle may work against them.

I think just as you do about the likelihood of a double digit win coming because of a late turnover or something turning a 4 pt. win into an 11 pt. win.

I do believe, however, that Any Given Sunday must always be respected and NE CAN blow out Seattle if everything goes just right and that Seattle CAN blow out NE if everything goes just right. I think if they played on 100 multiverses simultaneously, that Seattle blows out NE twice as often than NE blows out Seattle and that Seattle wins 60, NE wins 40.

I think on Sunday, more than likely, it's a very close game.

As for looking at most explosive plays, the reason is that so many people focus on Revis and Browner and say that NE won't give up the big pass play. yet they rank, what was it? 30th or 28th in giving up big pass plays? There are more than two guys in a secondary. The other 3-5 guys covering are prone to getting burnt big time and that says more about their safeties than it does about their corners. So that goes back to matchups.

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#199 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:29pm

Last year, the entire board was going gaga about Denver's offense. While some put up counter arguments that Seattle could hang with Denver, no one was saying that Seattle could shut down Denvers offense. Except me. So by that definition, I was alone. And even I, by shut down, meant 14-17 points, which at the time was thought absurd and got me "fanboy" and "homer" status around here.

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#221 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 5:00pm

I picked Seattle to win, albeit in a far more close fashion. Later in the preview thread, I wrote that the way for Denver to win was to not give up any short fields, and not give up any big special teams plays, but I didn't think they could manage that. I was proven right within the first couple minutes of the game.

Here it is....

"I see the relative strengths about the same way you do, but it seems, to me, that the most certain path for a Broncos victory lies in not giving the Seahawks any short fields. If they don't turn it over in their own territory, don't give up any big special teams, and don't have three and outs while pinned deep, I think they'll win. I don't think they'll be able to manage that, however."

You really need to calm down, take a deep breath, and climb down off the cross.

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#225 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 5:04pm

Maybe if you could quit crucifying me I could. But when you're constantly harping "WE GET IT YOU LOVE THE SEAHAWKS" forgive me for getting defensive about my posts.

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#245 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 8:29pm

It is strange that you think you are being crucified when it is noted that you have written things which are at odds with plainly observable reality.

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#196 by SmoothLikeIce // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:24pm

In the Jermaine Kearse section, Robert Mays has the Patriots as having the 12th-lowest QBR against pass plays 20 yards or more.

So, yeah, about your last paragraph -- can you at least link to where you may have dug up the whole "30th or 28th" // implication that Devin McCourty is bad at his job thing? Is that too much to ask?

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#208 by duh // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:44pm

The Patriots did in fact give up a large number of plays longer than 20 yards and it isn't a case of lots of garbage time plays distorting the numbers.

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#209 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:47pm

First off, QBR has to be the worst stat to refer to ever. So sorry Devin McCourty IS bad at his job if he's using that stat.

NE ranked 30th in giving up passing plays of 16+ yds:

New England gave up nearly 35 more than Seattle. Hard to read that chart exactly, but it looks like NE 90, Seattle 55.

NE ranked 29th in giving up passing plays of 25+ yds:

New England gave up 36. Seattle gave up 14.

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#231 by SmoothLikeIce // Jan 30, 2015 - 5:34pm

This is fascinating. Certainly not something super noticeable as one watched this season unfold. Giving up a ton of 25+ passing plays but 0 50+ yard plays is interesting, though, and it leads me to believe duh's reasoning in the post below has merit.

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#215 by duh // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:53pm

What is interesting though is the Patriots didn't give up a really long pass play all year. The long pass play against them was 50 yards. I think that might indicate McCourty is pretty good at his job. (FWIW I believe he is)

I have two further thoughts regarding this which are:

1. In their efforts to make sure they don't give up the 'homerun' they give up bunches of 'doubles'

2. Belichick is known for taking away teams top weapon' what they want to do. In devoting resources to that he leaves other things available (as any coach must)

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#180 by Pen // Jan 30, 2015 - 3:49pm

Being constantly accused of fanboy fantasy is getting quite tiresome. It seems like the only defense to what I bring to the table is to call me a homer. If that's all you got then go ahead and bring it.

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#195 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 4:22pm

When you write things which are plainly false, like when you assert that the "prevailing view" of the thread is an easy Pats win or blowout, then it is quite reasonable for people who read this thread to begin to suspect that your rooting interest has had a nontrivial impact on your ability to perceive reality in an accurate manner.

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#247 by EricL // Jan 30, 2015 - 11:39pm

Coming up with a less hyperbolic way of stating your case would help. I'm one of the biggest Seattle fans around, but reading many of your posts borders on embarrassing.

These teams are close enough that any particular extreme split could be used to hype up an argument. It doesn't help that both teams seem to have had an early-season and mid/late-season split. Lessens the "usable" sample size.

If nearly anybody besides Belichick was coaching New England, I'd feel a lot more comfortable. There's a lot of parallels between last year and this, even down to the betting patterns. That said, Belichick is a MUCH better coach than Fox, and I'm worried something got exposed in the NFC Championship game that he'll be able to use.

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#90 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 30, 2015 - 9:54am

Best case scenario for NWE is probably Super Bowl IV.
I'd love to say SEA's best case is Super Bowl VIII for symmetry purposes, but it's really XLVIII.

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#97 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 10:19am

Super Bowl IV really is a good template for the Patriots; excellent special teams performance, sound offensive line play, one big passing play, and, most importantly, a defense which never lets the opponent's offense to get going. Now, the primary difference is that Russell Wilson, unlike Joe Kapp, actually has good throwing ability by NFL standards (the Vikings leading the league in points scored was really a function of their defense curb-stomping people), and the Chiefs defense had 5 Hall of Famers on defense themselves, another guy who should be in the Hall of Fame, and the other 5 guys could play as well. The Patriots have some guys on defense who are likely going to get the ugly yellow blazer, but they ain't the '69 Chiefs.

Yeah, the Seahawks o-line just isn't good enough for VIII to be a good template, although, then again, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Patriots held to 14 points, all scored in the 2nd half, which, era-adjusted, is about the same as holding the opponent to 7 in January 1974.

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#114 by RickD // Jan 30, 2015 - 1:08pm

I'd say the Pats' best case scenario is the NFC championship game, minus the comeback.

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#136 by Will Allen // Jan 30, 2015 - 2:03pm

It seems very, very, unlikely that Wilson would be that bad for the first 55 minutes. The reason I'm almost convinced that I'm not giving the Seahawks as much of a chance as I should (and I do see the game as pretty close), is because I'm probably giving too much weight to what I saw from the Seahawks offense 13 days ago. They likely will be significantly better.

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#38 by Will Allen // Jan 29, 2015 - 7:59pm

I pick the Pats by 4-8 points, but I'm rooting for Kevin Williams to cap a great, borderline HOF career by having a good day, limiting the effect of the Pats trying to run between the tackles from a spread formation, and getting some pressure up the middle on Mr. Bundchen, resulting a good day for the Seahawk defense, and a Seahawk victory by a few points.

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#39 by t.d. // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:15pm

I think last week against Green Bay and this week against New England have/will exposed just how weak Seattle's receivers are, and they'll have to win running the ball with Lynch and Wilson, or their defense will just have to take over. They would have won last year's Super Bowl with a pedestrian offense, so it's possible, but New England special teams advantage means the field will be mostly tilted against them, and it'll be a tall order.

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#45 by goathead // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:32pm

My feelings exactly. And knowing this, I like NE's ability to stack the field against the run. And I don't believe they can stop the Pats Offense, they simply have too many ways to beat you.

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#50 by jacobk // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:50pm

Exactly. No way the Seahawks stop a juggernaut that hung up 600 points in the regular season.

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#53 by theslothook // Jan 29, 2015 - 8:57pm

I think sometimes people forget that Seattle has embarrassed most of the great qbs they've faced. They have crushed Manning, Brees, and Rodgers multiple times and did a good job against Brady in the past. Its one thing to write off last week because of Rodgers' injury, but they destroyed the packers twice before.

Honestly, you can see chips and dents in seattle's armor here and there. The problem is, you have to execute it drive after drive and frankly, this has been the best pass defense over a three year period than probably any other since the steel curtain.

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#58 by Will Allen // Jan 29, 2015 - 9:37pm

The surest way to beat the Seahawks in an elimination game is to try to win 19-16 or so, by not giving the Seahawks any short fields, and making their offense over-perform, while you play outstanding special teams and kick some longish field goals.

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#59 by Perfundle // Jan 29, 2015 - 10:02pm

Your first and last points are somewhat at odds with each other. Kicking longish field goals runs the risk of missing them and handing Seattle a short field. Personally I would pin Seattle back because they haven't been good inside their red zone. They're a pitiful 23rd in points per drive inside their 20, compared to being 8th overall.

Of course, given Seattle's horrible kickoff return team, the likely result would be to make the field goal and pin Seattle back.

Seattle's best small-sample-size-derived strategy appears to be to kneel in the end zone, because they're an incredible 3rd in points per drive starting exactly on their 20, with only the Packers and Patriots ahead of them.

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#61 by Will Allen // Jan 29, 2015 - 10:27pm

Any decent NFL kicker should have a good day within 45 in that stadium in Phoenix.

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#63 by jeffd // Jan 29, 2015 - 10:32pm

Given the discontinuities this season in the kickoff return game and Baldwin's performance two weeks ago, I'd say Seattle is insane if they take a single kick out of the end zone. Take the twenty yards!

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