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04 Jan 2008

Wild Card Preview 2008: WAS-SEA, JAC-PIT

by Aaron Schatz

We're going to do things a little differently this year, sorting the playoff previews by day rather than by conference, in part because I'm running a little behind on time. The Sunday previews probably will not run until Saturday morning. (I'm putting together playoff material from all over the place -- we've got the stat notebook at ESPN, the brief, more standard preview at the New York Sun, and this one which combines the two and adds additional ideas -- plus I took New Year's off for family time so I'm working off a four-day week. It's a bit hectic, and I apologize in advance if this year's previews seem a little disjointed.)

For those who may be visiting this site for the first time to read this preview, we explain our stats at the bottom of the page, or click this link. Each preview also includes a link to the open discussion thread for that game.

Remember that any stats from game charting are incomplete and fairly subjective. Also, the trendlines in the week-to-week charts are heavily influenced by the wacky Week 17 games. 

Washington at Seattle

Redskins on Offense
DVOA 1.0% (17) -5.4% (11)
WEI DVOA 4.2% (15) -6.9% (5)
PASS 12.6% (12) -0.2% (14)
RUSH -10.4% (23) -12.1% (5)
RED ZONE -7.1% (22) 3.9% (18)

Seahawks on Offense
DVOA 5.6% (14) -7.2% (6)
WEI DVOA 9.1% (10) -6.5% (7)
PASS 17.2% (9) -6.8% (7)
RUSH -9.9% (22) -7.8% (11)
RED ZONE 13.2% (9) 1.4% (15)

Special Teams
DVOA -0.5% (16) 0.7% (11)
WAS kick -5.5 (24) 6.8 (6)
SEA kick 6.1 (8) -1.5 (17)
WAS punt 4.3 (6) 8.8 (5)
SEA punt -6.9 (29) -11.6 (28)
FG/XP -1.1 (21) 1.7 (14)

During the game, please join the discussion in the Redskins-Seahawks Game Discussion Thread.

Walpole! Xaverian! King Philip! It's a South Shore rumble! Only on NBC!

OK, seriously, for those of you in the other 49 states... The first game of the weekend is all about emotion. Washington is riding an emotional four-game winning streak, playing their hearts out every game in memory of their late teammate Sean Taylor. Seattle rides the emotions of their fans, who cause more opponent false starts at Qwest Field than at any other NFL stadium.

Both Seattle and Washington are known for their big-name running backs, but both teams are actually more efficient when passing the ball. Our DVOA ratings rank the Seattle offense ninth passing and 22nd rushing, while the Washington offense is 12th passing and 23rd rushing.

Clinton Portis has put up some nice rushing totals in recent weeks, but he's still averaging less than four yards per carry (with a -2.3% DVOA and 40 percent Success Rate) during the Redskins' four-game winning streak. Seahawks' star Shaun Alexander is a shell of his former self, averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry this season while his backup Maurice Morris gains 4.5 yards per carry. Alexander has a 38 percent Success Rate, 52nd among 56 ranked running backs. Behind the same offensive line, Morris ranks 10th with a 52 percent Success Rate.

Seattle ranked 30th in Adjusted Line Yards on runs up the middle, which was the strength of the Washington run defense: they were sixth preventing runs up the middle, but below-average in the four other directions we measure. Even if Alexander or Morris break through, don't expect lots of big gains. The Washington secondary knows how to tackle, and no defense allowed fewer rushing yards to come 10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage.

As for the passing game, Matt Hasselbeck will continue to be a steady above-average but sub-superstar quarterback, while (Walpole's Own) Todd Collins will try to continue his magical season for Washington. The longtime backup had not started a game in 10 years, but he's led the Redskins to all four of their recent wins following an injury to starter Jason Campbell. Collins is averaging 7.3 net yards per pass, while Campbell averaged just 5.9.

Both teams have above-average defenses, roughly equivalent with different strengths. The Seahawks depend on their front seven to stop the run and rush the passer; they rank fourth in Adjusted Line Yards, and seventh in Adjusted Sack Rate. Behind that, they play the kind of Cover-2 zone that veterans like Collins often excel at manipulating. The Redskins have much better cornerbacks who play a lot of man coverage, but are just average against the run and have one of the worst pass rushes in the league (26th in Adjusted Sack Rate).

(It's interesting to note that, in his limited time before getting injured in Week 7, Carlos Rogers was much better than Shawn Springs. Rogers had a 71 percent Success Rate and allowed just 4.1 yards per pass. Springs this season has a 56 percent Success Rate and 6.9 yards per pass.)

35 percent of passes against the Redskins defense were thrown to the middle of the field, which led the NFL. However, it is unlikely the Seahawks will try to take advantage; they threw just 19 percent of passes to the middle of the field, less than any other team in the NFC. That's strange since the Seahawks were so successful when they threw to the middle of the field (third in the NFL in DVOA).

Washington ranked just 20th in DVOA against number-one receivers, but was second against number-twos and fifth against "other receivers." This would be useful if we knew which Seattle receiver the Redskins might consider "number one," but I have no idea if that means Deion Branch or Bobby Engram.

A random, interesting bit of information: Washington's defense had the best DVOA in the NFL in the first half of games, but ranked just 25th in the second half of games.

Of the four games this weekend, this is the one most likely to give us an exciting kickoff return. The Seahawks and Redskins are both above-average on kickoffs and below-average on kickoff returns. Otherwise, special teams don't look like much of a factor.

On the surface, it sure seems like Seattle was the much better team, but our advanced stats show that's not necessarily the case. Seattle played the easiest schedule in the league according to average DVOA of all 16 opponents. Washington played the fourth-hardest schedule, and the hardest schedule of any team to make the playoffs. The difference between the two really wasn't that large, so the winner of this game comes down to execution and which you believe in more: home-field advantage or the emotional power of memorializing a fallen teammate.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Jaguars on Offense
DVOA 20.8% (3) -12.3% (2)
WEI DVOA 26.7% (2) -6.0% (8)
PASS 37.2% (3) -8.6% (5)
RUSH 6.9% (6) -17.5% (3)
RED ZONE 11.2% (11) -10.3% (11)
Steelers on Offense
DVOA 6.8% (12) -3.3% (12)
WEI DVOA 2.4% (17) -6.5% (6)
PASS 20.6% (7) -6.8% (8)
RUSH -4.9% (17) 1.1% (22)
RED ZONE 10.1% (13) 0.1% (13)
Special Teams
DVOA -0.4% (15) -1.7% (21)
JAC kick 4.9 (11) 0.3 (16)
PIT kick 0.3 (15) -7.5 (28)
JAC punt -3.8 (20) -10.6 (31)
PIT punt 0.1 (13) 1.1 (12)
FG/XP -3.9 (25) 6.9 (2)

During the game, please join the discussion in the Jaguars-Steelers Game Discussion Thread.

Since midseason, no team has improved more than Jacksonville, and no team has declined more than Pittsburgh. The signature win in Jacksonville's recent string of success came three weeks ago, when they beat the Steelers 29-22 in Pittsburgh. Now they return to the Steel City for a rematch.

Our DVOA ratings show the path of each team's trajectory. After nine weeks, Jacksonville ranked 13th on offense and 19th on defense. Since Week 10, the Jaguars are second on offense (behind New England) and sixth on defense.

On the other hand, the Steelers ranked fourth on offense and second on defense at midseason. Since Week 10, the Steelers are 18th on offense and 14th on defense.

Pittsburgh's troubles have been a combination of sloppy defense and injuries. The defense has struggled without defensive end Aaron Smith, who tore his biceps in Week 13, and safety Troy Polamalu, who has missed four of the past six games with a knee injury but should be available for the postseason. On offense, the Steelers are now down to their third-string left tackle, Trai Essex. This is a problem because even with the regular left tackle for 12 games and the backup for four, only one offensive line was worse in Adjusted Sack Rate (San Francisco).

The general feeling among fans is that the Steelers' running game will suffer because of the loss of Willie Parker. This is true in the sense that it is good to have two backs with different skill sets. However, Najeh Davenport was far more effective than Parker this season. Davenport gained 4.7 yards per carry and his success rate of 52 percent ranked ninth among backs with at least 75 carries. Parker gained just 4.1 yards per carry and his success rate of 42 percent ranked 42nd. Davenport is a better back to use against the Jaguars in particular, because they struggle stopping runs up the middle (28th in Adjusted Line Yards).

The Jaguars are also known as a run-first offense, and their running game has been spectacular in recent weeks. Veteran Fred Taylor is averaging 6.6 yards per carry over his past seven games, and Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for 216 yards on 37 carries in the first meeting of these teams. The Jaguars are good running everywhere except, it turns out, in the red zone, where they are just average. That's a problem because Pittsburgh is the league's best defense against the run in the red zone.

If the Jaguars want to break a big run, they need to go left. The Jaguars ranked sixth in Adjusted Line Yards on runs left end, but just 31st on runs right end. The Steelers defense was the worst in the league on runs left end, but the best in the league on runs right end. Oddly, the Jaguars had all that success running against the Steelers in the first game despite having just one running back carry listed as left end, a five-yard gain by Fred Taylor on a second-and-10 in the first quarter.

The surprise this season is not the quality of the Jacksonville running game, but rather the quality of the passing game. Before this season, David Garrard had 539 career pass attempts with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. This year, Garrard has 325 pass attempts with 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Both Pittburgh and Jacksonville are aggressive through the air when they aren't running the ball. Pittsburgh (23.1 percent) and Jacksonville (22.5 percent) were first and fourth in the percentage of deep passes (longer than 15 yards through the air, no matter if complete or incomplete). Only Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, and Derek Anderson gained 20 or more yards on a higher percentage of their passes than Garrard did. Garrard also has a great weapon when he needs to dump the ball off or run a screen, but that weapon may not be as useful against Pittsburgh. Maurice Jones-Drew was second among all running backs in receiving value, but Pittsburgh is the league's best defense at preventing success by running backs in the passing game.

With all this talk about Garrard, people may forget that Ben Roethlisberger was pretty good this year too: sixth in DVOA, ninth in DPAR. And he has the best receiver on either team: Santonio Holmes, who had a huge breakout sophomore year, ranking sixth among all wide receivers in DVOA and 11th in DPAR.

It will be interesting to see whether the Steelers line Holmes or experienced veteran (and technical route-running master) Hines Ward opposite Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis, because if the early game charting data is to be believed, the 2006 All-Pro has completely regressed this season. Last year, Mathis had a 57 percent Success Rate and allowed 6.3 yards per pass. In our data so far in 2007, Mathis has a 47 percent Success Rate and allows 7.3 yards per pass. If you want standard stats instead, Mathis has dropped from 21 passes defensed and eight interceptions to six passes defensed and one interception. (I don't have data in yet from Week 15 to know who Mathis was usually covering in that game.)

Perhaps because they are good throwing deep, both of these offenses excel on third-and-long. The Jaguars have the best DVOA in the league, while the Steelers rank third. Both defenses struggle in the same situation: Pittsburgh is 23rd in defensive DVOA on third-and-long, while Jacksonville is 24th.

Jacksonville's offense likes to go three-wide, but Pittsburgh ranks second in the league in DVOA against "other receivers" besides the top two. Brian McFadden's charting numbers fall right in line with the DVOA stats: data collected so far gives him a 75 percent Success Rate with an awesome 3.9 yards per pass. McFadden gave up a first down on just four of the 32 charted passes for which I have data.

There is one place where the Steelers are far more conservative than the Jaguars: fourth down. According to the Football Outsiders Aggressiveness Index, Jack Del Rio was one of the league's most aggressive coaches going for it on fourth down, while Mike Tomlin was the league's most conservative coach on fourth down. Jacksonville ran 31 regular plays on fourth down. No other team ran more than 24, and the Steelers ran only 12. (Of course, Tomlin picked the worst possible time to get aggressive, with that ridiculous "wide receiver sweep" on fourth-and-goal against the Patriots.)

According to the Football Outsiders game charting project, the Steelers rushed five or more defenders more often than any other team, but they were only average when it came to rushing six or more defenders. San Diego is the only defense that rushes exactly five more than Pittsburgh does. According to the early game charting data, Jacksonville gains more yards per pass against five rushers (8.0) than against four (6.6) or six-plus (3.8).

(And if it isn't working, Dick LeBeau isn't going to change things. This is anecdotal, not analytical, but last night I charted the second half of the Patriots-Steelers game, and I thought I was living through "Groundhog Day." Every single play, the Steelers brought five. Play after play, Tom Brady simply threw to wherever the hole was left by the fifth pass-rusher. The identities of the blitzers changed each play, but the number never did. Every play was five-wide, five rushers, five blockers, Patriots completion. The Jaguars offense doesn't work like clockwork in the same way, but it works pretty well. Come on, Dick, change it up a little, for crying out loud... on the other hand, to say something positive about Pittsburgh, watching the Steelers block for a left end run with both wide receivers and the tight end on the left side is like watching ballet. Everything is perfect.)

What about special teams? Well, Jeff Reed had a nice year on field goals, and their punt returns were once again awful. On the Jacksonville side, it is important to note the difference once Josh Scobee returned from his injury at midseason. The change on field goals was fairly straightforward: Scobee was worth -0.1 points on field goals, while Carney was worth -3.7 points. The change on kickoffs was a little more complicated. Based solely on kickoff distance, assuming average kickoff coverage, Carney was worth -1.0 points while Scobee was worth 2.2 points. However, looking at net kickoffs, Carney was worth 10.1 points while Scobee was worth -5.3 points. It's like the Jaguars' special-teamers forgot how to tackle when Scobee got healthy. Carney had five touchbacks in nine games, two of which were in Denver, but the Jaguars allowed just three returns over 25 yards and none over 32. Scobee had 12 touchbacks in seven games, including two in the snowy conditions in Pittsburgh, but the Jaguars allowed 11 returns of 25 or more yards, two of which were touchdowns by Andre' Davis last week. What the hell?

There's no question that Jacksonville is the wild card team most likely to upset a division champion and move on to the second round of the playoffs. But many fans are talking about the first game between these teams as if it was a Jacksonville blowout. In fact, the Jaguars only won by a touchdown, and they let the Steelers come back from a 15-point deficit before taking their final lead in the last two minutes. This game has a good chance of being just as close and exciting, and a Jacksonville win is not fait accompli.

Stats Explained

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.

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.) Red zone DVOA is also listed. These numbers are all regular season only. WEI DVOA is WEIGHTED 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).

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.

Each team also gets a chart showing their performance this year, game-by-game, according to total DVOA. In addition to a line showing each game, another line shows the team's trend for the season, using a third-power polynomial trendline. That's fancy talk for "the curve shifts direction once or twice."

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 04 Jan 2008

68 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2008, 6:02pm by Boss Hog


by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:16pm

I'm sorry, this sounds so homerish, but I have to post this right away: there's no way Washington have much better cornerbacks, even if they do play more man coverage. Not even close.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:16pm

Isn't this traditionally called the Cupstuffer-1G article?

by Fergasun (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:20pm

Nice. One of the benefits of having a playoff team is seeing the Weekly DVOA performance.

Also, it's nice to see real improvement from Carlos Rogers... and I guess also Leigh Torrence hasn't been too bad as a nickel DB... but I have no idea who they bring in when Seattle goes 4 wides.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:22pm

You will notice that Washington's dvoa trend line forms a giant W for Win, or is it Walpole? Either way, its a good sign.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:24pm

Ferg - Rogers is on IR. Its all Smoot.

I think David Macklin is their nickel back now.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:25pm

2 more items on WAS @ SEA:

The Seahawks and Redskins are both above-average on kickoffs and below-average on kickoff returns.

I'm sure you mean, vice-versa; they're both above average on kickoff returns.

Also, I am completely baffled by the opening sentence. OK, so Todd Collins apparently came from Walpole. What about the rest? A little help, please?

by Fergasun (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:30pm

If Carlos Rogers wasn't hurt I'd disagree with you... so yeah, I agree... I can see Hasselbeck picking on Smoot and Leigh Torrence all day.

This game most will come down to which team executes better in the passing game (or which defense is better at stopping the passing game).

I just can't see Todd Collins and his water rocket arm doing a lot of damage. Although some footage of Seattle I saw had their LBs dropping very far back in coverage. Is this a base defense? If it is I can see Cooley/Portis doing damage underneath.

I think this is one of those games where Gregg Williams runs a base Cover-2 defense with a limited amount of blitzing. The same one they ran early in the season... lately they've been blitzing more... not sure how good Seattle's OL is.

by Luz (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:30pm

Oddly, the Jaguars had all that success running against the Steelers in the first game despite having just one running back carry listed as left end, a five-yard gain by Fred Taylor on a second-and-10 in the first quarter.

I miss you Aaron Smith.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:32pm

6: Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu. Both came from towns near Walpole, MA. I'm not sure which belongs with with school, though.

by citizen jason (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:40pm

#7: I don't think Seattle's o-line is great, but I think not blitzing might be the way to go. If I remember correctly, that's what Pittsburgh did. They just dropped 7 or 8 into coverage and dared the Seahawks to run, and the Seahawks couldn't do it. Esp. if what Aaron says is correct--that the Redskins don't get much pressure.

As for the linebackers, I'm not as sure, although Tatupu seems to be the one most invovled in the passing game. You see him down the field quite a bit. Not so much with Peterson and Hill.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:44pm

Thanks, Ferg, but still...heatlhy Skins, healthy Hawks, I still don't buy it. I'd have to call the Seattle invisibility card. I'd want someone who's seen all of both of them, to say Washington is *much* better, to even come close to being convinced. I know the DB numbers FO gave us a couple weeks ago showed Trufant as being good, not great, but this year both these guys have been playing very very well.

I know Springs -- I have his jersey -- and I know he's played better for Williams than he did for Seattle. I have heard a lot about Rogers improving quite a bit, this year, so I'll concede that without having seen it, but so did Kelly Jennings. He was spectacular in the Philadelphia game. Smoot is not an improvement over either Seattle CB.

If truly informed people told me it's a wash, or they just lean towards Washington, I can accept that opinion. But anyone who thinks Washington's corners are much better, has not taken a look at Seattle at all, and at best has only reviewed the game charting numbers on them. Man coverage you can toss out, because Gregg Williams' "non-zone stand back and man cover deep when you aren't corner blitzing" scheme makes as much of a difference in helping cornerback play as any cover 2 zone.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 7:58pm

Ferg & #10 -- I forgot about that part. Citizen Jason's right, the Seattle O-line isn't good at all, except Walter Jones who's exceptional like he used to be. But the Steelers succeeded because the Seahawks still called plays balanced, and they could defend the run with 2 or 3 guys -- even without Hampton and Polamalu -- easily.

Seattle went pass-heavy, after that, and you can kinda see it in the trendline. Delayed blitzing up the middle would probably be pretty effective, especially on 3rd downs and 4+, and especially inside the 2 minute warning.

The line is pretty decent at pass coverage, though. Blitz pickup is OK. A third of the sacks are Hasselbeck's fault. At least he hangs on to the ball (Carolina and Atlanta games notwithstanding).

The linebackers -- not all of them at once, of course -- have covered deep, when the down & distance and your personnel have called for it, and done pretty well. Some might remember Tatupu breaking up 40 yard passes to Tiki Barber and Tim Carter a couple years ago. Peterson is known for exceptional range. The best coverage LB, though, on TEs is Leroy Hill, and he gets most of that responsibility. He said he doesn't worry about keeping up with the speed of any TE, when asked about Cooley and Sellers, and I guess in that regard he's right, but I think he'll be a little surprised to have his hands full in the overall matchup with Cooley.

I think you're mostly right. It's far from a key to the game, I believe, but Washington calls so many different types of screens and such that I expect them to have some productivity there no matter what. The key is neutralizing the pass rush. They don't blitz too much, it's mostly done on a steady stream of stunts and twists, so I don't have too much confidence for the right side of your line.

On the other side, though, I figure Samuels will be able to blank Tapp on run and pass, and that's where most of the rushing damage will be done. Although Hill seems to stay on that side of the field more than being just a SLB, and he's the best LB we have in run support (best LB in run support, best LB in TE coverage, near equal to Peterson in pass rush...and he's the Hillenmeier of this group???). To neutralize that, though, see above: appear to max protect, and send your TE on a pattern, while running to the left, and that's the big achilles heel. Brian Russell tackles well down field, but at an angle he whiffs too much. Dangerous for Seattle.

by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:19pm

AAAAARRRGGHH! Aaron has bloody done it again. Every year he draws these DVOA charts with trend lines and leaves in the bogus games at the end of the season, look at the final game for the Seahawks, Jaguars and Washington. All three massively alter the trend line but all three games were massively influenced by one of the teams having nothing to play for. The Jags and the Hawks had the worst games of their season but it wasn't a competitive game for them so why count it? Washington have their best game against Dallas who had nothing to play for either. So ignore the damn pointless games and draw a more relevant trend line. It's your site, you can do what you like, there's no need to include silly data if you don't want to.

Apart from that rant, great article.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:37pm

Dallas who had nothing to play for either

Dallas played their starters for 3 quarters. If you think those guys take the field and then loaf, you've got another think coming. The Skins dominated the first 3 quarters of that game, so the ranking seems legit.

The only asterisk would be that TO was out, and he killed the skins in game 1.

by Fergasun (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:41pm

Yeah but Ratliff and Newman were held out from their defense. Ratliff has been a force of a NT for them...

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:44pm

Or show both, with and without week 17. Sometimes, week 17 matters. It looks to me, like the graphs would show Jacksonville lasering in on a smidge over 60%, and Seattle and Washington would both be pointing to somewhere in the mid 30s, Seattle having been there for some time, and plateauing a bit on account of the Baltimore game not being as strong as the Arizona game, and Washington having just recently closed in on the mid 30s.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:48pm

Besides, Carlos, the thing is you just can't measure individually inside each game the extent to which the game matters to the players, and what sort of implications the game would hold for the playoffs.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:56pm

the thing is you just can’t measure individually inside each game the extent to which the game matters to the players

I agree, but that's why I think Aaron's approach is the right one.

Report the data, and leave the interpretation to the reader's judgment. You want to partially or wholly discount Weak 17? Fine. But I sure want to see that data.

by FullmoonoverTulsa (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 8:58pm

Who went to Xaverian?

by John Morgan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 9:15pm

The Hawks top 2 cornerbacks are much better than the Skins top 2 cornerbacks. It's not even close. Springs is a fine player, and as a #2, he's exceptional, but he's a barely above average #1. Smoot is well below average. Tru is among the best cover corners in all of football, plus, he's developed very good ball skills. Jennings is fast and has shown precocious cover skills. Stats shouldn't supplant scouting in this situation and we shouldn't credit Smoot and Springs for the accomplishments of their antecedents.

WRT to the Redskins DVOA, it's pretty clear from looking at it that following the loss of Carlos Rogers and Sean Taylor, their DVOA dips sharply. It's only propped up by solving the Vikings (somehow, I don't think employing 4 linebackers is going to work against the Seahawks) and beating a barely bothering Cowboys team.

Also, home field is an observable advantage, "emotion" is not. And don't get me started about Todd Collins. It's not a slamdunk Seahawks victory, but to imply that these two teams are evenly matched is incorrect.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 9:18pm

Karl C, I was reading through the comments and about to post the same thing until I got to yours. Agreed, verbatim. What he said. Ditto. Me too. Make that a double. I'm on board. Count me in.

Jags' and Hawks' trend lines especially skewed by pointless encounters of the 17th kind. (Or as Don Banks said in a recent SI.com article, skewered. I guess he was having shish kebab that night.)

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 9:23pm

OK, then that's cool, but then pointing out nuggets of why parts of the Washington-Dallas game might have mattered still doesn't support the objectivity of just reporting the data. Although if you were just bringing that up to refute the idea that the entire game, or all of week 17, was unquestionably inconsequential and should be tossed out without even being disclosed or reviewed, then you've got a valid point in that context.

So I go back to my suggestion, of showing both, when applicable. It's no big deal, it's just a visualization and I can figure it out on my own, but ultimately Karl's right, there's no issue with showing these graphs here with week 17 removed...if Aaron can remove the effects of randomness like fumble recoveries -- which I'm still unconvinced that a team has zero measurable ability to reproduce over the mean -- and can account for "not kicking to Hester" despite Leon Washington, Josh Cribbs, Nate Burleson and others tearing it up this year, then surely we can observe when a game is at least "tainted" in terms of it's implications for post-season performance that it can be removed for the sake of obervation. We're not suggesting to run 16 games worth of numbers for one team against 17 for another team to see who's better, or anything, just would appreciate our eyes not having to fight the pre-drawn trendline to see how it truly looks in reality.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 9:28pm

John M, I saw an article I think you'd like earlier today, with painfully bad logic in the header: "Seattle's weak schedule proves they're inferior to the Skins" or some such. (I read so many today--might have been Tom Boswell at the WaPo) The headline made me cringe. Now I don't totally disagree with the underlying argument and think that like SD, the Hawks cleaned up on a pretty soft sked while struggling a bit with the few better teams they faced, but you can still be a world beater with a weak sked (72 Dolphins). Of course, you can also be a pretender (99 Colts), but one does not prove the other.

We'll see. Good luck. I'd like for the Hawks to meet the Colts in the SB--then I'd rig up a huge white horseshoe to put on my bright blue garage doors. See if anybody even notices.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 9:36pm

Let me quick say: Thank goodness the previews are back on FO, because while I liked the look of the articles on FOX, the fact that they deleted them after about a year was just a royal pain in the neck.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 10:00pm

Hey John Morgan,
How many skins games did you watch this season? How many NFL game tapes of the skins did you watch?

It cracks me up when casual fans assert things like "The Hawks top 2 cornerbacks are much better than the Skins top 2 cornerbacks. It’s not even close."

How could you possibly have any idea?

I haven't seen the 'hawks except in passing a few times. I've seen most Redskins games. I'm surprised by the charting numbers b/c Rogers did not appear to my eyes to be playing well. And as soon as the league wakes up to the fact that he couldn't catch an STD in a nairobi whorehouse, then they'll start fearlessly throwing to his side, but I digress.

My observation has been that except vs. TO and except vs. the Pats, the skins secondary has played well this season, in particular Springs against the pass and run and Smoot against the pass (he is a danger to himself trying to run tackle). And they've played well w/o any consistent pass rush.

What's the basis for your ability to compare the two and conclude that "it's not even close"?

PS - Interesting that the hawks played 2 games against playoff teams and the skins played 7.

by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 10:16pm

Re: 18

It's not as simple as "show all the data," though, because the trendline is an interpretation of the data. Look at the Jags data. There's a very clear trend there, but by including the week 17 data, the trendline actually goes down over the last few weeks, which is a terrible misinterpretation of events. I'd like to see Aaron and the gang willing to make some judgement calls on these.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 10:24pm

We can all ask that question to each other, mate. It goes both ways. And frankly, the question holds more merit when someone is judging the Seahawk CBs than most other teams who enjoy significantly greater exposure.

Look, nobody watches every game of every team. Frankly, we don't need to, if we know football. Let me stress that you really do need to watch a lot of football, to really know, but if you're objective enough of your own opinion, you can find a pretty reasonably close contextual baseline where what you're seeing fits in to the football world, when you see Champ Bailey a lot and he's regarded as the best, or you remember quite a bit of Deion Sanders, or Terence Newman in 2005 when Parcells later said he didn't give up a TD all year, or so one and so on.

In that light, I know how much I'd been busting Trufant's chops, increasingly each year, for his really good coverage ability but zero ball skills which disarmed his coverage nearly completely. I remember Springs well, and like I said, I know he plays better for Gregg Williams, I've seen enough to know. I saw Smoot there, in Minnesota, and there again. I daresay I haven't seen enough of Washington, this year, but likely more of those corners than most any Redskin fan has seen of Seattle.

In the context of the league, I just know that Seattle's guys have been playing super well. Super well. Enough to know that when we came up on Green Bay last year, and what I've seen of Green Bay this year, when I heard so much about the great man cover combo of Woodson and Harrison, and what a fine game they played against Seattle, you get a feel for how well other people are playing, by the talk, if they're playing well. I don't mean Sean Salisbury/Pete Prisco blowhard talk, I mean talk by people who know.

And so, I know that Trufant deserved a Pro Bowl starting nod, and not because of the INTs. I know he's been playing lights out, and Jennings wouldn't make it as a #1 but has more than adequately done the job of the #2. The safeties and Jim Mora have helped tremendously. They also have the cupcake schedule and the good pass rush, but look -- results are results. Washington has their own variables, and bottom line if they're *that* good, if you want a Hawk fan to believe that they're better, they have to perform despite variables.

I'd never thought Trufant was close to being an elite corner, and I'm not convinced he is now. That doesn't mean he didn't have the best CB season I'd ever witnessed, since playing this close attention back in the last 6 or 7 years. Clearly I wasn't watching Champ in Washington or Denver, nor the Titans in the day, and so on. I saw the monstrous performance of Asante Samuel through the playoffs last year, and honestly Trufant has been close to that. The big difference is Samuel was making more frequent big play pass breakups or INTs, on more crucial game-deciding plays. But the level of play, Samuel was like 2 notches above Trufant.

Seriously, man. When Springs went to Washington and had this resurgent performance, late in his career, I heard plenty about it. I even saw a good portion of it, and it was better than his hamstrung last few years in Seattle. If he was playing as well as Trufant is, right now, he'd be having the kind of 1998 Randall Cunningham swan song year that would make it not only a remarkable enough story that it'd get some decent coverage, but it's a storyline in its own right, this week, against his former team. But what do we hear? Sean Taylor and Todd Collins.

I'm telling you, I would hear about it if one of the NFL's flagship franchises was getting this level of cornerback play, consistently all year.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 10:31pm

Wow, rife with spelling errors. Sorry for that and the exceedingly long post. I meant to say, among other things, that Trufant had the finest season I'd witnessed since I was PAYING this close attention, in the past 6 or 7 years or so. Not playing. And then went on to put that in context -- I was a fan of the Seahawks, and secondly, to the Cowboys because my aunt dated Tony Dorsett and they were always the family team. I know I wasn't seeing the finest CB performances around, during those times, but I know that Trufant is very close to the top, this year. Contract year. All bets are off for next year.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 10:33pm

We can all ask that question to each other, mate. It goes both ways

Actually, one of the reasons I enjoy this site so much is that so little of the commentary is "my guy is so much better than your guy" assertions.

I appreciate your detailed comments on SEA's CB play. Like I said, I only saw them play a few times, and only then b/c I live on the West Coast.

What I put zero stock in is comments like "Seattle's guys who mostly play off the TV screen are much better than WAS' guys who mostly play off the TV screen," especially when made by a fan who likely didn't see the other team very much.

I feel qualified to say whether the guys I've actually seen have played well or poorly, but I don't feel qualified to say how they compare to other players, except for RBs and QBs who are on the TV screen on every single play (although we can't really see the holes the RB gets and the coverage the QB is facing).

by Dutch (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 10:33pm

Wouldn't be neat if AAron actually tried to pick a winner. cmon, Aaron shoe some confidence in all your stats. Better yet how about a picks contest , me and you next yr. 5K. lets go.

by Boston Bulldog (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 11:18pm

Walpole! Xaverian! King Philip! It’s a South Shore rumble!

All 3 are high schools south of Boston.

Walpole is a town school.
Xaverian is a private Catholic school.
King Philip is a regional school.

I don't follow the high school football scene enough to remember who went where though.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 11:25pm

#30: Why do you believe, so much, that "picking a winner" would somehow imply "confidence in stats"?

It's a game. Winners aren't guaranteed. Just because one person picks the "right" winner over another one doesn't mean that person knew more than the other one.

by John Morgan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 11:53pm

Carlos, as soon as it looked like the Hawks might be playing the Skins, I started taping Skins games. It's only about 2 1/2 contests (I don't much count the Cowboys affair) but what I saw was pretty clear. Springs is a very heady corner who's lost some of his closing speed. Still, his awareness, his still good closing speed, his tackling ability, and his coverage ability make him a good #1 corner, good, above average, and that's a very valuable commodity. Not something many teams have. Smoot is just not very good in coverage. He gives a big cushion, is not terribly quick and bites on some pretty substandard moves. Troy Williamson was able to get open a lot against Smoot, but Jackson's passing and Williamson's poor hands/concentration + overall crappiness more or less got Smoot off the hook.

Trufant is an excellent, excellent cover corner. For years, he's been able to hip lock his opposition, but because of the very poor cover player's around him, how their deficiencies forced Tru to play on an island again and again, and, to a lesser extent, his own poor ball skills, he looked bad. The thing about secondary play is that if a guy just does his job, we tend to not see him, but if that same player does his job for most of the game, but is playing on an island because the second cornerback is, say, Kelly Herndon, we only see him when he's screwing up. Jennings is a very good cover corner. I don't know what his ceiling is, I prefer not to speculate on the ceiling of CB with 1-2 years starting experience, but he's very advanced as a cover corner.

This is in no way a "our guys versus their guys" discussion. I did my best to be objective. In fact, given how much respect I have for FO's metrics, I went out of my way to figure out how the Skins can be so good against #2 receivers. Let's be very clear, Smoot was twice benched by the Vikings and then cut. He was signed by the Redskins to compete for the nickelback position. I don't think many people in the NFL think of Smoot as a good corner, my conclusions from watching him aren't terribly radical.

by Andrew (A.B.) (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2008 - 11:54pm

Re: 25

"PS - Interesting that the hawks played 2 games against playoff teams"

And both games came before Columbus Day. Yikes.

by peachy (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 12:01am

It would fairly simple, I'd think, to produce graphs with a second trend-line excluding Wk 17 for certain teams.

by Jesse (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 12:35am

Oddly, the Jaguars had all that success running against the Steelers in the first game despite having just one running back carry listed as left end, a five-yard gain by Fred Taylor on a second-and-10 in the first quarter.

As reported by Gerry Dulac in the PG today, many of those plays were counters run towards Aaron Smith's undersized replacement, Travis Kirschke. Many of the big gains were also from cutbacks through gaps that defenders had vacated to help Kirschke out. Baltimore was doing a lot of the same thing last Sunday. Hopefully Polamalu will be around...he has made a huge difference in run support, though obviously not enough the first time around against Jacksonville.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 1:07am

so if Seattle's CBs are so great, and their front seven is very strong by universal agreement, why is their pass defense mediocre, both by FO stats and by more standard ones like YPA, where they are 10th (9-13 are separated by .05 yards) and the skins are 10% better and up at #4, despite playing better teams? Color me curious.

By FO stats, SEA was 8th, 13th, 27th, 19th and 5th vs. WR1, WR2, OWR, TE and RB. Sounds like their LBs are good at covering backs and they are good at covering WR1 and that's it.

By FO stats, WAS was 20, 2, 5, 10, 24. (I wonder how #20 vs WR1 changes minus TO's 4 TD shredding?)

by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 1:12am


I would say the main reason for them struggling against #3 receivers and TE's was/is Jordan Babineaux.

Babs is a good tackler and hard hitter, but he's absolutely awful in coverage.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 1:48am

Hawks fans - thx for the discussion of the secondary. very interesting stuff.

I'm pumped for the game!

by Boss Hog (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 2:15am

Outside of the Great Cornerback Debate, which seems fairly inconclusive to me, here are two non-Sean Taylor related reasons why, as a Redskins fan, I'm cautiously confident about tomorrow's game:

1. Joe Gibbs has a 17-6 record in the playoffs, better than anyone in NFL history not named Lombardi or Belichick. His teams have been to the playoffs 9 times, but he's only lost in the first round once -- and that was in 1984. Of course, there is a big difference between Gibbs I & Gibbs II, but I think some things have been consistent the second time around -- the Skins have been very good in December and January. Those are Gibbs trademarks, and they're definitely working in our favor tomorrow.

2. Todd Collins is actually good. Redskins insider types say that Al Saunders believed in Collins all along and wanted to start him right away, but it was, for obvious reasons, an impossible sell to Gibbs and the rest of the organization. The thing about Collins that makes him different from other guys who've had an 'unexpected veteran resurgence' is that he's essentially a Rip Van Winkle. He had one mediocre year in Buffalo and has been put to sleep on the bench ever since. We can't really KNOW his ceiling in the same way that we can be relatively sure about Jon Kitna, or Brian Griese, or Brad Johnson. Maybe Collins has been starter-worthy for the past 10 years -- the fact that he was benched for the very good & established Trent Green can't really disprove it. Of course, that's an unlikely proposition, but you can't deny that there's something strangely unknowable about Collins's skills as a QB -- you can measure his arm (weak-ish) and discount his experience (negligible) but it's harder to measure the strengths he's displayed in the past four games -- poise, intelligence, and, above all, accuracy.

Mike Tanier said something casually the other day about Collins's numbers being inflated by lots of screens and flat passes. Really? What games was he watching? I've seen a lot of well-timed outs, seams, and crossing routes to the WRs and TEs. And when Collins HAS thrown to an RB, it's often come after already looking downfield... not designed screens or flats, but third-option checkdowns that turned nothing into 5-15 yards.

Anyway, maybe I'm drinking the Kool-Aide on Collins, but even if he's not as good as I believe, he is hot -- which is almost the same thing. And remember, too, for all the talk about Seattle's home field advantage, two of the Skins' biggest wins came on the road, in very tough places to play -- the geeked-up Metrodome and the windy Meadowlands. Don't think the sound-enhancing Seattle stadium architecture will be enough to beat us tomorrow...

by Joseph (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 2:27am

As a Steelers fan I have noticed a few folks indicating that, in the first meeting between the Jags and Steelers, the Jaguars had one good half of rushing the ball.

However, a look at the numbers seems to indicate something altogether. According to the NFL's gamebook Jacksonville had 98 yards of rushing in the first half and 126 yards rushing in the second.

Which half was the "good" half and which one was the "bad"?

by Bobman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 3:30am

Skins and Hawks fans, thanks for showing the rest of us how it's done. Civil, reasoned discourse. No name calling.

You guys would be wedgie-magnets on the Fox/Sportsline dicsussion boards.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:15am

wrt Todd Collins, yeah, what a strange career.

Drafted in the middle of Round 2 in 1995, he had 13 not good but certainly not terrible starts for a lousy Bills team in 1997, and then literally did not even attempt another pass for the next three seasons. It's kind of an insane record for the 3rd QB chosen in the '95 draft (McNair and K Collins went in the top 5).

'95: 29 PAs
'96: 99
'97: 391 (69.5 passer rating)
'98: 0
'99: 0
'00: 0
'01: 4
'02: 6
'03: 12
'04: 5
'05: 0
'06: 0

So prior to this late season run, Collins had 546 career PAs.

Kordell Stewart, selected after him in Rd 2 got 2500 PA in his career, and posted a career rating of 70.7 / 6.3 YPA

3rd Rd'er Zeier got 537 attempts for 74.4 / 6.6
4th Rder Rob Freakin Johnson got 806 PAs, putting up 84 / 7.2
6th rd'er Craig Whelihan got 557 PAs, for 52 / 5.7

Who did Todd Collins screw to get such a limited shot as a 2d round pick and the 3rd QB chosen?

I'm looking around to see how strange this is. 1996 only had 4 QBs drafted, w/ Tony Banks being the first one in the 2d round. He stunk and yet he got 2400 PAs. Even 4th rounder Danny Kanell got 1000 PAs.

In 1997, Plummer was the only QB selected in Rd 2 (2d overall to Drunkenmiller). He got 4400 career attempts (of course Drunkenmiller got 52.

Okay, now i've looked around all the drafts in the mid '90s and Collins really has a strange career. There are plenty of guys who got little to know chance despite being drafted in the first 4 rounds, however, none of them hung around the league as a backup for any real length of time.

Collins got a remarkably short shot at starting, but then has hung on as backup for forever.

Does this mean he's any good? No, certainly not. But it also suggests that he's perhaps had less of a "fair shake" than just about anyone else I could find drafted around him.

by Polaris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:40am


You said (vis a vis Wash vs Sea):

"On the surface, it sure seems like Seattle was the much better team, but our advanced stats show that’s not necessarily the case. Seattle played the easiest schedule in the league according to average DVOA of all 16 opponents. "

Why don't you simply say that Seattle is the better team given your statistical modeling especially given Seattle is playing at home?

Your commentary about Seattle's strength of schedule seems to be grossly unfair since DVOA [i]already accounts for the strength of each given opponent[/i]. In short to make Washington look better, you are correcting for the strength of schedule twice and I think that's less than honest.


by old (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 6:52am

#30: Why do you believe, so much, that “picking a winner” would somehow imply “confidence in stats”?
It’s a game. Winners aren’t guaranteed. Just because one person picks the “right” winner over another one doesn’t mean that person knew more than the other one.
:: Pat — 1/4/2008 @ 9:25 pm

All together my gut says Washington will defeat Seattle, and Pittsburgh will defeat Jacksonville.

That Dutch guy I firmly believe is a Bengals fan trying to jinx the Steelers. To me, there is not much other explanation for his posts.

by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 6:59am

#42 Bobman - Hear, hear sir. This thread has been a pleasure to read - unlike some of the audibles threads this year...

#43 Carlos - Interesting stuff. I always liked Collins, since I am a Wolverine fan and thought he has been unlucky with his opportunities - but I had no idea it was that limited.

The left field idea for the 'Skins for next year would be to keep Collins, who surely has a lot of tread on his tyres despite his age, draft a guy who better fits the Al Saunders offense to learn from Saunders/Collins and trade away Jason Campbell to a team needing a young QB eg. Ravens, Bears, Panthers, Falcons for a high value. If they don't think Campbell is a good fit, this idea has a lot of merit IMO, especially if Collins and the coaching staff perform well in the playoffs implying they should be kept in place for the future.

by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 9:53am

How about Tommy Maddox? 1st Rd pick, maxed out at 121 attempts in '92 before being forced out of the NFL for years due to suckiness before being called back to the NFL after realizing that he doesn't suck, he's just mediocre. 377 attempts in '02....before they realize he now sucks.

by fiddycentbeer (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 10:03am

Aaron wrote:"...but many fans are talking about the first game between these teams as if it was a Jacksonville blowout..."

That is because it was a blowout. JAX had 37:39 TOP, running 75 plays to the Steelers' 55. JAX put it away in the mid-section, scoring on 3 straight possessions. They were driving again until Guarantee Smith picked a duck and brought it back to the J12. Smith was run down by RG Maurice Williams, but never mind...

In those 3 possessions: JAX went 68 yards on 10 plays over 5:06; 74 yards on 17 plays over 9:40 and (just for the flash) 55 yards on 1 play.

The Steelers had two short field scores before finally putting together a drive of their own. That one tied it, briefly. JAX got the ball and went 73 yards on 8 plays to end it.

Not good.

I say this as a Steelers fan: the better team won that day, and the contest was not as close as the score indicated. Not nearly as close.

Kirschke was taken a pounding but it's not just TD. In fact, it's not mainly TK. Mainly, it's the LB. BTW, Kirschke is listed at 298#. If he is undersized, then so is Aaron Smith, who also is listed at 298#.

The Steeler ILB were AWOL in that game; same was so in STL and BALT, btw. Clark Haggans, list 241#, cannot come close to setting the edge; neither can James Harrison, list 242#. On stretch or counters, the ILB routinely have failed to show, and the offside DE/OLB routinely have failed to crash.

Too old, too slow and, mainly, too small.

The Steeler LB list (R to L): 242, 243, 239 and 241. That's 43 size, not 34 size. For example, the JAX LB list 235, 244 and 245.

Elsewhere in the 34 universe:

San Diego: 262, 245, 235 and 272
NE: 270, 250, 247 and 261
Dallas: 257, 250, 250 and 270

Last time, JAX whipped PITT in the wind and snow. Steeler weather, it once was said, but that is not now so These Steelers have a potent air game, a suspect run game and a defense that wins on trickeration, or doesn't win at all. The football poles have flipped: FLA is north and PITT is south.

by ChrisD (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 11:06am

(I'm new to the site, so sorry if someone's brought this up before.)

Since the individual games are separate events, it seems like it would be more appropriate to display game-by-game DVOA with bar charts instead of a line graph. The trend line would remain the same.

Sorry for the nit.

by John Morgan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 11:33am

Regarding Tanier's take on Collins: Skins fans should know that in the four games he's played in, 22 receptions have been made by the backs, out of 77 total receptions. That's a lot of dishing to the backs, and against a team that's among the best in the NFL at defending it (-23.1% DVOA, 5th in DVOA at defending against receiving backs), it wouldn't be a stretch to say the Hawks present a major blow to Collin's (limited) arsenal.

by Boss Hog (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 12:47pm


John, on the year, Seahawks QBs (Matt Hasselback + one half of Seneca Wallace) have completed 371 passes, 86 of which have gone to running backs. That's 23.1% of passes to backs -- not all that much different from Collins's 28.6%.

Sure, Collins has gone to his backs a decent amount, but (contra Tanier) that's hardly all he's done. I actually think both teams will move the ball pretty well today -- the difference may come down to special teams and turnovers. Here's hoping the Skins can finally recover a fumble or two!

by Carlos (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 12:56pm

50 - or collins was exploiting weaknesses of those Ds

vs. throws to RBs, Chi, NYG, MIN and DAL rank:
31, 28, 18, 23

by Mystyc (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 1:29pm

Something I've wondered: why do the charts always use the "bends twice" line? It may give closer fits overall, but it seems like there are some teams where a "bends once" line would fit better. Is there any chance of running both regressions, and then displaying the closer fit?

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 2:52pm

11- I watch both teams and hate the redskins with a passion, but the corners are pretty much a wash. I can tell you though that Seattles linebackers are MUCH better. Lofa, Peterson and Hill are probably the best in the NFC and it is no shock that they kill the short pass to RBs. I'd like for the Hawks linebackers to bury some more Deadskins as all 3 are real hard hitters and have caused a lot of injuries this year.

40- You want to talk about inflated stats for screens and dump offs, look no further than the FO love child Jason Campbell. " He shows good potential". How? Throwing WR and RB screens? I am not a huge fan of Collins but at least he throws the ball more than 10 yards 3 times a game.

If the skins decided to trade campbell, I don't think they'd get a lot of value in return ( or that 1st and 3rd round pick they wasted on him). He is a better version of Byron Leftwhich and that doesn't command much value in the market.

by Pepperman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 3:32pm

Great discussion -- this is my first time here and a lot of talented and civil posters have made it enjoyable.

Does anybody have an answer to the question about DVOA already factoring is SOS, so therefore Seattle's schedule is already being accounted for? Would seem to me to indicate they are:

1) In fact the better team, and

2) For those of us interested in the pointspread of -3, Seattle seems like the pick?

by Sergio (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 3:52pm

re: 54

I would say that DVOA already accounts for SOS in the sense that it accounts for the quality of the team the team is facing to calculate any in-game DVOA; it however does not adjust globally for SOS *after* the season is over, as far as I know (which makes sense, given that would adjust for it twice).

Now, to me that would indeed show Seattle played stronger than Washington, and would be the pick by DVOA standards. However for some reason I can't bring myself to wager on Seattle here; I think Washington and the points look far better...

Not that I bet or anything. I've bet once in the last year (excluding FF and pick 'em pools).

by Sergio (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 3:53pm

Correction: that should read "it accounts for the quality of the opposing unit the team is facing to calculate any in-game DVOA"

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:12pm

For all the analysis and talk here, there sure are a lot of chickens as far as pointspreads go.

What is the big deal of betting 50 bucks on a game to make it more enjoyable? The people on this site sure do talk.

Seattle has been the better team this year. Does that mean they will win? Of course not. DVOA isn't a great predictor, but it is decent at showing us what already happened.

by TomC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:22pm

Polaris et al. -

I think you're misinterpreting Aaron's statement. I believe he meant: "Seattle looks like the much better team until you look at DVOA, which corrects for strength of schedule." Seattle is 9th in total DVOA, 8th in weighted; Washington is 12th and 10th; in both cases, the difference is 4%. This implies a nearly even matchup --- which agrees fairly well with Vegas's take on the game.

Mystyc (#53) -

If a "bends once" line fit better, that's what you would see. A fit to a 3rd-order polynomial doesn't force two bends; it just allows two bends. For example, if you do a 3rd-order polynomial fit to a straight line, the fit will just be a straight line --- the best-fit coefficients of the higher-order parts of the fit will be zero.


by John Morgan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:30pm

DVOA is opponent adjusted. Seattle is indeed the better team. If it weren't opponent adjusted, Seattle's VOA, 20.2%, would dominate the Skins', 0.2%. The only sense that it is close, is in weighted DVOA (Sea 13.8% vs Was 10.1%), which brings us back to how much stock you put into week 17. Personally, I put very little stock into week 17, and very little more into the Skins' 4 LB showing against the Vikings. We'll see soon enough, I guess.

by TomC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 4:34pm

Speaking of Vegas, the PIT/JAX line has moved to where the Steelers are now 3 point home dogs. Boy do I like that play.

by Boss Hog (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 5:58pm

Tom C is right. All this talk about the Seahawks being "clearly the better team" just doesn't make any sense if you're looking at DVOA. A 4% difference is not completely trivial, but neither is it decisive. The fact is that the Seahawks cleaned up on their lousy conference opponents and a soft non-conference slate, while the Skins battled through one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Despite the massive disparity in opponent strength, the Skins finished just one game worse than the 'Hawks. Their resume includes not only the ballyhooed late game stretch but fingernail losses AT Dallas, AT Green Bay, and AT Tampa that were statistically even. (They also won some unnecessarily close games against poor teams, but to me, those data points are less relevant in a playoff context than close/even games against good teams).

Seattle's weak schedule means that it's something of a mystery -- it hasn't beaten anyone good since week 1, but it hasn't really lost to any good teams either. The 'Skins are a much more tested and much more known commodity. They are nearly a lock to play good NFC opponents closely, whether at home or on the road (their 6 games against playoff opponents were all last minute, evenly played). That's what I expect against Seattle -- and I think that's why the line is just 3-4 points.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 9:44pm

Congrats Hawks fans on a well earned win. Dominant 1st half D and even more dominant 1st half special teams were the difference in my view. That and terribly conservative play calling from Gibbs except for one stretch late in 3Q and early 4Q.

Oh, well, back to the drawing board for the skins.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2008 - 10:09pm

Fire Joe Blow Gibbs.

Todd Collins throws the game winning touchdown pass... to the other team. Congrats 8th best quarterback in the playoffs.

patrick K and the D steped up.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 1:40am

Tomc- Good call taking the home dog and the value. Garrard was 9/21 with 2 picks against that rough steelers pass d. Playing ball control mistake free football was nice for the regular season, but he will have to play a riskier game in the playoffs and will in turn have more mistakes.

by John Morgan (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 1:58am

Good game.

by Fergasun (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 1:36pm

Yeah, that was a decent game until the 'Skins fell apart. Seattle's D won it for them. Some of those early stops on 3rd and short, and also that stop on 3rd and 4th and short were huge. D-line dominated the whole game and also punter kept Washington in horrible field position.

Then in the second half Washington's offense got it going... but I think the missed FG really deflated the team emotionally. It would've been huge had they been allowed to score on the kickoff (I don't know why the NFL has that rule). The ensuing drive I thought the biggest play was the pass Cooley couldn't come up with at about the 1 yard line.

Then out of the blue Hasselbeck wakes up and Seattle works the inside of the field. He was throwing those sideline routes masterfully... also Seattle's offensive line dominated whatever Gregg Williams did. Seemed like Washington was even trying to blitz but that wasn't working. Surprising that Springs would give up so many completions though... they really worked him the whole game.

Then the Redskins offense just collapsed...

Can't say it was an unexpected result, but it got real exciting for 10 minutes... and then deflated

by Boss Hog (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 6:02pm

The Seahawks were definitely deserving winners, but as a Skins fan, you just rue the missed opportunities. I agree the Cooley pass was quietly the biggest play of the game. First and goal at the 2 is a TD 75+% of the time (even for the Skins), and that would really have changed things. Even a FG + Seattle TD would have made it only 20-17, and perhaps Todd wouldn't have felt it necessary to throw up a punt-bomb-surrender-pass at the 8 minute mark.

Still, it was a great run for our guys...