Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seahawks and 49ers vs. Shared Opponents

Seattle and San Francisco are inarguably similar teams. They prioritize defense, running, and winning the turnover battle at all costs. Their overall statistics are eerily similar, but it is always valuable to narrow the focus to performance against shared opponents. Eleven of the fourteen 49ers and Seahawks opponents were shared. Removing the game they played against one another, as well as the Saints and Giants (vs SF), Panthers and Cowboys (vs SEA), leaves games against:

New England
Chicago
Arizona
St. Louis
Detroit
New York Jets
Miami
Buffalo
Green Bay

The result is still a remarkably similar set of statistics, but there are a few areas that stand out. This table shows the average of each team, as well as a color-coded row that indicates which team did better for that given statistic. Blue means Seattle outperformed SF, and red means vice versa.

Note: You will need to scroll horizontally to see the full table



San Francisco has scored slightly more and allowed a bit less. The yardage on offense is essentially equal. Seattle has turned the ball over significantly more than the 49ers, who are remarkably adept at protecting the ball from opponents. Defensively, the Seahawks run defense is far less effective than the 49ers, both in terms of total yards and yards per carry. Seattle is better at forcing turnovers, and their advantage in that area makes the overall turnover margin even. The 49ers have allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked far more often.

Overall, these still look like very evenly matched teams in almost all phases. Learning how teams are playing recently versus over the course of the whole year can be instructive as well. Narrowing the numbers to the last six games against a common opponent yields a different picture.



Both teams played Arizona, Chicago and Miami in this stretch of games. Seattle played two of those teams on the road, while the 49ers played two of them at home. The other opponents were St. Louis (twice) and New England for San Francisco, and Minnesota, NYJ, and Buffalo for Seattle. Both teams played three of these six games on the road.

Seattle is the hotter team, across the board. The only areas where the 49ers are besting the Seahawks are rush defense and sacks. It may be surprising to some to see the Seahawks are holding opponents to far fewer points and yards than the 49ers during this stretch. The Seahawks rushing offense, at 199.2 yards per game, is hard to fathom. It is not often that a team can average nearly 160 yards rushing per game like San Francisco, and still be left in the dust.

The 49ers are the consensus best team in the NFL right now. Seattle has performed at nearly an identical level against a nearly identical schedule. The Seahawks come into Sunday's match-up with more momentum. The real answer of which team is the best in the NFL very well be decided tomorrow night at Century Link Field. 

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