Quantcast
Register
A password will be e-mailed to you.

The Seattle Seahawks have done little to inspire enthusiasm over the past month. They were blown out for the first time in five years while turning the ball over six times. They lost their first home game of the year to a below .500 division rival when a playoff bye was on the line, and they barely squeaked by the second-worst team in the NFL. Playoff folklore tells us that peaking at the right time is just as important as any other factor when predicting postseason success. If true, the Seahawks might as well start packing. There is reason, though, to be wary of the popular opinion that Seattle is done for. Lost in the midst of the Seahawks sputtering finish are some key playoff indicators that bode well for the boys in blue and green.

 

1. Pass rush is crucial in playoffs and Seattle has the best left

The undefeated New England Patriots of 2007 lost in the Super Bowl largely due to the ferocious pass rush of the New York Giants. The Giants pass rush did in the 15-1 Green Bay Packers in Lambeau in 2011. Seattle’s own dominant pass rush derailed the most prolific scoring offense in the history of the NFL in 2013. Just last year, it was guys like Von Miller, Malik Jackson, and DeMarcus Ware who knocked Tom Brady out of the playoffs and won a Super Bowl despite a tepid offense. The playoffs are littered with tales of teams winning on the basis of superior pass pressure. No team in the playoffs has more sacks or sacks quarterback more times per dropback than the Seahawks.

The Seahawks finished the year ranked 3rd in the NFL in sacks with 42, and second in the NFL in sack rate (sacks per quarterback drop back) at 7.3%. Green Bay is the next-closest team, finishing 6th in sacks and 7th in sack rate. No other NFC team finished higher than 19th in sack rate (Dallas).

 

2. Michael Bennett is on the upswing

Just like in 2013 when Seattle entered the playoffs with one of their best pass rushers getting healthy (Chris Clemons), this Seahawks squad is seeing the reemergence of their best pass rusher in Michael Bennett. Bennett missed five games due to minor knee surgery, and did not look like himself for the first few games back. He started to show his old disruptive self the past two games, recording a sack in each and beating linemen off the ball for tackles in the backfield.

When right, he is the most impactful player on the talented Seahawks defense. The Seahawks only had the trio of Bennett, Frank Clark (10.0 sacks), and Cliff Avril (11.5 sacks), healthy and playing together in seven games this year. Seattle is 5-2 in those contests and averaged a full sack per game more than when one of those three were missing.

top-sack-trios

3. The Seahawks have the top run defense in the playoffs

We hear a lot about the dazzling offenses in the playoff field this year, and for good reason. Atlanta has one of the best offenses in NFL history when looking at points scored. The Cowboys combine a terrific offensive line with a stellar running back to bull over almost anyone in their path. Even the Packer team who was left for dead by many, sprints into the playoffs scoring points in bushels. Each of these offenses rely heavily on their running games to set up the rest of the repertoire. No team in the playoffs is better equipped to stuff opponent running games than the Seahawks.

They finished the year ranked #1 overall in rush defense, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. That number was earned against some of the best run offenses in the league.

seahawks-rush-defense

Why does this matter? The Falcons, for example, were held below 3.5 yards per carry three times this year. They were 1-2 in those games. The Patriots only loss this year with Brady at the helm came in a game when they were held under 90 yards rushing and under 3.0 yards per carry. The Cowboys have only been held under 3.5 yards per carry three times all year, and were 1-2 in those games. The Giants were the second-best run defense in the league this year, and were 2-0 versus the celebrated Cowboys. Seattle is even better in that category.

The only other top ten rush defenses in the playoffs besides the Seahawks and the Giants are the Patriots, who rank 8th. This is a unique advantage for Seattle.

 

4. Seattle has beat the best

The Patriots are the top seed in the AFC and favorites to win it all. The Falcons are the second seed in the NFC. Seattle has beat them both. In fact, the Seahawks have a better record against playoff competition than any of the NFC teams they might face.

 

nfc-playoff-teams-vs-other-playoff-teams

 

5. Seahawks offensive line will not face a top defensive line

Nobody can argue that the Seahawks offensive line has been their achilles heel. Their inability to contend with the best defensive lines in the league has led directly to some of their most discouraging losses. Here’s the thing, though…there are no dominant defensive lines in the playoffs outside of Seattle. Look at some key indicators for defensive line prowess:

Defensive sack rate rankings for playoff teams

#2 Seahawks

#7 Packers

#11 Steelers

#17 Texans

#18 Patriots

#19 Cowboys

#21 Dolphins

#23 Giants

#26 Falcons

#30 Lions

#31 Chiefs

#32 Raiders

 

Defensive yards per carry rankings for playoff teams

#1 Seahawks

#2 Giants

#8 Patriots

#11 Cowboys

#13 Texans

#14 Packers

#19 Steelers

#20 Lions

#24 Chiefs

#25 Raiders

#26 Falcons

#31 Dolphins

 

Dominant defensive lineman are absent

The Giants and the Packers have arguably the most dangerous defensive fronts outside of Seattle. The Packers abused the Seahawks on every level when they last played, but the only chance they could meet again would be in CenturyLink Field. Their history there is not kind. New York is stout against the run, but their pass rush is tepid. This Seahawks line has faced teams like Arizona, Carolina and Los Angeles, who all rank in the top ten in both these categories.

If you break it down further to look at individuals, the Seahawks have faced a defensive lineman ranked among the top ten in their position (via ProFootballFocus rankings) in 11 of their 16 games this year. They only NFC playoff team with a lineman of that caliber is the New York Giants (Damon Harrison).

 

You might say, “What about Vic Beasley and his 15.5 sacks?” He ranked 37th overall in PFF edge defender rankings due to a very poor showing against the run. He also played the Seahawks in October and had zero sacks and zero quarterback hits.

There are no Broncos, Vikings, Cardinals, Rams, or even Panthers defensive lines to worry about. The Giants and the Packers have the best to offer in that area, but both could only play the Seahawks in Seattle. None of this means the Seahawks offensive line will suddenly be a strength, but it could pave the way for performances like the ones against New England and Atlanta.

 

6. Seahawks have more playoff wins since 2012 than the rest of the NFC teams combined

Seattle has played and won more playoff games than any team in the playoffs since Russell Wilson entered the league. They have won more playoff games than the entire NFC playoff field in that time. The Seahawks are 7-3 in the playoffs since 2012. The Patriots (6-3) are the only other playoff team this year with a winning record in postseason games over the past five years.

As lauded as Aaron Rodgers is, his playoff record since the Super Bowl win in 2010 in 3-5. That includes a loss to the Giants in 2011 when he won the MVP and set a record for passing efficiency. The Cowboys have played two playoff games since 2012 and won just one of them. They have won just three playoff games in the past 20 years, and are 3-8 in that time. Atlanta has won just three playoff games in the past 15 years, and Matt Ryan is 1-4 as a playoff quarterback.

As great as Dak Prescott has been this season, and he has been fantastic, he is a rookie. No rookie quarterback has ever led his team to a Super Bowl win.

 

7. Russell Wilson has twice as many game-winning playoff drives as the nearest QB, and that includes Tom Brady

Wilson has been in the league since 2012, and has led his team to one game-winning drive in the playoffs each year since. His total of four game-winning playoff drives over the past four years is twice as many as his closest competition.

game-winning-drives-playoffs

The statistic is credited to the quarterback, but players like Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have made numerous big plays in big moments to help key those drives. Teams like Dallas and Atlanta do not have that history to draw on. Even in their recent funk, Wilson and the Seahawks came back from a two-touchdown deficit in the final four minutes to tie the game against the second-ranked defense in the NFL.

14 Responses

  1. Kimo

    Now that’s just being too positive, Brian.

    But with my ear to the rail, I listen for the sound of expectant hands rubbing together (“Expectant,” as in: “Oh, boy, we get to play the Seahawks next) and I hear nothing. Even Atlanta is quiet. Too quiet? We shall see.

    Nice write up.

  2. Isaac Mashiah

    Well Brian, you’ve done it again… lifted my spirits in a way I would never have anticipated. You’ve dug deep, uncovered FACTS, and there’s nothing to debate.

    Thanks 🙂

  3. andytyl003

    Thanks, Brian. We all need that infusion of positivism. All aside, it will come down to RW’s shoulder as it should. We go as far as he’ll take us. I am getting more optimistic about his decision-making process for the last couple of games. Just need more timing on the deep balls, which usually his bread and butter throw. A big worry on our pass defense, particularly on the road. Too many big plays given up since ET’s injury. Go Hawks.

  4. Doug

    Ah, there’s the Brian Nemhauser I know and love to read! We are out of purgatory now and on our way to heaven! 🙂

  5. Uncle Bob

    At the risk of appearing to be the Debbie Downer to your Suzy Sunshine I’m glad you’re trying to put a positive spin on the prospects going into this coming weekend. The data on the defense is pretty heart warming and comports well with what the eye can see. The D line is playing like it’s very motivated (in particular Bennett and Clark), and line backers are generally doing their jobs well. Terrell is no ET, but then, nobody is. But, I still believe he’s been scape goated some. Yes, he’s playing into the position, “learning” to be in sync with the rest of the guys who’ve been in their roles for years while he’s only gotten a few quarters of interaction. On the snap count chart for the last game he was on the field more than any other defender. Hopefully that shows that coaching staff have enough faith in his abilities to leave him out there, as well as desiring he gain live experience on the job. Taking the positive view, the back end of the defense should improve as his experience grows. On the offensive side I’m just not convinced that the game plans are well thought out enough nor prepared for success. In an article elsewhere the comment was made that Bevell figured out somewhere mid-game that he needed to call plays that called for a quicker release on the pass. If that comment/observation is accurate it boggles the mind………………………………..that should have been a major part of the offensive game plan for like…………..oh………………..the past 16 weeks or so! It is the press though, so who knows how accurate that story is. It is somewhat believable though based on how many times RW has been pressured or sacked, so…………………… PFF (for what that’s worth) had Gilliam rated the highest of our linemen this past game. Could it be the couple games of healthy inactive made an impact? Could it be that with each snap these guys get better at working as they should with the guy next to them? You would hope………………that’s how it’s supposed to work. Did the flashes from Collins (finally) we saw against SF mean he’s finally turning the corner? Man, I hope so (wouldn’t a 200 yard game this weekend be a stunner? Now there’s some crazy optimism). Rawls just doesn’t seem to be finding his footing yet on hitting whatever hole/seam there is as he’s shown in the past. Reece looks to be playing into game shape finally so maybe he’ll add that extra dimension that will help. But I still am skeptical about the game planning for offense. We’ll see……………….I’d much prefer your view over mine.

    • SikhHawk

      Bob …. a Debbie downer ,,,, never !
      Our struggles have been mainly been down to injuries & the JWebb FA & Haushka getting the yips. We will get stronger with every game.

  6. Robert Loeder

    Nice article! Thanks for helping my narrative. Hopefully, Panthers playoff game last year and slow starts this year instill the urgency to start fast and step on the opponent’s throat!

  7. Gordon

    Excellent work as usual but no mention of C.J. Prosise. His game against New England stands out as the difference maker. He rushed 17 times for 66 yards and had 7 receptions for 87 yards. The Patriots had seen very little tape (of him in the Seahawk offense) and they didn’t appear to have an answer for him and Russell looked more comfortable as he had a much needed and dependable safety valve. Prosise’s return may serve as the catalyst for the offense through the playoff stretch.

    • SikhHawk

      Totally agree with u Gordon, CJP will make a Yuuuuge difference. Make CJP Reason no 8

      Fabulous article Brian.

  8. Scott Crowder

    There’s an 8th reason for optimism: no 10 AM playoff games this year!

    I know, someone in the scheduling department needs to be fired over that faux pas right?

  9. Richard

    Are we still going with the stats when Earl Thomas was around to make everyone else look less average?

    Make no mistake, Atlanta would love nothing more than to torch these guys again like in 2012. Take away the usual chicanery at the clink and the fact this Atlanta team is much better and the matchup should be even worse for Seattle this time around.

    But yeah, let’s blame the time zones.

    • Richard

      Nostradamus calls it again.
      The Legion of Earl Thomas has work to do.

  10. SikhHawk

    Marvellous article Brian.
    Reason 8 CJPs return
    Reason 9 No early starts
    Reason 10 The 12s, best fans in the world