Matter of Facts: Seahawks Have No. 1 Scoring Defense

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 03, 2013



By Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru)
Cold Hard Football Facts' Fact-Generator

The final few stages of the journey to New Orleans will begin this Saturday with a lot of familiar faces as well as some new blood.

All told, eight of last season’s 12 playoff participants from 2011 are back for another go-around as six teams (New England, Baltimore, Houston, Denver, Green Bay and San Francisco) repeated as division champions, while the Cincinnati returns as a wild card team and Atlanta unseated New Orleans for the top spot in the NFC South.

Looking for a favorite?

Good luck. In each of the last six seasons, six different seeds have gone onto win the Super Bowl, including the NFC’s No. 6 Packers in 2010 and the NFC’s No. 4 Giants in 2011.

And it’s always worth noting that the last time the team with the best win-loss record in the league to capture the whole ball of wax was the 2003 Patriots, who parlayed a 14-2 season into a win in Super Bowl XXXVIII. In other words, eight straight seasons have come and gone since.

So it’s good luck to the not-so dirty dozen teams out to grab the Lombardi in February. Your guess is as good as their's as to who will be holding it high in just over four weeks…

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Traditionally, we don’t usually see the Bengals after a poor first half of the season. So when Marvin Lewis’ team followed a three-game winning streak in September with four consecutive losses, the team’s aspirations of making consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in 30 years (1981 and ’82) were but a fleeting thought. But seven wins in their final eight games (giving up eight offensive touchdowns along the way) put Cincinnati back in the playoffs for a second straight season and the third straight year. Now let’s see if the franchise can win its first postseason contests since knocking off the Houston Oilers in the 1990 Wild Card round…

Houston Texans (12-4): Apparently, Gary Kubiak and company don’t believe in any kind of late-season momentum. Last season, the Texans lost their final three regular season games after wrapping up the team’s first division title, first playoff appearance and first 10-win season. Now Kubiak’s club has stumbled a bit again, losers of two straight and three out of four. This has been a different team as of late, allowing 188 points in its last 7 games (26.9 PPG) after giving up just 143 points during the club’s 8-1 start. Injuries in the back eight have been an issue, as has been the recent play of quarterback Matt Schaub. But relentless defensive end J.J. Watt NFL-high 20.5 sacks) is lurking…

Minnesota Vikings (10-6): It’s been a rollercoaster couple of seasons for the Purple Gang, who with quarterback Brett Favre at the helm found themselves in overtime in the NFC title game in 2009. But prior to this season’s stunning 10-6 turnaround, the Vikings were a combined 9-23 from 2010-11. It’s been one of those years for All-World running back Adrian Peterson, who hurt opposing defenses for a total of 2,097 yards on the ground in 2012, the second-highest single-season total in NFL annals. Besides trying to stop AP, the Packers would be wise to block defensive end Jared Allen, who has amassed 15.5 sacks in 10 meetings with quarterback Aaron Rodgers since ‘08…

Green Bay Packers (11-5): Mike McCarthy’s team is on a 9-2 roll since that 2-3 start which includes losses to the playoff-bound 49ers, Seahawks and Colts. Green Bay’s run defense was erratic all season and gave up big numbers to Sunday’s foes in Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson, who put up 210 and 199 yards rushing, respectively, against Dom Capers’ defense. But the numbers that quarterback Aaron Rodgers continue to put up are indeed impressive as the Packers’ signal-caller has now thrown 84 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions in his last 31 regular-season outings. By the way, the Packers are 2-4 in their last six home playoff games dating back to 2002…

Indianapolis Colts (11-5): From two wins and a new general manager, coaching and a large roster overhaul to 11 victories and a playoff berth, hats off to a Colts’ franchise which remains an amazing story on all fronts. And for those who think that quarterback Andrew Luck has been the lone rookie to stand out for the team, keep in mind that 22 of the Colts’ 40 touchdowns scored this season came from their 2012 draft class in the form of wideout T.Y. Hilton (8), Luck (5), tight end Dwayne Allen (3), running back Vick Ballard (3), tight end Coby Fleener (2) and wide receiver LaVon Brazil (1). And since that 35-point loss to the Patriots back in Week 11, Chuck Pagano’s club is 5-1…

Baltimore Ravens (10-6): The arrivals of head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco in 2008 have brought nothing but playoff appearances to this franchise as the Ravens’ fifth consecutive postseason appearance is the longest active streak in the league. But unlike those other years, each of which resulted in at least one playoff win for the Ravens, Harbaugh and company enter the tournament losers of four of their last five games. Baltimore finished 17th in the NFL in yards allowed, the first time since 2002 (22nd) that this team didn’t finish in the Top 10 in total defense. A season ago, the Ravens’ defense was led by then-coordinator Chuck Pagano…

Seattle Seahawks (11-5): The third season with his third NFL season proved to be pretty charming for head coach Pete Carroll, who flies into FedExField this week with his team riding a five-game winning streak. Thanks to a late-season surge of scoring, the Seahawks finished with 412 points, up from 321 a year ago. Meanwhile, Seattle gave up the fewest points in the NFL (245) for the first time in the team’s 37-year history. Add in the fact that running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 100-plus yards in 10-of-16 games and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw 16 touchdown passes (2 interceptions) and ran for four scores in the team’s last eight games and it adds up to WOW…

Washington Redskins (10-6): At 3-6 after nine games, the Redskins looked closer to a fifth straight last-place finish in the NFC East rather than a division title for the first time since 1999. But the constants all season were the ability to run the rock and the massive improvement in ball security. With the aid of rookie Alfred Morris, Washington ran for an NFL-high 2,709 yards, quite a jump from their 2011 performance (1,614 yards; 100.9 YPG). And thanks in part to Pro Bowl rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the ‘Skins went from the third-most turnovers in the league a season ago (35) to giving up the ball a league-low 14 times, a mere seven of those miscues by the talented Griffin…

The Top Seeds

Denver Broncos (13-3): John Fox’s club not only overcame a 2-3 start by winning their last 11 games, their 13-3 mark was good enough for the team to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the first time since 1998, which has a pleasant ring to it if you’re a Broncos’ fan. Apparently Peyton Manning still has a lot left in the tank after missing all of 2011, throwing for 37 scores and only 11 interceptions. And after Eric Decker led Denver with 44 catches in 2011, four players totaled at least 45 receptions. Denver’s defense, led by Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, tied for the league lead with 52 sacks. And the Broncos were the only team in the AFC to give up fewer than 300 points…

New England Patriots (12-4): Another year and more success for the Patriots, who notched their 12th consecutive winning season--tied for the seventh-longest streak in NFL history. For the third straight year and a record fourth time (in six seasons), the Patriots scored at least 500 points, their 557 points the third-highest single-season total ever behind the ’07 Pats (589) and 2011 Packers (560). There are some issues on defense but Bill Belichick has solved some of that with 41 takeaways, the second-most in the NFL this season. And consider that quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 187 touchdown passes (45 interceptions) in his last 81 regular-season games since 2007…

Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Prior to the additions of general manager Thomas Dimitroff, head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan in 2008, the Atlanta Falcons had never enjoyed neither consecutive winning seasons nor two straight trips to the playoffs. Now Smith and company are the NFC’s top seed for the second time in three years, have yet to dip under .500 with the current regime and are in the postseason for the third straight and fourth time in five campaigns. These days, it’s a Ryan-driven offense and the fifth-year pro continues to improve, throwing 32 touchdown passes in 2012, once again upping his career total for a season in this category…

San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): After not reaching the playoffs for eighth straight seasons, it’s back-to-back NFC West titles for the Niners, who gave up the third-fewest yards and the second-fewest points in the league in 2012. Second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick had his ups and downs but the San Francisco ground attack, led by relentless Frank gore, remained one of the league’s best. After tying the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season in 2011 (10), Jim Harbaugh’s club gave up the ball only 16 times in as many games, meaning the 49ers are a solid plus-37 in turnover differential (63-26) in their last 32 regular-season games, hence a 24-7-1 record…


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