Week 4 of the 2013 Postseason

Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos (-2.5)

Super Bowl XLVIII offers what we dubbed last week the Statistically Perfect Super Bowl.

The Big Story in Super Bowl XLVIII is well known: NFL legend Peyton Manning and the record-setting Denver Broncos offense takes on breakout star Richard Sherman and the NFL’s best and brashest defense in the Seattle Seahawks.

On the surface, the Super Bowl has all the makings of a classic case of irresistible force vs. immovable object.

But the Bigger Statistical Story is richer, deeper and more profound: the Seahawks and Broncos were more than just a great defense and a great offense.

They were the two most dominant teams in football this year and, most importantly, dominant in the indicators that so often throughout history have provided the statistical DNA tags of champions.

The Cold, Hard Football Facts this year offered 23 Quality Stats, each of which has a direct correlation to winning football games. The Seahawks and Broncos combined this year to finish the 2013 season No. 1 in an amazing 16 of those 23 indicators.

That dominance by two teams across the board in almost every phase of the sport is the reason we called this game the Statistically Perfect Super Bowl. Consider these performances in 2013.

Seattle finished No. 1 in nine Quality Stats:

  • Our Quality Stats Power Rankings (4.95)
  • Defensive Real Passing Yards Per Attempt (4.84)
  • Defensive Real Quarterback Rating (57.64)
  • Real Quarterback Rating Differential (+33.36)
  • Defensive Passer Rating (63.39)
  • Passer Rating Differential (+38.97)
  • Defensive Hog Index (6.67)
  • Total Team Yards Allowed (5,628)
  • Defensive Rusher Rating (69.79)

Denver finished No. 1 in seven Quality Stats:

  • The Relativity Index (+12.66)
  • Scoreability (12.07 YPPS)
  • Real Passing Yards Per Attempt (7.83)
  • Real Quarterback Rating (106.05)
  • Offensive Passer Rating (114.38)
  • Total Team Yards (8,849)
  • Total Team Yards Differential (+1,766)

 

The Marquee Battle When the Broncos Have the Ball

Manning and the Broncos must navigate the minefield of the best defense, specifically against the pass, that they’ve faced all season. In fact, it’s the best pass defense any team has faced in years. Seattle’s 63.39 Defensive Passer Rating makes it the NFL’s best pass defense since 2009.

Manning, meanwhile, has faced in his illustrious career only 16 teams with a stingier pass defense, about one game of this defensive magnitude each year of his career. He’s gone 8-8 in those 16 games – fairly impressive considering these were football’s best pass defenses since 1998.

The challenge for Seattle cornerback Sherman and coach Pete Carroll’s defense, meanwhile, is just as immense and probably more so. They’ve never faced a QB as prolific as Manning – in fact no team has, outside Denver’s 2013 opponents.

And there is a caveat of you’re a Seahawks fan: Seattle’s league-best pass defense was not exactly forged against an elite collection of quarterbacks. The Seahawks in their 18 games this year faced only two teams that ranked in the top 10 in Offensive Passer Rating: Drew Brees and the Saints and Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers (a total of five games).

So with all that said, you should consider the marquee battle of Super Bowl XLVIII a statistical wash. Manning and the Denver offense should play well, but won’t shred an elite pass defense; Sherman and the Seattle defense will face its toughest test, but should hold its own in the face of the onslaught.

 

The Turning Point of the War

So with the marquee battle of Super Bowl XLVIII a statistical wash, the game instead should and will hinge on other factors. In this case, it will likely hinge on the performance of the “other” quarterback in this game: Seattle’s second-year, under-sized and still under-appreciated wunderkind quarterback Russell Wilson.

We’ve been highly impressed by Wilson’s statistical profile since the middle of his rookie season last year. In fact, we declared him the best young quarterback in the game by Week 10 2012. He doesn’t have the pigskin pedigree or pre-career hype of Indy’s Andrew Luck, the pronounced Next Great QB now for two years running.

But Wilson has clearly outperformed and out-classed Luck by a wide margin in every category that matters, most notably the passing efficiency stats that so often separate winners from losers in the NFL.

As we noted this week, Wilson is among the all-time leaders through two seasons in every single QB stat matters. It’s been a prolific and inspired display of statistical efficiency and productivity.

Perhaps the most notable aspect is Wilson’s misunderstood and underreported TD-INT ratio, a critical key to success for any team. We don’t need to get into all the historic data here. But here’s a quick look at how that TD-INT ratio in his first two seasons stacks up against two very notable QBs in their first two seasons.

Key Stats First Two NFL Seasons

 Quarterback

Attempts

TD

TD%

INT

INT%

Russell Wilson

800

52

6.5

19

2.4

Andrew Luck

1197

46

3.8

27

2.3

Peyton Manning

1108

52

4.7

43

3.9

 

Wilson has put up historic production for a young quarterback, and he, not the rushing attack, is largely responsible for the team’s offensive success.

Marshawn Lynch is a brilliant running back. And Seattle ran the ball 509 times this year, second in the NFL. But at the end of the day it is not an overpowering rushing attack: Seattle averaged just 4.3 YPA (12th), finished No. 22 on the Offensive Hog Index (its statistical weak link) and was No. 14 in Offensive Rusher Rating.

However, their persistence running the ball does afford the skilled Wilson downfield opportunities. And the Denver defense, despite its recent surge, still provides opportunities to be exploited by a disciplined offense that’s committed to the run yet also one of the most efficient and explosive passing attacks in football.

Seattle’s pass rush, meanwhile, has made life difficult on even mobile quarterbacks like San Francisco’s Kaepernick, who has sacked seven times in three games this year.

Peyton Manning is gifted and intelligent when it comes to dissecting defenses. But it’s hard to overcome a dominant pass rush and the best defensive front in football.

In fact, this game shapes up statistically in many ways much like the Colts-Saints Super Bowl at the end of the 2009 season. Manning's Colts seemed to boast all the advantages on offense, but those advantages in terms of efficiency were very narrow. Meanwhile, the Saints that year boasted a very stout pass defense, No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating. That Super Bowl, as we predicted, was secured thanks to a key play by the New Orleans pass defense. 

This Seattle pass defense is quite a bit better than even that unit.

At the end of the day, all those little advantages add up to hand a narrow victory to Seattle, which was top to bottom the better football team this year.

Pick: Seattle 26, Denver 24

Seahawks Pre-Game Analysis Broncos
Value Rank Quality Stat Value Rank
5.41 1

Quality Stats Power Rankings

9.55 5
12.89 4

Scoreability

11.44 1
18.02 4

Bendability

14.58 19
7.35 6

Real Passing Yards per Attempt

8.24 1
4.95 1

Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt

6.48 19
93.58 4

Real Quarterback Rating

106.99 1
61.69 2

Defensive Real Quarterback Rating

76.74 13
31.89 2

Real Quarterback Rating Differential

30.24 3
106.64 3

Offensive Passer Rating

118.00 1
68.69 1

Defensive Passer Rating

82.95 14
37.95 1

Passer Rating Differential

35.05 2
13.33 13

Offensive Hog Index

10.33 7
13.00 12

Defensive Hog Index

10.67 7
5083 4

Total Team Yards

5493 1
4103 6

Total Team Yards Allowed

4464 17
980 3

Total Team Yards Differential

1029 2
92.67 12

Offensive Rusher Rating

90.34 15
71.46 5

Defensive Rusher Rating

96.73 20
21.22 4

Rusher Rating Differential

- 6.39 19
15 12

Total Turnovers

19 24
30:38 14

Time of Possession

29:38 19





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