The Path to the (other) Title: Seahawks DVOA Week 13 Preview
By Brad Howell
Seahawks DVOA Preview: The Seattle Seahawks lost their top spot in the DVOA rankings after last week’s terrible showing against Tampa Bay.
Since I last wrote about the DVOA rankings two weeks ago Seattle rose to the number one ranking after dominating the Eagles and then fell back to fourth after a spectacularly bad showing in Tampa Bay.
The rest of the top ten looks pretty familiar, with Atlanta, Dallas, Philly, and New England rounding out the top five. Less than four percent separates the first and fifth place teams so plenty can change these last few weeks.
Philadelphia remains as the one outlier when comparing DVOA rankings to actual NFL standings. As their schedule has toughened, the Eagles haven’t been able to overcome their offensive shortcomings despite possessing an elite DVOA defense and special teams.
In addition to the Seattle game, I’m curios to see the results of the Atlanta versus Kansas City matchup since they are both top then. I also want to see Pittsburgh and New York Giants since the Steelers are so well regarded in DVOA and the Giants are not despite their strong 8-3 record.
Week 13 Outlook
The Panthers are a very familiar matchup, having played each other six times in the Russell Wilson era. Seattle is 4-2 in that timeframe, although Carolina has won the past two meetings (both last year).
Carolina’s defense has slipped mightily from last season and things won’t get any easier without their All-Pro middle linebacker, Luke Kuechly. Of note, the Panthers will also be without their starting strong safety (Kurt Coleman) and most productive edge rusher (Mario Addison, 6.5 sacks).
I know the Carolina defense is a prideful unit, and is certainly motived in this out-of-division rivalry game, but I don’t see how they can hang for four quarters in Seattle. I think Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin will find little resistance in the middle of the field Sunday night and both could be in for huge games. Rawls may finally get the running game going as well, but at this point I’m hesitant to predict that again until I’ve seen some proof of life.
Defensively, Seattle is trending up with the return of Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, DeShawn Shead, and Mike Morgan. The craziest part of that is that the defense played well without them so things could get really ugly for Carolina if most, or all, of those four are close to fully healthy.
The return of Michael Bennett may have the biggest impact of that group as Carolina’s offensive line is probably a bigger mess than Seattle’s. The Panthers have had to shuffle players all over the line after losing their starting left tackle, starting center, and backup center. Cam Newton will likely be under constant duress Sunday night.
With their offensive line issues and Seattle’s incredible rush defense, I don’t see Carolina establishing any sort of run game with their running backs. In the passing game, Greg Olsen is the only receiver I fear. It’s going to take a true Superman performance from Cam for the Panthers to score more than 14 points, I think.
I don’t think Seattle’s moving back into first place in the DVOA rankings no matter what happens in this game, but they could move up past Philadelphia if they play poorly in Cincinnati. I’m interested to see what happens with Dallas after their less than stellar offensive performance on Thursday too.
Anyway, I think this game ends up a lot like the divisional playoff matchup during the 2014 season. Seattle controls the game throughout but holds a small lead until breaking it open in the fourth quarter. Big games from Wilson, Baldwin, and Graham. Seattle wins 34-17.