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First round playoff trends

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Mounds of entertaining analysis for this Saturday's matchup between the Seahawks and Redskins abounds here and here and here (latter two are from our Seahawks blog Field Gulls, which is a great site that I believe some of you have already found). I'm going to be looking at the past four weeks for both teams to identify any trends that have emerged towards the end of the season. Is there any reason I selected four games? No, it has nothing at all to do with the fact that the Redskins have played the best football of the year in the past four games. I am not a partisan at all. I wouldn't do that.

But we're going with the past four weeks just the same, because I'm shameless.

Redskins 4-0:

  1. 26.25 points per game scored
  2. 13.25 points per game allowed
  3. 343.75 yards per game on offense
  4. 277.25 yards per game allowed
  5. Turnover margin +6
  6. 40.67% 3rd down conversion
  7. 24.56% 3rd down on defense
  8. 105.25 rushing yards per game
  9. 71.75 rushing yards allowed per game
  10. Opponents W-L: 38-26
All numbers are skewed heavily by a Cowboys game where Terry happily attempts to remind us that his team mailed it in, but I'm not buying. Among familiar cliches about what kinds of teams win in the postseason is the gem that you must run and alternatively stop the run to proceed at the end of the year. I am unwilling to support or challenge that platitude as that would require a more robust analysis than I'm capable of right now, but it stands to reason that running the ball and preventing your opponent from the same are the kinds of things that improve your odds of winning a football game. Ditto on turnover margin, as Coach Gibbs often reminds the press after losses. The opponents we've done this against have been quality teams. Da Bears were the worst though we played after a short week of practice. The Giants are a very good football team similarly playing well as the season winds down that could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory over us. The Vikings have the best rusher in the NFC, perhaps the NFL on their team yet we limited him to 9 carries for 27 yards. They were in a must win situation and we handled them in their house. The Cowboys are a 13 win team with 11 Pro Bowlers. Of those 11 only Terrell Owens, Andre Gurode, and Terrence Newman sat out the game. It was a worthy opponent and a quality win.

Seattle Seahawks 2-2:

  1. 30 points per game scored
  2. 21 points per game allowed
  3. 367 yards per game on offense
  4. 333.5 yards per game on defense
  5. Turnover Margin +2
  6. 33.3% 3rd down conversion
  7. 38.18% 3rd down on defense
  8. 108.75 rushing yards per game
  9. 98.5 rushing yards allowed per game
  10. Opponents W-L: 24-40
A few things here. The Seahawks have twice scored over 40 points in the past four games. The Redskins haven't done so all year. The 108.75 rushing yards per game is actually low since they picked up the bulk of that in the past two games. The opponents were pretty soft.

These are easily consumable stats that were selected by me for partisan reasons, so there isn't any need to read too deeply into them. However, they do reflect just a few of the important numbers from two teams that will play each other this coming Saturday. They represent 25% of the total sample size for these two teams and some would argue the most important quarter for prediction since recent weeks are probably a better indication of where a team is at today than their statistics from, say, week one. As you know, I'm a huge fan of the work done at Football Outsiders. Here's what they say,

Redskins:

  1. Total DVOA 7.7% (T-12th)
  2. Weighted DVOA (explained below) 10.1% (10th)
  3. Offensive DVOA 1.0% (17th)
  4. Defensive DVOA -7.2% (6th)
Seahawks:
  1. Total DVOA 11.7% (9th)
  2. Weighted DVOA 13.8% (8th)
  3. Offensive DVOA 5.6% (14th)
  4. Defensive DVOA -5.4% (11th)
WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games. LAST YEAR represents 2006 rank, while LAST WEEK represents rank in Week 16 of 2007.
Make no mistake, the Seahawks have been the better team over the course of their season. It won't be a gimme game, but I think the Redskins will give the Seahawks a run for their money, and the betting public agrees. Per ESPN, the line opened at -5 and has since fallen to as low as -3 (which would be the home field advantage) and as high as -4.

Prepare yourselves for a blowout because: Todd Collins. Incidentally, that's been largely true for the past four weeks, though the other way.