The Seattle Seahawks have been bubbling beneath the statistical surface all year long, waiting to explode.
They've erupted like a long-dormant Mt. Rainier in recent games and grab the No. 1 spot in our Quality Stats Power Rankings entering Week 17.
Seattle has laid waste to three straight opponents, including a 42-13 deconstruction of the 49ers Sunday night.
You could see red-hot Seattle working its way to the top of the statistical volcano by mid-season, but only if you were paying attention to the right numbers and not to the tired old storylines perpetuated by the usual suspects.
The Seahawks, or at least their fans, have been starving for attention all year long as a result.
In fact, we’ve had no fewer than three different stories about the Seahawks go viral this year – a testament to the fact that Seattle fans know they have a good team on their hands and have been desperate for any bit of national attention they could muster.
This is a good team, folks. And it's hard to argue otherwise now.
It could get better, too: Seattle still has a shot, albeit an outside one, at the NFC West crown and even a first-round bye. With a win over the Rams Sunday – and losses by both the 49ers and Packers – the Seahawks will capture the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
But here’s the best part: the controversial Golden Tate touchdown against the Packers back in Week 3 – you know, the play that hastened the end of the replacement ref fiasco – will prove the tiebreaker that gives 11-5 Seattle the No. 2 seed ahead of 11-5 Green Bay. Talk about a great story.
On to the rankings!
1. Seattle (10-5) – The Seahawks boast six Quality Wins, most in the NFL, the league’s No. 1 defense and they’ve scored 150 points in their last three games. That’s a dangerous combination, especially if they can capture a home playoff game.
2. Denver (12-3) – Under Peyton Manning’s guidance, the Broncos rank No. 1 in Real Passing Yards Per Attempt (7.32), No. 2 in Real Quarterback Rating (97.0), No. 3 in Offensive Passer Rating and No. 3 in Scoreability, our measure of offensive efficiency.
3. Green Bay (11-4) – The Packers are No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential and likely to finish the season atop the NFL in this, the Mother of All Stats, for the third year in a row. But Aaron Rodgers is still sacked far too often: the Packers have surrendered 46 sacks. Only three NFL also-rans (Cardinals, Eagles, Chargers) are worse.
4. Atlanta (13-2) – The Falcons are the only team without a loss to a Quality Team (4-0). But no team in the NFL has faced fewer opponents with winning records. Soft schedules typically make for lofty records.
5. San Francisco (10-4-1) – The 49ers have not pieced together a win streak of longer than two games all season. They’ll obviously need to win three in a row, and maybe four, to win the Super Bowl. But they still rank in the Top 10 in 14 of 20 Quality Stats we use to size up opponents at CHFF Insider.
6. Houston (12-3) – The Texans still held the No. 1 spot in our Quality Stats Power Rankings in Week 14. They’ve fallen five spots in just three weeks. Houston’s statistical weakness is Arian Foster and the ground game: it averages just 4.12 YPA (20th). The Texans are also No. 20 in third-down offense, converting 37.1 percent of attempts.
7. New England (11-4) – The imbalanced Patriots top the NFL in five of the 20 Quality Stats we use to size up teams in our game analysis at CHFF Insider – including No. 1 on the Relativity Index, which accounts for the quality of opposition.
8. Chicago (9-6) – The Bears rank No. 2 in scoring defense (16.9 PPG) and No. 15 in scoring offense – the same old story in Chicagoand, in other words. The Bears have ranked higher in scoring offense than they have in defense just 10 times since 1962.
9. Baltimore (10-5) – The Ravens surrender 21.4 PPG – 10th in the NFL. That's more than twice as many points given up by the famed Ravens of 2000 (10.3 PPG).
10. Washington (9-6) – The Redskins have a chance to roll into the playoffs on a seven-game win streak behind two different rookie quarterbacks (all but one win by RGIII). It’s a pretty remarkable testament to the way the game has changed. So, too, is the team’s No. 1 ranking in Real QB Rating – ahead of Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Manning, etc.
11. Cincinnati (9-6) – Second-year men Andy Dalton and A.J. Green get the headlines, as offensive players naturally do. But the Bengals are a playoff team on the strength of the defense: No. 5 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 6 pressuring the passer, No. 7 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 8 in Defensive Real Passing YPA.
12. Pittsburgh (7-8) – The disappointing Steelers are still No. 2 in run defense (3.59 YPA) and No. 2 in Defensive Real Passing YPA (5.31). The latter is an indicator they have consistently dominated with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, with historically good numbers. You just don’t beat the Steelers down the field – which makes last year’s shocking loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos all the more surprising.
13. N.Y. Giants (8-7) – Big Blue’s famed defensive front failed the team badly this year: No. 24 on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 28 in run defense (4.64 YPA), No. 30 in third-down defense. The weakness up front was a big reason the Giants are 30th in Defensive Passing YPA (7.30).
14. Carolina (6-9) – The Panthers have climbed 10 spots in our Quality Stats Power Rankings since Week 11, a period during which they’ve won four of five games. But they need a win at New Orleans Sunday to improve over last year’s record of 6-10 and are still largely the same team statistically we saw in 2011.
15. St. Louis (7-7-1) – The team’s talented collection of front-line defenders have finally come along under Jeff Fisher’s tutelage: No. 7 on the Defensive Hog Index and No. 2 in the NFL at forcing Negative Pass Plays (sacks, INTs). Otherwise, the Rams are outside the top 10 in 18 of 20 Quality Stats. Still plenty of room to improve.
16. Miami (7-8) – The Dolphins are No. 6 in scoring defense for the second year in a row, having surrendered just 289 points – that’s the best defense in the NFL this year by a team with a losing record. Ryan Tannehill and the offense need to improve next year (No. 25 in scoring).
17. New Orleans (7-8) – After starting the season 0-4, the Saints have the chance to finish 8-8 overall. Quite a turnaround after being decimated by Roger Goodell's bounty ruling and a defense that's given up the fifth most points in the league and ranks 28th in Defensive Passer Rating.
18. Minnesota (9-6) – Win and they're in. One small problem: the No. 3-ranked Green Bay Packers. The 2012 Vikings will likely go into the record books as one of the few teams in history with a higher average per rush attempt (5.36) than pass attempt (5.22).
19a. Arizona (5-10) – The Cardinals are No.1 in Defensive Passer Rating and Defensive Real Quarterback Rating. They're No. 32 in Offensive Passer Rating and Offensive Real Quarterback Rating. Kurt Warner, where are you?
19b. Dallas (8-7) – Perhaps more demoralizing for the Cowboys than their Week 16 overtime loss is being tied with the 5-10 Cardinals in our Quality Stats Power Rankings.
21. San Diego (6-9) – It's amazing to hear Norv Turner voice his interest in an offensive coordinator position if he's fired. #Norvisfocused
22. N.Y. Jets (6-9) – No Tebow. No Sanchez. No Fireman Ed. No HBO. But plenty of Jets coverage on ESPN. Figure that one out. Tim Tebow’s career Real Quarterback Rating of 81.2 would have been good enough for 11th in the NFL this year. The Jets instead have a Real Quarterback Rating of 58.4, bad enough for 30th in the NFL this year.
23. Cleveland (5-10) – Eight of the Browns’ 10 losses have come against Quality Opponents (1-8).
24. Tampa Bay (6-9) – Thanks to Josh Freeman's eight interceptions in the team's last two games, the Bucs have fallen below the Raiders in Offensive Passer Rating.
25. Buffalo (5-10) – The Bills are winless (0-6) against Quality Opponents in 2012.
26. Detroit (4-11) – The Lions are tied with the Eagles for worst record in the NFC (4-11). At least they've got Quality Stats Power Rankings bragging rights. For now.
27. Indianapolis (10-5) – Coming off a 2-14 season, the Colts have become the Cinderella story of the NFL. The 2012 Colts are the spitting statistical image of the 2011 Broncos: a team with statistical weaknesses up and down the lineup but that turned a little late-game magic into a playoff appearance. They close out at home against an angry Texans team.
28. Oakland (4-11) – The biggest highlight for the Raiders in 2012 was the appearance of Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson in ESPN's 30 For 30 episode on Bo.
29. Jacksonville (2-13) – TEBOW. TEBOW. TEBOW. TEBOW. TEBOW.
30. Philadelphia (4-11) – As of Dec. 26, the Fire Andy Reid Facebook Page has 11,372 fans. That's No. 1 in our unscientific and unfounded Quality Fan Page Power Rankings.
31. Tennessee (5-10) – Amazingly, the Titans are better in 14 of 20 indicators than their Week 17 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars. But they're dead last (0-8) against Quality Opponents.
32. Kansas City (2-13) – Jamaal Charles is the most explosive runner in the history of football, with a career average of 5.82 YPA. Thanks to him, the Chiefs are No. 5 in Rush YPA here in 2012 (4.87 YPA). But Kansas City is ranked 25th or worse in 18 of the remaining 19 indicators we use to size up teams at CHFF Insider. Somebody's got to bring up the rear.