Thursday, January 3, 2013

Common Opponent: Seahawks and Redskins vs. Panthers

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This year, the Seahawks and Redskins played five games against common opponents, but one opponent best illuminates Sunday’s Wild Card teams: the Carolina Panthers. Like the ‘Hawks and ‘Skins, the Panthers have a young, gifted, physical quarterback, Cam Newton – last year’s offensive rookie of the year. And Carolina employs the zone-read option. This is as good a measure as we can get between the two defenses.

Over the year, Carolina ranked 13th in DVOA at +5.5%, so they were slightly above average. They were balanced, ranking 10th in offense and 11th in defense. The offense earned an average of 22.3 points while the defense allowed 22.7, which sounds about right for a 7-9 team. Say what you will about the Panthers, but they make a good strawman team.

So, how did the Seahawks and Redskins do against them? The Seahawks won 16-12 on the road. The Redskins lost 21-13 at home. You read that right. Seattle won on the road (and this was in Week 5, before OC Darrell Bevell unleashed Wilson) while RG3 & Co. lost at home in the ninth week of the season.

The Seahawks defense limited the Panthers to 190 yards with 108 in the air and 82 on the ground. Only the Jets and Cards had games with fewer yards against Seattle this year. Yes folks, the Seahawks can defend against the zone-read option. On offense, the ‘Hawks earned 310 yards with 212 in the air and 98 on the ground. Bruce Irvin, Jason Jones, and Chris Clemons were especially disruptive on D, though Jones is now on IR and won’t be a factor in DC. Mebane, Branch, and Wagner shut down runs up the gut. By many measurements, this was the worst performance of Cam Newton’s career. Seattle’s secondary had something to do with this, shutting down veteran Steve Smith.

Seattle’s D was so effective that at 2:03 in the 3rd quarter, Chris Clemons batted down a Newton pass – even though Seattle had only ten men on the field.

The Redskins D didn’t do nearly as well, allowing Carolina 330 yards with 201 in the air and 129 on the ground. On offense, the ‘Skins moved the ball well but weren’t able to convert yards to points. They had 337 yards with 186 in the air and 151 on the ground but only visited the end zone once, late in the 4th quarter.

DeAngelo Hall defended well, but former Seahawk Josh “Shorty” Wilson gave up big yards and had a couple of PI calls against him. Tyler Polumbus (a recent Seattle alum) gave up 11 of 20 quarterback disruptions. If anybody knows Polumbus’ weaknesses, it’s the Seahawks.

People talk about London Fletcher still being effective, but after the visit from Carolina, he had eight negative grades in nine games from ProFootballFocus, failing to collect a stop and giving up all four passes that came his way for 36 yards.

These games don’t give a lot of insight into the Seattle and Washington offenses. The Carolina defense won’t be on the field, and a lot has changed particularly for Seattle’s offense since Week 5. No, these games tell us about defenses and how they handle a quarterback who can present multiple threats and get down the field in a hurry. The Seahawks measured up well against Carolina and they did it on the road. The Redskins D, on the other hand, had some soft spots, even when playing at home.

Advantage: Seahawks. Even when playing on the road.

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