Almost two years ago, these teams met in the NFC Championship game. While the Seahawks hope to return to former greatness and have the division title to prove it, the Panthers are all about rebuilding. Doug Farrar uses Football Outsiders' revolutionary DVOA and DPAR statistics to preview this game.
DVOA Matchup, Pt. 1 - Seahawks at Panthers
Football Outsiders stats are used in this exclusive preview.
Seahawks.NET
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SeahawkFootball.com
Dec 14, 2007

DVOA Matchup, Pt. 1 - Seahawks at Panthers

DVOA Matchup, Pt. 1 - Seahawks at Panthers

Almost two years ago, these teams met in the NFC Championship game. While the Seahawks hope to return to former greatness and have the division title to prove it, the Panthers are all about rebuilding. Doug Farrar uses Football Outsiders' revolutionary DVOA and DPAR statistics to preview this game.

DVOA Matchup, Part 1 - Seahawks at Panthers

The stats used in this analysis are all available at Football Outsiders - the DVOA and DPAR stats referenced here are theirs, and are explained here. In addition, if you want to drill down and get really forensic, you will find some amazing numbers in the "Head-to-Head" section of the FO Premium Database. We'll be featuring some of those numbers in future installments of DVOA Matchup, but you can see a sample here. To get things started, we'll stick with offense, defense, and special teams.

Echoes of 2005?

In the wake of Seattle's five-game winning streak, some pundits are starting to compare this Seahawks team to the squad that made it to the Super Bowl in 2005. It's an interesting week to engage in this discussion, considering the fact that this is a rematch of the 2005 NFC Championship Game, in which the Seahawks dominated Carolina, 34-14. Since then, the Panthers have fallen through the floor, but the Seahawks have managed to hold onto playoff hope after winning their third and fourth straight division titles in 2006 and 2007. We know that this Seahawks team is better than the 2006 version, but how does it stack up to the best team in franchise history in the eyes of Football Outsiders' stats?

 

2005

2007

Total DVOA

26.2% (5)

16.2% (9)

Offensive DVOA

23.4% (3)

3.7% (15)

Defensive DVOA

-3.5% (15)

-10.0% (5)

Special Teams DVOA

-0.6% (21)

2.5% (12)

Offensive Passing DVOA

30.9% (4)

17.3% (11)

Offensive Rushing DVOA

16.5% (3)

-14.6% (25)

Defensive Passing DVOA

7.9% (25)

-11.0% (4)

Defensive Rushing DVOA

-17.5% (3)

-8.7% (10)

Adjusted Offensive Line Yards

4.49 (6)

3.64 (29)

Adjusted Offensive Sack Rate

5.3% (9)

6.3% (15)

Adjusted Defensive Line Yards

3.55 (1)

3.91 (8)

Adjusted Defensive Sack Rate

7.8% (6)

8.0% (5)

It doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. The two teams are impressively close in many aspects, but the spots that show a deep decline (rushing, offensive line play, run defense) aren't necessarily canceled out by the ways in which this team beats the Super Bowl squad (pass defense, special teams). The primary difference between the two teams is that the 2005 Seahawks were more physical, and they made that very clear on both sides of the line.

The 2007 team is slightly better in quick-twitch categories like short passing and sacks, but there isn't that element of domination that was so very evident in '05. That's not to say that the 2007 team couldn't make a very big noise in the playoffs, but everything will have to go right for that to happen. In 2005, the Seahawks made their own luck. Now, as the third seed, they're a bit more reliant on the vagaries of NFL fortune.

Now, back to this week…

Total DVOA

Team

Total DVOA

Rank

Weighted DVOA

Rank

Variance

Rank

CAR

-29.7%

29

-32.0%

29

15.6%

10

SEA

16.2%

9

17.6%

8

10.8%

20

Offense vs. Defense

Team

Total DVOA

Rank

Weighted DVOA

Rank

Variance

Rank

CAR OFF

-20.3%

29

-24.5%

31

8.1%

9

SEA DEF

-10.0%

5

-13.0%

3

8.9%

8

This season, the Panthers have presided over a dead campaign for Jake Delhomme (elbow ligament replacement after three games), and proof positive that when it comes to David Carr, it wasn't the Texans (as I write this, Sage Freakin' Rosenfels is whompin' up on the Alleged Denver Defense with those very same Texans in a Thursday night game); it's that Carr is one of the bigger busts in recent memory. Listed on one fantasy football injury report as (fragile psyche), Carr was demoted to third string in early December, behind the 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde and undrafted Oregon State rookie Matt Moore.

Testaverde has been unable to practice after being pulled in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 37-6 demolition at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Testaverde and Carr rank 41st and 42nd, respectively, in DPAR for quarterbacks. Things are so bad offensively that some Carolina defensive players had to be talked out of throwing their teammates under the bus in the locker room after the Jags game. When Steve Smith ranks 77th in DPAR for receivers … well, you know that something's gone horribly wrong.

The ground game isn't much better -- DeAngelo Williams ranks 26th in DPAR for running backs, which leads the team, but he's not the starter. The starter is FO bete noire DeShaun Foster, who has turned his boom-and-bustitude into a truly craptacular season. Foster's -6.0 DPAR puts him at 48th among running backs, right down there at the bottom with "world-beaters" like Cedric Benson, the Other Adrian Peterson, and the Deuce-McAllister-less version of Reggie Bush. Foster has 214 carries. Williams has 99. Huh?

The offensive line is a rare point of some pride for this team, and a scathing indictment of the "skill position" players. They rank 13th in Adjusted Line Yards and 12th in Power Success. Their ranking of 23rd in 10+ yards means that the line is outperforming the backs (or at least Foster). The Panthers are 16th in Adjusted Sack Rate, but I've found that it's more difficult to separate a quarterback than a running back from his offensive line when analyzing specific performance. A quick release isn't always a choice, as Matt Hasselbeck and Drew Brees will tell you. Carolina's quarterback situation leads me to grade this as an incomplete.

So, with this marking a lost season for Carolina, and quite possibly a complete Roto-Rootering of the coaching staff, let's take a look at this Matt Moore kid. Cleveland's Derek Anderson has been one of the more interesting storylines of the 2007 season in the way he's led his team to a nearly assured playoff berth. And when I say "led", I mean it -- the Browns didn't have a running game until three weeks ago, and their defense is still weird. Meanwhile, rookie third-round quarterback Trent Edwards has posted a 5-1 record for the Bills in relief of J.P. "Million-Dollar Arm/Five-Cent Head" Losman. Anderson went to Oregon State, and Edwards to Stanford. What chance does Moore, another Oregon State alum, have of making it a trifecta of Pac-10 quarterbacks making a splash this year?

NFLDraftScout.com compares Moore to Josh McCown. He's a tall (6-4), lanky (192 pounds) kid with a decent arm and some mobility. Senior Draft Analyst Rob Rang kindly wrote this in reply to a request for a scouting report on Moore's prospects:

Matt Moore possesses the blend of arm strength, accuracy, and mobility teams are looking for in a developmental prospect, and his talents belie his undrafted status. He showed significant improvement throughout his career; engineering impressive victories over USC, Oregon, and Missouri as a senior while passing for 3,022 yards and a TD to INT ratio of 18-7. 

Despite his statistics and impressive wins, scouts were concerned with Moore's lack of prototype size. Moore's 6-4, 193 pound frame makes him susceptible to injuries at the NFL level, and he has a history of knee and concussion trouble already. If given time to gain strength and acclimate to the speed of the NFL, however, Moore has the skills to warrant development. He reads the action quickly and can make all of the NFL throws. He is mobile enough to buy time in the pocket and allow his receivers to work themselves free from coverage and has demonstrated an ability to raise his level of play in big games.

Given a few starts in 2008, who knows? But with a horrible offense around him, and a relentless and opportunistic Seattle defense that will endeavor to be in his kitchen all day long, Mr. Moore could the recipient of a very expensive NFL education this Sunday.

Tomorrow, we'll wrap up our DVOA Matchup with a look at the Carolina defense, and how Seattle's special teams finally overcame their own Stutzification.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, a contributing author to Pro Football Prospectus 2007, and he writes NFL previews for the New York Sun. Feel free to e-mail him here.