Fooch's Note: Don't forget to join us in today's first game thread.
Unlike last week, a win today is going to be a team effort. Don't have a lot of time here, so I won't waste any time telling you that, by reading this, you're getting a point-by-point foreshadowing of what you're going to watch about an hour from now. Let's get going.
TEAM MATCHUP #1: SEAHAWKS DEFENSIVE TREND
Last week, I told you it was the Jaguars' OFF that was their catalyst to victory. This week, it's exactly the opposite. Here's a chart showing how the Seahawks' DEF has performed in its wins and losses:
The trend here is as straightforward as it gets. When SEA's DEF plays above average, they win. When their DEF plays below average, they lose. Plain and simple. So what are chances that SEA's DEF is going to play above average today? Well, here are two stats for you that should tell you what I'm thinking: (a) The 49ers' OFF is 13.6% better on the road than at home; and (b) The Seahawks' DEF is 27.7% worse at home than on the road. If the past is prologue, this bodes well for the Niners. It's up to their OFF to exploit this matchup advantage.
After the jump, I'll present a few more matchups that seem to suggest this is a very winnable game for our San Francisco 49ers...
TEAM MATCHUP #2: 1ST-DOWN DEFENSE
Unlike 1st- and 3rd-down stats, 2nd-down stats are relatively unimportant. How they become important is if there's such a clear 2nd-down advantage/trend, that it makes efficient performance on 1st down a necessity. That's the case today when the 49ers are on DEF. Specifically, SEA currently has the #30 pass OFF on 2nd down (-27.7%), while SF has the #6 pass DEF on 2nd down (-19.5%). Furthermore, SEA has the #31 pass OFF on 2nd & long (-37.0%), while SF has the #2 pass DEF on 2nd & long (-44.2%). Therefore, it's pretty imperative that the Niners' DEF plays well on 1st down, so they can exploit their clear matchup advantage when SEA is in a passing situation on 2nd down.
TEAM MATCHUP #3: PASS DEFENSE IN THE RED ZONE
Similar to last week, the Niners have a massive advantage if SEA has to pass in the red zone. In fact, it's even bigger than last week's: 167.9%!!! Given how well SF's DEF exploited this matchup against the Jaguars, I'm confident they can do it again against the Seahawks if the situation presents itself.
TEAM MATCHUP # 3: 2ND-HALF DEFENSE
If the Niners take a lead into the 2nd half, the Seahawks' game presents a real opportunity to close out a contest on DEF. That's because SEA is #25 in 2nd-Half OFF DVOA (-18.0%), while the SF is #2 in 2nd-Half DEF DVOA (-18.7%). Furthermore, if the game happens to be close in the 2nd half, the 49ers' DEF enjoys a similar 31.8% advantage (#9 SF DEF vs. #25 SEA OFF). So, if there was any game in which to secure an early lead, this one might be it. Get the game into the 2nd half, and SF's DEF should bring the team home for victory.
PLAYER MATCHUP # 1: FRANK GORE VS. SEA PASS DEF
This one's pretty much exactly the same as last week's matchup advantage against the Jaguars: SEA has the #27 DEF DVOA against RBs in the passing game, and Gore, though he's dropped a bit in the RB Receiving DVOA rankings, is still near the top of the league. So, like last week, Jimmy Raye needs to get Gore involved in the passing game early and often.
SF 1st-quarter OFF vs. SEA 1st-quarter DEF...Unlike in their matchup with JAX, the 49ers' actually might be able to have that elusive 10-point 1st quarter that we've all been waiting for. That's because the Seahawks rank 26th in 1st-Quarter DEF DVOA (16.6%), which is light years worse than what the Jags' was going into last week's game (11th, -3.8%).
SF OFF while winning vs. SEA DEF while losing...The Seahawks are almost equally as bad as the Jaguars when it comes to keeping the score where it's at when they're behind. Specifically, they're ranked 22nd when losing by 7 or less (DVOA = 10.0%), and 20th when losing by 8 or more (DVOA = 13.3%). Furthermore, if the Niners can take a slim lead into the 2nd half, their tendency to "go conservative" will be offset by the Seahawks' #30 DEF DVOA when the game is late and close (20.7%).
SF Shotgun OFF vs. SEA Shotgun DEF...Just like last week, this is a great matchup for the 49ers. SEA isn't ranked dead last in Shotgun DEF DVOA, but they're really close (27th, 27.5%). I've got a fever, and the only remedy is more shotgun!
Based on the statistical matchups, here are the keys to a 49er victory on Sunday:
- Jump out to an early lead.
- Use the shotgun as much as they did against JAX.
- Pass the ball to Gore early and often.
- Play efficient DEF on 1st down to get SEA into passing situations on 2nd down.
This really does seem like a game that the 49ers should win, given their matchup advantages. Hopefully, I'm Nostradamus for the 3rd week in a row. I'll see you back here on Tuesday with my matchup review. GO NINERS!
*DVOA statistics used to produce this article were obtained from Football Outsiders.