The popular advanced stats website Football Outsiders lives and dies by its signature measurement, DVOA, which stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. Basically, it weighs as many variables as possible – not just wins and losses – in an attempt to figure out the best team in the NFL. Last year, the Seattle Seahawks became the first team in DVOA history to finish ranked first for three years in a row. This year, the Seahawks were virtually deadlocked with the Arizona Cardinals headed into their meeting on Sunday night.
Essentially, this was the first "DVOA Championship Game" in the history of the stat, which dates back to 1989; it's safe to say Seattle is now the first team to ever finish with four straight DVOA titles.
The Seahawks went down to Arizona on Sunday – the first trip they've taken there since their soul-crushing loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX – and smacked the Cardinals, 36-6. It seems that Pete Carroll's squad has repaired its soul again and is headed into the playoffs as perhaps the most dangerous team in the league, with a wild-card matchup against the Minnesota Vikings (a team they beat 38-7 just one month ago) up next.
Despite not having a number of key starters, including Marshawn Lynch, Kam Chancellor and Russell Okung, Seattle quickly shook off any doubts that remained after their puzzling loss at home to the St. Louis Rams a week earlier. Led once again by Russell Wilson, who threw three touchdowns for sixth time in the last seven weeks, the Seahawks built a 30-6 halftime lead that forced Bruce Arians to pull Carson Palmer and abandon any hopes of earning the NFC's number one seed.
Though it's not like Palmer was having a sterling day to begin with.
The QB likely to finish second in MVP voting (Palmer, not Wilson) posted his lowest passer rating and yards per attempt of the season in the loss, which was their biggest since Seattle came to Arizona and won 35-6 last season. Those two games are certainly going to be on the minds of Cardinals fans, coaches and players should they need to host the Seahawks in these playoffs.
And if Wilson continues to play like he has in the second half of the season, that may be unavoidable.
Wilson broke single-season franchise records for touchdown passes (34) and passing yards (4,024), while becoming the first player in NFL history with 4,000 yards, 30 passing touchdowns and 500 rushing yards in the same season. He finishes the year third in completion percentage, fourth in Y/A and first in passer rating at 110.1. None of this will knock Cam Newton off of his 15-1 perch for the MVP award, but that shouldn't distract everyone from noticing that there is not a tier of quarterbacks above Wilson.
He belongs with the best of the best, and he proved that against arguably the best team in football in his fourth regular season finale.
Best of all, Seattle looks to be as healthy as they've been in weeks; Lynch is expected to rejoin the team on Monday, while Carroll all but guaranteed that three other starters should be able to come back for the Vikings game. The only question mark is Chancellor, but even without their Pro Bowl safety, the defense has looked as stout as ever.
Now this team will finish 2015 ranked first in DVOA, and that's the only finish in that stat that Wilson has ever known during his four remarkable seasons in the NFL. In his three previous years, the Seahawks won at least one playoff game. In two of those, they made the Super Bowl. In 2013, they won the franchise's only championship. How will they follow it up this time? That's impossible to say at this point, but if they get past Minnesota, the top two seeds – the Panthers and Cardinals – were just reminded how lethal Carroll's team can be.
No matter where they have to play.