2012 Wild Card Betting Preview: Redskins/Seahawks by the Stats

Impressed by RGIII's last three weeks? Well it's easy to be impressed when he's played the defensive equivalent of the Big East...

Want a fun stat, via John Kyrk of the Toronto Sun? Combined, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have thrown 28 red-zone touchdown passes this season. And combined, they have thrown zero interceptions. Now that's efficiency.

That's what you're dealing with in this game, two rookie quarterbacks that have added the two highest expected point totals for rookies since the 2000 season. Using our Net Expected Points (NEP) figure, which measures a player's contributions above or below the league-average play and I explained fully in a past MVP Watch article, both RGIII and Wilson added over 148 points over expectation to their respective teams this season. The previous rookie QB record was Cam Newton's 57.77 NEP last season; both Wilson and Griffin are in the top ten of NFL QB's this year.

The quarterbacks are just one main stat we're looking at entering Sunday afternoon's NFC Wild Card showdown. Want to see some of the numbers inside the game, like only numberFire can bring you? Read on, my friend.

Tale of the Tape

Overall Ranking84
Offensive Ranking73
Defensive Ranking187
Total Offensive NEP Gained132.11155.27
Passing Offensive NEP Gained90.97140.78
Rushing Offensive NEP Gained47.6118.27
Total Defensive NEP Allowed49.33-9.83
Passing Defensive NEP Allowed73.89-1.96
Rushing Defensive NEP Allowed-18.96-24.45

You know you have a good game when the top team playing this weekend and the No. 4 team playing this weekend are facing off. Just a quick note about the Net Expected Point figures: since the passing and rushing totals are adjusted for each opponent, and there aren't an equal number of passing and rushing plays in each game, the figures won't add up exactly. And since passing is much more efficient than rushing in today's NFL, you'll often see teams both gaining more NEP on the offensive end and allowing more NEP on the defensive end through passing than rushing.

Two-Way Passing Dominance

It's not too often that you find a team like Seattle that's dominant on both sides of the ball. In fact, especially considering the offensive explosion in today's NFL that has sometimes left defenses irrelevant (hi, 2011 Patriots!), finding a team that can both pass efficiently and stop the pass efficiently is rare indeed.

So rare, in fact, that before this season, only eight teams in the past six seasons had both gained at least 100 points over expectation by passing the ball as well as holding opponents to points under expectation through the air. Three of those were the Packers teams from 2008 through 2010. And two of those... well, you can see for yourself.

YearTeamPass NEP GainedOpp. Pass NEP AllowedRecordPlayoffs
2010GB145.06-17.2710-6SB Champs
2010PIT120.35-49.5712-4SB Loss
2009GB123.15-5.0411-5Wild Card Loss
2009NO170.18-7.8313-3SB Champs
2007IND178.72-17.2213-3Div. Playoffs Loss
2007NE263.92-42.3916-0SB Loss

Of the eight teams that have accomplished the feat since 2007, six made the playoffs. Of those six, four made it to the Super Bowl. And of those four, two won the Super Bowl (plus one lucky Helmet Catch, if you listen to Bill Simmons). And those Super Bowl participants were not necessarily the most favored teams as well; the Patriots and Saints were one seeds, but the Steelers were a two seed and the Packers were a six seed.

If You Can't Take the Heat...

Much has been made of the Redskins' dominance down the stretch, winning their last seven games en route to a playoff birth. In those games, the Redskins never scored fewer than 23 points and averaged 10.7 points over expectation per game.

But of course, they didn't play a defense like the Seahawks. In fact, they haven't played a defense like the Seahawks all season. The Redskins' highest ranked opponent on our defensive opponent-adjusted efficiency rankings is the No. 8 Steelers, and they played five games against teams in the top third of the league.

How did those games go? Oh, only the five lowest-scoring games of the season for Washington, that's all.

WeekOpp. D RankTeamWAS PointsWAS Points vs. Exp.Result
Week 5No. 9ATL17-2.80Loss
Week 7No. 11NYG23+4.38Loss
Week 8No. 8PIT12+1.00Loss
Week 9No. 10CAR13-1.91Loss
Week 13No. 11NYG17+11.16Win

On the season, Washington averaged 8.26 points over expectation per game, a testament to their great offensive. The league as a whole averaged 2.43 points over expectation, a testament to the NFL slowly becoming more of an offensive league. And against the top five defenses they faced, even after adjusting for opponent strength, the Redskins hit that league average exactly twice and their own season average exactly once. That's a testament to... folding under pressure?

It's entirely possible that a switch flipped for RGIII during the bye week, and that's why he was able to come out and even put up 17 points against the Giants in Week 13. Even that small number was more than expectation given the strength of the Giants defense and the field situations he was put in.

Perhaps, though, the opposite is also true: the Redskins simply haven't faced a tough defense in a while. That will change when Seattle comes into town on Sunday.