Here’s a question for you: What game is the biggest killer in the history of survivor pools? That is, what game eliminated the highest percentage of participants, if we look across all survivor pools, across all NFL seasons? My guess would be last year’s game, in which the Cardinals beat the Patriots in Foxboro, but I don’t know for sure (probably nobody does). Whatever the answer is, it will almost certainly be surpassed if somehow the Jaguars beat the Seahawks in Seattle this Sunday. All the elements are in place: it’s early in the season so a lot of people are still alive in their pools; the Seahawks had two relatively tough matchups, so they’re still an option for a lot of people; the Seahawks are really good and the Jaguars are awful; the Seahawks are really, really good at home and the Jaguars are awful. Yahoo! tells me 57% of wannabe survivors are picking the ‘Hawks this week. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not higher, way higher.
The ‘Hawks are my pick, and I fully expect them to win this game handily. I can see only two ways in which they could possibly lose:1) They overlook the Jags and “don’t come ready to play”, 2) Total and utter fluke.
Possibility 1), I believe, is much more a media creation than it is a real thing. It’s similar to the idea of “trap games”, which don’t actually exist. And not that this proves anything, but keep in mind, last year the Seahawks played two weak opponents (Buffalo and Arizona) after a big win in Chicago, before a huge, Sunday Night matchup against the Niners. These were prime “don’t come ready to play” / “trap game” candidates. The Seahawks won both by a combine score of 108-17.
Possibility 2) obviously could happen — it’s theoretically possible — but it’s not very likely (that’s why it would be a fluke). In fact, as I far as I can tell, a Jags victory would be an unprecedented outcome in the NFL over the last quarter century. Upsets happen weekly in the NFL, but not upsets of this magnitude. Consider, the Seahawks are very likely one of the two best teams in the league (perhaps the very best), and the Jaguars are very likely one of the two worst teams in the league (probably the very worst). Going to back to 1989, I can find just one instance of such an upset.* In 2011, the St. Louis Rams finished dead last in DVOA; they won just two games, but one of them was a stunning rout of the New Orleans Saints, who ended the season second in DVOA. Steven Jackson ran all over the Saints (159 yards, two TDs), and the Rams DST picked off Drew Brees twice, sacked him six times, and blocked a punt.
The quarterback for the Rams that game was A.J. Feeley, who also played a part in another memorable upset. In 2004, the 2-11 Dolphins beat the 12-1 Patriots on a late touchdown strike from Feeley to Derrius Thompson (who?). But this wasn’t quite the stunner it seems. The Dolphins were by no means good that year, but they weren’t absolutely dreadful either. They finished the season with four wins, but had the point differential of a 6-10 team. They were 22nd overall in DVOA, and they actually had a top-10 defense. Plus, the Dolphins, like the Rams in their shocker over the Saints seven years later, were playing at home. The Jaguars are coming to Seattle to play the Seahawks this Sunday. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that if Jacksonville somehow wins, it would be the biggest NFL upset in at least the last 25 years.
- Russell Okung is out with that toe thing. Severity still unknown, or at least unreleased. Paul McQuistan will slide over to left tackle, while James Carpenter will play guard, like last week.
- Am I the only one who thinks that letter to the editor by 49ers fans about Seahawks fans being too loud is a twerking-fail-esque joke? I half expect Joe Tafoya, the people from Guinness, and Jimmy Kimmel to announce they just set the record for most sports fans duped by a single letter.
- Speaking of the 49ers, they are not off to a good start to the season by the Football Outsiders metrics. They’re 28th in DVOA, 12th in DAVE (which takes into consideration preseason projections), and have a less than 50% chance to make the playoffs. I love FO, but I think this is making too much of two games against good opponents. I’d take an even money bet right now for the Niners making the playoffs.
- I hate to say it, but I think Maurice Jones-Drew is done, like done done, like Shaun Alexander circa 2007 done. Injury, age, bad team. That’s the Holy Trinity of lost running backs.
- In a fantasy keeper league I made the ultimate homer pick and took Russell Wilson in the second round. I’m 0-2. I’ll take the Seahawk wins, DangeRuss, but if you want to mix in a 350 yard, 3 TD performance every now and then, I wouldn’t mind. You can even start this week.
- This is what happened last time the ‘Hawks played the Jags. (Remember the T.J. Houshmandzadeh Era?) Sunday might be even more lopsided.
- Welcome back to Seattle, Gus.
*My methodology was a bit quick and dirty. I used end-of-the-season DVOA to categorize two teams as the best pair in the league and two teams as the worst pair in the league. I then looked to see if either of the bottom two teams beat either of the top two teams during the season. With more time and easier access to data, I could do something more rigorous, but I think this gets the point across.