Denver Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson (97) against the San Diego Chargers during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl 2014 Advanced Stats: Julius Thomas, Michael Bennett, more

Advanced statistics aren’t the be-all, end-all, but they are important tools in contextualizing information and tell us a whole lot more than simple box score stats. The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks present a dream Super Bowl matchup for the neutral football fan, and the stats can help us closely breakdown this even matchup. Below are some assorted stats that I found while on Pro Football Reference, Advanced NFL Stats, and the Pro Football Focus.

1. Russell Wilson led four fourth-quarter comebacks this past season, and he had five total game-winning drives. In fact, only Tom Brady and Geno Smith (yes, you read that right) had as many game-winning drives in 2013.

2. Knowshon Moreno‘s 1,586 yards from scrimmage were good for fifth in the NFL, but Marshawn Lynch was just 13 yards away. Lynch does hold the TD advantage, though, as his 14 TDs lead Moreno’s 13.

3. Peyton Manning was sacked 18 times, whereas Russell Wilson was sacked 51 times (including the playoffs). Manning was never sacked in the playoffs, and no QB was sacked on a lower ratio of his total dropbacks than Peyton. In fact, it’s not even close. Meanwhile, Wilson was one of the top five most-sacked QBs on a per-play basis.

4. Julius Thomas led the Denver Broncos in catch rate, EPA per play, WPA per game, and success rate, according to Advanced NFL Stats.

5. Including the playoffs, Peyton Manning took a deep shot on 19.1% of his pass attempts, whereas Wilson went deep on a whopping 26.2% of his attempts.

6. Among all qualifiers, 20 receptions, the lowest yards per target for a Seattle Seahawks pass-catcher is Zach Miller‘s 7.1. For the Broncos, it is also a TE, as Jacob Tamme averages “only” 7.7 yards per target. In fact, Tamme leads all players coming into tomorrow night’s game with an 81.5% catch rate, and he’s an intriguing darkhorse candidate.

7. Per Advanced NFL Stats, the Seattle Seahawks had four defensive players with at least 50 “successful” plays (Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, and Brandon Mebane), while the Broncos had just two such players (Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard). Both Wagner and Trevathan clearly led the way with 88 “successful” plays each (Woodyard and Chancellor were the next leaders with 53 each), but Wagner also played in two less games than the underrated Trevathan.

8. This is a little bit skewed since the Seahawks rotate so many players that they don’t get enough snaps to build up big numbers (and because the ‘Hawks are so deep and talented that the stats are spread), but it’s still impressive to see Malik Jackson lead all incoming players with 11 tackles for loss. Jackson is one of the most underrated players in the game, and the Broncos DE excels as a both a run defender and pass rusher. Another dual-threat DE to watch for on the Broncos is Robert Ayers. But of course, the best and most well-rounded DE in this one will be Michael Bennett, who even plays at DT at times.

9. The Broncos offensive line allowed pressure on just 20.9% of all passing plays, whereas the Seahawks allowed pressure on 35.5% of their pass attempts. So while the Seahawks have the better front seven and pass rush, the Broncos also have one of the NFL’s best offensive lines with stars like Louis Vasquez, Orlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez, and the rising Chris Clark.

10. Michael Bennett had 25 QB hits. ‘Nuff said.

11. Demaryius Thomas had 15.5 yards per reception, but his average is still below the 15.7 and 15.6 totals put up by Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin to lead the Seahawks, who love throwing the ball downfield.

12. Richard Sherman intercepted eight passes, Earl Thomas five, and Kam Chancellor picked off four, but no player on the Broncos had more than three picks.

13. Matt Prater led the league in field goal percentage, and Steven Hauschka was second. There are so many amazing matchups to watch for (Broncos WRs vs. Seahawks DBs, Broncos OL vs. Seahawks DL etc.), and the matchup between two of the league’s best kickers is a great one for special teams fans to drink in. And hey, a game between these two heavyweights could easily come down to a difficult kick.

14. According to Football Outsiders, the Denver Broncos were statistically the sixth-best team in the league against No. 2 WRs and 27th against WRs ranked lower than second on the depth chart. It’s important for the Seahawks to spread the field horizontally as well as vertically (we know they will take deep shots), because they can take advantage of the Broncos lost depth following injuries to Rahim Moore and Chris Harris Jr. Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin can draw some very favorable matchups downfield if they find themselves in a favorable matchup.

15. The Seahawks are at their worst against WR2s, but they’re still seventh-best in the league against those wideouts. Eric Decker could burn them downfield, but it isn’t likely. As I said before, the guy to watch for closest among the Broncos “Four Horsemen” seems to be Wes Welker, who is quick, intelligent, and deadly on crossing routes. Welker isn’t as good as Thomas or Decker, but his ability to move the chains in the middle of the field will be critical, even if beating Walter Thurmond isn’t easy. The scary thing about the Seahawks defense is that Thurmond is their worst player among their top five DBs of Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, the underrated Byron Maxwell, and then Thurmond.

16. Per Football Outsiders, the Seattle Seahawks allow just 2.5 yards per carry off the left end but allow 4.15 YPC off of the right end (from the offense’s perspective).


Tags: Behind The Numbers Bobby Wagner Brandon Mebane Byron Maxwell Danny Trevathan Demaryius Thomas Denver Broncos Dominique Rodgers Cromartie Earl Thomas Eric Decker Jacob Tamme Jermaine Kearse Julius Thomas K.J. Wright Kam Chancellor Knowshon Moreno Malik Jackson Marshawn Lynch Matt Prater Michael Bennett Peyton Manning Richard Sherman Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks Steven Hauschka Super Bowl 2014 Walter Thurmond Wes Welker Wesley Woodyard Zach Miller

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