DVOA isn't new, and it's not new to the discussions here. Given Seattle's rise as the #1 DVOA team last year, that thrilled some while it annoyed others, so this analysis might not be for everyone, but I figured I'd delve a little bit further into the numbers, and attempt to explain just how bright Seattle's outlook is going into next season.
2012 estimated wins
Seattle was 11-5 last year, but their "estimated wins" number was 13.0. Consider this scary fact as well- estimated wins factors strength of schedule, and football outsiders says our team played the 4th hardest schedule last year, and only one of those teams who had it tougher had a winning record. Those three teams who had it tougher? Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco. Thankfully the Seahawks do not have to face themselves.
Anyway, even with a very tough schedule, FO's system thinks we were really a 13-3 team that tough lucked it's way to an 11-5 record. The average Seahawk opponent last year had a DVOA of 5.1%. So an "average" opponent for Seattle last year looked something like Carolina (5.5%), Cincy (6.1%), or Houston (6.6%). For those wondering why Carolina is there, they finished the season white hot (their defense grew by leaps and bounds) and they look to be a sleeper threat in 2013. That's what an "average" opponent looked like last year.
While Seattle still has to battle in the NFC West in 2013, their out of division schedule seems far kinder. Sure, there is change from year to year, and especially teams like Carolina and New Orleans will be better in 2013 than they were in 2012, but for the most part it's a much softer looking schedule, with the NFC North (one of the NFL's toughest divisions) being swapped for the NFC South and the AFC East being swapped for the AFC South (which is a terrible division, fighting with the AFC West as the new old NFC West doormat division). Schedule difference alone might add a win to Seattle's 2012 total.
Seattle was 5-6 in games decided by one score last season, and 7-0 in all others. This was an improvement from 2011, a team that went 2-5 in one score games and 5-4 in all others. Seattle is a great team, and great teams don't post losing records in close games. A classic example is Atlanta, a team that was 7-3 in one score games and 7-1 in all others. The 49ers were 5-2 in one score games. The underachieving Packers were at 4-4. The Redskins, 7-5. The Vikings, 5-1. The Broncos, 4-3. The Patriots 4-4. The Bengals 5-5. The Texans, 6-0. The Colts, yup, 10-2. The Ravens, 8-4.
Seattle was the only playoff team last year to post a losing record in one score games. That's pretty startling given their statistical magnificence. And given some of the company they share near the bottom- Denver, Green Bay, New England, Cincy, I'd say having a tough luck season was practically a badge of honor last season. Those teams are usually better in close games than that, but last year was a strange one. Lots of lucky teams (in the AFC especially) that were quickly exposed in the postseason. Anyone who thinks the Texans and Colts have a great 2013 outlook should probably look at those one score game numbers again.
A correction is due. Not necessarily in 2013, but over the next decade for certain. The Packers, Broncos, Patriots, and Bengals could probably expect a boost too. Great teams with elite quarterbacks tend to do better in close games than most, too. Six close losses again for the Seahawks in 2013 would surprise me.
DVOA is a stat that measures how efficient NFL teams are at beating other NFL teams, and weighted DVOA takes those same findings and weighs late season performance more heavily, as teams often don't hit full stride until around mid-season. Seattle finished white hot to end the season, and entering the Rams game, they had a very real chance to set the all-time FO record for weighted DVOA. The Rams top ranked pass rush (by sacks) put that dream on ice, but Seattle still finished #1 in the NFL with a comfy margin to spare.
Weighted DVOA is a pretty solid indicator for future success. The 2002 Seahawks and 2011 Seahawks being examples from our own history. Football outsiders thinks our team was the best in the NFL last year, and the arrow is still pointing up. Way up.
Seattle does not have any major contributors slated to leave in free agency. Jason Jones, Alan Branch, and Steven Hauschka top our free agent list. All three of them could be easily retained, and if they are lost, it won't be because of money. It will be because Seattle has upgrades in mind.
Seattle has 10 draft picks (and might add more) in what many (including myself) believe is one of the deepest drafts ever.
Seattle is a young team growing up
No NFL player has a brighter outlook in 2013 than Russell Wilson. After the dropfest in SF, Wilson would never post a passer rating under 88.0 again. In 8 of his last 11 starts, his passer rating exceeded 100. His total numbers since SF (including playoffs): 187/280, 2460 yards, 21 TD, 4 INT, 66.8% completion rate, 8.8 YPA, 113.4 passer rating. As a runner, he rushed 74 times 497 yards (6.71 average) and 5 TDs in that same span. From Detroit on, Wilson put up MVP type numbers. As a rookie. And though it doesn't count, he also thrashed the AFC pretty badly in the pro-bowl game as well.
He did this with a WR group that was more solid than elite. Seattle will likely improve their talent level at WR and TE this offseason. It is a stellar draft for both of those areas.
Russell Wilson is a very refined QB and it would be a surprise if he regressed in 2013. He is not a gimmick player and won't be easy to game plan. Even teams that sacked him often late in the season (Rams, Redskins) still got diced up by him and lost in the end. If I happen to be in Vegas later this year, I'll definitely look into Wilson for MVP betting. The Vegas odds are likely to be lower than the actual odds are.
The rest of the team is young and improving as well. It is likely that the 2013 team will be even stronger than the 2012 team was, especially when considering the rocky start the 2012 team got off to.
It all adds up to an extremely bright forecast for the future of the Seahawks. While anything can happen in the playoffs, I do think that Seattle will be a scary good team in 2013. The odds of 16-0 season are remote even for the greatest of teams, but I think Seattle's odds of doing just that will be the best of any team since the 2007 Patriots. I can't guarantee 13+ wins, because weird things happen in small samples and inferior teams win football games every NFL weekend, but if there really is justice in the world, Seattle will be a 13 or 14 win team in 2013.