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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

January 2, 2015 at 11:51 AM

Seahawks No. 1 in almost every media NFL playoff power rankings

Bruce Irvin, shown scoring on a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams, is part of an aggressive, talented young Seahawks defense that leads the team in to the playoffs.  John Lok / Seattle Times staff

Bruce Irvin, shown scoring on a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams, is part of an aggressive, talented young Seahawks defense that leads the team into the NFL playoffs.
John Lok / Seattle Times staff

As the playoffs begin, the Seahawks are No. 1 in most media power rankings – right where they were when the season started.

In fact, 18 of the 24 rankings I found through Friday night rated Seattle, the NFC’s top seed and the defending Super Bowl champ, at the top of their final power rankings. All but one of the others ranked the New England Patriots, the AFC’s top seed, No. 1.

I found three of the rankings extremely interesting. The Five-Thirty-Eight blog, which analyzes statistics and uses something called an Elo rating to rank NFL teams, has the Seahawks on top by a wide margin.

Neil Paine of fivethirtyeight.com writes: “In fact, Seattle’s 1760 Elo rating is the fifth-highest mark any team has carried into the playoffs since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, trailing only the 2007 and 2004 editions of the Patriots, the 1997 Green Bay Packers and Washington in 1983.”

Fivethirtyeight.com calculates that the Seahawks would be “favored by 2.9 points over the No. 2 New England Patriots on a neutral field.” Neutral field, like Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1.

Don’t get too cocky, Seahawks fans. The Elo formula was originally used to rank chess players, and not all of those dominant NFL teams cited won the Super Bowl. It does seem to reflect how exceptionally the Seahawks have played the past few weeks, however. We’ll see how it plays out in the NFL playoffs.

The Associated Press also ranks the Seahawks No. 1. The AP uses votes from 12 media experts to rank teams, and Seattle is No. 1 on 11 of 12 ballots.

Another ranking, by CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco, which uses a new five-prong formula ranking impact players to choose who should be favored entering the playoffs, has the Seahawks sixth.

Really? No other ranking had Seattle lower than No. 2.

Even Prisco seemed stunned by that. “What that says is this: The Seahawks have a deep, talented roster — truly epitomizing the team concept,” he wrote.

So I think it wound being a compliment.

Prisco’s No. 1 team? The Denver Broncos.

Of course, no one really knows. The playoff games will determine everything.

Here is a roundup of the media’s final power rankings entering the playoffs.

SI.COM (Chris Burke)

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: Pick just about any meaningful football measure and the Seahawks improved as the year progressed. Marshawn Lynch averaged 94.6 yards per game on the ground in the season’s second half after posting a 68.6 clip in games 1-8. Seattle passed for 200-plus yards in its final five games, having done so just twice in its first 11 contests. The defense … man … well, the defense was incredible — 39 points allowed total over the final six weeks.

“What I like about our team this year, it’s different circumstances than the year before,” QB Russell Wilson said following a Week 17 win over St. Louis. “I think we were 8-1 at one point, or maybe 9-1 at one point; this year, I think it’s a little bit better, though, because you’re 3-3, and people are doubting, and there’s no doubt in our locker room. We believe in each other.”

Any skeptics of the Seahawks’ ability to repeat must be quiet, for now. The NFC playoff road again will roll through Seattle, where the home team is playing with at least as much swagger as last year’s championship squad.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Packers; 5, Broncos.

SI.COM (Peter King)

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: There are many reasons the Seahawks will enter the postseason as the most dangerous team, but this is the big one: During Seattle’s six-game winning streak, foes have scored three touchdowns. That’s one every eight quarters.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

NFL.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: So it looked dicey for a half on Sunday, but the defending champs eventually took care of business. And for the second straight season, Seattle will force NFC teams to visit the toughest place to play in the NFL. We caught some phaser fire for our reference to the Organian Peace Treaty last week, so we won’t go there again. On a football note, it is amazing how many parsecs Earl Thomas covers out there at safety.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

ESPN.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 2)

Seahawks comment: Since losing to the Chiefs in Week 11, the Seahawks have won six straight games and allowed 6.5 points per game. Talk about ending the season the right way.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Cowboys.

USA TODAY

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week tied 1)

Seahawks comment: This defense has a great chance to enjoy the most sustained success of any unit since the Steel Curtain four decades ago.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Cowboys.

YAHOO.COM

Seahawks rank:
No. 2 (last week 2)

Seahawks comment: On the other hand, the most likely scenario is either Carolina or Arizona coming to Seattle in the divisional round, and I think we all know how that’s turning out.

I didn’t see anything late in the season to change my mind that the gap between the Patriots and Seahawks and everyone else is pretty wide, especially with those two teams having No. 1 seeds in the playoffs. I still prefer the Patriots in these final power rankings before the playoffs, but not by much. 

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

CBSSPORTS.COM (Pat Kirwan)

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seahawks have a look of destiny about them. Their defense is peaking, Russell Wilson is playing fantastic, error-free football, and they’ve got the best home-field advantage in the NFL lined up for the playoffs.

Can anybody knock off the champs? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Home-field advantage belongs to the Seahawks throughout the NFC playoffs and they have given up only 39 points the past six weeks. Roster depth and a magician at QB (Russell Wilson) make them the favorites to repeat.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Cowboys.

CBSSPORTS.COM (Pete Prisco)

Seahawks rank: No. 6

Seahawks comment: I was shocked when I totaled up the data to see the Seahawks, the team favored by many to win a second straight Super Bowl, aren’t in the top-5 of the cumulative rankings.

What that says is this: The Seahawks have a deep, talented roster — truly epitomizing the team concept.

General manager John Schneider is one of the league’s best. He’s put together a roster that fits with what coach Pete Carroll wants to do: Run the ball, hit timely passes and big plays in the passing game, and play great defense. This overrides having superior talent at the five most-important spots. At least it has so far.

To come up with the rating system, the highest-rated player at each position was given 12 points, the second-highest player 11, and so on to one for the last spot. I then added up all the figures to come up with a team grade — with one caveat. The quarterback spot, vital to any team’s success, had the points doubled in the team total.

Top 5: No. 1, Broncos; 2, Packers; 3, Patriots; 4, Cowboys; 5, Steelers.

FOXSPORTS.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seahawks jettisoned Percy Harvin without finding his replacement, but they enter the postseason with a complete defense, a winning experience, a quarterback who makes big plays and the 12th Man behind them.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Cowboys; 4, Packers;5, Broncos.

WASHINGTON POST

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: They have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and it is a considerable advantage indeed. They are playing at a level that approaches the one during last season’s run to the Super Bowl title. There is every reason to believe the Seahawks will be back in the Super Bowl. Who’s going to go to Seattle during the NFC playoffs and beat them with the stakes so high? … It’s looking quite a bit like it will be a Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Cowboys; 4, Packers; 5, Broncos.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: Primed for a Super Bowl repeat or at least a trip to Glendale, Ariz., as they are difficult to beat at home.

Top 3: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 2)

Seahawks comment: Back where they started the season. On top. …

The NFL kicked off its 2014 season with the Packers visiting the Seahawks. They also end up as the two top-ranked teams in the final Daily News power rankings.

It’s unusual that five teams shared the league’s best record at 12-4 and they are the top five teams in our rankings as the playoffs begin. There isn’t much separating them but we’re going with the defending champs based on the way they finished the year.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Packers; 3, Patriots; 4, Broncos; 5, Cowboys.

NEWSDAY

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: A Re-Pete in Seattle? Pete Carroll has the Seahawks in position to become the NFL’s first back-to-back Super Bowl winners since the 2003-04 Patriots. Seahawks finish the season on a six-game winning streak.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

NEW YORK POST

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (last week 4)

Seahawks comment: The defense is looking even better than it did last season, which is saying something.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Broncos; 4, Cardinals; 5, Lions.

PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS/PHILLY.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (last week 2)

Seahawks comment: Homefield advantage and a defense that has given up 3 TDs in last 6 games.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Cowboys.

NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE/NOLA.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: Ended season like they began: as league’s best.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys, 5, Broncos.

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 2)

Seahawks comment: The defending Super Bowl champions closed the regular season with a six-game winning streak in which they surrendered only six points a game.

Top 5:  No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Cowboys; 4, Packers; 5, Broncos.

BALTIMORE SUN

Seahawks rank: No. 1

Top 5: 1, Seahawks; 2, Packers; 3, Patriots; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: WEAKNESS: Seattle’s O-line remains shaky in pass protection. The front five are good at opening lanes for Marshawn Lynch, but too often Russell Wilson is asked to improvise out of sheer survival.

STRENGTH: The key to the Seahawks‘ stout defense is its ability to stuff the run, led by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Opponents become one-dimensional and end up having to deal with a standout secondary featuring Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: Going into the playoffs, the Seahawks are indeed the top-rated team in the NFL, by no small margin; Elo thinks they’d be favored by 2.9 points over the No. 2 New England Patriots on a neutral field. In fact, Seattle’s 1760 Elo rating is the fifth-highest mark any team has carried into the playoffs since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, trailing only the 2007 and 2004 editions of the Patriots, the 1997 Green Bay Packers and Washington in 1983.

Having the NFL’s best Elo rating at the end of the regular season was a good formula for Seattle last season, as it ended up winning the Super Bowl from the pole position at the start of the playoffs. And up until the mid-to-late 1990s, regular-season Elo champs enjoyed a remarkable amount of postseason success, going on to win the Super Bowl 48 percent of the time between the 1970 and 1996 seasons.

Top 5: 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Broncos; 4, Packers; 5, Cowboys.

SB NATION

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 2)

Seahawks comment: The Seattle Seahawks started out the year atop our power rankings and shoot back into the No. 1 spot after beating the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. They did so on the back of a great performance by Bruce Irvin, who finished with five tackles, a sack, an interception-touchdown and a forced fumble. The Seahawks staked their claim to the top spot by ending the season on a six-game win streak — a tear in which they outscored their opponents 134-39, allowed no fourth-quarter points and locked up the NFC West Division title and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The No. 1 seed is a huge get for Seattle — it is 22-2 in its last 24 games at home, a spell in which the Seahawks racked up 55 takeaways, amassed a plus-357 point differential, and built a plus-22 turnover margin. Seattle’s defense is again playing at high level and gave up the fewest points in the NFL for the third season in a row, a feat last accomplished by the 1969-71 Minnesota Viking “Purple People Eaters.” The Seahawks are peaking at the right time.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Patriots; 3, Cowboys; 4, Broncos; 5, Packers.

BLEACHER REPORT

Seahawks rank: No. 2 (last week 2)

Seahawks comment:  Way back in Week 1, when the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Green Bay Packers, it was a common thought that they would walk through the NFC and face off for a second straight Super Bowl title. Over the ensuing weeks, the team struggled and cooled off as the locker room needed sorting out and the roster needed to jell. But now, with January almost here, the Seahawks are back to being the NFC’s dominant team.

Home-field advantage is dangerous for any team, but for Seattle, it’s life. The road to the Super Bowl goes through their home turf, and with two games under the crushing crowd noise, they will be the favorites no matter the opponents.

No team in the NFC is as complete as Seattle. And perhaps most importantly, they do not make mistakes on offense, defense or special teams. That’s why they’re a clear favorite to repeat as NFC champs.

Top 5: No. 1, Patriots; 2, Seahawks; 3, Packers; 4, Cowboys; 5, Broncos.

FANSIDED.COM

Seahawks rank: No. 1 (last week 1)

Seahawks comment: The Seattle Seahawks are reminding the rest of the NFL why they are the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Seahawks have put together six straight winsto finish the regular season and appear to be clicking on all cylinders. They will be tough to beat in the postseason, with homefield advantage throughout.

Top 5: No. 1, Seahawks; 2, Cowboys; 3, Packers; 4, Broncos; 5, Patriots.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

 

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