It’s playoff time! Finally! In a season with its ups and downs, the Cowboys ended the regular season atop the NFC East, and now it’s time to Know Your Opponent!
The Seattle Seahawks visit the Cowboys this weekend, and man, this matchup is a great one.
The Seahawks have the better point differential on the season: +81 to +15, but both teams ended the season with mostly very close games. In fact, with a few rare exceptions, the Cowboys and Seahawks have played almost nothing but extremely close games all year.
The Cowboys only won ONE game by more than one possession – trouncing the Jaguars in the sixth game of the season, and the Seahawks haven’t lost a game by more than one possession all year.
And while the Cowboys clearly have the best individual runner in this game, Ezekiel Elliott, Seattle has the most rushing yards in the league, on the second-most attempts. Dallas is 10th in both of those categories. And Seattle is one of the most efficient running teams in the league as well. 4.8 yards per attempt is good for fifth in the league. The Cowboys have 4.5 yards per attempt, which is 14th. Those are, admittedly, largely stats that don’t match what you think you’re seeing on a weekly basis, but Seattle is happy to run the ball. That’s the takeaway.
With all those rushing stats in mind, the Cowboys averaged just 221 passing yards per game in 2018, and Seattle averaged an anemic 193 per game. However, my favorite stat for measuring a passing game is yards per attempt. And the Seahawks are sixth in the league, averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt. That’s a very efficient passing game, paired with a strong run game.
Dallas is right in the middle of the league – 16th, with 7.4 yards per attempt. And, anecdotally, Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than Dak Prescott by a healthy margin. If you’re torn on a game, look at the quarterback. The Seahawks have the advantage there.
Defensively, advantages start going back to the Cowboys. They’ve been the better defense all year, but things have been looking better in the last few weeks for Seattle. Holding the Vikings to 7 points and the Chiefs to 31 are both solid outings, and their whole 6-and-1 finish to the season was an extremely strong way to enter the playoffs. As was the Cowboys’ 7-and-1 finish.
These two teams have a ton of similarities.
Who has the advantage?
So if you give the defensive advantage to Dallas, the quarterback advantage to the Seahawks, and the running games are really, really close – then what?
Well, there are lots of factors in play here, but it’s worth noting that homefield advantage has been a big deal for both of these teams this year. The Cowboys went 7-1 at home and 3-5 on the road, while the Seahawks went 6-2 at home and 4-4 on the road. This game is being played in JerryWorld.
You could predict anything in this game and I wouldn’t blame you. Seriously. Flip a coin, whatever. But if you’re going to bet on anything, bet on it being a one-possession game.