After an 0-9 start, the San Francisco 49ers have won four of their last five games, moving from the potential number one pick to maybe even knocking themselves out of the top 5. That may hurt their 2018 top rookie choice (but slightly lowering the value of the second round pick they sent to the New England Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo, I guess) but the 49ers could leave this season with a similar amount of momentum to what the Seattle Seahawks felt at the end of 2011.
It was at that same time that the Seahawks added a franchise quarterback to their 2012 campaign, which helped them become the best team in football by the end of that regular season — mostly losing in the playoffs because they became “the best team” a little too late. Since San Francisco is already working with Garoppolo, perhaps it is even giving them an early boost to start 2018 off with, but are they already better than the Seattle team we’re seeing right now?
Over the last seven games of each franchise, the Seahawks are 3-4, while the 49ers are 4-3. That’s almost half a season in which a team that was considered perhaps the NFL’s worst has a better record than a team that was recently considered one of the NFL’s best. Regardless of schedules or injuries, that has to be at least a little bit concerning for anyone who has a vested interest in the Seahawks.
Since naming Garoppolo the starter, the Niners are 3-0, scoring 66 points and allowing 53 for a points differential of +13. They won at Chicago, at Houston, and at home vs the Titans. This weekend, they’re hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that beat Seattle 30-24 two weeks ago. The Jags haven’t won in the Pacific time zone since 2005, and I’m at least a little worried that the 49ers will look better against Jacksonville than the Seahawks did. Regardless of game location, that was not supposed to be the case if we were talking about this a few weeks ago.
Over Seattle’s last three games, they are 1-2, scoring 55 points and allowing 82 for a points differential of -27. They lost to the Rams and Jaguars, but within that same timeframe also somehow managed to beat the Eagles with Carson Wentz — with ease.
If you take it back to the eighth game of the season for both teams:
- Seahawks are 3-4, 146 points for, 162 points against, -16
- 49ers are 4-3, 130 points for, 151 points again, -21
That includes four starts by C.J. Beathard in San Francisco, and for Seattle, it includes a little bit of Richard Sherman, a little bit of Kam Chancellor, and plenty of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, so it’s not just injuries that have leveled out these two franchises over a near-two month period.
At FootballOutsiders, the two teams are still separated by plenty of DVOA. The Seahawks rank 15th in total DVOA and 12th in weighted DVOA, which focuses more on your recent performances. (How Seattle ranked up, I have no idea. The win over the Eagles and losing to some great teams probably helps.) The 49ers are still 28th in DVOA and 25th in weighted DVOA.
Schedule, of course, can’t be ignored.
The Niners lost to the Seahawks on November 26. They lost to the Eagles 33-10 and to the Cardinals 20-10. They beat the Giants, Bears, Texans (with Tom Savage/T.J. Yates), and Titans. The first three of those teams have a combined record of 10-32, and Tennessee blew a lead they took with 1:07 remaining in the game, on the road. The Titans will likely end up as the worst team to make the playoffs this year (20th in DVOA) — however, they did beat Seattle.
In general, are the 49ers better than the Seahawks now? No.
Garoppolo may turn out to be a great get for San Francisco, but it’s been three games against some bad teams and the margin of error was thin; a 1-point win over the Bears and a 2-point win over the Titans, plus a win over a Houston team without Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. The Texans have lost seven of eight games.
How many great players do the 49ers have under contract to build around? The 2011 Seahawks had Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, KJ Wright, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Russell Okung, Max Unger already playing at a high level. Maybe Reuben Foster, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas are getting there, but I’d say it’s not so obvious. (Thomas, Chancellor, Lynch, and Brandon Browner were Pro Bowlers in 2011, Sherman was an All-Pro.)
What I see is a Seahawks team that is struggling to play to its current offensive and defensive identities because of some sudden changes, and a 49ers team that has improved to win a few close games — Which is enough to make San Francisco “seem great” relative to their pre-Garoppolo performances because the 49ers were arguably the worst team in the NFL after nine games. They’ve gone from “the worst” to “only in the bottom five” and the Seahawks have gone from “top 5” to “middle of the road.”
Middle of the road is still well ahead of reaching out of the bottom five — but Seattle definitely has to watch its back based on the 2018 offseason. Even if the 49ers have significantly hurt their draft stock.