Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Black & Gold Wednesday: Who cares about Marshawn Lynch?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Lynch.JPG

I don't mean the question posed in the title of the post as a rhetorical one, but I am going to answer it for you. You do, probably. You care about Marshawn Lynch a great deal. Rob Ryan and the Saints defense, in the Saints' disastrous regular season game with Seattle, also cared about Marshawn Lynch.

As John DeShazier reported: “If they beat us and (Wilson) throws the ball 50 times, we’re good with that,” Roman Harper said.

Well, Russell Wilson didn't throw the ball 50 times. He didn't throw the ball 50 times because, after a first half he dominated with his arm, the Seahawks had a 20 point lead and needed only run the clock out on a thorough beatdown. After slicing up the Saints' defense for three quarters, Wilson attempted just three passes in the fourth.

The Saints, stupidly, dared Wilson to beat them in November because they were more worried about Lynch.

They'd be even dumber to make that same mistake again.

Marshawn the Mediocre

Marshawn Lynch is a very good running back, but even great players have bad stretches, and Lynch has been in one for a while now.

Since November 17—including his game vs New Orleans, during which he was a non-factor—Lynch has run for 386 yards on 110 carries, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry and surpassing four yards per attempt only once, when he averaged 4.2 yards per carry against St Louis in the Seahawks' season finale.

By comparison, in the same time, including last week's wildcard game, Mark Ingram has run for 288 yards on only 61 carries. That's an average of 4.7 yards per attempt. To be fair, we at B&G have taken to using the name Angry Ingram to describe that particular player lately for good reason.

That's not to say Lynch will struggle against the Saints on Saturday too. He may have a great game, for all I know. The point is he's not the most dangerous weapon the Seahawks have, and he's not the one who will beat them. That's Wilson.

If a quote similar to the above one by Harper emerges this week, it should be something like this: "If Lynch runs for 120 yards, fine. We won't let Russell Wilson beat us." A shootout scenario likely does not favor the Saints against Seattle because of Wilson's efficiency and because of Seattle's exceptionally strong pass defense. On the other hand, by slowing the game down and taking it to the mat, so to speak, the Saints can mimic against Seattle what they did to Philadelphia.

The Saints of 2013-2014 are capable of playing a different kind of game, and there's no harm in deploying a defense meant to take away the pass, flooding the field with defensive backs and giving up three or four or five yards to Lynch.

In November we learned the hard way that even shutting Lynch down entirely does little to help the Saints against Seattle. On Saturday, we'll hopefully watch Rob Ryan adjust his defense accordingly.

A Strength of Schedule Update

We've written about how the strength of a team's regular season schedule is often a harbinger of success in the playoffs. That theory's holding true so far. Last week, the following teams had strength of schedule advantages over their opponents:

New Orleans (Won)
San Francisco (Won)
Indianapolis (Won)
San Diego (Won)

That's right: The teams who faced tougher schedules than their playoff opponents went undefeated last week, even though three of the teams were road underdogs.

The good news is the Saints have faced a tougher schedule than Seattle. The bad news is Seattle's schedule wasn't exactly easy, and that some of the difference between the Saints' .516 and the Seahawks' .490 is due to Seattle's higher number of wins (if you win more games, your opponents will have won fewer games). Still, the difference between 13 wins and 11 wins probably isn't so great that the margin of error would give Seattle a strength of schedule advantage.

Of course, an advantage in this category doesn't mean much on its own. It's just a trend. But it's a trend that favors the Saints in the 2014 playoffs.

For more on the Saints, New Orleans, and everything in the margins, check out the Black & Gold Review.

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