So, it’s been long enough that DVOA actually has some significance to use for analysis. Looking ahead to the TN game, I thought I’d see what kind of matchups we can expect. Note that I’m referring to a lot of terms here which you may have to look up if you’re not familiar with Football Outsiders’ systems.
The Eagles have the #6 overall DVOA, which is good, except that TN is ranked #4 overall. Sort of mirror images of each other, Philly has an offense ranked #4 overall and a D at #14, while Tennessee has a #18 ranked O and their D clocks in at #2.
When the Eagles have the ball:
The Eagles have had a very prolific offense no matter who they have gone up against and (first half of the GB game excepted) no matter who the QB is. This is reflected not only in their outstanding #4 offense, but also in their being the 5th most consistent offense in football this year. An incredibly balanced attack sees the passing O at #8 and rushing O at #2 overall. Despite the sometimes fair criticism that Andy doesn’t run the ball enough, there can be no doubt that the Eagles run the ball effectively.
In the meantime, Tennessee ranks #2 against the pass, and #7 against the run. Against specific types of receivers, you can see they are not good at all against #1 WRs (#26), but great against almost everyone else (#8 against #2s, #1 against “other”, #3 against TEs, and only #16 against RBs). Given that DJax is out, I think big plays will be the order of the day for Maclin. Assuming the OL gives Kolb time to throw again, he’s proven he can tuck it in there down the field. This might be a really big assumption, given that TN has one of the best sack rates in the NFL with their DL, getting to the QB almost 10% of the time the opposition drops back for a pass (#3 in the NFL). We might see a few screens effectively used, and I expect our rushing attack to be at least somewhat successful again this week.
When the Titans have the ball:
So, who’s the best RB in the NFL? Houston’s Foster, of course! Seriously, although he has a lot of yards and TDs, Johnson has not really been that impressive this year. He’s a boom or bust runner, even last year. However last year he had a lot more booms to go with his busts, which he isn’t really replicating this year. His success rate is only 39%, which is really, really bad. His yards per carry is only 4.3, which isn’t high enough to justify his poor success rate. This is setting the Titans up for a lot of 2nd and 3rd and longs. Put it all together and you have an offense which is ranked only #17 running the ball, and #13 passing. They are also wildly inconsistent, ranking as the 3rd most inconsistent offense in the NFL.
The Eagles D hasn’t been much better due to their periodic lapses. Ranking 10th against the pass and 21st against the run, they are for all intents only average against both. Looking deeper, we see the same strengths and weakness in the passing game as we’ve seen under this high blitz system: #11 against #1WRs, #5 against #2, but really weak to other WRs (#27) and especially RBs (#30). Lucky us, Johnson is not really a pass catcher, having caught only 18 balls for a measly 59 yards year to date. Will Jeff Fisher change that against the Eagles? If he can, I’m quite sure he’ll try.
While this game seems too close to call, there are a number of factors working in the Eagles’ favor Sunday. The Titans’ offensive strengths don’t match up well against our defense’s weaknesses. Our offense is so well balanced we should be able to tailor a game plan designed to exploit the weaknesses in the Titans’ generally outstanding D. The main chance the Titans have is in getting pressure on Kolb. If our game plan and OL can give him time to throw, I think you’ll see us light up the Titans pretty effectively. If not, it may be a very long day indeed for Kolb and Co. Even if we can’t throw the ball, however, we should be able to run the ball enough to get some field goals on the board, and if our D can keep Johnson in check this week, that might be enough.
Eagles 24, Titans 13