Crunching the Numbers: Week 6

It's been a busy week already for Eagles fans with the news that Juan Castillo had been fired. It's also been a busy week for the rankings, where we had no fewer than eight teams who moved at least five places up or down. Most of the disruption was caused by last week's top three, who all lost (San Francisco, Houston, New England). The 49ers and Texans were more or less blown out of the water, which left us with a radically different ranking. I don't think I've seen this many moves since I started doing this a year ago.

Rank Team Score Change
1 Chicago 29.367 +3
2 Atlanta 23.833 +4
3 New York Giants 20.290 +5
4 New England 18.745 -1
5 Baltimore 17.496 +1
6 Houston 16.450 -4
7 San Francisco 14.761 -6
8 Arizona 5.746 +1
9 Tampa Bay 4.411 +6
10 Seattle 4.096 +1
11 Minnesota 3.733 -4
12 Washington 2.237 +2
13 Green Bay 2.046 +3
14 St. Louis 0.953 -1
15 Pittsburgh 0.057 -5
16 Denver -0.938 +2
17 Miami -3.967 0
18 San Diego -5.830 -6
19 New York Jets -8.676 +8
20 Detroit -10.666 +2
21 Cleveland -13.252 +5
22 New Orleans -14.100 -2
23 Cincinnati -18.130 -4
24 Philadelphia -19.424 -3
25 Carolina -20.073 0
26 Dallas -20.761 -3
27 Oakland -23.131 +1
28 Buffalo -26.648 +1
29 Jacksonville -29.775 +1
30 Indianapolis -30.301 -6
31 Tennessee -35.742 +1
32 Kansas City -42.454 -1

Onto some thoughts:

  • The higher the climb, the harder the fall. The top two teams from last week sure took a hit after losing big, with the 49ers and Texans dropping all the way to seventh and sixth, respectively. After enjoying lofty scores in the thirties, they are now in the teens. Still very good by the perspective of the system, but no longer elite.
  • Tampa Bay surprised me. I actually did a double take when they ended up being ranked ninth. This is mostly because of the big win they got against a bad team (the last-ranked Chiefs) and from my experience last year one of two things will happen. They will either play "up" to their ranking and be this year's surprise team, or they will regress and find themselves in the basement with familiar company. It'll be interesting to see which one is true.
  • Chicago made the most of their opportunity. And by "made the most of" I mean "did absolutely nothing." Chicago was on their bye last week, and yet managed to climb up to first when other teams faltered. In fact, their score actually improved from last week. This doesn't make sense, obviously, since their statistics don't change if they don't play. This contradiction segues nicely into the...
  • Statistic of the Week. Last year, my unit with the greatest weight was score differential. Naturally, Green Bay was very highly ranked since they were averaging five touchdowns per game. But I knew something was wrong because their defense was so bad. I knew there would be a game when the offense sputtered and the defense wouldn't be able to bail them out. This inevitably happened, by my system didn't indicate it would, and it bothered me. This year, I am trying an adjusted score differential. Every team gets a penalty applied to their net score which is equal to one half of their defensive scoring ranking. For example, if a team's defense is tenth in scoring, then five points will be subtracted from their score differential. The only team which does not receive a penalty is the top scoring defense. Since Chicago moved from fourth in scoring to first over the bye, they got two points added to their score. Overall, this adjusted score differential does seem a little bit harsh to the bad defensive teams, but if you've got a bad defense you're not really going anywhere fast to begin with.

Last week I decided to write about the Eagles' next opponent here, but they have a bye this week, so I figured I'd put in my two cents on Castillo's firing while I was on my soap box. I also wrote something about this in a comment to Eliot's "panic button" post. What I present here is a theory.

Let's take a look at the Eagles defense, minus Castillo. In the personnel there is talent everywhere, from cornerback to linebacker to the defensive line. On the coaching staff, Castillo was surrounded by the seasoned defensive minds of Jim Washburn and Todd Bowles. The Eagles run both Washburn's Wide 9 system and Bowles' press coverage scheme. I think this raises the fair question of how much of Castillo's "system" was borrowed from Washburn's and Bowles'. He was the guy game-planning and calling the plays, which are obviously huge responsibilities. I think you can say that his game-planning improved, but his play calls during the game were still suspect. Bowles has already shown from his time as interim head coach in Miami to be more than capable in both of those departments. At the very least, he should be better than Castillo.

This brings me to my overall point: what will the defense lose now that Castillo is gone? A lot of the time, firing a coordinator midseason leads to disarray and an eventual white flag, but I don't think this is the case here. We have the same Wide 9, the same coverage scheme, and what should be a better game plan and game called. In my eyes, Castillo was more of a defensive "manager" as opposed to a true defensive "coordinator." He was responsible for the game plan and play calls, but I don't think it's a stretch to imagine that he adapted his system heavily towards what Washburn and Bowles like to do.

In this light, Bowles is absolutely an upgrade and there would be almost no inconsistency. We have a similar scheme but a better planner. I also liked what Eric Wright said about the players on NFL AM the other day - that they respect Bowles more and will be more willing to get behind him. With all due respect to Juan, I think this impact on the locker room will help the defense close games.

While I thought Juan grew into his role well for an offensive coach, Bowles is more qualified for the job. I'd be very surprised if there was any drop-off in the defensive performance against the Falcons. And for those of you who think Marty should have been fired over Juan, the cause for the lack of scoring is entirely on the turnovers. And if you take away Vick's thirteen, the Eagles only have four all season. It's looking more like Vick will never improve his ball security, but at the same time I don't think it's fair to throw Mornhinweg under the bus when the blame has fallen upon one person, for the most part.

Again, this is all speculation. But until the Eagles play Atlanta in a week and a half, speculation is all we'll have to go on until the hopefully improved Eagles take the feild in Week 8.

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