Crunching the Numbers: Week 8

As you might imagine, the Eagles didn't exactly fare well this week. There weren't too many surprises this week, other than how far Minnesota fell after their embarrassing loss to Tampa Bay, who only moved up one spot. This isn't perhaps the best piece of news for Eagles fans, but here are the rankings for this week.

Rank Team Score Change
1 New England 28.703 +4
2 Chicago 26.616 -1
3 New York Giants 23.772 +1
4 Houston 23.253 -2
5 Atlanta 20.689 -2
6 San Francisco 18.595 0
7 Tampa Bay 8.666 +3
8 Pittsburgh 5.953 +5
9 Green Bay 5.903 -1
10 Denver 3.796 +4
11 Miami 2.514 +5
12 Baltimore 2.064 -1
13 Seattle 0.393 -1
14 Arizona 0.122 -5
15 Minnesota -3.706 -8
16 Washington -3.851 -1
17 San Diego -4.267 +2
18 Cleveland -8.056 +2
19 Detroit -14.064 +3
20 Oakland -15.212 +7
21 St. Louis -15.725 -4
22 New York Jets -15.972 -3
23 New Orleans -16.349 -2
24 Carolina -18.368 +2
25 Cincinnati -19.012 0
26 Philadelphia -22.11 -2
27 Dallas -22.174 -4
28 Jacksonville -24.097 0
29 Indianapolis -25.724 +1
30 Tennessee -27.901 +1
31 Buffalo -28.004 -2
32 Kansas City -45.361 0

Some thoughts:

  • Robert or Andrew? The top overall pick in this years' draft has barely generated a whisper among the media while Robert Griffin III has gotten loved dumped on him since his opening day win versus the Saints. While RGIII's numbers certainly make him look like the better quarterback, is it true? As far as turnovers go, he does protect the ball better than Luck, but only by a slim margin. He has him beat by a mile in yards per pass attempt (7.5 to 6.5). However, Griffin does have an excellent ground game (5.4 yards per carry) as a safety net and is surrounded by more talent (yes, the names Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss don't exactly jump out of the page, but they're probably better than Coby Fleener and the archaic Reggie Wayne at this point). At this point, considering all of the circumstances, I'll call them even. This is no knock on the incredible things Griffin has done, but it'll be interesting to see how their careers fare; the Colts will be able to draft talent for Luck over the next few years while the Redskins will have to wait until they can even sniff the first round for a while.
  • Statistic of the Week. Today, we'll be looking at the other side of the ball with pass defense. This is calculated by dividing the opponent's interception percentage by their yards per pass attempt, and then adding on the fumbles recovered per game. Given all of the numbers that go into this, it's surprising to see the correlation between the overall rank and the pass defense rank. New England, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and are the top four teams in this metric, with index numbers of 1.80, 1.95, 1.66, and 1.73 respectively. They are also in the top five overall.

Eagles-Saints Preview
This game, I think, might really be it. Amazingly, after all we've been through this season, the Eagles are very much alive with nine games left to play. They've been doing their best to play dead since the fourth quarter against the Lions, but it doesn't change the fact that there is a heartbeat left in their season. Monday night, however, might be the final straw (stroke?) that will eventually end the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia. Andy Reid has now vouched for Vick as his starter, but I think it is the matchup he is most interested in. The Saints are by far the worst defense the Eagles will have played so far, so it'll be a good measuring stick for how anemic the offense actually is. They lost the turnover excuse last week, but the Falcons seized momentum early and never looked back. Teams have been able to score on New Orleans - including the hapless and turnover-happy Chiefs - even in the Superdome, so it'll be interesting to see if Mike can get a confidence boost from this one. We'll all be looking for the defense's response after Todd Bowles' pathetic debut last week as well.

The Eagles will win because they have to. They've played against two teams this year with their backs up against the wall and have lost to them both. Now they will fill that role and will have the national stage to show it to the world. You could also argue that the Saints are in the same situation, but with the way the Falcons are running away with the division I have to say the Eagles have more to play for. Additionally, the Saints' defense is terrible. They are giving up five yards per attempt on the ground and almost nine (nine!) through the air. I know, the Falcons' run defense was terrible, too, but they forced the Eagles' hand by scoring quickly. At least even if the Saints score quickly their pass defense is just as bad, if not worse.

As far as the defense goes, I'm going to give Todd Bowles the benefit of the doubt. While it would be tough to claim that Castillo would have done worse, it's not fair at all to suggest he would have done better, because we simply don't know. Perhaps the Eagles are finally losing the personnel war with the Falcons, who were able to outrun them on offense and finish up plays on defense. What was disturbing, however, was the utter reversal of the stingy third-down defense. It seemed like Bowles coached his unit up too much, and they became too aggressive. The penalties (while some were absurd) can be coached out, and I think as Todd refines his playcalling things will come together. Whether or not this happens by Monday night - or in time to save the season, for that matter - remains to be seen.

The Eagles will lose because of Drew Brees. He was pretty much shut down by Denver last Sunday, but unless the defense plays inspired football he will mercilessly and methodically pick the secondary apart. What New Orleans lacks in a speed receiver they make up for by spreading the ball around, which should bode well for an average-speed but incredibly deep Philadelphia secondary. Containing Darren Sproles may cause a headache as the Eagles have been unable to stop the screen game in the past. I know that if anyone can get the defense to play with passion, it would be Bowles, but if the locker room has already resigned itself to apathy there won't be too much he can do, and it'll show on primetime Monday night.

Offensively, Marty's unit might just be too reliant upon a good offensive line to produce at this point. This is the perfect argument for letting Reid go, because winning coaches find ways to make things work even when the situation isn't ideal. We saw an attempt at this on Sunday with the dink-and-dunk offense, but it was still too focused on the passing game to be effective. Unless the Eagles finally learn that they need to give the ball to McCoy in order to have a chance, Andy will be writing his own death certificate come January.

Nine games. That's all Andy has left to prove something. We might as well buckle up and come along for the ride, because while I can't guarantee it'll be fun, it'll certainly be interesting.

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