Crunching the Numbers: Week 11

David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Happy Thanksgiving! As we look at the rankings, be thankful we're not Chiefs fans (although we might as well be; no offense to any actual Chiefs fans who might read this).

There are officially six weeks left in the regular season. I'm going to do something new this week by making playoff predictions. There's actually a systematic way that I do it, but we can get into this later. First, the rankings:

Rank Team Score Change
1 New England 37.303 0
2 San Francisco 22.854 +3
3 Houston 22.691 0
4 Chicago 21.183 -2
5 Baltimore 18.086 +3
6 New York Giants 14.778 0
7 Atlanta 12.456 -3
8 Green Bay 12.138 +1
9 Tampa Bay 11.737 -2
10 Seattle 7.096 +2
11 Denver 6.831 -1
12 Washington 3.243 +3
13 Pittsburgh 1.895 -2
14 Arizona 1.556 -1
15 Minnesota -4.984 +1
16 New Orleans -6.107 +3
17 Cincinnati -6.913 +4
18 San Diego -7.578 -4
19 Cleveland -9.214 -1
20 New York Jets -12.200 +5
21 Miami -12.768 -4
22 Dallas -16.177 +2
23 Detroit -16.565 -3
24 Carolina -17.531 +2
25 St. Louis -18.986 -3
26 Tennessee -24.528 +1
27 Buffalo -26.612 +4
28 Jacksonville -27.048 +2
29 Indianapolis -29.715 -6
30 Oakland -31.445 -2
31 Philadelphia -35.159 -2
32 Kansas City -48.164 0

  • This is what rock bottom feels like. The Eagles may not be the worst team in the NFL by these standards, but they are by far the worst team in the NFC. That magical time when they beat the Giants on Sunday night to go 3-1 feels eons ago. It will be interesting to see if Andy Reid gets fired if they lose on Monday. After all, Lurie specifically said 8-8 wasn't good enough, and a loss to the Panthers at home would be eight losses. It is still possible that Lurie has too much respect for Reid to fire him mid-season. I'd place my bets on the second option.
  • Statistic of the Week. Today we look into yards per pass attempt. Again, this is a departure from "bulk" statistics that may be misleading since some teams pass more than others. As far as I can tell, the number of pass attempts should not affect the yards per attempt (although this would be something interesting to look into). What I can tell is that successful teams have a higher YPA. This includes Denver, New England, Houston, Atlanta, and San Francisco. Meanwhile, bad teams tend to be on the other end - Arizona, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Cleveland. This is in know way a perfect correlation; notable exceptions are Carolina and Chicago. But it does provide a trend. [Statistics: High - Denver, 7.7; Low - Arizona, 5.3; Philadelphia - 6.1; NFL Average - 6.7]
  • Playoff Predictions. So here's how this works. I look at all the teams in each division in the rankings. The highest-ranked teams are given the division title, and then those four teams are seeded according to their ranking. Then the highest-ranked non-divisional winners are given the fifth and sixth seeds in their conference, respectively. Ideally, the top twelve teams will be playoff teams, but the NFC seems to be much better than the AFC this year. You can see the seeding below with each team's rank in parenthesis:
    AFC
    1. New England, 37.303 (1)
    2. Houston, 22.691 (3)
    3. Baltimore, 18.086 (5)
    4. Denver, 6.831 (11)
    5. Pittsburgh, 1.895 (13)
    6. Cincinnati, -6.913 (17)
    NFC
    1. San Francisco, 22.854 (2)
    2. Chicago, 21.183 (4)
    3. New York, 14.778 (6)
    4. Atlanta, 12.456 (7)
    5. Green Bay, 12.138 (8)
    6. Tampa Bay, 11.737 (9)

Eagles-Panthers Preview
Well, what do you do if you're the Eagles? You've got a rookie quarterback behind a despicable offensive line, a defense that used to be decent that is now underachieving at an alarming rate, and a coach that has clearly lost his ability to, well, coach. I honestly can't see the Eagles winning any of their remaining games, but there's always a way to win. And if there's a way to win, I'll put in my two cents here.

The Eagles will win because the Panthers don't have multiple elite pass rushers. At least in the past few weeks the Eagles were facing Ryan Kerrigan, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Roman Harper. Carolina has Charles Johnson, but their line is really a bunch of no-names after that (at least, I've never heard of them). They are doing decently against opposing quarterbacks (2.6 sacks per game, 6.5 yards per attempt allowed), but Andy is going up against his old defensive coordinator. That should count for something, right?

The Eagles will lose because they are declining at an alarming rate. At the beginning of the season, their pass defense was very respectable, allowing under five yards per pass attempt and giving up fewer than thirty percent of third down conversions. Now, they are allowing 36% of third downs and 6.9 yards per pass attempt. On offense, they went from getting over seven yards per pass attempt to only 6.1 now. They are simply a football team that is heading in the wrong direction, and heading there fast. There is no reason to believe they will improve anytime soon.

I hope everyone enjoys the three non-Eagles games that will be on television tomorrow, and have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. And if conversation gets slow, remember that possible head coaching hires are always good icebreakers.

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