Crunching the Numbers: Week 12

Elsa

The shuffling among the rankings was much more active this week. With all of the games in the books and another one slated for Thursday night, it's time to check in on how the teams are doing so far.

Before I get into everything, I need to make sure everyone watched Mark Sanchez's hilarious fumble from the Jets' Thursday night game with New England. Yes, it was nationally televised, but if you were waiting in line at Best Buy and haven't seen Sports Center since then, do yourself a favor and click on that link. It's worth it.

So another game, another loss for the Eagles. Although I will give them credit for having the lead since who knows when at halftime, even if it was at home against the Panthers. While the results may have been typical for us Eagles fans, it was actually a pretty insane week around the NFL, from Pittsburgh's seven turnovers against Cleveland to the everlasting overtime game in Detroit to Baltimore's 4th-and-29 play. The rankings took a serious turn for change, which we'll discuss right now:

Rank Team Score Change
1 New England 45.629 0
2 Chicago 24.128 +2
3 San Francisco 22.818 -1
4 New York Giants 20.902 +2
5 Houston 20.720 -2
6 Baltimore 19.139 -1
7 Tampa Bay 12.631 +2
8 Atlanta 9.866 -1
9 Denver 7.919 +2
10 Seattle 6.677 0
11 Washington 4.460 +1
12 Green Bay 4.327 -4
13 Cincinnati 0.451 +4
14 Cleveland -0.157 +5
15 Arizona -5.073 -1
16 San Diego -6.816 +2
17 Pittsburgh -7.078 -4
18 New Orleans -8.511 -2
19 Minnesota -9.876 -4
20 Carolina -12.516 +4
21 Miami -13.764 0
22 St. Louis -14.027 +3
23 Detroit -16.139 0
24 Dallas -21.264 -2
25 New York Jets -21.518 -5
26 Tennessee -24.955 0
27 Buffalo -25.122 0
28 Jacksonville -25.299 0
29 Indianapolis -27.398 0
30 Oakland -35.073 0
31 Philadelphia -37.637 0
32 Kansas City -46.496 0

Some observations:

  • Disorderly conduct. If you go back and count, five teams moved four places up or down and two moved five. That's a big swing for almost a quarter of the league. To make things worse, almost all of it came in the middle of the rankings where some teams have a wild-card berth on the line. The top saw mild shuffling while the bottom six didn't move at all, which is something that I don't think I have ever seen before.
  • Statistic of the Week. A little while back I looked into how protecting the quarterback may not necessarily be the most important key to the offense. I wondered if the same was true on the other side of the ball - does pressuring the quarterback guarantee success? At the moment, there are three teams who are averaging over three sacks per game: Cincinnati, Denver, and Green Bay. If the season ended today, two of them would be in the playoffs. That being said, being a bottom-feeder doesn't necessarily mean those teams are bad; Tampa Bay is the getting the same pressure as the Eagles but are only one game out of the playoff picture. Overall, there seems to be a link between getting pressure but staying disciplined against the run - Cincinnati is on the outside looking in and also has the worst run defense of the other two three-sack teams. Tampa Bay is also the best team against the run in the league, allowing 3.4 yards per carry. People may say that the NFL is now a passing league, but when it comes to defense the running game is just as important.
  • Playoff Picture. Going by the same guidelines I used last week, here is what the playoff seeding would look like according to the rankings:
    AFC
    1. New England, 45.629 (1)
    2. Houston, 20.720 (5)
    3. Baltimore, 19.131 (6)
    4. Denver, 7.919 (9)
    5. Cincinnati, 0.451 (13)
    6. Cleveland, -0.157 (14)
    NFC
    1. Chicago, 24.128 (2)
    2. San Francisco, 22.818 (3)
    3. New York Giants, 20.902 (4)
    4. Tampa Bay, 12.631 (7)
    5. Atlanta, 9.866 (8)
    6. Seattle, 6.677 (10)

    This is where the rankings might have some shortcomings. I ran across a statistic that I might use in a different rendition of the rankings next season (changing the algorithm now would invalidate the overall results). To put it simply, a team's rank is greatly affected if there is an enormous turnover ratio in a game. This is why Cleveland - a 3-8 team - is currently slated to make the playoffs, and why the Falcons will not win their division. Neither of those things are going to happen, but keep in mind that in the past two seasons the No. 1 seed has been one-and-done three out of four times. Playoff seeding does not necessarily correlate to the teams who will win in the postseason.

Eagles-Cowboys Preview
I have to say that I am extremely pleased with my decision to pick up fantasy football again this season because it gives me something to look forward to on Sunday now that I am jockeying for the playoffs. I wish the Eagles could say the same thing about whatever they had decided to do in the off-season, but they can't, they're terrible, and well, here we are. Is it the draft yet?

The Eagles will win because the likelihood of the events of the last game between these two teams repeating themselves is not very good. An overlooked fact from their meeting three weeks ago is that the defense actually held the Cowboys to seventeen points. The other twenty-one were scored by the defense or the special teams. Combine that with the fact that Dallas' defense just isn't that great (4.1 YPC, 7.2 YPA) and the game should at least be decent. Yes, the Eagles have done poorly against worse defenses, but there's always room for optimism in every game.

The Eagles will lose because of a bunch of factors we're all aware of that don't really need repeating. Somehow this team just became a group that can't win to the point where there's basically a turnover quota each game that must be met, including one nail-in-the-coffin giveaway that ices the game. And the secondary runs around like chickens with their heads cut off with an absolute lack of knowledge on how to get the ball. I can still remember Sean McDermott, who for the life of him couldn't prevent a team from scoring, but did he ever force turnovers. Eagles games were exciting to watch, because there was always that interception or sack-strip-recovery that the team needed. I'm no McDermott apologist, but when the bar has been set as low as it is now... but I digress.

So there are five games left to be played. That leaves the Eagles at either 8-8 (highly improbable) or 3-13 (more likely). I personally don't feel good about any game the Eagles have left to play. And judging by the play on the field, I don't think they do, either.

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