Crunching the Numbers: Week 16

Mike Ehrmann

New England holds on; Seattle makes a push and a statement; can Joe Flacco get it done?

Five division games down, one left to go. While I was denied the satisfaction of worsening the Redskins' chances of making the playoffs, I'm sure many fans will be happy to see the Eagles retain their high draft picks. I still have hope against the slumping Giants, even if they do need help to make the playoffs. First off, I still hate the Giants more than the other division rivals, even though the amount of dislike I now have for the Redskins surprises me. I still can't stand the talk of how good Eli Manning is or Tom Coughlin's attitude. Secondly, the Eagles have never lost to the Giants in their new stadium, a trend that was kicked off with the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. That is a trend I would like to see the Eagles continue, no matter how bad they are. And even if the Giants realistically do not have much hope of the playoffs, denying them a winning season would still be satisfying. Not as satisfying as actually competing for a playoff spot, of course, but in times like this it's nice to find something to root for.

Anyway, onto the rankings and some observations afterwards:

Rank Team Score Change
1 New England 34.276 0
2 Seattle 27.206 +1
3 Chicago 24.381 +2
4 Houston 22.053 -2
5 Atlanta 21.662 +1
6 San Francisco 18.513 -2
7 Green Bay 15.777 +3
8 Denver 13.983 0
9 Baltimore 12.662 0
10 New York Giants 11.491 -3
11 Washington 10.614 0
12 Cincinnati 6.133 0
13 Minnesota -1.285 +3
14 Carolina -2.422 +1
15 Cleveland -3.108 -1
16 San Diego -4.744 +2
17 Tampa Bay -4.908 -4
18 St. Louis -6.202 +2
19 Miami -8.050 +2
20 New Orleans -8.125 -1
21 Arizona -13.425 -4
22 Pittsburgh -15.976 0
23 Dallas -20.342 0
24 Jacksonville -24.646 +1
25 Indianapolis -27.679 +5
26 Detroit -28.006 -2
27 New York Jets -28.207 0
28 Oakland -29.262 +1
29 Tennessee -31.584 -3
30 Buffalo -35.027 -2
31 Philadelphia -43.700 0
32 Kansas City -48.976 0

What should we make of Joe Flacco? Or why should we care? Well, the Eagles could very possibly be looking for a quarterback when the new regime comes in. I personally believe they will at least give Nick Foles a chance, but nothing is guaranteed. Joe Flacco will be on the market once the Super Bowl is over, and while the general consensus is that he will be resigned Flacco has been rather underwhelming on film this year. He also set a standard for the team last season by almost winning the AFC Championship Game, so if they don't make it to the big game this year you have to think the front office - and the fan base - will feel he underachieved and may not be worth the money he thinks he deserves. His play in crunch time will be debated if he doesn't win, but the numbers say that he is a high-level quarterback. According to the rankings, his quarterback index is 3.27, which is fifth-highest in the league (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III/Kirk Cousins, Colin Kaepernik/Alex Smith; the league average is 2.01). His yards per attempt leave something to be desired (6.8), but he doesn't turn the ball over (1.9 interceptions per 100 pass attempts). That should be refreshing to Eagles fans, and if Joe finds himself on the market I think Roseman and the new coach would be wise to at least consider him if they aren't totally convinced by Foles.

Statistic of the Week. Is there much of a difference between fumbles and interceptions? A good secondary can force interceptions through talent or by disguising coverage schemes, but fumbles tend to be more or less luck which predicates on the offense's commitment,(or lack thereof) to ball security. Earlier in the season I looked at how successful teams tend to force interceptions. But what about fumbles? The league average for fumble recoveries by the defense is 0.644 per game. Playoff teams like New England and Cincinnati make the top with 1.3 and 1.1 recoveries per game, respectively. Houston, Baltimore, and Atlanta are also above the average (0.9, 0.8, 0.7). However, Indianapolis is at the very bottom with 0.2 per game and Chicago (who need help to make the playoffs) are near the top with 1.1 fumbles per game. While losing fumbles can certainly cost your opponent the game, spending time in camp and practice teaching the defense to strip the ball may be more trouble than it's worth. Interceptions are a much safer bet.

Playoff Picture. Seattle is making a good case in the NFC while Chicago refuses to go away (or even leave the top ten). Green Bay's effort on Sunday wasn't enough to "earn" the second seed they currently hold and the Redskins still haven't managed to claim the NFC East's top spot - although they are gaining ground. See it all below:

AFC
1. New England, 34.276 (1)
2. Houston, 22.053 (4)
3. Denver, 13.983 (8)
4. Baltimore, 12.662 (9)
5. Cincinnati, 6.133 (12)

6. Cleveland, -3.108 (15)

NFC
1. Seattle, 27.206 (2)
2. Chicago, 24.381 (3)
3. Atlanta, 21.662 (5)
4. New York Giants, 11.491 (10)
5. San Francisco, 18.513 (6)
6. Green Bay, 15.777 (7)

Not much in the long run has changed, with the exception of the Giants', well, giant collapse (see what I did there?). They've fallen from second to tenth and have dropped by over thirteen points in two weeks. They still have a shot at the playoffs, but they'd need about as much help as the Eagles needed in Week 17 of 2008. Chicago, on the other hand, has a much more decent shot at the postseason and, incidentally, a much higher score in my rankings. They just need to beat the Lions and have the Packers (who are trying to secure a first-round bye) beat the Vikings. I'll be paying attention to more than one score next week.

Eagles-Giants Preview
There was a lot of speculation if Andy would get some sort of recognition from the crowd in what was likely his last home game at Lincoln Financial Field last Sunday. From what I could tell through FOX's coverage of the game, that didn't happen. But that's okay, because his last game will be one more shot against the opponent that I (and many other Eagles fans) take the most pleasure in defeating. But will Andy Reid's recent dominance against the Giants continue?

The Eagles will win because of Michael Vick. And no, I'm not joking. I actually debated bringing this up because I didn't want to "jinx" it, and then I remembered I'm not in third grade. Michael Vick has not lost to an NFC East opponent in games he has started and finished since he took over as the starter in 2010. Those games are the Redskins three times, Cowboys three times, and the Giants three times. A perfect 9-0. And with this being Andy Reid's last game, I would imagine Vick would try hard to win for his coach and friend.

The Eagles will lose because the Giants are actually playing for something. They were completely embarrassed by good teams the past two weeks and are watching their playoff hopes wither and die. The only thing they can do to salvage them is to win, and the fact they are playing a game against a hated rival should fan the flames. Of course, the fact that the Eagles are down two more defensive starters isn't exactly bad news for the Giants either.

And if the Eagles do lose, you can blame me for jinxing it.

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