Checking in with Preseason Eagles Win Projections

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Eagles on pace?

The bye week is a good time to revisit our preseason projections, so today, let’s look back at how I thought the season would play out. If you remember, I took two different approaches. First, I used a basic, back-of-the-envelope points for and against projection matrix. The base-case assumption there was 9 wins, though the average outcome of the matrix was a bit higher (9.1 wins). Here is the matrix:

Screen-shot-2013-08-19-at-10-47-30-am_medium

After I did that, I went through the schedule and tried to come up with benchmarks, the clearing of which were (a) reasonable, and (b) would lead to 9 wins.

Let’s start with the win projection.

The base case projection (9 wins) was built from an assumption that the Eagles would produce points at a level 15% better than the league average and allow them at a level 5% worse than league average. Over the course of the season, I projected that to equate to an overall point differential of +37, which I plugged into the Pythagorean projection model to get to 9 wins.

Through 11 games, the Eagles’ point differential is +16. They’ve scored 276 points and allowed 260. Based on that, my projection looks pretty good. If the Eagles kept up at that exact pace, they’d end up with a point differential of about +23, just two TDs from the +37 projection.

However, I think it’s instructive to dig a bit deeper and take a look at how each side (point production and points allow) has compared to our expectations.

As I said above, I expected the Eagles to score 15% more points than the league average. To date, the team as averaged just over 25 points per game. The league average (including the Eagles), is currently 23.4 points per game, meaning the Eagles have scored 6.8% more points than the league average. That means the Eagles offense (technically "point production" to include defense and STs) has been worse than I expected, by approximately 1.8 points per game.

However, some of that can be attributed to the Matt Barkley game, as I obviously didn’t plan on him getting a start to play this year, and we can also assume that the offense would have scored at least a few more points if it hadn’t been playing with big leads (especially against the Redskins).

On defense, I expected the team to be 5% worse than league average. Thus far, they’ve allowed roughly 23.6 points per game. The NFL average, as we saw above, is 23.4 points per game, meaning the Eagles have been worse than average, as expected, but by a very small margin (less than 1%).

Stepping back, the offense has been slightly worse than expected, though I think we know why, and the defense has been slightly better than expected. Overall, though, the base-case projection looks to be pretty damn close.

The Benchmarks

I then tried to game out the season, and assign benchmarks for various portions. So how do the Eagles look when compared to the roadmap I set out? Well it just so happens that I set one of the benchmarks to the Bye week (naturally). If you check the link (up top), you’ll see that, for the team to get to 9 wins, I felt it had to have a record of at least 5-6 at the Bye week.

Of course, the Eagles have exceeded that by one win, and currently stand at 6-5.

Rather than re-hash how we got here, I’m just going to look forward. Things didn’t go exactly to plan, but the general path is far from what I expected. The key, of course, is what happens now.

In my pre-season roadmap, I called the section after the Bye week "The Dessert". Based on the team projections, it looked to be the easiest section of the schedule, and I somewhat aggressively said that 4-1 would be a reasonable expectation of performance for the Eagles through this stretch. Has anything changed? Let’s go through them:

Cardinals – Their 6-4, but have a point differential of just +2. They’ve won their past 3 games, but have faced Atlanta, Houston, and Jacksonville over that span. They feature a good defense and a mediocre offense.

Lions – A bit schizophrenic, as usual. Hard to peg how they matchup against the Eagles. The downfield passing game (Stafford to Johnson) looks to be a terrible matchup for the Eagles, but it’s not as if the Lions’ defense has impressed (ranked 22nd by DVOA).

@ Vikings – Not a good team and it’s offense revolves around the rushing game, which the Eagles have had success against.

Bears – By DVOA, this is the toughest game remaining on the schedule. The Bears rank 5th overall by Football Outsiders. Similar to the Lions, the primary matchup concern for the Eagles will be a great, big, WR (Marshall).

@ Dallas – Already looks to be the key game of the year and has a good chance of deciding the division (and probably the only shot at a playoff spot). Lost to Dallas once already, so have to account for that. However, Dallas’ other wins have come against the Giants, Rams, Redskins, and Vikings. Not one of them ranks higher than 20th by DVOA. Call me unconvinced…(not that the Eagles’ win resume is that impressive either).

Remember that the Eagles outperformed my projection before the bye week, so the team only needs to win 3 games to get to 9 wins. Can it? Absolutely. Will it? I think so. Beating the Vikings means you need to got 2-2 against the Cardinals, Lions, Bears, and Cowboys. As far as I’m concerned, those teams all count as "mediocre", though the Bears are on the upper edge.

If we break that up even further, the immediate question becomes:

Can the Eagles get one win from their next two games? (Cardinals and Lions).

If the answer is yes, then 9 wins still looks like a likely outcome. (and the answer IS yes)

Follow me @EaglesRewind

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