Crunching The Numbers: Week 9

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

We're in the heat of battle - midseason! Some players are starting to emerge, including a new power in the NFC.

What a crazy week in the NFL. From hospitalized coaches to unjust hazing to a seven-touchdown performance by Nick Foles, there was plenty of excitement to go around Week 9. I was personally in attendance of the Bills-Chiefs game and can tell you first-hand that nobody will live and die by their defense like Kansas City will. They are very reminiscent of the 2000 Ravens in that way, but they are still not that good, of course. There weren't as many movers this time, with the notable jumps and drops coming from New Orleans, Carolina, and (surprise!) Philadelphia and Oakland. The Chiefs, who are the last undefeated team, remain on top. Before you check out the rankings below, make sure to read Brandon's take.

The Rankings

Rank Team Score Last Week
1 Kansas City 16.057 1
2 Carolina 13.544 4
3 Denver 13.336 2
4 Indianapolis 11.684 6
5 San Francisco 10.191 7
6 Seattle 10.166 5
7 New Orleans 9.625 3
8 New England 7.636 10
9 Green Bay 6.395 8
10 Cincinnati 4.644 9
11 Dallas 4.285 11
12 San Diego 1.044 12
13 Detroit 0.288 13
14 Tennessee -0.294 14
15 Chicago -2.896 16
16 Baltimore -3.125 15
17 Philadelphia -3.979 23
18 Arizona -5.020 17
19 Cleveland -5.047 19
20 Miami -6.534 20
21 St. Louis -7.914 21
22 Buffalo -10.431 24
23 Tampa Bay -11.657 26
24 Atlanta -11.791 20
25 Oakland -11.834 18
26 New York Jets -12.181 28
27 Washington -12.447 27
28 Pittsburgh -15.847 25
29 Minnesota -16.015 29
30 Houston -16.776 30
31 New York Giants -21.482 31
32 Jacksonville -34.946 32

Around the league, there are some things of note this week. The biggest eyebrow raiser is that the Panthers jumped up to second, making them the highest-ranked team in the NFC. Are they? Well, the Saints, 49ers, Packers, and Seahawks might want to have a word with me about that. But Carolina certainly has the defense to play with the best of them, and they have enough talent on offense to be dangerous. While I would still pick New Orleans to win the NFC South based purely off the experience of Drew Brees and Sean Payton, do not be surprised in the slightest if Carolina takes home the division title this season. They are playing excellent football.

As for the Eagles, they improved in every statistical category except for fumbles recovered, yards per rush attempt, and yards per rush attempt allowed. Last time, I said that the Raiders were weak in "several critical areas" and that the Eagles could take advantage if "they decided to show up." Boy, did they ever. They finally - finally - played a complete game, with offense and defense, for all four quarters. If you looked at the score and the time of possession, it looked exactly like a typical Oregon Ducks game against less-talented opponents. And that, my fellow fans, bodes well for the Eagles. But onto their opponent this week, the much-maligned Green Bay Packers.

Scouting the Enemy

This might not be as relevant for the upcoming game as it has been in the past, since Aaron Rodgers will not be playing. While I would always rather play teams when they are at their best, from purely a playoff outlook standpoint this is obviously a good thing for the Eagles. The Packers still pack a lot of talent (see what I did there), especially in their running game (5.0 YPC) and their pass rush (3.0 sacks/game). But here's where I think the Eagles can see success on Sunday:

Turnovers. The Eagles may not be scaring anybody with the turnovers they force, but they certainly haven't been playing teams that do it any better. While they don't fumble very often (0.6/game), they are even worse at forcing them with 0.5/game. They also only have an interception rate of 1.05%, which is frankly not very good. Seneca Wallace is not Aaron Rodgers, so the passing statistics for interceptions is fairly moot. We'll have to see if the Eagles allow Wallace to beat them through the air.

Pass Rush. The Eagles pass rush isn't exactly fearsome, but the Packers are giving up almost three sacks per game (2.8 to be exact). I don't think Philadelphia will hit that mark, but I expect Billy Davis to put some extra pressure on the backup quarterback to force a mistake. This may be reserved for obvious passing situations, as Green Bay will most likely lean on their impressive run game to take pressure off of Wallace.

I normally try to find three areas per game that the Eagles can excel, but Green Bay is admittedly talented and well-coached. In spite of their injuries, they will prove to be one of the harder tests the Eagles have faced this season. Playing in Lambeau doesn't help either... good thing the Eagles only win on the road, right?

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