You can say a lot about the Eagles. You can say that they got to play the Lions in the snow, which took out Reggie Bush and effectively neutralized Calvin Johnson. You can say that they haven't played a team's starting running back since Washington and that the trend will probably continue next week. You can say, in a nutshell, that they have gotten lucky, but you can't go against the numbers. The numbers say that the Eagles are ninth in scoring offense, thirteenth in scoring defense, and seventh in turnover margin per game. In terms of the division, they are in the driver's seat, but let's see where they are in the rankings (check out Brandon's opinion here):
|27||New York Giants||-12.143||26|
|30||New York Jets||-14.140||31|
Boy, is the middle getting muddled. You've got the Colts sliding two spots, Miami and San Diego both jumping six, Dallas and the Rams both dropping three... all this does is reinforce the current playoff picture in the NFC and make things all the more confusing in the AFC. Things certainly look like they will come down to Week 17, which seems like eons away at this point. It's hard to imagine how things will look once the dust settles on December 29.
But what about Philadelphia? Well, they added about two points to their score and stayed put. This is still consistent with how they are ranked on the Internet. And, given their Jekyll-and-Hyde play on Sunday, this seems about right. The important takeaway is that they've been doing enough of the right things on a regular basis to put them in a great position to make a run at the postseason. Speaking of which...
|1||Kansas City (2)||Seattle (1)|
|2||Cincinnati (7)||Carolina (3)|
|3||New England (8)||Philadelphia (9)|
|4||Indianapolis (13)||Detroit (14)|
|5||Denver (4)||New Orleans (5)|
|6||San Diego (11)||San Francisco (6)|
The NFC picture is starting to settle in, like I mentioned before. The combined losses of the Cowboys and Lions allowed the Eagles to jump up to third in the official playoff picture, as I've been predicting for the past several weeks. In the AFC, the Colts finally fell to the fourth seed, as the rankings have shown for practically all season, but the Bengals are still placed with a bye. Interestingly enough, Cincinnati still has a shot at the second seed since they own a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Patriots. They also have a decidedly easier schedule than Tom Brady and Co. As far as Kansas City and Denver... I give up. It's a flaw in my system that I'll address during the offseason. I don't see anything there changing in the last three weeks.
The Eagles have controlled their destiny since they became tied with Dallas for the division lead, but now they set the pace rather than the other way around. The rankings predict that they should hold on to the third seed for the rest of the way out, but there are still three very important games to play. Starting with the first one up:
Scouting the Enemy
This week, the Philadelphia Eagles travel up north to take on the Minnesota Vikings, who in spite of their abysmal record have been playing with a lot of tenacity the past few weeks. Philly might catch a lucky break if Adrian Peterson doesn't play (or isn't even at full health), but they still put up a good fight against the Ravens in Baltimore without him last week. Regardless, I expect the Eagles to win this game, mostly because they are peaking at the right time and are a strong road team. Here is where I specifically think Philadelphia will excel:
Turnovers. In spite of Nick's first interception last week, the Eagles have been taking good care of the ball, and the Vikings, well... they don't. They lose almost one fumble a game (0.8) and have an interception rate of 3.1. Both are below average, although I suppose the interception rate deserves an asterisk since the Vikings have basically had open tryouts for the quarterback position.
The Passing Game. While Minnesota's run defense is just slightly below average, they are giving up seven yards per pass attempt. Nick Foles averaged eight yards per attempt last Sunday, and that was in the snow with a terrible first half. It still needs to be determined how long-term of an answer he is for this franchise, but he should post a decent stat line on Sunday.
Scoring. The Vikings have some pieces in place on offense (except for quarterback, of course), but their once-vaunted defense is just atrocious. They are second-worst to the Redskins in points allowed with opponents scoring around thirty points a game. Chip Kelly should be able to work his magic this week when scheming up his game plan against this embarrassing defense.
The Eagles are streaking and the Cowboys are reeling. Reminds me of 2008... But by how much is still the question. Three more games. A one-game hold on the division lead. It's time to nut up or shut up.
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- NFL Power Rankings 2013: Week 15, Eagles Flying High