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Crunching The Numbers: Week 13

The Eagles continue to surge as the playoff picture begins to take shape.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Doesn't it feel great to be in the postseason hunt in December? To watch scoreboards? To actually look forward to Sundays? After two seasons of meaningless games in the last quarter of the season, seeing the Eagles right in the thick of things is beyond refreshing. As we'll see later, the Eagles do fit into the playoff picture if my rankings hold... but before we can get to that we actually need to check out the rankings below, where the Eagles' placement happens to coincide with Brandon's opinion.

The Rankings

Rank Team Score Last Week
1 Seattle 19.239 1
2 Carolina 15.862 3
3 Kansas City 12.977 2
4 San Francisco 11.887 6
5 Denver 11.336 5
6 New Orleans 11.015 4
7 Cincinnati 8.052 8
8 New England 7.572 7
9 Philadelphia 3.015 12
10 Arizona 2.655 10
11 Indianapolis 2.349 14
12 Detroit 2.267 18
13 St. Louis 2.127 9
14 Dallas 1.860 15
15 Baltimore 0.868 16
16 Tennessee 0.625 11
17 San Diego 0.039 17
18 Miami 0.002 19
19 Green Bay -2.588 13
20 Chicago -3.333 20
21 Pittsburgh -3.604 22
22 Buffalo -5.612 23
23 Tampa Bay -6.883 21
24 Oakland -8.139 24
25 Cleveland -9.673 25
26 New York Giants -10.241 27
27 Washington -12.471 26
28 Minnesota -13.233 29
29 Houston -13.437 28
30 Atlanta -13.647 30
31 New York Jets -16.274 31
32 Jacksonville -23.185 32

There was some reshuffling near the top, but the biggest moves came from Green Bay and Detroit after the Lions' rout of the castrated Packers on Thanksgiving. Kansas City slipped again, giving up second place to Carolina. They are still ranked ahead of the Broncos mostly because Denver is impeded by their lackluster scoring defense. If the Chiefs continue to cool off it will not be long before Peyton Manning and Co. overtake them.

The Eagles are up to ninth now, mostly thanks to their improved play on defense and their turnover ratio, which is now in the top ten in the league. This is similar to other power rankings across the Internet. They are still very much a work in progress, but the big takeaway here is that they should be competitive for the remainder of their rather unfriendly schedule. This is going to be huge as they try to position themselves for a playoff run. Sounds like a good segue into the playoff picture, doesn't it? I thought so.

Playoff Picture

1 Kansas City (3) Seattle (1)
2 Cincinnati (7) Carolina (2)
3 New England (8) Philadelphia (9)
4 Indianapolis (11) Detroit (12)
5 Denver (5) San Francisco (4)
6 Baltimore (15) New Orleans (6)

The seeds are mostly incorrect, but I have almost a perfect reflection of the playoff standings in terms of teams involved. The Eagles are the lone standout, of course, and are projected to overtake the Cowboys by the end of the season. While this would make for an excellent Christmas gift, there is still much more work to be done.

In a surprising twist, the Bengals leapfrogged New England here for the second seed. That was probably the result of the Patriots' close game with the Texans this week and I don't expect it to last long. The wildcard seeding for the NFC is a little askew, but I attribute this to the thorough pounding New Orleans took on Monday Night Football. Baltimore worked its way into the picture (just like the Ravens did in real life this weekend) and Detroit finally took its place atop the NFC North. Speaking of the Lions...

Scouting the Enemy

The Lions come to Philadelphia this week as an interesting team. They have talent on both sides of the ball but don't seem to realize their full potential. They certainly took it to Green Bay on Thanksgiving, but given some of the games they've managed to lose their season hasn't exactly been a ringing endorsement of their ability to play consistently at a high level. That being said, they will definitely present challenges to the Eagles on Sunday, but here's where I think Philadelphia can find success:

The Passing Game. The Lions are slightly better than average when it comes to forcing interceptions (2.75% interception rate), but their yards-per-attempt-allowed average is 7.3, which is mediocre. Considering the fact that the Eagles are much above average at eight yards per attempt (it's even higher when you only consider Nick Foles' body of work), I can see the Eagles having a good day against the Lions' secondary.

Pass Protection. I predicted that pass protection against the Cardinals would be good... and I was flat-out wrong. Detroit actually has a subpar pass rush (2.2 sacks/game) in spite of the big names on their defensive line. The Eagles did not fare very well against a similar situation last week, but I think a week of film review helps them out here.

Turnovers. Detroit is below average when it comes to ball security, losing almost one fumble per game and having an interception rate of 2.8%. The Eagles have been very careful (and lucky) when it comes to retaining possession of the football, so I think they ultimately come out on top in this department. It should go a long way in determining the outcome of the game, just like last week. Although I keep saying it and it doesn't happen, Foles will probably throw his first pick this week... but only after he tosses two more touchdown passes, of course.

While the Lions will present yet another formidable test for the Eagles, this is very much a winnable game for the Birds. Even though Detroit is talented, they have had lapses in discipline and this has led them to be inconsistent. Combined with the fact that Philadelphia is finally starting to win at home again, the Eagles are in good shape to continue their march towards January as the season races to a photo finish.

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