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Rise Of The Dolphins: Crunching The Numbers Week 9

There should be some interesting discussion over the rankings this week as some surprising teams have charged forward. With the flurry of new teams in the top ten, how did the Eagles compare?

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

This will probably go down as one of the strangest NFL seasons, as everyone seems to be beating each other, and the one team that is winning consistently (Arizona) looks like the least threatening of the teams who are hot right now. Some teams who were dead in the water a few weeks ago are now being talked about as the best teams in the league, and others who looked like contenders are riding multiple consecutive losses. Can the numbers give us some clarity? Read on to find out!

Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 9

1. Denver (18.736): The Broncos took a beating from Tom Brady last week, but their score was padded enough that they retain their top spot. With the way New England is playing, I wouldn't be surprised to see that change as we head deeper into November. Last Week: 1, 24.333

2. New England (17.486): The Patriots are rising fast behind the lights-out performance of Tom Brady. Nobody seems to be playing better football right now and they are winning the games they need to for conference positioning. Those games against division rivals won't be such a cake walk this year, however. Last Week: 3, 16.003

3. Miami (16.347): After this happened, I went back and rechecked all my numbers to make sure they were right. The plain and simple truth is that this system is rooted in point differential, and not too many things will help that better than a 37-0 shutout (the biggest of the season). However, the Dolphins' other statistics are deceptively good, and Phillip Rivers can validate me when I labeled their secondary a "quarterback's nightmare" last week. So, are the Dolphins the third-best team in the league? No. Can they challenge New England for the division? Probably not, but it's an idea that is worth entertaining. Do they have the cohesiveness to make a playoff run and maybe surprise some teams in January? Absolutely. Last Week: 14, 10.364

4. Indianapolis (15.958): A great rebound for the Colts after their big loss to the rejuvenated Steelers. Granted, they were playing a reeling Giants team, but they scored 40 points and gained over 400 yards of offense on them at home for the first time in almost seventy years (give or take). Last Week: 4, 14.597

5. Baltimore (15.200): The once mighty Ravens have now lost two consecutive division games. If the AFC North teams detested each other before, they will completely hate each other after this year since the entire division is above .500. It was just a year ago the Bengals were running away with the division title - how things have changed. Last Week: 2, 21.220

6. Philadelphia (13.604): The exciting thing about the Eagles is that you get the sense they haven't really turned the corner yet, and they are still 6-2. The worrying thing about the Eagles is that they have yet to turn that corner. With a tough schedule looming and the return of the Sanchize, it'll have to be sooner rather than later, and it all starts with that turnover issue. Last Week: 5, 14.531

7. Kansas City (13.430): The Chiefs have gone 5-1 since their 0-2 start and nobody is really talking about them, but that's probably how they like it. The type of consistent pressure they've been able to get on the quarterback could just be enough to carry them into the postseason. Last Week: 8, 12.147

8. Green Bay (11.743): The Packers were on bye this week, so there is no change in score. The rest should help them on Sunday night against a subpar Bears team. It'll be interesting to see if any of their run defense issues have been mended. Last Week: 9, 11.743

9. Arizona (11.695): The team with the league's best record finds themselves here at ninth. They've been playing good enough to win, but it makes them less intimidating than a 7-1 team should be. They aren't decimating their opposition, which has caused them to end up below eight other teams, but they're winning. And in the NFL, that is what counts. Last Week: 13, 10.423

10. Cincinnati (11.656): The Bengals round off the top ten for the third week in a row. They finally won a game again against the admittedly awful Jaguars, but they also have their division lead. With Pittsburgh surging, they don't really have any room for error like they did last season. Last Week: 10, 11.176

11. New Orleans (11.192): Drew Brees and company get the luxury of competing in what has become the NFL's worst division. Their thrashing of a bad Panthers team should make them the favorite to take the fourth seed in the playoffs this season. Last Week: 12, 10.605

12. Seattle (10.444): The mediocre play of the Seahawks is making it hard for them to separate themselves from the middle of the pack, but they are trying. The pass defense is slowly improving but Russell Wilson's 6.5 yards per attempt is a far cry from what he was doing last year. Last Week: 16, 9.499

13. Dallas (10.271): Here are the Cowboys now. Everyone was on the bandwagon when they raced to a 6-1 start except for my rankings, which hesitated. It turns out as their quarterback goes down they become susceptible to losing two games at home, with one of the losses being to the now 3-6 Redskins. The Eagles, meanwhile, lost their quarterback and beat a 4-4 team on the road. This is why the Eagles will be better when the dust clears. Last Week: 7, 12.683

14. Cleveland (10.226): The Browns are doing everything they can to stick around in the AFC North even though their numbers are starting to slip. Their stats say they are doing well enough to be competitive, but that is probably not good enough for this division or conference. Last Week: 11, 10.749

15. Pittsburgh (9.907): The numbers aren't buying stock in the Steelers just yet. Ben Roethlisberger may have had the best two combined games for a quarterback in league history, but that won't solve their offensive line problems or pass rush issues anytime soon. So consider judgment here to be reserved. Last Week: 19, 7.304

16. Detroit (9.645): No change in score because of the bye. The current playoff picture pins the Lions as the second seed in the NFC. The numbers tell a different story, as their limping offense is being bailed out by that stellar defense enough to win games. It won't be that easy down the stretch though. Getting Calvin Johnson back should be a boost, but only time will tell with that offensive line. Last Week: 15, 9.645

17. San Diego (7.634): To think there was a time that I thought this team could win their division. They've now lost three straight and Phillip Rivers' play has fallen off the shelf as his passer rating has dropped from about 117 to 101. He'll have to start playing well again if they even want to make the playoffs. Last Week: 6, 14.451

18. Buffalo (7.621): The Bills stay put on their bye week in both score and ranking. This team is a quiet 5-3 and while overcoming the Dolphins may be an uphill battle, they have the coaching and talent in place to make things interesting in the AFC East. Last Week: 18, 7.621

19. Houston (7.072): There will come a day when the Texans will give the Colts a run for their money in that division, but it will be with a different quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't getting it done. Last Week: 17, 8.550

20. San Francisco (5.105): There was a time when this team went to three straight NFC Championship games and was considered a perennial contender. Now they're losing to the Rams at home. The dropoff for them probably comes from their pass protection (3.4 sacks/game allowed) and pass rush (1.6 sacks/game), or lack thereof. Last Week: 20, 5.709

21. New York Giants (1.966): We are probably witnessing the end of an era here, as I don't imagine the ancient Tom Coughlin will return to the team next season. Their numbers are solidly mediocre, which won't get them anywhere in a much more competitive NFC East. Last Week: 21, 4.433

22. Atlanta (0.737): The Falcons were on a bye week, so their score won't change. While they still have a chance to win the embarrassingly bad NFC South, their defense is just too awful for them to compete. Last Week: 22, 0.737

23. Washington (0.034): It looks like the 'Skins couldn't overcome the emotional toll of their overtime road win over the Cowboys. RGIII had some rust for sure, but losing to the Vikings at home probably tells you everything you need to know about this team. Last Week: 23, -0.039

24. Minnesota (-0.546): The Vikings, while bad, have enough to be optimistic about the future. Teddy Bridgewater probably has earned the opportunity to go into training camp next season as the starter, and that defense is finally picking up some steam with 3.3 sacks averaged per game. Last Week: 26, -1.759

25. Chicago (-0.911): Another Week 9 bye team. It's safe to say that the Bears are both bad and desperate, and having a game coming up against a well-rested Aaron Rodgers does not alleviate either of those concerns. Last Week: 25, -0.911

26. Carolina (-2.290): Sometimes "expert predictions" about the season look silly in hindsight, but everyone was spot-on about the Panthers' regression this season. Cam Newton's play has deteriorated, and that defense is a husk of its former self (7.1 rushing first downs allowed/game, 97.4 opposing passer rating). Last Week: 24, -0.377

27. Tennessee (-3.819): And yet another team on a bye. They do have a good pass rush (2.9 sacks per game), but that doesn't really help when the quarterback can just hand it off (8 rushing first downs per game allowed). Last Week: 27, -3.819

28. St. Louis (-6.667): The Rams are playing all of their opponents tough, which is all you can really ask out of a team that is rebuilding. If they can figure out how to restore their pass rush and find a marquee running back, this team could turn the corner in a tough NFC West. Last Week: 28, -8.487

29. Oakland (-8.362): The Raiders seem to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding, which is usually a sign of a bad coach and GM. While Derek Carr has been a pleasant surprise, I'm not sure if he can save Reggie McKenzie's job. Last Week: 29, -9.063

30. Tampa Bay (-9.764): The Bucs are the weakest team in the NFC South, which is saying a lot. They simply lack the talent to be competitive. Their next few drafts will be interesting to watch. Last Week: 32, -11.274

31. New York Jets (-10.278): The Jets don't play the Jaguars this season, but if they did I'm not sure if they would win. Their passer rating (65.7) is worse than both Minnesota's and Jacksonville's, who are both starting rookies. Last Week: 30, -10.354

32. Jacksonville (-10.374): It's a race to the bottom between the Jets, Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Raiders. Of those teams, the Jaguars are at least in the group that seem to have an answer at quarterback. Last Week: 31, -10.973

So what are your thoughts (especially about the Dolphins)? Which teams are too high? Too low? How do you think the Eagles are ranked? Sound off in the comments!

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