After six games, here we are. The Eagles sit precariously perched on top of a division that nobody seems to have the slightest desire to win, although the Cowboys would most likely be at least 3-2 right now had Tony Romo not gotten injured. That being said, it's still on the team to have a contingency plan for events like that and Brandon Weeden is the sorriest contingency plan you can have.
But for a week at least, Philadelphia is your division leader. For all intents and purposes the Eagles are a poor man's Denver Broncos; they are carried by their defense and win in spite of their quarterback. But perception is not always reality. Do the numbers say otherwise? Do the Eagles deserve their division-leader status? Or do they simply confirm what we have observed on the field? Check out the rankings below to find out, and as a reminder all previous rankings can be found in this archive.
Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 6
|1||New York Jets||35.304|
|14||New York Giants||13.055|
Why the Eagles are 9th
Last Week: 13th (+4)
The Eagles have now supplanted all of their division rivals in the rankings by a wide margin (New York is next all the way down at fourteenth). While saying that the defense has a lot to do with it is stating the obvious, they are also helped out tremendously by their score differential which forms the backbone of the rankings. It's easy to forget that the Eagles actually won by a healthy twenty points on Monday with the way the offense played. Philadelphia is now +42 in scoring in their last two games (albeit against weak competition) and that has played a big role in why they have ascended so quickly.
Another surprise contributor to their ranking is the play of the offensive line. The Eagles are far above the league average in rushing first downs per game (6.7 against a league average of 5.8) and sacks allowed per game (1.3 against an average of 2.2) for an offensive line score of 5.4, which is much higher than the average of 3.6. Their rushing statistics are pedestrian, but not terrible; they hover around the league average in rushing attempts per game (26.7) and rushing percentage (40.4%). This is obviously not great, but it's not nearly as terrible as it's made out to be either.
What has been as terrible as it has been made it out to be is the play of Sam Bradford. His quarterback rating of 80 is now over a full ten points below the league average (90.4) and he is the most dangerous threat to the success of the offense on a weekly basis. This has all been well-documented, but it is impossible to overstate how he is single-handedly hampering the effectiveness of the offense, and that if he were to simply be an average quarterback (which would essentially be operating at the efficiency of Alex Smith) this team would be winning games by wide margins. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no reason to believe this will ever happen, and next week's opponent is probably the worst possible matchup for a potential turnaround.
Week 7 Reconnaissance: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are currently third in the rankings behind only New York and Green Bay, and for good reason. They are performing much above the league average in a multitude of categories. Their rushing first downs per game (8.0), rushing play percentage (49.55%), and rushing attempts per game (32.8) are all tops in the league. This indicates that they are running the ball very well and sustaining long drives on the field. This could come back to really hurt the defense if the offense can't find a consistent rhythm and they find themselves gassed late in the game like they were against Washington. On defense, their passer rating allowed is absurd (68.4) and they are forcing 2.6 sacks per game. In spite of this, opponents are passing on over 64% of their plays against the Panthers, meaning that teams are often trying to dig themselves out of holes. All of this paints a picture depicting the Eagles being in for a rough game if they get off to another slow start.
Fortunately, some matchups here do favor the Eagles. Cam Newton's passer rating is only slightly better than Bradford's (83.2) and they are allowing two sacks per game. The Eagles' revived pass rush could make the pocket uncomfortable for Newton and force him to make bad throws. It's unlikely he'll turn it over, however; the Panthers are +1.2 on turnover margin per game. The Eagles are also sixth in the league in passer rating allowed (82.2) and the Panthers' receivers outside of Greg Olsen do not exactly inspire fear. If Philadelphia can avoid getting into a hole early, establish the run, and protect Bradford from throwing right into the strength of this defense, there is a good chance that they can leave Carolina with a third straight win. Additionally, a smart game plan from Chip and improved ball security will most likely be necessary. It is a tall order, and it is unlikely to all come together, but it is not impossible, either.
Surprised the Jets are first? They are crushing the league in every rushing offensive statistic that matters and have found the magic formula of allowing a league-low 60.9 passer rating while forcing their opponents to throw 62% of the time. That is a recipe for success if I ever saw one ... The Bengals continue their annual excellence at pass protection, as Dalton is only getting sacked once per game ... To the surprise of nobody, the Patriots have the league's best score differential and are winning each contest by an average margin of 16 points ... The Packers defense is quietly taking care of business, as they are allowing a passer rating of 73.4 and are averaging 3.8 sacks per game.