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Eagles vs. Saints Game Simulation Favors New Orleans

Vegas favors the Eagles. Again. And this week’s simulation doesn’t care.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

First, I abhorred last week’s game.  It was winnable.  Sam Bradford finally threw and connected deep, which, what do you know, masked some other offensive deficiencies.  Bradford also left the field with the lead, giving Bill Davis’ new and improved defense the opportunity to seal the deal.

Unfortunately, the resulting denouement was reminiscent of another last minute loss.  This time, the cast of characters was different.  Sam Bradford stood in for Nick Foles and Washington subbed for New Orleans with Kirk Cousins doing his best Drew Brees impersonation.  It was a nightmare revisited.  As fate would have it Chip Kelly, Bill Davis, and the Eagles face New Orleans again Sunday, and have yet another chance to exorcise their demons.

Last Week Recap

For the third week in a row, the model proved to be accurate.  As favorites against Washington, the Eagles were given an initial pre-game win probability of 58%.  Yes, the Eagles lost, but the model also highlighted the conditions under which a loss was more probable.  When applying the Eagles’ actual turnover margin to last week’s model, the Eagles "Actual win probability" dropped to 39%. The team also lost in the model by an average score of 25 – 21, pretty damn close to the actual result.

Week Opponent Pre-Game Win Probability Actual Win Probability Result Score
Week 1 Atlanta 0.61 0.60 L 24-26
Week 2 Dallas 0.42 0.19 L 10-20
Week 3 New York Jets 0.26 0.74 W 24-17
Week 4 Washington 0.58 0.39 L 20-23

This Week’s Simulation

Interact with the viz to see how changes in the number of simulation runs, turnovers, and point spread impact win probabilities.

Philadelphia Offense versus New Orleans Defense

The Eagles’ offense has settled into a mid-60% efficiency range.  Bradford has completed 60.6% of his passes and finally has more touchdowns (6) than interceptions (4).  However, the Eagles only score 1.38 points and have 4.75 plays per drive.  DeMarco Murray looks to return this week and change things.

If the Eagles’ offense has struggled, then so has New Orleans’ defense.  They operate at a 66% rate of efficiency allow 5.7 plays and 2.42 points per drive and rank dead last in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.  But, bonus points for beating Dallas.

Advantage: None.

New Orleans Offense versus Philadelphia Defense

Despite not scoring the points, Drew Brees has operated the New Orleans offense relatively efficiently (73.5%), completing over 71% of his passes.  Since Sproles departure, Brees has missed a dynamic receiving threat from the backfield, but an emerging C.J. Spiller may fix that.

The Philadelphia Eagles defense continues to rank high in DVOA (5th) but has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 66% of their passes. They’ve also been on the field a lot, almost 74 plays per game and six plays per drive.

Advantage: New Orleans.

Point Spread and Bayes Odds

The Eagles enter the game as five point favorites.  Since 1994, five point favorites have a 66% chance of victory.

What It All Means

Based on offense versus defense efficiency stats, the Eagles win just about 26% of the simulated games.  When these results are combined with historical point spread win percentages, the probability that the Eagles win on Sunday increases to 39%.

There are conditions under which the Eagles can improve their chances, or harm them.  Those conditions primarily involve turnovers.  If New Orleans has a +1 TO differential, then the Eagles’ odds of victory drop to just 15%.  If the Eagles have a +1 TO differential (which seems more likely), their Bayes odds improve to just 55%.  But forcing turnovers against New Orleans has been tough; they’ve turned over the ball six times through four games.

The Eagles have yet to win a game they are favored, but look to reverse that trend this week at home.

On a personal note, I’ve worked on this post in spits and spats late at night from beds in hospital and at home.  Crazy that I now have a daughter, Ella, who was born Monday afternoon.  She has served as the perfect remedy for last week’s aberration.  And, hopefully one more Eagles fan in the world will help tip the scales in our favor.  Go Birds.