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Crunching The Numbers Week 14: Eagles Show Progress

In a game between two mostly evenly-matched teams, there was no real eye-popping performance on either offense or defense (outside of Fletcher Cox). Does this solid yet unspectacular play show up in the numbers?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Living in southeastern Connecticut (roughly ten miles from the Rhode Island border along the Long Island Sound) has its perks and downsides. For example, one perk is that I live within a twenty minute drive of four excellent, hole-in-the-wall craft breweries, so I am never in short supply of fantastic beer. On the flip side, the area is crawling with Patriots fans. Still beaming after their victory in Foxborough, I proclaimed to two Pats fans that I know that if the Eagles beat the Bills, they would win out. I still stand by that.

Of course, I am basing this claim off of subjective qualities - namely confidence and the idea of "peaking" at the right time. Do cold, objective numbers provide any support to that? Let's find out (and remember, an archive of posts can be found here while a breakdown of my scoring system is here).

Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 14

RANKING
Rank Team Score
1 Carolina 40.542
2 Arizona 30.193
3 Seattle 29.680
4 Cincinnati 28.656
5 New England 24.497
6 Kansas City 24.020
7 New York Jets 23.216
8 Green Bay 21.624
9 Pittsburgh 20.193
10 Buffalo 19.376
11 Denver 16.445
12 Minnesota 14.700
13 Philadelphia 13.705
14 Tampa Bay 12.379
15 Chicago 11.552
16 New York Giants 11.540
17 Oakland 9.236
18 Houston 9.173
19 Washington 8.628
20 Atlanta 8.198
21 St. Louis 7.717
22 Dallas 4.844
23 Jacksonville 4.394
24 Baltimore 4.382
25 New Orleans 1.982
26 Indianapolis 1.150
27 Tennessee 0.341
28 San Diego -0.692
29 Detroit -1.236
30 Miami -1.296
31 San Francisco -2.778
32 Cleveland -4.249

Why the Eagles are 13th

Last Week: 14th (+1)

One whole spot! WOO! What an exciting development! If we're being serious, a one-spot jump sounds about right considering that they played "just good enough to win" football last week. I'm not trying to downplay how the play of the team looked (especially Sam Bradford's command of the offense), but I am just going by the numbers. And I think pretty much everyone can agree that the statistics from last week's game, on the whole, were nothing to sneeze at.

Let's start with the offense. They have been pretty consistently mediocre all year, so I'm not going to repeat things I have said several times before in this post. However, it is worth mentioning that the passer rating continues to improve after experiencing a sharp decline with Sanchez at the helm. On defense, the turnaround has been much more remarkable, as they have been able to drop their passer rating allowed by 3.5 points in only two games. Teams are also starting to pass the ball more again, which is a sign that things are pointing in the right direction.

So what is the cause of the flip on defense? I know I like to keep this post quantitative rather than qualitative, but I don't think we can discount the impact that Bradford's presence has on the team at this point. It's almost as if he inspires a belief in the defense that the offense will score points, which is huge for a unit that is on the field so much. Conversely, Sanchez inspired no confidence whatsoever, and the defense seemed to have no interest in giving it their all when they felt the offense was just going to go 3-and-out anyway. Obviously there is no way to prove any of this, but I think it's worth considering as we enter the final stretch of the season.

Week 15 Reconnaissance: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are the second-ranked team in the rankings. Granted, they are a full ten points behind the seemingly unstoppable Panthers, but the talent of this team cannot be understated. They are beating the Eagles in the four biggest statistical categories: scoring offense (31.2 points per game), scoring defense (19.4 points per game), passer rating (106.5), and passer rating allowed (78.1). They also enjoy a slight advantage in turnover margin per game, +0.5 to +0.2.

That being said, this is quite a winnable game for the Eagles. Arizona's metrics for rushing first downs per game (5.8), rushing attempts per game (28.8), and sacks forced per game (1.8) are either pedestrian or much below average. The victory can be had in the details, which means Kelly and Davis will have to bring a strong gameplan. Just based upon the statistics above, the Eagles should be able to give Sam Bradford time to throw and they should be able to hold up on defense in third-and-short situations. While Carson Palmer is having a career year (see the passer rating above) and is not getting sacked often (1.6 per game), the Eagles can use scheme to tip the game in their favor by putting Fletcher Cox in a position to draw double- and triple-teams and free up lanes to rush the passer.

If both teams were to execute well with traditional gameplans, the Cardinals would win. They are simply the more talented team. But small deficiencies in Arizona's play means this game can - and will - be won by the Eagles in the meeting room. Should Kelly and Davis be able to exploit those weaknesses to their advantage Philadelphia can leave the Linc on Sunday night with their second win against playoff teams in three weeks.

Notes

Can a team be better than their record? Well according to this, the Cowboys (at 4-9) are better than the Colts (6-7), who are currently leading the putrid AFC South ... Aaron Rodgers' passer rating (97.5) is below 100 for the first time since 2008, his first season as the Packers' starting quarterback ... The Chiefs, led by Andy Reid, are now winners of seven straight games by virtue of their strong running game (7.3 rushing first downs per game) and excellent pass defense (passer rating allowed of 78.5 and three sacks per game).