Have you ever seen "I Am Legend"? If not, go ahead and watch it, because it's a good movie. To summarize, a massive pandemic wipes out most of Earth's population. In a flashback, Will Smith tries to save his family by putting them on a helicopter that is leaving Manhattan before the government blows up the Brooklyn bridge to quarantine the entire island. He watches the helicopter go up, and it seems like his family will get to safety, but a crowd of desperate civilians latches onto the landing gear, and the helicopter loses balance and goes into a tailspin. It eventually crashes, killing everyone on board.
That helicopter was the Eagles' November.
Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 12
|7||New York Jets||21.440|
|18||New York Giants||10.688|
Why the Eagles are 17th
Last Week: 13th (-4)
So, here we are. Less than three weeks after the tough loss to the Dolphins, where the Eagles were ranked eighth, and they have fallen nine spots to the middle of the pack. The numbers are showing a complete collapse by the defense: the once-tight secondary is now giving up a quarterback rating of 93.4 (the league average is 90.3), the pass rush is mediocre (2.4 sacks per game), and teams are running the ball against the front seven more than the league average. We can now start wondering just how much of an impact Jordan Hicks had on this team. It's easy to say that the team has simply quit on the coaches, but I'm inclined to think they are simply exhausted from picking up the slack of the anemic offense that Kelly has fielded this season.
Speaking of the offense, they have actually remained consistently half-baked for the most part. They still run the ball more (and on a higher percentage of plays) than the league average, but just barely. They get a respectable 7.4 first downs per game where the average is 5.8. The pass protection is starting to fall apart (2.5 sacks per game allowed to an average of 2.3) but some of that is because Sanchez holds onto the ball forever. They've also sunk to dead even on the turnover margin, but that is also somewhat the fault of the defense for not finishing plays.
So what does this all mean? Can the Eagles make a turnaround? Do we want them to? That is a valid question, but I personally adopt the "play to win the game" mentality, even if it means a lower draft pick. I think with their schedule and the state of the division, it is possible, but they need to show up against the Patriots. If they can keep the game to within one score through the fourth quarter, and maybe New England pulls away at the end and wins by 10 or 13, it might be enough to light a fire under them for the rest of the season. Of course, if the coaching staff has lost the locker room, this will never happen.
Enough of that. Let's talk about how awesome the Patriots are! (Yay!)
Week 13 Reconnaissance: New England Patriots
The Patriots are the fourth-ranked team in my scoring system, and for good reason. Tom Brady currently leads the league in passer rating (106.7), which is hardly a surprise. Defensively, they are criminally underrated, as they only allow their opponents a quarterback rating of 82.8 and are forcing a monstrous 3.2 sacks per game. Additionally, teams are also hurling the rock on over 64% of their plays, mostly because New England almost always has a commanding lead. The Pats lead the league in point differential at +12.2 per game and have a respectable turnover margin per game of +0.5.
If the Patriots have any weaknesses, it's that their pass protection is simply average (2.3 sacks allowed per game) and they are incredibly one-sided. They only run on 35% of their offensive plays and average 5.6 rushing first downs per game. Now, this is certainly mitigated by the fact that Tom Brady is their quarterback, but being one-dimensional at the very least makes them easier to game plan for, from a schematic point. In theory.
Again, playing competitive football - something the Eagles haven't really done since they beat Dallas in overtime back in October - might just be enough to start something the rest of the season. Unfortunately there isn't any evidence to suggest that will happen, but as a fan I feel obligated to entertain the idea, if only for a little while.
The Panthers are the last undefeated team and easily take first place by just over ten points in my system, which disregards wins ... Bruce Arians' offense has really taken flight in year three in Arizona, as the Cardinals lead the league in scoring (32.3 points per game) ... The Vikings are riding their surprise season on a strong running game (7.9 rushing first downs per game) and a respectable pass defense (86.2 passer rating allowed) ... Denver is only allowing a passer rating of 76.9, but that's actually better than the passer rating they produce (72.2), and the team is 9-2 and just handed the Patriots their first loss ... The New York Giants are the only team in the NFC East to have a positive point differential at an eye-popping +1.3 points per game.