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Crunching The Numbers Week 15: Eagles Falter (Again)

Another week, another loss in this roller coaster of a season. Does the inconsistency of the Eagles show up in the numbers?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Merry Christmas! The Eagles sure left us with a big lump of coal, didn't they? The blowout loss to the Cardinals may have been meaningless, but it crushed many a fan's optimism about being able to win a playoff game - should they even qualify, of course. It's easy to be negative about this team for a myriad of valid reasons. But it's also Christmas, so I'm going to do my best to stay positive, dammit.

And I will do that by going back to the last time the Eagles won a playoff game, in 2008. The season of 44-6. But there was another game that season, a game that has become an afterthought in the heavy nostalgia of that magical playoff run. The game that was played just a week before the resounding destruction of the Cowboys: 3-10.

Yes, that 3-10. The 3-10 loss to the Redskins that knocked the Eagles off from controlling their own destiny and seemed to all but doom them from qualifying for the postseason. The game against the Cardinals is similar in many ways - it happened after two big wins and it derailed any momentum they might have going into January. But unlike the game versus Washington, the Eagles still control their destiny if they can somehow manage to hold off the Redskins with a banged up secondary. It will be a game between two very mediocre teams, so can the numbers show us who might have the edge?

(As always, an archive of posts in this series can be found here and a breakdown of my scoring system can be found here.)

Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 15

RANKING
Rank Team Score
1 Carolina 38.808
2 Arizona 32.059
3 Seattle 31.090
4 Cincinnati 29.547
5 New England 25.472
6 Kansas City 25.264
7 New York Jets 23.311
8 Pittsburgh 19.502
9 Buffalo 18.427
10 Minnesota 17.641
11 Denver 16.610
12 Green Bay 11.837
13 New York Giants 11.265
14 Tampa Bay 11.132
15 Philadelphia 10.944
16 Houston 10.651
17 Washington 10.090
18 Atlanta 9.412
19 St. Louis 9.298
20 Oakland 8.801
21 Chicago 8.633
22 Dallas 4.573
23 Jacksonville 4.136
24 Baltimore 2.463
25 San Diego 2.148
26 Detroit 1.640
27 New Orleans 1.146
28 Indianapolis 0.963
29 Tennessee -1.010
30 Miami -2.076
31 San Francisco -4.003
32 Cleveland -5.483

Why the Eagles are 15th

Last Week: 13th (-2)

Fitting, isn't it? A mediocre team is smack dab in the middle of the rankings. I'm going to avoid beating a dead horse over the technical statistics because it's all the same. The season-long trend that has emerged is fascinating, however. For all the talk about the Eagles being a high-variance team, the offense has been ridiculously consistent for the last half of the season, keeping their overall offensive score between 21-23 in every game since week eight. The problem is that the league average is usually somewhere between 20-21, so they have just been consistently mediocre (for perspective, Carolina currently leads the metric with a score of 29.5).

So what about this high variance? It's come entirely from the special teams and defense. The special teams play, which is not formally accounted for in these rankings, has either been good or incredible, while the defense has been wholly schizophrenic. Their overall score has varied between 6.5 and 8.1 over the same period. The league average hovers between 7.7 and 7.9, and it should be noted that the defensive score is subtracted from the offensive score, so low score wins (like golf). The Panthers also currently lead this category with a score of 4.3.

Essentially, from here on out you can pin the outcome of the game on the defense, regardless of whether they win or lose.

Week 16 Reconnaissance: Washington Redskins

As you can see, the Redskins are basically as mediocre as the Eagles with their rank of seventeen. The notable difference is that they are much more consistent in their mediocrity. They haven't beaten any teams that are better than them and they haven't lost to any teams that are worse than them. They are what they are, so we know what to expect.

We can expect them to protect the passer well (1.7 sacks per game allowed versus a league average of 2.3) and throw the ball moderately well (a passer rating of 97 against the average of 90.6). However, opposing quarterbacks generally enjoy the same amount of success against their secondary, and they are slightly below average (2.3) when it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback (2.1 sacks per game). They also share the same turnover margin per game with the Eagles (-0.1) and have similar scoring statistics, although the Redskins have a slight advantage on the defensive side.

What does all this mean? It means that this game might come down to homefield advantage... or injuries. Not exactly the narrative you want to hear going into the biggest game of the season.

Notes

There are no notes this week (or next week). At this point in the season, teams are what they are, and diving into that would be an exercise in redundancy. It doesn't matter what the other teams are doing, anyway. It's time to do or die, nut up or shut up. Just win.