Joy. Elation. Vindication. So many words describe the way it feels to beat the New England Patriots. I have never seen the Eagles beat the league's evil empire - or any past equivalent to it - and I know that this will go in the memory banks as one of the top Eagles games I've ever witnessed, even if it was ugly at times.
If you allow me to be candid, I will admit that it's nice to see the community here focus on "what could be" in this terrible division as opposed to the tired "draft pick vs. pride" argument that has gone on for so long. Of course, I may be biased with this since I am in favor of playing to win the game, no matter how low the stakes are. Additionally, it was nice to see the players really fight for Chip considering that they were down by two scores at one point early in the game. If he had truly lost the locker room, there is no way that they would have scored thirty-five unanswered points in New England. I don't care if only two of them were on offense. That simply would not happen.
But I digress. Let's get onto the number to see how the Eagles graded out in their performance. As always, you can find an archive of the posts in this series here and a breakdown of my scoring system here.
Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 13
|7||New York Jets||20.680|
|17||New York Giants||9.854|
Why the Eagles are 14th
Last Week: 17th (+3)
The Birds only moved up three spots this week and their score went up by roughly two points. I believe this to be fair, considering the somewhat fluky nature of the game. Yes, Philadelphia made plays when they needed to, but to say that the nature of the win was not typical is a completely valid point. Not that I care, of course. They beat the friggin' Patriots. But facts like these will invariably rear their ugly heads in the numbers.
In spite of giving up 28 points, the defense showed marked improvement last week as opposed to the previous two games. Their pass rush is now averaging a respectable 2.5 sacks per game (the league average is 2.3) and they've bumped the passer rating allowed down to 91.1. This still isn't great - the league average is 90.5 - but it is noticeably better than last week's number of 93.4. There was also a nice bump in how often teams pass against them. This is probably explained mostly by how little the Patriots run the ball, something that is well-documented here. At the same token, New England was down 21 and not exactly in a position to run the ball if they wanted to anyway.
On offense, it is much of the same. They still run the ball well in important metrics (rushing first downs and rushing play percentage) and their pass protection has improved to the league average. The passer rating saw a good boost to a still-mediocre 82.9, which makes sense since Bradford's play - while not spectacular - was absolutely clutch when it needed to be. Ultimately, they will have to step up that play if they want to beat a good opponent next week in the Bills.
Week 14 Reconnaissance: Buffalo Bills
The Bills, while 6-6 on the season, are a good football team. They are well-coached (outside of penalties) and do several things well on offense and defense. In particular, they hold an advantage over the Eagles in the categories of passer rating, rushing first downs per game, rushing attempts per game, rushing play percentage, passer rating allowed, opponent passing play percentage, opponent rushing play percentage, score differential per game, and turnover margin per game. In fact the only real areas where the Eagles beat them out is with pass protection and pass rush. They edge out the Bills in protection (2.6 sacks per game allowed to 2.3) and enjoy a notable advantage in pass rush (2.5 sacks per game to 1.5).
Given all this, the path to victory for the Eagles involves pretty much one thing: keeping contain on Tyrod Taylor. If they can box him in between the tackles and get sacks, they can force the Bills into long down-and-distance situations that are not conducive to their strength, which is the running game. On the flip side, Sam should have a clean pocket to throw from, so it will all come down to his decision making against a defense that is only allowing a passer rating of 84.6. Being in Philly, I think this will be a winnable game for the Eagles, but it will by no means be an easy one. Expect another ugly game out there on Sunday.
The Panthers' scoring defense dropped down to ninth after their nail-biting win over the Saints, and they're still only allowing 20.2 points per game on the season ... NFC East division leader Washington has a score differential of -2.4 points per game ... Russell Wilson of the surging Seahawks owns the NFC's best passer rating at 105.9, a hair above Carson Palmer's 105.6.