It may be fading, but I can still recall that feeling of excitement that gripped me as I watched Sam Bradford completely dismantle Green Bay's defense last August in a meaningless preseason game. I really felt like there was something to look forward to in the upcoming season.
And now, here we are, in the aftermath in one of the most disappointing seasons in memory.
The only thing left to do is to move forward, and a great way to figure out where to start is to sift through the information we do have to get our bearings. With that, I present the final rankings for the 2015 season. An archive of my posts can be found here and a breakdown of my scoring system is detailed here.
Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 17
|8||New York Jets||21.171|
|19||New York Giants||8.585|
Why the Eagles are 18th
Last Week: 20th (+2)
The Eagles are twentieth because they are, simply put, a mediocre team. On offense, they hovered around the league average in sacks allowed, rushing attempts per game, and rushing percentage. The only category where they were above average was rushing first downs per game (6.9) and even that is middling when compared to the average (5.8).
The offense could have kept them afloat, however, had the defense not suffered yet another trademark collapse down the stretch. They weren't downright awful cumulatively; their only true below-average metric was passer rating allowed (92.8) and even that was fewer than three points above the average (90.5). What's really important about this is how good they were earlier in the season. At one point, they were sixth in passer rating allowed. That regression below the mean was more of the reason for their failure than any mediocrity on offense, which speaks volumes about Billy Davis when you consider the level of talent on the roster. Yes, losing Hicks for the season hurt a lot, but you don't see a catastrophe of that magnitude with so many other decent players in place.
Speaking of catastrophe, the turnovers became an issue also, as they went from a healthy +0.6 on the season to a lackluster -0.3. That swing is, once again, unprecedented. Simply put, the team played its worst football when it meant the most, and was probably the biggest reason Kelly got fired. A good coach is able to squeeze the most out of their players, especially in a very winnable division like the NFC East where it is easy to stay motivated, and the fact he was unable to do that is pretty damning of him. If only he had been able to relate to his players more... I always said Kelly thought like an engineer, I just never thought he'd have the social skills of one (or lack thereof).
Preliminary Rankings Review
I'll get into a more detailed review of how my rankings performed this year in another post. For now, let's look to see where each playoff seed ended up in my rankings. Ideally, they will all be teams 1-12, but that has never been the case.
1. Denver (13)
2. New England (6)
3. Cincinnati (4)
4. Houston (12)
5. Kansas City (5)
6. Pittsburgh (10)
1. Carolina (1)
2. Arizona (3)
3. Minnesota (7)
4. Washington (14)
5. Green Bay (11)
6. Seattle (2)
So we have a kind of jumbled mix here, but overall teams that did well in my rankings made the playoffs. That might not seem surprising, but again keep in mind that I didn't factor wins into my formula. The numbers involved do not care that the Panthers have fifteen wins and the Seahawks have ten; to them they are only seven points apart. And of course my system can't account for tiebreaking procedures, which sometimes yield bizarre results like with what we see in the AFC. But overall I think it reflects a successful system. Whether or not it is a good predictive model is another thing entirely, and that is something I'll get to another time.
In the meantime, enjoy the playoffs, even if they are Eagle-less. And if you want to use these rankings as advice for picking games this weekend, do so at your own risk. Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone! Here's to another great year of Eagles blogging at Bleeding Green Nation.