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Crunching The Numbers: Week 9

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A new team on top for the midway point

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another division loss, this one not without its share of controversy and frustration. For the third time this season, the team quickly found itself in a 14 point deficit that was ultimately too steep to overcome and the Eagles suffered their fourth loss in five games. I’ll have more on this - and the rest of the season - in a post later this week, so I won’t touch on it too much here.

But what about the numbers? Are the statistics catching up to a team that’s currently in free fall? (A full archive of previous rankings can be found here.)

Crunching The Numbers Rank Index: Week 9

New England’s time on top was short-lived as they were toppled by the surging Cowboys, who easily dispatched the hapless Browns last Sunday. Minnesota continues their own downward spiral - they were the top team as recently as Week 6 - while the Chiefs have quietly entered the top five.

Why the Eagles are Third

Philadelphia retained its position as the third-place team, which on the surface seems hard to justify. The issue with the Eagles is not that they’re losing, but they’re finding creative ways to lose. This is extremely frustrating but also a good indicator that they are not really being completely outmatched and overwhelmed in their losses. They are being outplayed, certainly, but that is something to be expected of a team with marginal talent at multiple positions. To me, the Eagles are following the same arc that the Oakland Raiders embarked on in 2015 - a team that you could tell was not quite there, but they were on the cusp of greatness. In the offseason they put a few more pieces in place and are now legitimately challenging the Patriots for homefield advantage in the playoffs. The Eagles might not be ready to make that kind of leap, but they should absolutely be in playoff contention next season. Until then, they will continue to play competitive football, grade out decently in the metrics, but ultimately come up short.

Week 10 Reconnaissance: Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has been a curious team this season: deadly on offense but laughable on defense. This is even more odd when you consider that their head coach, Dan Quinn, is a defensive mind from Seattle. Playing at home for this game is a critical detail for the Eagles; the defense has yet to give up more than 10 points at the Linc. Another masterful home performance will be more than necessary as the Falcons’ offense has been an unstoppable force all season long. Matt Ryan is averaging a blistering 9.1 yards per attempt while only tossing a pick on 1.28% of his dropbacks. The Falcons are also taking care of the ball on the whole as they only fumble 0.6 times per game. And finally, they average an impressive 7 rushing first downs per game (the league average is 5.9).

Defense is a different story. Atlanta is slightly below the league average in takeaways per game (1.3) with 1.1. They are also essentially average with yards per pass attempt allowed (6.8) and are middling at best with their third down defense (44.6% conversion rate). Even though these numbers are not atrocious, they have added up to create a defense that allows almost 29 points a game. Even with the Eagles’ struggling offense, they should be able to move the ball.

Overall, the Falcons still probably get the edge in this game, purely because the Eagles’ defensive play has been suspect as of late. As much as I love deferring the opening kickoff, Pederson should consider receiving if he has the option. The key to beating the Falcons is to make them play catch-up; this gives you the opportunity to control the clock and keep Julio Jones off the field. Ball security is also paramount here and a facet of the game that the Eagles have wrangled with during their 1-4 skid.

Notes

The Chiefs lead the league in takeaways by a significant margin at 2.5 per game... New Orleans is allowing an embarrassing 8.1 yards per pass attempt... The Ravens are only managing 3.9 rushing first downs per game.