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Nick Foles is unlikely to get hot. It may not matter.

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"Defense wins championships" will be tested

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Foles heads into the season finale coming off a dismal game. He completed just five passes to his wide receivers, giving him a dreadful 4.3 yards per attempt. He finished with a 59.4 passer rating, and was 0 for 12 on 3rd down, including a sack. On the brightside, it’s hard to play worse than he did, so he should improve.

With only one other QB on the roster, Foles is going to get playing time on Sunday in a meaningless game, and given that the Cowboys defense is lousy (but then, the Raiders defense is downright terrible), he will immediately get opportunity to bounce back. But will it matter? Foles is anything but consistent. Through his career as a starter, Foles generally follows great games up with terrible ones. Looking at his game by game passer rating as a starter, it’s scattershot.

Carson Wentz, by comparison, has shallower valleys and clear progression.

Even in his ridiculous 2013 season, Foles had huge ups and downs. In his first start he threw 3 touchdowns for a 133.3 passer rating, in his second he had a passer rating of 46.2. Illustrating his inconsistent play, his third start was his 7 touchdown game. It was more of the same in 2014, where a 3 TD, 114.4 rating performance was followed by a 2 interception, 42.3 rating game. This continued in St. Louis, where 3 games with a 100+ passer rating were followed by games of 76.3, 23.7, and 68.7.

More importantly, he hasn’t shown he can go on a hot streak. Two games after his 7 TD game, he threw no TDs, and his passer rating of 104.3, on its own a very good number, was a 45 point drop from the week before, his third lowest as a starter that season. The next time he puts together back-to-back games with a rating of at least 90 (a rating of 90 would be 20th, 18th and 16th best in the last three seasons, so it is quite literally a middle of the pack performance) will be the first since 2013. Wentz has 4 such multi-game streaks. What the Eagles (and any playoff team that is forced to play a backup) need is for Foles to not turn the ball over. Fortunately, Foles has been pretty good at that. In his 38 starts he has gone without an interception in 21 of them, and has just 6 multi-interception games.

Luckily for the Eagles, they may not need Foles to get hot to go far in the playoffs, so long as he does not get ice cold in January. Because the Eagles defense has played lights out at home.

Points 2nd
Yards/play 4th
Passer rating 5th
Rush yards/attempt 4th
Rushing yards 2nd

The Eagles haven’t given up a rushing TD at home, and they have a 10/11 TD/INT ratio.

But that may be misleading, the Eagles have faced weak competition at home. The highest scoring team they have faced are the Redskins, who are 14th in scoring. Everyone else is in or near the bottom third of the league in scoring: the 49ers (21st) Raiders (24th), Cardinals (25th), Broncos (27th), Bears (29th), and Giants (31st). This is a two way street, for had the 49ers, Raiders, Cardinals, and Bears not been held to 10 points or less by the Eagles, they’d rank higher. And a couple of those teams were fairly hot at the time. The Bears came to town with one of the best rushing attacks, the Eagles held them to a laughable 6 yards. The 49ers put up over 400 yards in 4 of their previous 5 games (one of which was in OT), including 501 in the week before, the Eagles held them to 304.

Whoever comes to town will likely be a good road offense. The Rams (1st in points per game), Saints (6th), Vikings (10th) and Panthers (11th) are all good to great offenses on the road, and road defenses that are just as good: Saints (4th in points per game), Vikings (7th), Rams (8th) Panthers (9th).

If the Eagles defense’s strong play at home isn’t just a matter of being fortunate in opponent strength, it should be good enough to win playoff games. If Nick Foles can simply take care of the ball, the Eagles might not be in dire straits.