Each Wednesday, the SB Nation NFL team sites explore a special theme. This week's theme is: “Playoff predictions.”
There’s been a lot of talk about people being “negative” because they don’t believe in Nick Foles. I’m obviously one of those that have been accused. But while I might not be a Foles believer, it’s inaccurate to say I’ve given up on the Eagles entirely. There’s still reason to hope they can actually win the Super Bowl this year. It just won’t be easy.
If the Eagles are going to win their first Lombardi trophy in franchise history, it’s going to take a huge effort from their defense. I’m not breaking news here, of course, you already knew that.
The unfortunate reality is that the Eagles don’t own one of those historical defenses that can completely carry a bad quarterback to the Super Bowl. I’m talking about the kind of defenses that allowed Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson to win championships.
But they do have a good defense! And especially when it comes to playing at home, even dating back to last year. Take a look at how they rank in a number of categories.
Points per game allowed at home:
2017: 13.4 (2nd)
2016: 15.5 (2nd)
Touchdowns allowed at home per game
2017: 1.5 (3rd)
2016: 1.5 (tied for 2nd)
Yards per play allowed at home
2017: 4.6 (tied for 4th)
2016: 5.2 (tied for 10th)
Takeaways per game:
2017: 1.9 (4th)
2016: 1.6 (tied for 9th)
Focusing on this year, which is more relevant, take a look at the point totals the Eagles’ defense has allowed at Lincoln Financial Field this season: 24, 7, 24, 10, 16, 3, 10, 6.
And now let’s add some more context to those numbers.
- The Eagles allowed the most points in games against NFC East rivals. Division games are tougher since the two sides know each other so well.
- The Giants scored 24 when the Eagles were down to their fourth string safety: Chris Maragos. Plus Fletcher Cox (left game early), Jordan Hicks (left game early), and Ronald Darby (out) all weren’t playing. And the Giants just seem to have Jim Schwartz’s number, for some reason.
- Washington scored a garbage time touchdown against the Eagles.
- The 49ers scored a touchdown on a short field after Carson Wentz threw a bad interception.
- The Broncos scored a touchdown in garbage time.
- The Cowboys scored a touchdown against the Eagles’ backup defense.
Jim Schwartz isn’t perfect, but he’s a pretty good defensive coordinator. His unit has been able to do some real impressive things at the Linc. It’s not just like they’ve beat up on bad teams. I always think back to how he shut down an historically good Falcons offense last season.
Eagles limited Falcons to season lows in points scored, total net yards, 1st downs, offensive plays run, & time of possession. #JimSchwartz— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 13, 2016
I also think about how the Eagles led the NFL in pressure generated this season. The pass rush was expected to be a major strength of the team. It lived up to the hype, so far, and it’ll need to be strong moving forward. Fletcher Cox needs to be the absolute monster the Eagles are paying him to be. Same thing for Tim Jernigan. Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, and Derek Barnett have all proven to be forces off the edge this season. They need to keep that up.
The @Eagles defense finished the year with 41 more total pressures than any other unit.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) January 1, 2018
Only team to generate pressure on more than 40% of passing plays.
This is what can win them playoff games.
There’s a reason why it’s called home field “advantage.” Eagles fans do a great job of getting loud and making it tough on the opposing offense. The players seem to get more juiced for the home games. They play with more confidence and there’s an intimidation factor working for them.
Thanks to finishing with the No. 1 seed, the Eagles will only need to win one playoff game to make it to the NFC Championship Game. If they win that, they’ll be going to the Super Bowl.
Speaking of the big game, how does the Eagles’ defense compare to previous title winners? Let’s look.
2017 Eagles - 5th DVOA, 6th in points, t-6th in yards per play
2016 Patriots - 16th, 1st, 10th
2015 Broncos - 1st, 4th, 1st
2014 Patriots - 12th, 7th, t-9th
2013 Seahawks - 1st, 1st, 1st
2012 Ravens - 19th, 9th, t-6th
2011 Giants - 19th, 21st, t-16th
2010 Packers - 2nd, 1st, t-7th
2009 Saints - 17th, 18th, t-21st
2008 Steelers - 1st, 2nd, 1st
2007 Giants - 13th, 14th, 6th
Based on this list, I think you can argue the Eagles currently have a better defense than six of the past 10 Super Bowl winners.
Of course, it’s not that simple. These teams didn’t win titles just because of their defense. Most of them also had legitimate franchise quarterbacks. That’s something the Eagles don’t have right now with Foles under center.
But maybe, just maybe, the Eagles can win in spite of Foles. It’s certainly not likely, and it won’t be easy, but their home field defense at least gives them a fighting chance.
My prediction is that, even if the Eagles don’t win in the post-season, they’ll at least put up a good fight thanks to the defense.