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The 2018 Eagles: A Tale of Two Teams

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Which one’s the real one?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this year, I made a bold statement that the Eagles will not win the Super Bowl. At 4-4, the team only has a 67% chance to make the playoffs, it appears I might have been on to something. As you, a beloved reader of BGN who never skips straight to the comments, recall from reading this article, I was very critical of the Eagles’ secondary, specifically Jalen Mills and the cornerback position. Well now that our favorite team in green has played half of their 2018 games, lets take a look at how my hawt taeks aged and what the heck is going on.

It dawned on me recently that the Eagles have almost been two separate teams. At times, like Week 6 against the Giants or the second half of the showdown in Minnesota, the Eagles look like a dominant, champion caliber team. At other times, like the first half of the game against Tampa Bay or the end of the Panthers game, the team looks lost, confused, and downright terrible. Using my Engineering background, I was able to determine which halves the Eagles outscored their opponents, and which halves the Eagles got outscored in.

The Good Eagles:

Eagles 149 - Opponent 65: (2.3 K/D Ratio)

Week 1, Half 2: Eagles 15- Falcons 6

Week 2, Half 2: Eagles 14 - Buccaneers 7

Week 3: Eagles 20 - Colts 16

Week 4, Half 1: Eagles 10 - Titans 3

Week 5, Half 2: Eagles 18 - Vikings 6

Week 6: Eagles 38 - Giants 9

Week 7, Half 1: Eagles 10 - Panthers 0

Week 8: Eagles 24 - Jaguars 18

The Bad Eagles:

Eagles 33 - Opponent 87: (0.38 K/D Ratio)

Week 1, Half 1: Eagles 3 - Falcons 6

Week 2, Half 1: Eagles 7 - Buccaneers 20

Week 4, Half 2: Eagles 13 - Titans 23

Week 5, Half 1: Eagles 3 - Vikings 17

Week 7, Half 2: Eagles 7 - Panthers 21

While it appears the Good Eagles have shown up more than the Bad Eagles, it is very concerning just how bad the Bad Eagles have been. When diving into the data between these groups of halves, one thing stood out like a bad Jerry Jones haircut.

All that Matters is The Ability to Generate Pressure

The Good Eagles have generated pressure on 50.2% of passing plays, a rate which is simply astounding. The Bad Eagles, on the other hand, have generated pressure on just 37.4% of plays. Consequently, the Good Eagles have allowed a passer rating of just 74.5, a mark that would be best in the league if only the Good Eagles were an actual team. Unfortunately, the Bad Eagles, who have allowed a passer rating of 106.5 (a mark that would be 3rd worst in the league), need to be considered as well. When broken down by halves and graphed, you get something like this:

To summarize the chart above. When the Eagles:

  • Generate pressure on > 37.2% of snaps, they outscore their opponents 90.9% of the time
  • Hold opposing QBs to a rating of < 94.0, they outscore their opponents 88.9% of the time.
  • Do both, they outscore their opponents 100% of the time
  • Do neither, they outscore their opponents 0% of the time

Also, when the Eagles generate pressure on > 37.2% of snaps, opposing QBs throw for a passer rating of < 94.0 63.6% of the time.

To put it simply, when the Eagles generate a lot of pressure, they limit the effectiveness of the opposing gunslinger and usually win the game (or in this case, the half).

It appears that the Eagles success so far in 2018 has been almost entirely dependent on the defense and their ability to generate pressure and slow down the passing game. The ability of the Eagles to slow down opposing running attacks also appears to have little to nothing to do with the outcome, as the Good Eagles have allowed 4.8 yards per carry, while the Bad Eagles have allowed just 3.9.

Pressure, with a sprinkle of production by the offense, that is.

While pressure generated seems to be the most important factor in terms of success by the Eagles this season, it would be foolish to ignore the inconsistency of the offense throughout the same games. Similar to above, I broke down the offensive production, by half, into a plot to look for any correlation between success in the passing game or success in the running game and winning.

In summary, when the Eagles:

  • Run the ball for 3.9 or more yards per carry, they outscore their opponents 90% of the time.
  • Pass the ball for 6.9 or more YPA, they outscore their opponents 81.8% of the time.
  • Do both, they outscore their opponents 100% of the time.
  • Do neither, they outscore their opponents 0% of the time.

Given the recent trade for Golden Tate, it appears the Eagles agree that more production should be had out of the Philly passing game. Without Jay Ajayi, the team may struggle to dominate on the ground, but the data shows that if they can be merely league average with a proficient passing attack, that is enough to win.

Given the data, it is evident what the team needs to focus on moving forward if they want the Good Eagles to simply become the 2018 Eagles:

Passing, Passing, Passing, Passing, Passing.

On offense, the Good Eagles pass for 8.0 yards per attempt, and run for 4.2 yards per carry while their negative counterpart passes for just 5.8 yards per attempt and 3.7 yards per carry. While 3.7 yards per carry is nothing to write home about, it is enough to get first downs and be effective. 5.8 yards per attempt, on the other hand, is what you get if you want to be in between Josh Allen and Tyrod Taylor. For this reason, it is comforting to see that the Eagles made a trade to increase the effectiveness of the aerial attack and not the ground game

As far as defense goes, the Eagles are plenty good at stopping the run. As mentioned above, the Good Eagles are actually worse at it than the Bad Eagles, and yet they are undefeated! While the secondary will remain a liability for the remainder of the season, a dominant pass rush that the team has proven capable of generating is the only thing separating a 4-4 defense from an 8-0 defense.