According to Rotoworld fantasy football expert Evan Silva, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles are primed to make another big run in 2018. They boast the best quarterback room in the league. They’re returning key starters like left tackle Jason Peters and linebacker Jordan Hicks. Their front office has upgraded the roster with key additions like Michael Bennett, Mike Wallace and Dallas Goedert. Their coaching staff, despite some departures, boasts some of the brightest minds in the sport.
There are several ingredients that point to success for the Eagles. The secret sauce is their ability to leverage their data and adapt to new realities on the battlefield. It’s no surprise that they’ve become darlings for analysts like Warren Sharp and Silva, who are just as receptive as the Eagles to what the numbers are saying.
“The Eagles pumped analytics into [Doug] Pederson’s headset, creating a competitive edge.” – Evan Silva
Under every rock there is evidence of how much importance the coaching staff places on analytics. Those shifts become even more apparent as you dissect the playoff run.
For the Eagles, after an INC on 1st Down & 10 (non-4th quarter):— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) July 10, 2018
Pass - 46% Frequency, 41% Success Rate, 6.84 Yards Per Play
Run - 54% Frequency, 29% Success Rate, 4.74 Yards Per Play
In the playoffs they faced this scenario 7x & passed 5x for 10 yards per play & a 80% SR.
Working through Silva’s fantasy preview of the Eagles by position, there are several positives, but he did project quarterback Carson Wentz to have reduced scoring production.
“Wentz is expected to be ready for Week 1, but his early-season mobility may be compromised… Wentz’s legs are a huge part of his game, and he has a touchdown regression forthcoming.”
We’ve talked about the need to protect Wentz by reducing his time-to-throw with quick-hitting concepts. This would likely shave a little off the top of his blistering 7.5% touchdown rate, which led the league, so a regression wouldn’t be a shock. Still, I projected Wentz to break franchise records as a passer in 2018 and I’m sticking to those guns.
Beyond his health and mobility, there are a few factors that could lead to a lower touchdown rate for Wentz. One of those is efficiency running the ball in the red zone, especially inside the 5-yard line. Silva believes that role to be undetermined. I’ve made the case that Jay Ajayi will get first crack at those carries. Based on Ajayi’s past efficiency with the Miami Dolphins (5 for 11), the Eagles 29th ranked touchdown rate from short distance will improve and ultimately take potential scores off the board for Wentz.
Silva mostly praised the weapons for Wentz in the receiving game. He called the newly acquired Mike Wallace a “far superior player” than Torrey Smith, ranked Zach Ertz as his third tight end, and noted Nelson Agholor’s team leading 3.0 average yards of separation while crediting his use of sports psychology to bust out last year.
When it came time to plant his flag, Silva pushed in his chips in favor of the defending champions.
“The Eagles’ Win Total opened at 10.5 with -140 odds… [Howie] Roseman has arguably built the best roster in the league, complemented by the coaching staff’s use of analytics to optimize game planning and play calling… Especially at such favorable odds, I’m taking the over on 10.5 wins.”
The Eagles are underdogs no more. Outside of a few doubters, traditional and forward thinking analysts alike are expecting big things from them in 2018.