Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Numbers That Matter
Below are three Eagles numbers that matter.
85.9 – The Birds’ chances of earning a playoff berth, according to Football Outsiders. According to the Web site, they have a 73.2 percent chance of winning the division, while the Cowboys are at 26.2 percent.
The Eagles have a 42.9 percent chance of earning a bye in the first round and a 22.5 percent chance of making it to the Super Bowl. That’s the top mark in the NFC and second in the NFL to only the Broncos.
That’s a roundabout way of saying the Eagles are well-positioned to make a run. They face the Packers, Seahawks and Cowboys (twice) in the next five weeks. Big games ahead and big expectations for this team in Chip Kelly’s second season.
26.7 – The percentage of drives in which the Eagles’ defense has forced a three-and-out. That ranks sixth in the NFL and is a huge difference from a year ago when the number was 18.9 percent (30th). After last season, Billy Davis and company made it clear that the defense needed to do a better job of getting off the field. And despite just one new starter (Malcolm Jenkins), the Eagles have done just that.
They are 12th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 38.41 percent of the time. Last year, they were 24th (41.15 percent).
One thing that has really helped: field position. Opponents are starting drives, on average, at their own 24.86 yard line. That’s the second-best mark in the league.
“All of last year and this year now, the drive start is a huge part,” said Billy Davis. “We’re constantly trying to figure out what’s [the offense’s] personality inside the 10. You don’t see it much, but when you play us, you’re going to have the backed‑up plays because Donnie does such a good job, and the coverage unit does such a good job. The coverage units are a huge part of our defense and drive starts.”
The defensive players this week seemed loose and excited to measure themselves against Aaron Rodgers and company.
4.5 – The Eagles’ average number of points per red zone trip this season. That ranks 25th in the NFL. What’s surprising is that the offense produced a similar number (4.58) in 2013.
Of course, there are differences. Cody Parkey has obviously been better than Alex Henery. And the Eagles converted red-zone trips into touchdowns 53.23 percent of the time in 2013 (13th). This year, they’re at 50 percent (26th).
The good news? The offense is 7-for-7 in the red zone with Mark Sanchez.
Many often suggest that this is essentially a plug-and-play offense. That it doesn’t matter who’s at quarterback, wide receiver, etc. But the truth is the Eagles have been mediocre on offense all season long. The points-per-game stats are deceiving because of the scores on defense and special teams. Per Football Outsiders, the Eagles are 17th in overall offensive efficiency.
If the Birds are going to make a run, they need to achieve more consistency on that side of the ball.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Frustrated LeSean McCoy is trying to grind through some tough games, writes McManus.
An All-22 look at how Mark Sanchez moved in the pocket, plus why the Eagles changed their game plan last week.
An All-22 look at the Eagles’ run-game struggles.
T-Mac reports on where things stand with Earl Wolff.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Les Bowen of the Daily News predicts a 31-27 Packers victory:
I really don’t think the Packers, outside of Rodgers, are real special, especially on defense. There will be holes to run through and receivers getting open. But for that to matter enough, the Eagles will have to get the ball and keep it, develop some offensive rhythm. I see long stretches of Mark Sanchez blowing on his hands on the sideline, LeSean McCoy huddled within one of those hooded cape things, while Rodgers converts a third-and-19 to sustain yet another drive, the pass rush close but not quite getting there.
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers his thoughts on Sanchez:
There were several confused players early on. Sanchez was directing players left and right. Was he calling the plays correctly? We’re not used to seeing that many guys get moved around. Quick screens were an adventure throughout the game. Sanchez moved Darren Sproles from left to right on one play, then threw left, where Riley Cooper was blocking for no one. That’s serious confusion. Sanchez fired a quick screen to Cooper that looked off target. There was no rhythm to those plays, for the most part. Screens to Maclin and Sproles worked, but what is normally a safe, efficient play was highly erratic last night.
We’ll have a scouting report, predictions and more.