Weekend Reading: ‘Fast Vs. the Furious’

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher - USA Today

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher – USA Today

Some links to pass along as we inch closer to Eagles-Seahawks:

Jason Bailey of Grantland wonders where the concern is for the Eagles’ league-leading turnover issue:

It’s pretty hard to win football games when you consistently give the ball to the other team. That’s no secret gem of coaching wisdom, but even just a cursory glance at the league’s five most charitable teams shows as much: The Raiders are 1-11. The Jaguars and Buccaneers are 2-10. The Giants are 3-9. And the Eagles … are 9-3 and leading the NFC East. Lowly Jacksonville got everyone’s attention by strip-sacking Nick Foles on Philadelphia’s first two drives of the season, and the turnovers haven’t stopped — the Eagles now lead the league with 28. Like someone juggling chain saws, they’re putting on quite a show, but it seems inevitable that something will go disastrously wrong.

On the surface, turnovers might not seem much worse than punts, but it’s the massive difference in field position that changes the equation. For every wayward pass that ends in an opponent’s arms 40-plus yards downfield, there is a snap fumbled away behind the line of scrimmage or a linebacker who steps in front of a short slant route. It’s part of the reason Philadelphia has fallen to 15th in offensive DVOA after finishing third in 2013.

After Nick Foles (10 interceptions, three lost fumbles) broke his collarbone in Week 9, Mark Sanchez (six interceptions, two lost fumbles) took over the bungling. But the former’s mistakes were less excusable and the latter’s are fixable. Foles underthrew receivers on his interceptions, often while throwing off his back foot because of pressure. Sanchez has more right to blame those receivers on his interceptions; his primary mistake has been fumbling shotgun snaps, and he has recovered three of those four loose balls.

Peter King of the MMQB titles his NFL Week 14 preview “The Fast vs. the Furious” with the Eagles-Seahawks matchup as the main storyline:

The Philadelphia Eagles have this word they love: “tempo.” As in: “We really like to play fast.” They lead all NFL teams in offensive plays run this season, averaging 72.9 per game, nine more than the average team runs in a game. In Mark Sanchez’s three wins since taking over as quarterback from the injured Nick Foles, the Eagles have scored 45, 43 and 33 points.

The Seattle Seahawks, fortified by the return of speedy middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and anvil-in-the-shoulder-pads strong safety Kam Chancellor in the past two games, have held their last two foes to two field goals, total. Through 13 NFL weeks, Seattle has finally reclaimed its place atop the NFL yards-allowed standings, a spot it dominated last season.

Seahawks (8-4) at Eagles (9-3) Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Great game. And great timing. Seattle’s finally playing to its 2013 postseason form. Philadelphia has its offensive line healthy and LeSean McCoy running like a rushing champion.

“We had a great weekend after playing on Thanksgiving,” said Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn this week. “Got to spend good time with the family and have a little mini-bye. But this was a good week for that. Normally you get to watch four games for your scouting report. I was able to watch a little more of Philadelphia because of the extra time, so that was valuable.”

“How many of their 12 games did you watch?” I asked.

“Pretty much all of them,” Quinn said.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com ranks all 32 starting quarterbacks with Mark Sanchez coming in at number 18.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland gives his NFL three-quarters mark awards and reviews his picks at the quarter and midway points:

Comeback Player of the Year

Week 4 (Quarter): Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
Week 9 (Half): Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
Week 13 (Three-Quarter): Mark Sanchez, Eagles

Eagles vs. Eagles! Maclin had been the clear choice for this award for the first two months, having overcome his second torn ACL to emerge as one of the most productive wide receivers in football. He hasn’t slipped much over the ensuing four weeks, and he was also the obvious favorite to win the award by a significant margin.

But then the Sanchize showed up. Not only is he also returning from missing 2013 with an injury, just like Maclin, but he’s also undergoing the emotional comeback from the butt fumble, which still thrills journalists on Twitter and pregame talk show hosts who need something to mention. Sanchez is quickly coming on as he rebuilds his career in Philadelphia, and because these awards basically amount to popularity contests, a quarterback with a big name is always going to win over a quietly impressive wide receiver.

Judy Battista of NFL.com talks about Sanchez’s revival under Chip Kelly and how he was a product of his circumstances:

It was a steep, rapid plummet for Sanchez, from beating Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive years in the playoffs to crashing into Brandon Moore’s posterior while a national television audience watched. Sanchez’s divorce from the Jets was ugly, wrapped in the bandage that sheathed his torn labrum, and it was precipitated by an extended tailspin that took down not just Sanchez’s career arc but, it seems in hindsight, at least two full seasons for New York.

The wreckage is still plain for the Jets. They have the memory of winning the Snoopy Trophy, which was the ostensible reason for disastrously inserting Sanchez behind backup linemen in a preseason game last year, but little else. Coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik might lose their jobs in a few weeks, and Geno Smith, Sanchez’s successor, has lost his way.

The only person to emerge from the smoldering heap so far is Sanchez himself, who was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason to be Nick Foles’ backup, and who is now so far removed from the butt-fumble that he can joke about it. On Sunday, he will play in what will arguably be his biggest game since those distant playoff runs. He’ll lead Philly against the Seattle Seahawks in a matchup between one of the game’s most explosive offenses and one of its best defenses, with playoff spots very much within reach of both squads.