Three Eagles Numbers That Matter

The Eagles really need to cut down on penalties.

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

With Week 6 of the 2016 NFL season in the books, here’s a look at three Philadelphia Eagles numbers that matter.

9.8 – The Eagles lead the NFL in penalties per game.

The next closest team is the Jaguars at 9.0 per game. The NFL team with the fewest amount of penalties? Chip Kelly’s 49ers at 4.5 per game, funny enough.

The Birds also rank second in penalty yards per game with 80.8. The Eagles are on pace to be the third most penalized team in league history, as noted by Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice. Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of the Eagles’ penalties.

Week 1 – 7 penalties (46 yards)
Week 2 – 5 penalties (34 yards)
Week 3 – 10 penalties (99 yards)
Week 4 – BYE
Week 5 – 14 penalties (111 yards)
Week 6 – 13 penalties (114 yards)

Grand total: 49 penalties for 404 yards.

The Eagles’ offensive line is to blame for over a third of the team’s penalty total. Philadelphia has been flagged 10 times for holding and eight times for false starts. Jason Kelce and Jason Peters both lead Eagles players in penalties with five each.

Nolan Carroll has been flagged the most out of any Eagles defender. The veteran cornerback has racked up four pass interference penalties. Fletcher Cox ranks second behind Carroll with three. Two of Cox’s penalties negated red zone stops in the last two games. Cox cost the Eagles eight points in two weeks, which is the combined score margin the Eagles lost by to the Lions (-1) and Washington (-7).

How much do penalties matter? In 2015, none of the ten most penalized teams had a winning record. That doesn’t bode well for the Eagles. Then again, the Seahawks were the most penalized team in 2014 and they won the NFC. The Patriots, meanwhile, beat Seattle in the Super Bowl that year despite being ranking seventh in penalties and third in penalty yards.

The key difference between those teams and the Eagles, however, is that the Birds don’t have the kind of talent to overcome so many mistakes. Philadelphia really needs to find a way to play a more disciplined brand of football. Too often have penalties wiped out big offensive plays or negated key defensive stops.

“It just comes down to the communication from me to the team [and] to the staff; disciplining ourselves in practice [and] focusing on the little things,” said Doug Pederson. “The little things will take care of big things. Those are all part of the game. Again, the players know [and] the coaches know [that] we can’t keep putting ourselves in these situations. It’s unfortunate that it’s happening right now, but it’s something we have to address and clean up.”

4.4 – The Vikings allow the fewest yards per play in the NFL.

A big angle this week is Sam Bradford’s return to Philadelphia. The former Eagles quarterback is playing the best football of his career. But for as well as Bradford has played, the true strength of Minnesota is their defense.

The Vikings are especially good at defending the pass. They’ve allowed the fewest yards per pass attempt (5.2) in the league. Minnesota leads in interceptions with seven and sacks per game with 3.8. This is bad news for an Eagles offense that struggled to score a touchdown in Week 6.

The way the Vikings get after the quarterback is concerning for the sake of Carson Wentz. The rookie quarterback got sacked five times and took 11 hits against Washington. Now he’s going up against a Vikings defense that hit Brock Osweiler 15 times in Minnesota’s last game. The Vikings are averaging 8.6 hits per game on the season.

Week 1 – 2 sacks, 4 QB hits
Week 2 – 5 sacks, 9 QB hits
Week 3 – 8 sacks, 12 QB hits
Week 4 – 0 sacks, 3 QB hits
Week 5 – 4 sacks, 15 QB hits

According to Pederson, the Eagles will once again be starting rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle. Philadelphia can only hope he shows improvement from his first NFL start in which he allowed 2.5 sacks to Ryan Kerrigan.

It goes without saying that the Vikings are really good. Mike Zimmer’s squad is the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL. The Vikings lead the league in turnover differential (+11) and rank fourth in point differential (+56). Making matters even more difficult for the Birds is that Minnesota will be well-rested coming off their Week 6 bye.

1.5 – The Eagles are more than a game behind in the NFC East standings.

Here’s a quick look at the entire division.

1 – Dallas Cowboys (5-1)
2 – Washington Redskins (4-2)
3 – Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
4 – New York Giants (3-3)

Unfortunately for the Eagles, all of their NFC East rivals won last weekend.

The Cowboys won their fifth game of the season by beating a struggling Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field. Dallas is a one-point loss away from being 6-0 on the season. Dak Prescott broke the NFL record for most pass attempts by a rookie without throwing an interception last Sunday … before then going on to throw an interception. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, meanwhile, is currently the NFL’s leading rusher with 703 yards on 137 carries (5.1 average). The Cowboys are clearly playing the best football in the division right now.

Washington is in second place after torching an Eagles defense that had played so well over the first three weeks of the season. Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins have Philadelphia’s number for some reason. Washington is 4-0 in their last four games against the Birds.

The Eagles are playing very sloppy football right now. As discussed earlier, they’re committing way too many penalties and the offensive line is struggling. Philadelphia’s defense is also regressing after allowing 20 points in the first three games. The Birds need to cut down on mistakes in order to stay alive in the race.

The Giants aren’t dead yet. They’re back to .500 after beating Baltimore. Odell Beckham Jr. is still very much a big weapon for New York even though he’s struggled at times this season.

Looking ahead, the Cowboys have a bye this week. Washington will play the 3-3 Lions in Detroit. The Giants and 3-3 Rams are set to face off in London. The Eagles have the toughest test of all by facing an undefeated Vikings team.

Beating Minnesota this week isn’t life-or-death for the Eagles. But a loss would sure put even more pressure on the Birds to get two wins out of their next two games: a Week 8 matchup in Dallas and a Week 9 road game against the G-Men.