By Dylan MacKinnon
Is it just me, or is this team suddenly fun to watch? They have an idenity. This team hasnt had an idenity this the Super Bowl run. It still isnt pretty, and the passing game still has a lot of work to do, but this team can run it. They arent a championship caliber team still, but there is something to build on here. And hell, they may even make the playoffs this year. This win puts them in fantastic position to make a wild card push. So how did they pull off this win over the Saints? Here are the 5 numbers that tell that story of this game, and of the season going forward.
The Saints came in giving up just 3.1 yards per carry. The Eagles got 4.8 yards per carry. A whole 1.7 yards above the Saints average. Mile Sanders averaged 5.9 yards. Jordan Howard 6.3 yards. And Jalen Hurts averaged 3.8 with 3 rushing TDS. The Saints had only allowed 2 carries of 20+ yards. The Eagles had 4 such runs. They had 242 yards on the ground as a team, despite the Saints only allowing 65.6 yards per game before today. This team can run. There is no way to deny that fact anymore. And while the RBs have played well, I think the majority of the credit for this goes to the O Line. They are mauling people. Jordan Mailata literally mauled someone. Blocking multiple Saints players into the ground on multiple plays. The Eagles can run on anyone.
The Eagles are averaging 27.3 pts per game. In all of last seaon, they only eclipsed 27 points twice. This year they have scored 30 or more in 5 out of 11 games. Granted they have relied on defensive scores for a few of those games, but points are points. And the fact the defense has scored 3 tds, thank you Darius Slay, is a good thing. Last year this defense almost never made plays. As of late, it seems they do nothing but make big plays. This team can score, on both sides of the ball. At least more so than they did last year.
The 5 wins the Eagles have all have at least one thing in common. They all came vs QBs in the bottom half of the league in QBR. Namely Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, and now Trevor Siemian. The six losses all came vs QBs in the top half of the league in QBR. Thats a pattern you cant deny. Good QBs can pick apart this teams zone defense. Bad QBs cant do so though. The good news, in 5 of their 6 remaining games they play Qbs wh0 are 25th or worst in QBR. They play Daniel Jones twice (25th), Taylor Heineke twice (27th), and whoever the Jets will start. I assume Zack Wilson, maybe Joe Flacco (Both below 30th). Dak is the only good Qb they play the rest of the year, and who knows if he will even play since that is week 18, and Cowboys may not be playing for anything. The defense isnt perfect, but they are set up well to close out the season strong vs some very mediocre QBs.
With the win, the Eagles are only .5 game back from a playoff spot. The Vikings, Saints, and 49er’s all hold a half game lead on them due in part to those 3 teams already having a bye, and the Eagles not having one yet. They obviously now have the tie breaker over the Saints. They also have a tie breaker with the Panthers who are even with them at 5-6. The 49ers have the tie breaker vs the Eagles. The Eagles are in decent position vs the teams they are competing with for the Wild Card.
The Eagles have the easiest Strength of Scheule left in the NFL. They play the Giants twice, Washington twice, Jets once, and close the season vs the Cowboys. And its possible the Cowboys will have nothing to play for in Week 18. The Saints remaining SOS is .486, with games vs the Cowboys, Bucs, and Bills left to go. The 49ers have a SOS of .493 left, with 4 of their 7 games left being against playoff contenders, Vikings, Titans, Rams, and Bengals. And one of the “easy” games they have left is the Seahawks, who now have Wilson back. The Vikings still have to play the Packers again, as well as the Rams, Steelers, and 49ers.