Birdfeed: Vol. 16.10; Good or Bad?

The Eagles bullied the Falcons in Week 10. We’re nine games in and I still have no idea, are the Eagles good or bad? (Photo by JAMES LANG-USA TODAY SPORTS)

Let me start by admitting how much fun this season has been. Halfway through Chip Kelly’s second season with the Eagles I came to a scary realization about the Eagles; I was indifferent. I really didn’t care whether they won or lost. I found myself hating everything they had become under Kelly. I wondered if it was because I was getting old or I just didn’t care about my beloved Eagles as much. The only thing I enjoyed about last season was ripping Kelly every week on this here blog. I’m glad I care again. I’m glad I’m sour and my wife has to tell me I’m pathetic after a bad loss. It’s fun to yell during games and jump on the couch with my 6 year-old son after big plays. The postgame calls to my Dad are filled with passion and energy instead of anger and despair. (Ok, they’re still filled with anger. We are Philly fans, after all.) It’s just fun to have the Eagles matter so much. I missed it. With that said, I have no idea who/what the Eagles are right now.

One could easily make the case the Eagles are two boneheaded fumbles and a 4th down conversion from 8-1. On the other hand, the Eagles do a lot of things that would lead one to believe they’re going to finish the season 8-8 or close to it. I’m all for fruitless tasks, so let’s see if we can’t figure this out ourselves.

The Good

The Eagles currently rank as the NFL’s best team based upon DVOA by Football Outsiders. In short, DVOA ranks NFL teams after breaking down each and every play. Philadelphia also ranks 3rd in point differential behind only the Cowboys and Patriots. The Eagles boast a top seven defense across the board and rank 3rd in points allowed. Opponents score on red zone trips against the Eagles only 44% of the time, good enough for 3rd in the league. The Eagles win at home. They’re 4-0 at the Linc. Good teams stay on the field and win time of possession. At 33:04 per game, the Eagles rank 1st in the NFL in that regard. A healthy time of possession is often the result of a number of things. A. The Eagles run the football well. They rank 8th in the league at just under 120 yards per game. B. The defense gets off the field after 3rd downs. Philly’s defense ranks 5th in the NFL on 3rd down conversions, allowing opponents to convert only 35% of their 3rd downs. C. The offense converts on 3rd downs. Doug Pederson’s crew converts a whopping 33% of their 3rd downs… uh oh…

The Bad

Despite an impressive advantage in time of possession, the Eagles offense can’t convert 3rd downs. Their 33% conversion rate is good enough for dead last in the NFL, a good 20% lower than the NFL leader (New Orleans). The red zone offense isn’t much better. The Eagles sit at 8th worst with a 47% success rate inside the 20. Though the Eagle defense is the team’s strength, they’re not perfect. They’ve been susceptible to big plays. As a defense, they’ve allowed 49 big plays (rushing plays of 10+ yards and passing plays of 25+). Big plays allowed makes up for close to 8.5% of their defensive snaps. Both rank among the bottom ten in the league.

The Ugly

Winning and losing is part of football. Not since the ’72 Dolphins has a team avoided the sting of defeat. You can lose throughout the year and still be alive come playoff time, but beating yourself is a death sentence. The Eagles have committed four 4th quarter turnovers this season, all but one while nursing a 4th quarter lead. In Detroit and Dallas, those turnovers ultimately led to crushing defeats.

Did I mention they have a penalty problem, too? The Eagles get flagged 8 times and surrender nearly 70 yards in penalties per game, which lands them as the 4th and 7th worst in the NFL, respectively. Furthermore, the defense allows two 1st downs via penalties per game.

Know that old saying about good teams winning on the road? Someone forgot to tell the Eagles. They’re a dismal 1-4 away from home, their lone victory coming against the winless Browns. What’s worse, they’ve yet to beat a division opponent (0-3). Slow starts on the road are a serious problem. In three of their four road losses, the Eagles have trailed 14-0. It’s never easy to play from behind, but it’s especially taxing without an explosive offense. That’s a lot of ugly right there. Hold on, it gets worse.

DROPS. Eagle receivers have a problem holding onto the football, which, you know, is a slight problem when your one and only job is to catch and hold onto the football. The statistics say the Eagles have only 16 drops this season (3rd most in the NFL). I’m calling BS on that. If you dare, take a look at this masterpiece of garbage (courtesy Jimmy Kempski) …

The Eagles have seven more weeks to figure out which team they want to be. There’s little doubt they’re a playoff team if they avoid shooting themselves in the foot. Unfortunately, there’s little evidence of drops and penalties disappearing overnight. At the very least, dumpster fire or playoff team, I’m just glad I care again, even if caring means pain and sorrow.

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