Backlog of posts for this week, including another guest post from Jared, who did the 4th down decision series, a note about “momentum”, and more on expected points and underdog strategy. First, though, I have to say a few things about yesterday’s game.
– If you’re forced into playing a 4th round rookie at QB, all bets are off. To that end, don’t read too much into the performance. The defense was OK (not as good as some have claimed, but not a disaster) and there were plenty of opportunities for the offense to move, Barkley just couldn’t get it done. That marks the second week in a row that the Eagles lost a game that they would have likely won with just average QB play. If they get that, we’re looking at 5-3, 1st place in the division, and a whole different storyline.
– Keep the defensive performance in context. The defense looked competent, and many are running with the “they’ve turned a corner” storyline, but I think it’s too early for that. Consider: The Giants are a TERRIBLE offense. Additionally, while the Eagles kept the Giants out of the end one, they also allowed the Giants to score points on 5 of the first 6 drives, and forced just one three-and-out in the first half (the 1st possession). The also sacked Eli Manning just once (he had been sacked 18 times in the first 7 games of the season, or roughly 2.5 per game). So yes, the point total against was a good result (15), but in context, it was just an OK performance.
– Vinny Curry was back on the bench. This is just one of Kelly’s (and Davis’) many perplexing decisions during the game. As I said pre-game, this was a great opportunity to play Curry without worrying about his problems against the run. Instead, he got just 12 snaps (and the Eagles struggled to get a pass rush). I have no particular insight here, other than saying that logic is clearly not the determining factor in the playing time decisions.
– Matt Barkley isn’t the guy. I’m usually the first person to urge caution and restraint when making snap judgments based on small sample sizes. However, there were two plays Barkley “made” that I found extremely troubling. I’m sure everyone knows which ones I’m talking about (the fumble and the 4th and 20 check down). Normally, we could pass these things off as “rookie mistakes”. Unfortunately, it seems like Matt Barkley’s biggest strength should be “Football IQ”. He’s been starting for big-time programs forever. Nothing about either of these situations is materially different in the pros. Maybe I’m being to harsh on him (as I said, most rookies would deserve a pass), but he’s a unique player by virtue of his experience.
– Are the Eagles stuck in no man’s land? I probably should have listed this first, because it’s arguably the most important point, but I’ll leave it here as a reward for reading this far. Here’s the dilemma:
1) The Eagles clearly do not have the talent to seriously contend for a Super Bowl.
2) The Eagles are currently just one game out of first place (behind a very suspect team).
Given the potential 2014 QB draft class, the long-term best interests of the team are probably served by losing, improving the draft slot, and using the draft to build the foundation of “Chip’s” team.
Unfortunately, given the profit-incentive and the general short-term incentives of NFL coaches, it’s too much to ask for the Eagles to NOT do everything they can to make the playoffs. That means when Vick is healthy, he plays, unless Foles comes back before then and remembers how to throw the ball.
There’s probably not a worse outcome for the Eagles this season than a 7-9 finish and missing the playoffs by a game. Sadly, that appears to be the most likely result at this point in the season. Note, if both Foles and Vick are out for a while, then this doesn’t hold (they won’t win many more games in that case).
– Kendricks had a very good game. Cox played well also. Have to end on a good note, so here it is. Pending review, of course, the 2 Eagles players that have the biggest potential for “foundation” status on defense (Boykin may work his way into this category soon) had good games. Let’s not get too excited, for reasons I mentioned above (bad offense), but it’s a good sign nonetheless.
P.S. I’m not ignoring the decision-making from Chip, I just realized that it probably needs its own post.