I went a little overboard with the odds breakdown this week, so I’ll mostly let that speak for itself. However, I’m going to do a higher level check-in post later this week in an effort to get back into broader strategic analysis. Not that you care, but I decided to take the bulk of the Wharton core through accelerated classes (I’ve got four finals this week). That hasn’t left much time for anything else, but it should pay off (i.e. much more time) starting next week. Until then, though, we’re stuck with previews.
For today’s game, here are some additional thoughts, some of which are elaborated on in the breakdown below:
– Very big game for the Eagles, but not because of the opponent. I still haven’t seen anything from the Giants to change my ex-ante belief that they’re not a playoff-caliber team. Given their schedule, it’s still possible they’re just the best team of the bottom third of the league. Instead, the game is important because the Eagles schedule after the bye week is very difficult. It looks like it’ll take at least 10 wins to win the NFC East. So a win tonight and the Eagles only need to go 5-5 the rest of the way to hit the target. In other words, things are going to get a bit ugly starting in two weeks and the team will likely need all the margin for error it can get.
– Much is being made about the Eagles potential for regression on D/STs, specifically regarding TDs. That’s absolutely correct. The Eagles will not keep scoring TDs on D/STs at such a high rate. However, the Eagles offense is also primed for POSITIVE regression. Hopefully it starts tonight.
A lot more below. As I say at the end, I’m actually much more bullish about tonight’s game than my breakdown suggests. I think the Giants’ statistics are very skewed by an easy schedule (moreso than the Eagles). Still, I’d be lying if I said I was confident in the Eagles offense right now. Just because they “should” improve doesn’t mean they will.
My picks record to date:
Line: 2 – 3
O/U: 2 – 3
Line: 2 – 3
O/U: 4 – 1
This week’s lines:
Eagles -3 (-105)
Giants +3 (-115)
Over 51 (-105)
Under 51 (-115)
Reviewing last week:
The Over hit comfortably, so that’s a win for everyone. Unfortunately, Billy Davis and the DBs decided they didn’t like the idea of a dominating win. Not only did they let the Ramstake the backdoor cover, they also gave them a chance to win outright. I said I was very confident in the Eagles -7, but they only won by 6. Of course, as soon as the lead was 13 I knew how it was going to end. So it’s a loss for me on the line, but things aren’t all bad. While I said I liked the Eagles, I also advised you to wait until close to kickoff before making any wagers (confirm Lane Johnson’s condition). If you did that, you should’ve got the line at just -4.5, giving you a 2-0 week. I still have no idea why the line dropped so much in just 24 hours (no major injuries), but I hope you took full advantage.
Huge game for the Eagles. I’m actually not too worried about the Giants being a true division title contender, so that’s less of a factor for me than for most others. Instead, I’m looking at the schedule after the bye week:
A win this week puts the Eagles at 5-1 heading into that stretch, meaning they could lose 3 out of those 4 and still be 6-4. After that stretch above, the Eagles play the Titans at home before getting a Dallas, Seattle, Dallas sandwich. In other words, the Eagles are probably going to lose a bunch of games over the next 8-9 weeks, so they need as many wins now as they can get.
First, the DVOA comparison:
Eagles Overall – 5.6% (13th)
Giants Overall – 9.8% (8th)
Eagles Offense – -5.5% (22nd)
Giants Defense – -8.8% (7th)
Eagles Defense – -1.0% (16th)
Giants Offense – 3.2% (14th)
On Special Teams, the Eagles have a very big advantage. The Birds rank 1st in the league, and along with Atlanta and Buffalo are well ahead of everyone else. Meanwhile, the Giants are 23rd.
Well that doesn’t look very good, does it? The Giants have the better offense and the better defense. Naturally, they rank better overall, though not by a huge margin. Regardless, the DVOA breakdown points towards the Giants, especially because they’re getting 3 points.
Now let’s look at actual results to make our score projection:
Of the teams the Eagles have played this year, the 49ers (8th) rank closest to the Giants (9th) on defense by DVOA. The Eagles scored 21 points against San Francisco. However, all 3 touchdowns came from Defense and Special Teams. That makes this a tough benchmark to use, since we really don’t want to be projecting D/ST scoring. Of course, certain media members (cough…Bill Barnwell…cough) are writing off this factor too easily. Start Tangent – Yes, the Eagles are unlikely to keep scoring on D/STs. BUT, in games like this one, where there appears to be a huge STs advantage, the field position effects alone can have a significant effect on the offense. Additionally, you can’t just write off one area as due for regression without looking for others. I’m talking specifically about the Eagles offense.
Putting on my Bayesian hat for a moment, we have to remember our ex-ante expectations for the team. It’s fairly unlikely that the Eagles went from one of the league’s best offenses to one of the league’s worst offenses in one offseason. There are a few roster changes to account for (D-Jax and the injuries), but that’s it. The Eagles weren’t particularly lucky last year, so that’s not a factor. Put simply, the Eagles offense is more likely to improve a bit than it is to get worse or stay the same. We diminish the weight we place on last season’s results, but we can’t forget them entirely; not without a very compelling and logical reason. Even with the Mathis/Kelce injuries, the Eagles almost certainly are not as helpless on offense as the have seemed the past couple of games. End tangent.
So the Eagles are averaging 31.2 ppg, but against the most comparable competition they scored just 21 points (none on offense). Of course, that was a road game, so there’s some clawback factor there as well. If we call that 3 points, we get to an expected output of 24.
From the opposite viewpoint, among the Giants opponents thus far, the Eagles rank closest on offense to Arizona (24th) and Detroit (20th). Against the Lions on the road, the Giants allowed 35 points. Against the Cardinals at home, the Giants allowed 25 points. Together, that’s an average of 30 points allowed, which is fairly surprising given the Giants strong overall rank on defense. Using that number with our Eagles-centric projection, we get a range of 24-30 points. Taking the midpoints gives us 27 points for the Eagles. That’s about 4 points beneath the Eagles season average
Quick aside, you’ll notice I’m doing a lot more manipulation of the DVOA numbers than in previous weeks. As the year goes on, I tend to put more and more weight on these (as the sample increases).
Now, from the opposite side:
Of the Giants opponents to date, the Eagles defense (16th) ranks closest to Houston (15th) and Washington (18th). Against Houston at home, the Giants scored 30 points. Against Washington on the road, the Giants scored 45 points. That’s pretty strong output. Averaged, that comes to 37.5 points, which is ridiculous. On the season, the Giants are averaging 26.6 ppg, which is still a very good rate, but a far cry from 37. So what do we do? Well we can’t ignore the comparison stats, but I also don’t feel comfortable projecting the Giants to score 10+ points above their season average. Keeping it simple, let’s split the difference and call it 32 points. Also recall that Demeco Ryans might not play, so 30+ is very reasonable.
Together, that gives us a projection of Giants 32 – Eagles 27. As is customary by now, we’re taking the over 51. Sticking with out projections, we also get a fairly strong signal towards Giants +3. I hate given that as a recommendation, but it is what it is.
I do want to mention something important though. As much as the Eagles have benefited from an easy strength of schedule, the Giants have benefited more. Let’s play a little transitive property game. We’re going to look at what I will call transitive wins. Basically, you get credit for the wins of all the opponents you’ve beaten. It will give us a good look at just how impressive each resume is.
The Giants have wins against 3 teams this year, Houston, Washington, and Atlanta. Here are the transitive wins, along with each team’s overall DVOA:
Washington – 23rd, (beaten by Houston)
Oakland – 30th, (beaten by Houston)
Buffalo – 15th, (beaten by Houston)
Jacksonville – 32nd, (beaten by Washington)
New Orleans – 25th, (beaten by Atlanta)
Tampa Bay – 31st , (beaten by Atlanta)
15th, 23rd, 25th, 30th, 31st, 32nd.
The Eagles have beaten four teams this year, Jacksonville, Indy, Washington, and St. Louis. Here are the Eagles’ transitive wins:
Jacksonville – 32nd, (beaten by both Indy and Was)
Tennessee – 26th, (Indy)
Baltimore – 4th, (Indy)
Houston – 24th, (Indy)
Tampa Bay – 31st, (St. Louis)
4th, 24th, 26th, 31st, 32nd, 32nd.
Basically, the only thing the Eagles and Giants have proven thus far is that neither of them are among the worst 6-7 teams in the league. Depending on your preseason NYG outlook, that might be new information. For the Eagles, though, it doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know. The upshot is that, while I have to make picks for this column, I wouldn’t actually touch the line on this game. We don’t actually KNOW that much about either team by virtue of how the schedule has shaped up so far.
I always like to end with a hopeful note, so here it is:
The Eagles might be the best team the Giants have faced thus far this season. I don’t think you can say the same in reverse (both Indy and San Fran are better in my opinion). Given the Eagles relatively strong performance against those teams, I’m actually more hopeful heading into this game than my breakdown above suggests.