Week 9 Pre-Game Notes

A few quick notes/thoughts before this afternoon’s game:

  • The Eagles are still in a strong position for a wild card spot.  As of this morning, the standings for non-division leaders in the NFC are (from PFR):

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A win over the Giants, in New York, would keep the Eagles in the lead, and put distance between them and the Giants, one of two teams currently tied for the wild card lead.

  • As far as the divisional race goes, this is a must-win.  It’s the final opportunity to get a division win on the road.  A loss here would force the Eagles to sweep their home games just to get to 3-3.  The Cowboys are 2-1 in the division.  In other words, with a loss today, the Eagles would need to win all three remaining division games AND have the Cowboys lose to either the Giants (Home) or Washington (@) just to equal the divisional record, which is the first tie breaker.  A loss would probably put the Eagles 3 wins behind the Cowboys (they play Cleveland today) with 8 games to play.  That’s a very tough hole to climb out of.
  • The Eagles are still the #1 team by DVOA.  The defense and special teams units are both #1 by that measure, while the offense ranks just 23rd.  Not much commentary to add there, but it’s important to step back and realize that, by most objective measures, the Eagles are a very good team.
  • What will the offense look like without Josh Huff?  That sounds like a silly question. Huff has just 72 receiving yards this year (10.3 yards per game).  However, he’s really the only WR that fits the bubble-screen game Pederson is increasingly leaning on.  JMatt, DGB, Agholor…none of them have the acceleration or quickness required to make those plays work.  We might see Darren Sproles line up in that spot.  However, that would require Pederson to trust Ryan Mathews as the primary RB again.  Needless to say, the offense’s complete lack of weapons will make both Pederson and Wentz’s jobs more difficult today and for the rest of the year.
  • Can Pederson rebound?  Last week was a truly horrendous performance from the 1st year head coach.  He repeatedly made the objectively wrong strategic decision (kicking on 4th and short, punting instead of trying a 53 yd fg, not using TOs to get the ball back in regulation, etc…).  Hopefully, he does some self-scouting, realizes what he did wrong, and gets it right next time.  Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of coaches who get those things wrong persistently, so it’s not as simple as “he won’t make those mistakes again”.   Additionally, while Pederson is in his 1st year as a head coach, he played QB for 11 years in the NFL and has been on coaching staffs for 7 years.  He shouldn’t have to “learn” some of these things…
  • Can Wentz find a way to push the ball downfield?  Over the past few weeks, the Eagles downfield passing game has disappeared.  A lot of that, IMO, is on the WRs and their failure to create separation.  Some of is also on Wentz, as he’s missed chances for lack of vision or willingness to throw the ball.  Today is a good chance to turn things around.  The Giants have the 3rd worst adjusted sack rate in the league. (FO).  That should provide a little more time in the pocket for Carson, which in turn should give the WRs a little extra help creating space.  At the very least, after today’s game we’ll have a better idea of how to apportion responsibility for the lack of a passing game.  It’s a combination of Wentz, the OL, and the WRs, but today the OL should be less of an issue.
  • Prediction:  Eagles win.  The Giants are a very mediocre team.  They have a win against the Cowboys, but that came in week one (Dak’s first game and his worst performance of the year prior to last week).  Beyond that, the Giants’ wins are against Baltimore (#20 DVOA), New Orleans (23), and LA (25).  Those four wins were by a combined 15 points.   

Outside of ODB, there isn’t a single guy on that offense to be worried about.  With the Eagles defense playing as well as it is, it’ll be very difficult for the Giants to score points without a TO or STs touchdown. Meanwhile, the Eagles are a better team than their record suggests, and have played very well in 6 of their 7 games so far. They seemed on the verge of blowing out the Cowboys before Smallwood’s fumble last week and some late-game choking from Pederson.  Those things will happen again, but not this week.  The Eagles finally put a full game together and roll the Giants.  28-13.

 

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