Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2013 Eagles vs. Opponents: Behind the Numbers

Way late, but it's actually relevant again now that we are only a couple days away from the start of the 2014 NFL season. Like I did for the Eagle's miserable 2012 season, I am back again with a "year in review" for the 2013 season. Let's go a bit behind the numbers of the pleasantly surprising NFC East Division champion Philadelphia Eagles, finishing the season at 10-7 after a first round playoff exit.

Not too many surprises here, but a few things really stand out: rushing yards, turnovers, points off turnovers, and what the Birds were able to do with fewer offensive opportunities. Rushing yards gained by the Eagles is no surprise with LeSean McCoy leading the league in rushing, but the discrepancy is really what is noticeable. Philadelphia gained about 800 more yards than their collective opponents; had their opponent been "one team" it would have ranked 22nd in the league (this is removing the playoff totals). For an Eagles team where defense was a common complaint, that is certainly not a bad statistic. To put the whole rushing game into perspective the Eagles allowed 109.2 yards per game, but gained 155 yards per game.

Turnovers played a huge role in the Eagles 4-12 2012 season, and would again play a role in their 2013 campaign. This time luck was on their side. The Birds turned the ball over 20 times (which leaves room for improvement), but they were able to force 32 turnovers. That's good for a +12 differential, which is a HUGE improvement from last years -24. Yes, last year was so bad that the Eagles were able to have a 36 turnover swing. In case you were wondering, the turnover battle was won in all but 4 of 17 games; not surprisingly 3 of those games were lost - including the Kansas City game where they had a whopping 5 turnovers. Of the remaining 16 games, 7 were turnover free for the Eagles. Perhaps even more of a plus was the difference in points off turnovers. Philadelphia more than doubled their points scored off their opponents turnovers, which ultimately resulted in nearly 25% of their total season points. The Birds gave up less than a field goal per turnover (2.45 points on average) while scoring better than a field goal per takeaway (3.3 pts).

Now we all know how great the Eagles offense was last season, so it may be a bit of a shock when you see that they ran fewer plays, gained less through the air, achieved less first downs and fared worse on third down conversions. Let me explain that though. Sure they ran fewer plays, but we should all keep in mind what the average Eagles drive looked like last year; a quick, fast drive that resulted in points on the board (I wish I kept track, but I know most drives were under 3 minutes total). Despite that, they were very efficient as they gained nearly a yard more per play than their opponents; this resulted in nearly 200 more yards gained throughout the season. Also because of the quick drives, Philly didn't need to get as many first downs.

Rushing was already discussed, so it really shouldn't be surprising that the passing game wasn't as potent. Keep in mind, too, that Nick Foles did not start the season, and Michael Vick was an inferior passer. They actually had very similar yards per game (in games they had started and finished) but it would have been interesting to see what the offense could have done with Foles under center for the whole year. And that brings us to this season....

The Philadelphia Eagles went beyond expectations in 2013, not only improving upon 2012's 4-12 record but winning the NFC East division at 10-6. They lost to the New Orleans Saints during Wild Card Weekend which was disappointing, but nobody can say that the season was a waste. It all starts again on Sunday vs. Jacksonville, but this time fans will be expecting at least a playoff win.


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