From the Eagles’ playoff odds to Carson Wentz’s struggles, what advanced stats tell us | Early Birds
Breaking down the most interesting numbers coming out of the Eagles' 22-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Good morning, Eagles fans. Rough weekend, huh? At least the Eagles are off next weekend before their Monday night game against the Seattle Seahawks.
I must warn you, when they next play, there’s a very good chance they’ll no longer have the much-discussed division lead. Unless the Giants lose and the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys tie in their game on Thanksgiving, the Eagles will be a half-game out of the lead by Monday night. More on their playoff odds later.
If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @EJSmith94.
— EJ Smith (email@example.com)
Behind the numbers
Things aren’t looking great for the Eagles. Let’s try to make sense of some things with the available statistics.
1. Eagles losing ground
The Eagles’ two-game losing streak has tanked their once-promising playoff odds. As mentioned, the loss to the Browns put them just a half-game ahead of the rest of the division, with the Giants, Cowboys, and Washington all tied for second place with 3-7 records.
According to Football Outsiders, the Giants are now the most likely team to make it out of the terrible NFC East and host a home playoff game in the wild-card round. New York has a 32.7% chance of doing so, 5.3% higher than it was last week. Not a bad weekend, considering the Giants were on their bye week. The Eagles had a 48.7% chance of winning the division before the Browns game, but now they’re down to 26.4%, less than three percentage points higher than the Cowboys’ chances after Dallas beat the Vikings on Sunday. Washington has the lowest percentage chance, sitting at 16.8%.
FiveThirtyEight still favors the Eagles in the division, giving them a 34% chance to advance compared with the Giants’ 25% chance. While we’re on the subject of the division race, it’s worth noting the Eagles have the fifth-hardest remaining strength of schedule. The Cowboys have the second-easiest schedule remaining, and the Giants have the 11th-hardest slate. Washington is middle-of-the-road, with the 16th-hardest strength of schedule left.
2. Carson Wentz’s stubbornness
The Eagles’ offensive-line problems persisted against the Browns. They gave up five sacks to a Browns defensive front missing Myles Garrett, its best player and one of the best edge rushers in the league. It was the ninth iteration of the Eagles’ offensive line in 10 games, and it continued to make Carson Wentz one of the NFL’s most pressured quarterbacks.
Wentz isn’t going to change. He was once again among the league leaders in time to throw, averaging 3.21 seconds to get the ball out against Cleveland, second behind only Baker Mayfield, who averaged 3.56. Wentz held the ball for more than 2.5 seconds on 29 of his 40 drop-backs, which is also one of the highest percentages of extended drop-backs in the league for the week. In layman’s terms, Wentz is consistently forcing his shoddy offensive line to protect longer than almost any other quarterback.
Jason Peters allowed three sacks, the most allowed by an offensive lineman in Week 11′s games before Monday night. The veteran left tackle should be given most of the blame for Sunday’s mishaps, but Wentz’s unwillingness to make quicker decisions is a big part of why things have been so bad.
3. Making sense of Nate Herbig’s demotion
When Nate Herbig was listed as inactive Sunday, the assumption was the second-year guard was still dealing with a finger injury that held him out of practice two weeks ago. When coach Doug Pederson was asked about Herbig during his Monday news conference, it sure sounded as if he was actually benched.
“Herbie is doing fine. He’s doing well,” Pederson said. “Each week, he’s competing for one of those backup spots right now, or potentially a starter spot if there is an injury each week.”
That’s a significant fall from grace for Herbig, who started the first eight games and garnered praise for his ability to play both right and left guard competently. Pro Football Focus has Herbig graded as the team’s fourth-best offensive lineman this season with a 64. Coincidentally, he’s the highest-graded offensive guard on the team, just edging out Isaac Seumalo.
Herbig has allowed 17 pressures but no sacks this season. Matt Pryor, who started at right guard against the Browns ahead of Herbig, has allowed 18 pressures and two sacks in almost 100 fewer snaps.
What you need to know about the Eagles
Still trying to make sense of how the Eagles got to 3-6-1, reeling after last Sunday’s loss? Paul Domowitch offers his five reasons for the Birds’ failures.
Doug Pederson answered most questions about individual players Monday by pointing out the obvious: There’s plenty of blame to go around. But, as Les Bowen writes, that looks awfully similar to not placing blame on anyone.
Pederson also said Jason Peters is going to remain his starting left tackle, even though the veteran struggled again Sunday.
From the mailbag
Who can shake Doug’s stubbornness? Will it take being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for Doug to stop being stubborn about putting Peters and Jeffrey out there? — from Mask Up! (@alex252) on Twitter.
Good question, Mask. Nice name! I think it will take more than just Pederson’s blessing to get guys such as Peters and Alshon Jeffery out of the way for younger, more promising guys such as Jordan Mailata and Travis Fulgham. The decision to turn the page on regressing veterans, even those who had a significant impact on the Super Bowl LII team, is going to have to be an organizational decision. Both Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman would likely have a hand in the team’s deciding to get younger and less proven at key spots, but every week that ends in a loss makes the case to do so that much stronger.
I would argue that Roseman, in particular, should have more to do with turning the page to younger, more promising players than Pederson. Coaches are, by nature, more focused on winning football games each week, whereas a good general manager should be the one to keep the long-term viability of the team as the top priority. Forcing coaches to play certain players can obviously get messy, but it’s something that happens in the league. Still, Fulgham and Mailata are arguably better players right now in addition to being significantly more likely to have futures with the team than Peters and Jeffery, who are both on their way out.