Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 7, 2011 at 10:18 AM
As the Philadelphia Eagles head into their Monday Night meeting with the Chicago Bears on ESPN, it's important for handicappers to get a true grip on how this season has played out. The common misperception is that preseason hype about 'the dream team' was premature and misguided. When you did a little deeper, you see that the Eagles really could be championship material if they just cut down on the turnovers.
You probably know that Philadelphia is 3-4 entering the weekend. And, you know that the Eagles will be in a dogfight the rest of the way in the NFC East as they, Dallas, and the NY Giants battle for two available playoff spots (at the most). What you may not be aware of is this…if wins were based on total yardage, the Eagles would be 7-0!
TOTAL YARDAGE BY GAME
Philadelphia 404, St. Louis 335
Philadelphia 447, Atlanta 318
Philadelphia 376, NY Giants 334
Philadelphia 513, San Francisco 442
Philadelphia 489, Buffalo 331
Philadelphia 422, Washington 287
Philadelphia 495, Dallas 267
Not only 7-0…but 7-0 against a very tough schedule. Even, 7-0 with multiple STAT BLOWOUTS against a very tough schedule!
*Inside the division, Philadelphia outgained their biggest foes New York by 42 yards, and Dallas by 228 yards. You probably watched the destruction of Dallas last week on Sunday Night. It wasn't a fluke blowout colored by defensive or special teams scores. The Eagles CRUSHED a Dallas team that's probably playoff caliber…and who had just played a close game at New England. To make it a sweep, the Eagles also dominated Washington in the numbers.
*San Francisco is one of the big stories in the league this year, and probably the runaway winner of the NFC West. Philadelphia topped 500 yards on THAT defense!
*Buffalo is another big story this year…and Philadelphia made a run at 500 yards in Buffalo in a game they won by 158 yards.
*Atlanta is a playoff contender, and the defending #1 seed from last year. Philadelphia beat them on the road by 129 yards.
Words fail us. You just don't see THAT level of statistical dominance in a parity league…particularly with a team that's playing such a tough schedule. It's tough to beat BAD teams by that much in yardage on a weekly basis. Philadelphia is moving up and down the field against everyone they play.
Unfortunately, they've been doing that with an attack that's much more 'high risk/high reward' than it should be. Quarterback Michael Vick has made some horrible decisions. Various runners and receivers haven't done a good job of protecting the ball. If wins were based on turnovers, Philadelphia would be 2-4-1 through seven games.
TURNOVERS BY GAME
Philadelphia 1, St. Louis 1
Philadelphia 3, Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3, NY Giants 0
Philadelphia 3, San Francisco 1
Philadelphia 5, Buffalo 1
Philadelphia 2, Washington 4
Philadelphia 0, Dallas 1
The Eagles didn't have a turnover victory until the last two games. Those were the two straight up victories that got them back into the playoff picture after a stunning four-game losing streak. Just be aware that the stunning four-game losing streak was a result of a 14-4 turnover debacle. Equalize turnovers, and the Eagles are a top quality team. If they can figure out how to WIN turnovers, we could well be looking at the next NFC representative in the Super Bowl even with that 1-4 start.
As you handicap any Eagles game from this point forward…be sure you're factoring the turnover department into the mix. Versus passive opponents, the Eagles could be very scary. Versus teams who force mistakes, Vick may turn victories into losses with poor decisions.
Let's run our standard preview numbers and see what they say about Monday Night's battle with Chicago.
DRIVE POINTS PER GAME (scored and allowed on 60 yards or more)
Chicago: 9.7 on offense, 13.3 on defense
Philadelphia: 17.1 on offense, 11.4 on defense
Even in a high scoring year, a number like 17.1 is a big number. And, even with all the bad press that the Eagles have been getting about their 'wide 9' defensive formation…they're still allowing better than a league average number of Drive Points against a tough schedule. The +5.7 differential for Philadelphia is in line with what we saw in our Sunday Night preview from Baltimore and Pittsburgh…meaning the Eagles are clearly a playoff caliber team even with their 3-4 start.
Chicago's numbers are worse than you might have expected given their 4-3 record entering the week. A differential of minus 3.6 would only be acceptable if they had played a brutal schedule. It hasn't been a cakewalk with Green Bay, Detroit, and New Orleans on the card. And, Carolina and Minnesota aren't automatic wins even with their poor records to start. In terms of moving the ball up and down the field, the number suggest Chicago is probably a 7-9 type team vs. a representative schedule.
Oh, this deep in the season, and offensive number below 10.0 speaks poorly of Jay Cutler and this Mike Martz offense. The team has posted 7 or 3 in four of their seven outings.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Chicago: 30% on offense, 36% on defense
Philadelphia: 45% on offense, 34% on defense
The numbers here are in line with the Drive Points. And, Philadelphia's defense really shines here despite its reputation. How bad can the linebackers be if a slate of strong opponents are only converting 34% of their third down tries?! Defense is also an obvious strength for the Bears. Thirty percent is disastrous on offense though. The Bears have kind of fallen off the radar this year because there are so many other compelling stories. Tonight's national TV appearance will give them a chance to get things in gear for a strong second half of the season. Or, it will be a game where everyone sees how far behind 'playoff caliber' they've really fallen.
Chicago: +4 (12 takeaways, 8 giveaways)
Philadelphia: -7 (10 takeaways, 17 giveaways)
We've talked about this already. Chicago's done a good job in the risk-reward equation. And, the 8 giveaways is a hidden positive for the offense that hasn't sparkled otherwise. Nothing wrong with playing it safe and letting your defense win the game. That's easier to do against some teams than others.
Philadelphia is getting a lot of respect in the Vegas line. It's not exactly a secret that Philadelphia is better than its won-lost record, while Chicago is a bit worse than theirs. Have the oddsmakers over adjusted? Does the spread even matter in a game like this? If the Eagles go back to making mistakes, we have a ball game. If they play clean, the spread will be covered by halftime. (Actually, Philly has led at halftime by scores of 24-0, 20-3, and 20-3 in three of their last four games!).
JIM HURLEY, thanks to his connections in this sport, and his understanding of how defenses match up against offenses, has as strong opinion on the side or total in tonight's game. You can purchase NETWORK'S NFC SHOWDOWN right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about tonight's game or our TOTAL NOVEMBER TAKEDOWN, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.
A few reminders before we call it a day:
*College Basketball is here! Be sure you ask about that if you call the office. Check the home page on this website each day for online offers in college hoops. Note that the big North Carolina-Michigan State 'aircraft carrier' game is coming up later this week.
*There's college football every night this week once again, with a MAC twinbill on Tuesday, another MAC game on Wednesday, a full FOUR games on Thursday as the NFL joins the fun with Oakland-San Diego on the card along with Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech and a couple of others, and then a Friday Night special in the Big East.
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