SUPER BOWL BREAKDOWN

Barry Laminack: A statistical look at the Patriots-Eagles matchup

Nick Foles and the Eagles match up well with the Patriots. Philadelphiaeagles.com

It's Super Bowl week!

I'm a stats dork at heart (I think oftentimes they can tell us what to expect, if we are looking at the right ones) so I'm going to break down the Eagles and Patriots statistically based on what I think are the most important stats to consider when evaluating the two teams.

I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of stats you've never heard of because, while I might personally dig that kind of thing, I don't think you have to complicate things to compare the teams for an expected outcome.

When you compare the two teams regular season's it's uncanny how similar of a year they had both offensively and defensively. Of course, you have to keep in mind that the Eagles amassed most of their offensive stats when Carson Wentz was at the helm, but I threw in some postseason/post-Wentz stats as well.

OK, Lets get after it.

OFFENSE

When it comes to offensive statistics the only two stats I really care about are points per game and turnovers. The rest of it, in my opinion, is noise.

It's crazy but when comparing the two teams, they actually averaged the exact same amount of points per game in the regular season, 28.6. The only team to average more per game was the L.A. Rams, who averaged 29.9 a game.

Postseason scoring tells a different story, however. The Patriots put up 35 against the Titans and 24 against a stingy Jaguars defense. The Eagles only managed 15 against the Falcons before surprising everyone and scoring 31 offensive points (plus 7 more on an interception return) against the stingiest defense in the regular season, the Minnesota Vikings.

As far as turning the ball over, the Patriots did a much better job of taking care of the football during the regular season only giving it up 12 times, the second best in the NFL. The Eagles were 11th with 20 turnovers, nine in the air, 11 via fumble.


Here’s a chart comparing the two teams key offensive stats during the regular season:

 

Points/Game – (rank)

Giveaways (Int/Fum) – (rank)

Eagles

28.6 – (2nd)

20 (9/11) – (11th)

Patriots

28.6 – (2nd)

12 (8/4) – (2nd)

DEFENSE

On defense I like to look at three key stats that, in my opinion, have a direct impact on the games outcome: points allowed, sacks, and takeaways.

Much like on offense, it's crazy how close both of these defenses are when it comes to points allowed and sacks during the regular season. Philly gave up 18.4 points a game and the Patriots allowed 18.5. The Eagles also bested the Patriots by only 1 when it came to getting after the quarterback, piling up 36 sacks to the Patriots 35.

The separator between these two defenses is forcing turnovers. Philly was much better at taking the ball away - forcing 19 interceptions and 12 fumbles, ranking fourth in the NFL with 31 total takeaways. The Patriots recovered just six fumbles all year. Combine that with their 12 interceptions and their defense was one of the worst in the NFL at taking the ball away (25th)

Here's a chart comparing the two teams key defensive stats during the regular season:

 

Def Pts/G

Sacks

       Takeaways (Int/Fum) – (rank)

Eagles

18.4 (4th)                         

36 (17th)

        31 (19/12) – (4th)

Patriots

18.5 (5th)

35 (18th)

        18 (12/6) – (25th)


IN SUMMARY

As you can see, the two teams are pretty similar in offensive and defensive points per game. The separation really occurs in the turnover department. The Patriots strength was taking care of the ball, while Philly did a much better job of forcing turnovers.

And while it might seem cliche' - and since the teams are so similar to each other in just about every other key stat - look for the game to come down to who takes care of ball.

I like New England to win 24-21.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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