Eagles Smarter, But Not Yet Head of Class

The Philadelphia Eagles are smarter, but far from the head of the class...

The Philadelphia Eagles were the Dumbest Team in Football in 2012.


They've made great strides forward through two weeks of the new NFL season under new coach Chip Kelly.


However, many of the same old problems that plagued lame duck Andy Reid's Eagles in 2012 reared their ugly faces again in the team's shocking 33-30 home loss Sunday to the San Diego Chargers.


Most analysts expected Kelly and his Eagles to follow up their Week 1 performance (33-27 win at Washington) with an electrifying performance at the expense of the Chargers


Philadelphia certainly lived up to some of those expectations.


Michael Vick threw for a career-high 422 yards, 3 touchdowns and didn't commit a single turnover. DeSean Jackson caught nine passes for 193 yards and a score while LeSean McCoy totaled 167 yards rushing and receiving.


The Eagles offense ripped off 511 yards, and didn't commit a single turnover. They produced 703 Total Team Yards, the second best effort so far in 2013 according to our Big Boards at CHFF Insider.


In fact, the Eagles lead the NFL with 1,184 Total Team Yards through two games, just ahead of the second-ranked Broncos (1,173 Total Team Yards). 


The Eagles enter Week 3 boasting both the NFL's leading receiver (Jackson, 297 yards) and leading rusher (McCoy, 237 yards). 


Yet the Eagles still lost to Philip Rivers and the Chargers in a heartbreaker. So if the offense played so well, what happened?



It's a simple and familiar answer. The Eagles defense, like last year, shot themselves in the foot repeatedly.


The Eagles through two games are No. 30 in total defense and No. 30 in Total Team Yards Allowed (1,170). They're producing big plays on offense, but still giving up plenty on defense and elsewhere.



Sunday's breakdowns on both sides of the ball

That defensive effort, or lack thereof, was evident against the Chargers:


Safety Nate Allen was under the microscope the whole game after he committed a facemask penalty early on and gave up two touchdowns.


Free Agent acquisition Cary Williams, who performend shutdown coverage in Week 1, committed three pass interference penalties against the Chargers and gave up a touchdown as well.


Yes, the offense may have put up some monumental numbers, but they also made a few dumb plays at the absolute worst times.


-          Defender Trent Cole forced a fumble late in the second quarter, but the offense failed to convert when Alex Henery missed a 48-yard field goal that would have tied the game. 


-          Down 20-10, Vick foun Jackson for a beautiful touchdown that was ultimately called back due to an illegal formation penalty against rookie Lane Johnson.


-          Later in the fourth-quarter, the Eagles caused a fumble on a Chargers kick return, but were unable to recover it. In fact, after they bobbled the ball around, they added on 25-30 yards from the spot where it was fumbled. 


That's just too many points and opportunities left on the field.


Eagles are smarter, but far from the head of the class

As a result of those mistakes, the Eagles are not quite living up to their potential through two games under Kelly.


This was the same problem that afflicted the Eagles last year when Cold, Hard Football Facts labeled them the Dumbest Team in Football.


The Eagles are second in the NFL right now with 954 yards of total offense, behind only the Packers (965). The Broncos are third in total offense with 926 yards.


But Denver has been far more efficient, turning less offense into a total of 90 points, far ahead of the Eagles (63 points). The Broncos defense has been much better at putting its offense in a position to score; the Eagles defense, as outlined above, did not cooperate well with the offense on Sunday.


As a result, the explosive big-play Eagles are a mere No. 14 in Scoreability at 15.14 Yards Per Point Scored. It's well ahead of last year, when they Eagles finished the season 31st with a dismal 20.23 Yards Per Point Scored


Philadelphia has improved quite a bit in terms of defensive efficiency, too, despite the Sunday blunders.


Remember, last year the dumbest team in football ranked dead last in Bendability (12.32 Yards Per Point Allowed), our measure of defensive efficiency that quantifies the "bend but don't break" phenomenon. Put another way, no team last year made it easier for opponents to score points.


This year the Eagles are No. 19 in Bendability, with 15.35 Yards Per Point Allowed. It's better than last year. Still not great. Still far from the efficiency typical of championship-caliber terms.

But it's certainly a leap in the right direction and with plenty of room for improvement.


Philadelphia vs. the NFC East

The good news is that the Eagles don't have to be very smart to outwit the NFC East.


Here's how the Eagles stack up against their divisional foes in each measure of efficiency, with their league-wide rank on the left.


NFC East 2013 Scoreability (the lower the number the more efficient the offense)

3. Dallas - 12.48 Yards Per Point Scored

14. Philadelphia - 15.13 Yards Per Point Scored

16. N.Y. Giants - 15.81 Yards Per Point Scored

22. Washington - 17.11 Yards Per Point Scored


NFC East 2013 Bendability (the higher the number the more efficient the defense)

13. Dallas - 16.48 Yards Per Point Allowed

19. Philadelphia - 15.35 Yards Per Point Allowed

20. Washington - 14.41 Yards Per Point Alllowed

32. N.Y. Giants - 9.7 Yards Per Point Allowed


The way we measured team "intelligence" last year, and the way we still do with our Intelligence Index at CHFF Insider, is to subtract a team's Scoreability from its Bendability. The greater the difference, the more intelligent the team, the better it plays in situational football, and the fewer mistakes it commits. 


Here's how the Eagles stack up right now againt the rest of the NFC West, again with league-rank on the left. Remember, the Eagles were 31st on our Intelligence Index last year, ahead of only the dismal Chiefs.


The NFC East 2013 Intelligence Index

6. Dallas - +4.0

16. Philadelphia - +0.21

24. Washington - -2.7

28. N.Y. Giants - -6.1


Thanks to the brains of the new head coach, the Eagles have quickly become a much smarter, more efficient team.


Through two games, they're far from the Dumbest Team in Football. But they have plenty of room to improve.


They'll get a great test Thursday night: the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs current top the CHFF Intelligence Index, the smartest team in football at finishing 32nd and dead last in 2012.


Ironically, former Eagles coach Reid has led that effort.

Cold, Hard Football Facts Insider with Scout.com breaks down every NFL game against the spread through the prism of our cutting-edge Quality Stats. CHFF Insiders have gone .500 or better ATS in 72 percent of NFL weeks since the start of 2009. CHFF Insiders with Scout.com also get access to betting trends, key prop plays, inside interviews with Vegas bookmakers and detailed team stat profiles. Become a CHFF Insider with Scout.com today.  


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