Monday Night Football Preview: Will the Eagles Soar Again?
If you like points, you'll probably enjoy this week's version of Monday Night Football. The Eagles scored 34 in one half last week against Jacksonville, and the Colts very nearly made up a 24-point deficit to the Broncos. Yummy.
This also appears to be an evenly-contested matchup. The line favors the Colts -3, so we should be in for another good show. Let's take a look at some of the headlines prior to tonight's opening kick-off.
Which Nick Foles Will Show Up?
Like I mentioned, Philly posted 34 points in the second half last week against Jacksonville. This was largely because they had after digging themselves into a 17-point hole. Against the Jaguars. Ouch.
A big part of this high variation was the play of Nick Foles. In the first half, Foles completed only 50 percent of his 24 attempts for 139 yards (5.79 yards per attempt) while tossing a pick and being sacked five times. This gave him a quarterback rating of 50.5. Woof.
The final 30 minutes were just a bit different. Foles only threw six incompletions on his 21 attempts for 183 yards (8.71 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns with zero sacks. That'll work.
Overall, Foles ended the day with a Total Net Expected Points (NEP) mark of -5.14. This put him in the area of Chad Henne, Eli Manning and Austin Davis, which is not generic company you want to keep when it comes to quarterback play.
numberFire's projections have faith that we'll see more of second-half Foles tonight. He is slated to go 19.88 of 31.13 for 250.35 yards and 1.76 touchdowns and 0.62 interceptions. That should get the bus rolling against for the Eagles as they try to distance themselves from that wretched Week 1 first half.
Can the Colts Establish a Ground Game?
The very short answer here is no. Just no. But let's go a little deeper and see why it would be wise to bail on all Colts running backs this evening.
Against the Broncos, the Colts only ran the ball 14 times compared to 56 passes. When you look at the score and the 24-point deficit, that makes complete sense. But with a ratio like that, you may think, "Hey, maybe they were more efficient because the defense wouldn't be expecting it!" Nope.
The Colts finished 24th in Week 1 with an Adjusted Rushing NEP per play (which takes strength of schedule) of -0.13. So, every time they decided to run the ball, the expected number of points that they were to score on that drive decreased 0.13 points. No bueno. And it doesn't look a whole lot more optimistic for this week.
I don't even need advanced stats to show you how bad Jacksonville's ground game was against the Eagles They had 25 carries for 64 yards. That resulted in an Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play for the Eagles of -0.22, the third best mark in the league in Week 1. It doesn't exactly take the 1985 Bears to bring down Trent Richardson, so I wouldn't bank on much from him. numberFire's projections have him down for just north of 33 yards and a 22 percent chance at a rushing touchdown.
The algorithms don't favor Ahmad Bradshaw much, either, even after his impressive Week 1. Bradshaw's 85 yards from scrimmage on eight touches (70 receiving yards, 15 rushing) was enough to pique interest, but not enough to win over the computers. We have him down for about 42 total yards, but he certainly shows more promise than T-Rich.
Which Offense Finds Less Resistance?
One of the cooler features of numberFire is that it can look at previous matchups over the past 14 seasons and see which ones are most similar to this one. This can help us see what the most likely outcome for tonight's contest is. You can see those previous competitions if you have premium access right here.
The second most similar matchup is last year's match between the Cowboys and the Packers with a similarity score of 87.43 percent. If you'll recall, that was the game where the Cowbooys got up 26-3 at the half, decided they hated points and competency, only gave DeMarco Murray the rock twice in the fourth quarter, and lost 37-36. In that instance, the Eagles are analogous to the Packers and the Colts to the Cowboys.
Eddie Lacy went off in that game to the tune of 171 total yards and a touchdown, so you have to be feeling some love for LeSean McCoy tonight. I mean, you should probably feel that all of the time, but especially now. Indianapolis finished in the middle of the pack with their rush defense in Week 1 with a 0.06 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. That should be enough to give Shady some holes.
The lesson here for the Colts is to not hate points. Something that killed Dallas in that game was they had a bunch of huge penalties that made things a wee bit difficult. Keep doing what's working and pile on because the Eagles under Chip Kelly are never out of a game.
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