Speculation about how Chip Kelly’s offense would translate to the NFL was ended pretty quickly. Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles ranked second in yards, fourth in points, first in rushing offense, and ranked in the top 10 in passing yards and touchdowns, despite a rank of 27th in passing attempts. The bend, but don’t break, big play defense forced 31 turnovers and the Eagles enjoyed a 10-6 season that ended in the first round with a loss to New Orleans in the wild card round.
The Eagles rattled off seven wins in their last eight games to achieve their first winning season since 2010. They finished in the top 10 in yardage differential, point differential, and turnover margin for the first time since that 2010 season. The Eagles were merely average in the situational stats, finishing 14th in third down conversion rate and 13th in red zone touchdown conversion rate. Defensively, they ranked 24th on third down and 12th in the red zone.
One has to wonder if the defense would have fared better had the Eagles sustained longer drives. The Eagles finished dead last in time of possession at just 26:19 per game. Between quick scores and the defense’s third down performance, that unit spent a lot of time on the field and it showed as the Eagles allowed 7.7 points per game in the fourth quarter, the ninth-most of any team, and the fourth-most points in the second half at 14.4.
Adjustments are sure to be made in year two, both for the Eagles and for opposing defenses. The Eagles had what appears to be a strong offseason on paper and the addition of Darren Sproles alongside LeSean McCoy looks like a matchup nightmare for the opposition.
Oddsmakers remain cautious with the Eagles. At Sportsbook.ag, the Eagles win total rests on 9 with -115 on both sides. At 5Dimes.eu, the Eagles are also set at 9 with -120 on the over and -110 on the under.
Lines courtesy of CG Technologies:
|2||@ Indianapolis (Mon)||+2.5|
|4||@ San Francisco||+6|
|6||New York Giants||-4.5|
|11||@ Green Bay||+4.5|
|13||@ Dallas (Thu)||+1.5|
|16||@ Washington (Sat)||-1.5|
|17||@ New York Giants||N/A|
Along with their NFC East counterparts, the Eagles will take on the NFC West and AFC South with matchups against Green Bay and Carolina thrown in as part of the Eagles’ first-place schedule. With the improvements expected from Atlanta and Houston, that gives the Eagles one of the league’s toughest schedules. Cole Ryan rated the Eagles schedule 20th, but opponent win-loss record was the metric used for that and Houston, Jacksonville, and Washington really skew that number.
The Eagles play two road back-to-backs, including one to end the season against divisional competition. They are favored in eight of their 15 lined games in the numbers posted by CG Technologies. Considering the degree of difficulty that the schedule presents, it’s not particularly surprising to see such a high-scoring, public-backed team like the Eagles lined conservatively.
The four-week stretch coming out of the bye week may be the make or break point of the season for the Eagles. Road games at Arizona, Houston, and Green Bay with a tricky Monday Night Football game against Carolina provide a true litmus test in the middle of the season.
Why bet the over?
The offense is going to show no signs of slowing down under Chip Kelly. Not only may the tempo pick up, but Kelly now has Darren Sproles at his disposal along with LeSean McCoy, who racked up over 2,100 yards from scrimmage last season. Nick Foles wound up being the perfect fit for Kelly’s offense, posting a 27/2 TD/INT ratio with a 64 percent completion percentage.
Desean Jackson was a surprise release by the Eagles this offseason for character issues, but the Eagles get Jeremy Maclin back and also added Jordan Matthews and former Chip Kelly recruit Josh Huff in the draft. Maclin was responsible for 16 of the 22 man games lost for the Eagles last season. Jackson is definitely a loss as the team’s leading receiver, but there’s plenty of talent and plenty of touches to go around in Kelly’s offense.
The offense was going to remain good, but the defense is the reason to take the over. It was an all-or-nothing show on defense in the first year of a 3-4 in Philadelphia. The defense managed only 37 sacks and allowed seven yards per pass play. It was the 31 turnovers and the +12 turnover margin that helped out this group, a defense that spent the most time on the field per game of any team in the league.
The run defense was stout, allowing just 3.8 yards per game, but teams threw all day long on the Eagles. The opposition threw 41.2 passes per game against the defense. That’s why the Eagles made acquiring secondary depth their chief objective in the offseason. Former Dolphins starting cornerback Nolan Carroll joined former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins as the highlight free agent signings.
There’s talent all over this roster and Kelly’s offensive scheme was more of a success than anybody could have imagined. The defense is deeper and should naturally improve in the second year of playing a 3-4. This is a high quality team capable of beating anybody.
Why bet the under?
Regression is certainly a possibility from the offense since Nick Foles probably won’t post a 27/2 TD/INT ratio this season. When the Eagles lost the turnover battle last season, they were 0-3 and managed just 26 points in those three games. Teams will start to adjust to Kelly’s offense and may find better ways to disguise coverages or blitzes that will lead to more turnovers.
Regression is a possibility from the offense just because of the numbers but also because of the schedule. The Eagles faced four playoff teams last season. They’ll face five this season but also Arizona and St. Louis. The Giants were the most injured team in football last season, so expect them to improve. As bad as the Texans were, their defense was serviceable. The schedule is a real step up in class for the Eagles.
Jeremy Maclin’s health is imperative for the Eagles. Without Desean Jackson, the Eagles are very young and inexperienced at wide receiver and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Jordan Matthews starting. Jackson accounted for 82 of the team’s 310 completions and over 1,300 yards.
Seven players on the defensive side of the ball started all 16 games for the Eagles. Three offensive linemen did the same. In a rather complex set of schemes, the Eagles must stay healthy. Every NFL team will suffer given the right injuries, but injuries could be magnified that much more because what the Eagles want to do.
Pick: Over 9 (-115)
Despite the schedule concerns, it’s hard not to buy the Eagles. This is an extremely talented team with a lot of ways to spread out a defense and create matchup problems. The NFC East still features a collection of mediocre teams to help ease the schedule difficulties of playing the NFC West.
The offseason that the Eagles had was really beneficial to the future of the franchise. The secondary was clearly tested early and often last season and depth at that position is a must. In today’s NFL, teams basically need to be at least three deep at corner, preferably more, and have experienced safeties because it’s a quarterback-driven league. The Eagles have those things and then some.
The value side appears to be the over with a push at 9-7 as a possibility and repeating last season’s 10-6 mark is very possible. The schedule is tougher, but it’s year two of the system and that tends to lead to improvement.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.