The Philadelphia Eagles were the feel good story of 2017. This long-suffering franchise won 13 regular season games before losing Carson Wentz to an ACL injury. The team then embarked on a miraculous playoff run with their backup quarterback, culminating in a Super Bowl victory.
This championship led to much hype surrounding the team as they entered 2018. Vegas oddsmakers then named the Eagles NFC preseason favorites, increasing already lofty expectations.
After 7 tumultuous weeks, the Eagles are sitting on a 3-4 record and looking up at Washington in the NFC East standings. Philly has let bettors down thus far, but is now in a good spot to offer value.
Shooting Themselves in the Foot
The Eagles’ most glaring weakness this season has not been their offensive play calling, defensive matchups, or even their special teams. It has been the glut of turnovers, mostly fumbles, that have shortened drives and killed scoring chances.
How bad have the Eagles been at holding onto the ball this year? Very bad. The worst in the NFL, in fact. Losing more fumbles than any other team makes achieving offensive consistency a difficult task.
If the Eagles were simultaneously forcing turnovers at a league-leading rate they might be okay, but they are not. Their turnover margin this season ranks 26th in the league.
Philly’s defensive numbers are very respectable, but they must cover for an offense that is on pace to lose 19 fumbles in 2018.
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If it were not for a solid defensive effort by the Eagles’ defense this year, Philly would be in deep water. They are fortunate to have 3 wins with a turnover margin that is 26th in the league.
Look at the records of other teams in recent history who have been 26th in the league in turnovers.
History indicates that teams near the bottom of the league in turnovers are usually pretty bad. There are some outliers to this rule, but turnovers are generally not a recipe for success.
Is there any reason to believe Philly will straighten things out this year?
Fumble Numbers Regress Toward the Mean
Yes there is!
Unlike quarterbacks who throw lots of interceptions, lost fumbles are highly random. Fumbling the ball is a relatively rare event, and loose balls often become 50/50 scrums.
Because fumbles are rare, a couple of unfortunate bounces can really skew the data. Like batting averages in baseball, you cannot jump to conclusions based on small sample sizes.
We can overlook the Eagles’ early season fumble problems because at 1.14 lost fumbles per game we can assume they will regress back toward the 2018 NFL average of 0.6 per game.
If the Eagles fumble the ball a normal amount from here out, what can we expect? The Eagles’ offense is amazingly averaging more yards per game in 2018 than last year, despite fumbling at over twice the 2017 rate.
This is extremely encouraging because it means Philly is gaining more yards per play this year, a clear indicator of increased offensive efficiency.
The Eagles are undervalued by the books right now. They are not playing their best football and will surprise some teams once they put it all together. Am I predicting another championship run? Absolutely not.
The Superbowl hangover is real. It’s hard enough to win one championship. It’s nearly impossible to win two back-to-back.
I am warning you that Philly is undervalued and make for a good bet until they are once again respected by the betting public.