Philadelphia has had an excellent season, as their 14-3 record earned them the top seed in the NFC. Circa has them at +475 to win the Super Bowl heading into the playoffs, the fourth best odds.
QB Jalen Hurts was the frontrunner for NFL Most Valuable Player until a late season injury derailed his campaign. While Hurts came back for the finale against the New York Giants, he will welcome a week of rest before his playoffs start.
However, there is one concerning factor about Philadelphia: passing efficiency.
In my work, I’ve found success rate as the most predictive metric for an offense. A play is a success if the offense gets the following fraction of yards towards the next first down:
- 50% on 1st down
- 70% on 2nd down
- 100% on 3rd, 4th down
With the overwhelming importance passing in the NFL, let’s look at success rate on passing plays. I split the season up into the first 9 weeks and the remainder of the season (including playoffs) and looked at the correlation between these two periods.
The r-squared value for passing success rate between these two sets is 0.331. That means that passing success rate in the early part of the season explains almost a third of the variance in the later part of the season.
In the chaotic world of football, this is as predictive as any NFL team metric gets. If this notion of predictability doesn’t make sense, I have a visual primer on linear regression and r-squared.
For the season, Philadelphia is 14th in the NFL in passing success rate. They have had success on 44.2% of pass plays compared to an NFL average of 42.7%.
It should be noted that Philadelphia’s pass rate has decreased the past two games:
- Gardner Minshew against a strong New Orleans defense.
- Jalen Hurts coming back from a shoulder injury last week against the New York Giants.
Philadelphia is most likely better than 14th in the NFL by passing success rate.
But what about explosive plays? A team might not need success on a per play basis if they can regularly break off big plays.
To look at this, consider yards per play on successful pass plays. Philadelphia averaged 15.8 yards per play, 4th best in the NFL and significantly better than the 13.9 NFL average this season.
However, explosiveness is not predictive. If we do the same study as with success rate, we get an r-squared of 0.053. Randomness plays a large role in explosive passing plays.
This research suggests that the Eagles will not continue to break big plays in the future. Even with the talent of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith at WR. Even with the improvement of Hurts as a passer this season.
For additional evidence of the randomness in explosive plays, consider this: Carolina led the NFL in yards per play on successful pass plays. The Panthers. It didn’t matter that they got Baker Mayfield, P.J. Walker and Sam Darnold from the NFL morgue to play QB.
Predictions based on regression are not perfect, as the Minnesota Vikings in one score games proved this season. However, you’ll be right more often than not.
If the big plays evaporate for Philadelphia, they might find themselves in a tight game late in the 4th quarter. Then they fail to convert a 3rd and 5 late. My metrics suggest that Philadelphia is less likely than Kansas City or Buffalo to convert this play.
A promising playoff run ends early.
Football betting with a PhD edge
This article was sent to The Power Rank’s email newsletter on Friday, January 13, 2023. This newsletter is a free service that strives to be:
The predictions are based on my PhD research from Stanford, and the content covers college football and the NFL.
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