An Overly Analytical Look at the Eagles Schedule

 ORIGINAL ANALYSIS:  11.0 wins
WEEK ONE UPDATE:  Loss at Atlanta…10.35 wins
WEEK TWO UPDATE:  Loss vs Dallas…9.75 wins
WEEK THREE UPDATE:  Win at Jets…10.05 wins
WEEK FOUR UPDATE:  Loss at Washington…9.30 wins
WEEK FIVE UPDATE:  Win vs New Orleans…9.50 wins
WEEK SIX UPDATE:  Win vs Giants…9.70 wins
WEEK SEVEN UPDATE:  Loss at Carolina…9.15 wins
WEEK EIGHT UPDATE:  Bye…9.15 wins
WEEK NINE UPDATE:  Win at Dallas…9.55 wins
WEEK TEN UPDATE:  Loss vs Miami…8.85 wins

Because of the brevity of the NFL season and, therefore, the intense pressure placed on each and every game, no other sport places such an importance on the schedule.  Think about the difference between 10-6 and 8-8 – that is just two games, in actuality, but an effective mountain of difference between how a season turns out.  But, we all know this, which is why we love to talk about “can the Eagles win 10 games or are they just an 8- or 9-win team?”  Which leads to the inevitable prediction machine.

One of the best parts of sports is forecasting.  Trying to figure out just how good your team is.  And, these predictions have steadily gotten more and more refined.  It started with simple questions like “who’s going to win the Super Bowl?”  Then, it became “Who are your 12 playoff teams?”  Eventually, people got ambitious and started picking win totals for every team (which drove me nuts because the aggregate of these win totals would inevitably be higher than the assumed losses, so the league, in total, would have like 280 wins and 232 losses, even though they were all playing each other).  Then, people figured out that there were 256 NFL games each year, so your aggregate win totals had to sum to 256.

Finally, dorks with far too much time on their hands (like me, before the kids took all my “free” time away) started looking at the schedule and picking every game and then seeing what the standings were.  But, even this seemed difficult to swallow for me because you can’t consider each and every game either a definite win or a definite loss.  For instance, the Eagles first four games this year are at Atlanta, home to Dallas, at the Jets, and at Washington.  In a vacuum, I am somewhat confident that they will be favored to win each one of these games, but do I think that 4-0 is the most likely Eagles start to the season?  No, definitely not.  I think 4-0 is definitely more likely than 0-4 or 1-3 and probably even more likely than 2-2.  But, if I had to bet, I would say that the Birds will most likely be 3-1 after four games.  So, that is why I decided to do the following analysis of the Eagles schedule this year – I will put a guess as to the percent-chance they have of winning each game, then add up all those percentages to see how many games they are expected to win this year.  Obviously, home against Washington should be a win, but it won’t be 100% just like at New England won’t be 0%.  This is a better indication of an expectation than even going through each game and putting “W” or “L” next to them.

(NOTE:  I actually did that, and only came up with 3 losses – and two of them – at Carolina and at Detroit – were because I thought I was being biased.  Then, I looked at the Vegas odds and was confirmed that I’m not being overly biased.  Vegas has the Eagles favored in 14 of their 16 games with road games at Dallas and New England as the only times they are underdogs, and the Birds have extra rest for both of those games.)

So, anyway, here is each game, broken down with some specifics about rest and such, and my opinion of the chances of winning.

Week 1:  at Atlanta, Monday night
Falcons Last Week:  None
Falcons Next Week:  at N.Y. Giants (early afternoon)

On the road on Monday night is not exactly a great spot to open the season as you are likely to be facing about as fired up a crowd as you will see.  But, then again, it’s freaking Atlanta – they are lucky to sell every ticket.  The Falcons are dangerous and by no means a walkover, but their o-line is dreadful, and their secondary is a mess.  This is not an easy game with Dallas looming next week, but the Birds should be a solid favorite.

Chance of Victory: 65%
Cumulative Win Shares:  0.65
Predicted Record:  1-0
Full-Season Pace:  10.4 wins

Week 2:  vs Dallas, late afternoon
Cowboys Last Week:  vs N.Y. Giants (Sunday night)
Cowboys Next Week:  vs Atlanta (early afternoon)

The most important home game on the schedule is the home opener.  The Linc should be rocking, and I expect the Eagles to come fully prepared and show a lot of DeMarco Murray at his ex-team.  I’m not gonna lie, getting the Cowboys on a short week after a road Monday nighter is certainly less than ideal, but the Cowboys at least had a Sunday night NFC East grudge match against the Giants.  Schedule-makers favor the ‘Boys here, but I think the Birds are the better team and are at home – Fly, Eagles, Fly.

Chance of Victory: 60%
Cumulative Win Shares:  1.25
Predicted Record:  1-1
Full-Season Pace:  10.0 wins

Week 3:  at N.Y. Jets, early afternoon
Jets Last Week:  at Indianpolis (Monday night)
Jets Next Week:  at Miami (early afternoon)

A short trip up the Turnpike to face the Geno-less Jets.  Todd Bowles against his ex-team.  I actually like this Jets team a little more than most because of their terrific defense, but I don’t think they are world-beaters by any stretch.  They are also coming off a short week with a road Monday nighter in Week 2.  The Birds should take care of business against an inferior team on short rest, but road games are tough in this league, especially coming off of emotional games against a blood rival.

Chance of Victory: 70%
Cumulative Win Shares:  1.95
Predicted Record:  2-1
Full-Season Pace:  10.4 wins

Week 4:  at Washington, early afternoon
Washington Last Week:  at N.Y. Giants (Thursday night)
Washington Next Week:  at Atlanta (early afternoon)

Three of the first four on the road, but this is another really short trip down 95.  And, yes, the Washington Professional Football Team has extra rest after their Thursday night tilt, but this is a very, VERY bad football team.  Even on the road, this should be no problem.

Chance of Victory: 85%
Cumulative Win Shares:  2.80
Predicted Record:  3-1
Full-Season Pace:  11.2 wins

Week 5:  vs New Orleans, early afternoon
Saints Last Week:  vs Dallas (Sunday night)
Saints Next Week:  vs Atlanta (Thursday night)

Back home against those New Orleans Saints.  Eagles had a full week, while New Orleans had a Sunday night game against Dallas – not a huge deal, but not nothing.  Also, the Saints have one of the most important games of the season just 4 days later against Atlanta on Monday night.  This little road trip to Philly in between two big home games is not exactly a good spot for a thin Saints team.  Oh, and here’s a dirty little secret about the Saints – they’re not really that good…  This is a great spot to catch Drew Brees & Co., and I like the Birds rather handily in this one.

Chance of Victory: 80%
Cumulative Win Shares:  3.60
Predicted Record:  4-1
Full-Season Pace:  11.5 wins

Week 6:  vs N.Y. Giants, Monday night
Giants Last Week:  vs San Francisco (Sunday night)
Giants Next Week:  vs Dallas (late afternoon)

Another team off of a Sunday night game, as the Birds get their first look at the 2015 Giants.  That Sunday night game with San Fran shouldn’t matter, though, as this is a Monday night affair.  Remember what the Birds did to the Giants last year on a Monday night about this time in the season?  Ya, this could be even worse.  I HATE the Giants, but actually think their offense is pretty good.  But, fortunately, their defense is BRUTAL.  They have no safeties who can cover anyone, which is bad news against an uptempo spread offense that looks for mismatches.  I like the Birds pretty big here.

Chance of Victory: 80%
Cumulative Win Shares:  4.40
Predicted Record:  4-2
Full-Season Pace:  11.7 wins

Week 7:  at Carolina, Sunday night
Panthers Last Week:  at Seattle (late afternoon)
Panthers Next Week:  vs Indianapolis (Monday night)

This game scares me for some reason.  On the road, a week before the bye, coming off a Monday nighter against the Giants, and they could conceivably be 6-0 here.  Carolina has the full week’s rest, but are coming off of a road game in Seattle, so they are likely pretty beat up (numbers show that that stuff matters).  I think the Birds are, yet again, the favorites in this one, but I don’t feel great about it.

Chance of Victory: 55%
Cumulative Win Shares:  4.95
Predicted Record:  5-2
Full-Season Pace:  11.3 wins

Week 8:  bye

Week 9:  at Dallas, Sunday night
Cowboys Last Week:  vs Seattle (late afternoon)
Cowboys Next Week:  at Tampa Bay (early afternoon)

And, now the schedule-makers pay us all back.  For the second straight game, the Eagles face a team that played Seattle the week prior.  And, this time it’s the Cowboys in Dallas with the Eagles coming off a bye.  This is one of two games that Vegas has the Eagles as underdogs, but I disagree.  I think the Birds are the better team, and I think they go into Dallas and win the game outright.

Chance of Victory: 60%
Cumulative Win Shares:  5.55
Predicted Record:  6-2
Full-Season Pace:  11.1 wins

Week 10:  vs Miami, early afternoon
Dolphins Last Week:  at Buffalo (early afternoon)
Dolphins Next Week:  vs Dallas (early afternoon)

The Birds welcome the Miami Dolphins to a brisk mid-November game at the Linc.  Despite coming off of a tough Dallas game, I think the Birds are the clear favorites here at home against an improving, but still unfrightening Dolphins team.  They are the one team, however, that might be ready for this offense because they see one very similar in practice every day.  But, still give me the better team at home on a cold November afternoon.

Chance of Victory: 70%
Cumulative Win Shares:  6.25
Predicted Record:  6-3
Full-Season Pace:  11.1 wins

Week 11:  vs Tampa Bay, early afternoon
Buccaneers Last Week:  vs Dallas (early afternoon)
Buccaneers Next Week:  at Indianapolis (early afternoon)

Back-to-back November home games against Florida teams.  Hard to complain about that.  The Bucs stink.  This is probably the easiest game on the schedule.

Chance of Victory: 90%
Cumulative Win Shares:  7.15
Predicted Record:  7-3
Full-Season Pace:  11.4 wins

Week 12:  at Detroit, Thanksgiving early afternoon
Lions Last Week:  vs Oakland (early afternoon)
Lions Next Week:  vs Green Bay (Thursday night)

Not another Thanksgiving game?!?  This is not good for my viewing pleasure, for sure.  Hopefully, this is the last one of these for a while.  Anyway, enough about me and my problems.  I am not a big fan of the Lions team this year, but I thought that this was a really tough spot for the Birds.  The early game against a playoff team from a year ago that does this Thanksgiving 12:30 game every year.  That doesn’t sound good.  But, Vegas has installed the Birds as a 1-point favorite in this game.  I don’t agree and while I think the Eagles are a considerably better team than Detroit, I just think this is a tough spot.

Chance of Victory: 45%
Cumulative Win Shares:  7.60
Predicted Record: 8-3
Full-Season Pace:  11.1 wins

Week 13:  at New England, late afternoon
Patriots Last Week:  at Denver (Sunday night)
Patriots Next Week:  at Houston (early afternoon)

A trip to Foxborough might be the toughest game anyone can have on their schedule.  The Pats just don’t lose up there, and there is no reason to think they are about to start now.  However, if you have to go there at some point, it’s pretty nice to go there with 10 days rest against a Pats team that played in the thin air of Mile High on Sunday night prior.  The schedule circumstances don’t get much better than this, so while the Birds are still underdogs here, they’ve got a legit shot to pull it off.

Chance of Victory: 35%
Cumulative Win Shares:  7.95
Predicted Record:  8-4
Full-Season Pace:  10.6 wins

Week 14:  vs Buffalo, early afternoon
Bills Last Week:  vs Houston (early afternoon)
Bills Next Week:  at Washington (early afternoon)

Ah, the return of one Shady McCoy.  I wonder how he’ll be received?  Anyway, this is a home game against an inferior team.  I actually really like the Bills this year and think that they could have one of (if not THE) best defenses in the league.  But, their offense stinks.  At home?  Gimme the Birds rather easily.

Chance of Victory: 80%
Cumulative Win Shares:  8.75
Predicted Record:  9-4
Full-Season Pace:  10.8 wins

Week 15:  vs Arizona, early afternoon
Cardinals Last Week:  vs Minnesota (Thursday night)
Cardinals Next Week:  vs Green Bay (late afternoon)

Ah, the return of Bruce Arians, former Temple coach.  Probably not the same cache as one Mr. McCoy, but could be some more tension for our head coach as these two have had words in the past.  The Cardinals should be pretty decent this year and do have 10 days rest in advance of this one.  But, it is a West Coast team at 1:00 (numbers say these things also matter), and I still think that the Eagles have the better team even on a neutral field.  So, at home.  Should be another W.

Chance of Victory: 65%
Cumulative Win Shares:  9.40
Predicted Record:  9-5
Full-Season Pace:  10.7 wins

Week 16:  vs Washington, Saturday night
Washington Last Week:  vs Buffalo (early afternoon)
Washington Next Week:  at Dallas (early afternoon)

Wait, Week 16 against the Washington Professional Football Team on a Saturday night?  I feel like we’ve done this before.  Well, this has to be a win, right?  Washington is dreadful, and the Birds should be in line for a playoff spot.  Okay, I know what happened last year in almost an identical situation.  But, come on…

Chance of Victory: 90%
Cumulative Win Shares:  10.30
Predicted Record:  10-5
Full-Season Pace:  11.0 wins

Week 17:  at N.Y. Giants, early afternoon
Giants Last Week:  at Minnesota (early afternoon)
Giants Next Week:  None

And, an extra day’s rest to get themselves ready for the regular season finale against the hated G-Men.  I’m not as down on the Giants as most, but I still don’t see them in any position other than spoiler here in Week 17.  Whereas, the only way the Eagles wouldn’t have anything at stake is if they have their playoff fate locked up.  I think the Birds go into Jersey and beat the Giants soundly to round out a very good 2015.

Chance of Victory: 70%
Cumulative Win Shares:  11.00
Predicted Record:  11-5
Full-Season Pace:  11.0 wins

And, there you have it.  An overly complex, confusing way to come to the conclusion that this is an 11-win team…

Maybe those guys who just said “Yep, looks like an 11-win team to me” were smarter than we thought.

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