Given the short week, I am going to change things up here a little and use Football Outsiders stats to break down analytical strengths and weaknesses for tonight’s match-up between the Chiefs and Eagles.
We begin this by first taking note of the fact that it is still a little too early in the season to factor any defense-adjustments into these equations. In other words, what we are working with are unadjusted raw stats. To that end, the Chiefs are currently ranked 3rd in Total Efficiency compared to the Eagles 6th ranking. On paper, so far, this appears to be a pretty even match-up from teamwise perspective.
Breaking the teams down a bit further, we see the Chiefs are ranked 12th on Offense while the Eagles are ranked 3rd in that category. On the Defense, the Chiefs retained their #1 ranking following Week 2 while the Eagles are languishing at the 29th spot. On Special Teams, the Chiefs are lagging the pack in the 19th spot, and the Eagles are shining as the 5th best unit.
These stats suggest our defense will face a major test tonight against a potent offense but this threat is also mitigated somewhat by the fact that our offense should have an easier go of it than will be the case for the Eagles offense. Early factors point to a high scoring game, and, for better or for worse, Special Teams (read field position) could well be the critical factor in determining the final outcome of this game.
Digging a little deeper , the Chiefs currently 12th in pass offense, and 4th in the run. The Eagles passing game ranks 4th while their run game stands atop in the #1 spot. On defense, the Chiefs rank 2nd against the pass, and 9th against the run. The Eagles rank 29th against the pass, and 18th against the run. These numbers suggest to me that Philadelphia will score, but perhaps not so easily as they have in the prior two weeks. This kind of begs the question though, to what extent will our defense be able to put our offense in a position to score the most points?
On pass defense, the Chiefs rank 13th at defending #1 WRs, 4th against #2 WRs, 6th against “Other” WRs, 8th against TEs, and 9th against RBs (as receivers). Conversely, the Eagles, for the most part, seem to be struggling against the pass. They rank 19th against #1 WRs, 10th against #2 WRs, 32nd against “Other” WRs (looking at you Dexter McCluster), 24th against TE’s, and 15th against RBs (as receivers). What all this points to is that the Chiefs offense needs to spread the ball around, West Coast style, and the defensive secondary has to shut down, or at least limit, DeSean Jackson. All so simple, right?
Here’s the big rub though – no Chiefs WR currenlty ranks higher than 55th (Donnie Avery) in either DYAR or DVOA. Put differently, how reasonable is it to just assume that the Chiefs actually possess the necessary receiving talent to exploit the Eagles suspect pass defense? That, for me, will be the real $64,000 question going into this game.
Now before anybody accuses me of sacrificing any sacred cows, at least allow me to head off one foreseeable argument about the Chiefs passing game – namely, that Alex Smith is somehow not a good enough passer. So far, Smith’s QBR (65.8, 9th best) is a smidge better than that of Michael Vick’s (64.4, 10th best) and their completion rates are comparable, 61.8% and 62.3%, respectively. Overall, it’s fair to say that Vick currently looks to be the more valuable playmaker of the two, but, by the same token, one can’t overlook the fact that Smith also ranks in the top 3rd of the league in both DYAR and DVOA. Point being, the problems with the Chiefs receiving game do not really point to Smith as the primary cause.
In the trenches, the Chiefs OL is showing 4.15 Adjusted Line Yards (ALY) which currently ranks as 6th best. On the other hand, the OL’s pass protection is not as good, ranking 20th with 5 sacks surrendered just two games in. The Chiefs appear to be most effective on running plays when going between the RG (Asamoah) and RT (Fisher) and least effective when going between the LG (Allen) and LT (Albert/Stephenson). One thing to note about these numbers is that the Chiefs run play preference does not match to the results because they’ve only gone to the Right B gap 5% of the time (15% is the league average). They’ve gone to Left B gap 8% of the time (also below a 13% league average) but at least the latter below average attempts seem to jive with the results. It will be interesting to see whether the Chiefs start upping their Right B gap attempts in an attempt to exploit some of that success.
The Eagles OL is humming right along with 4.41 ALY which marks them as 4th best. Their ability to beat pass protection ranks 15th in the league and they’ve given up 4 sacks to date. Based on the raw numbers for running plays, the Eagles OL, unlike the Chiefs OL, is performing strongly in every major category (Power, Stuffed, 2nd Level, & Open Field). The Eagles appear to so far be very effective in running all lanes except carries outside the RE. Their run play selection (in terms of lane selection and success) is also much more balanced than the Chiefs. Long story short, the Eagles have a very smart, very effective rushing attack and the Chiefs front 7 will have their hands full keeping all that in check.
With regard to the Chiefs Defensive Line, they currently rank 3rd in ALY (3.10 yards) against the run, and 4th in beating pass protection, accumulating 9 sacks so far. KC’s run defense has been particularly effective at limiting 2nd Level and Open Field rushing (6th best at each) but less so in the Power (12th) and Stuffed (20th) categories. Kansas City has been most effective at shutting down runs to the right, where they rank 1st in defending runs between the RT and RG and 4th overall on runs outside the RT. Conversely, they less stout in defending runs that go between the guards (12th), the left B gap (20th), and runs outside the LT (13th). Against the Eagles, the Chiefs will need to maintain their dominance against runs to the right side, while improving their interior and left side run defense. Keeping the Eagles contained on running plays is going to be a major challenge for the Chiefs front 7.
As far as the Eagles DL is concerned, they rank 22nd in ALY (3.80 yards) against the run, and 21st in beating pass protection with 4 sacks to date. Philadelphia’s run defense currently ranks well below league average in the major categories analyzed: 30th against Power rushing, 25th in Stuffed, 20th in 2nd Level, and 19th in Open Field. The Eagles DL has been most effective at limiting runs inside the RT (9th best) and outside the RT (13th). However, they rank below average against defending runs in all the other lanes, most notably, runs that go between the Guards (ranked at 27th).
To summarize, on offense, the Eagles vulnerabilities appear to be few. I would say there are two key points of focus for the Chiefs Defense: 1) shutting down DeSean Jackson and 2) a balanced, stout run defense. On defense, the Eagles appear to be vulnerable to 1) Slot WRs in particular, 2) #1 WRs, 3) a balanced West Coast style passing attack, and 4) rushing plays that go anywhere other than the right of the RG or RT. I feel the key to the game is to not get in a shooting match with Eagles, playing them ugly, ball control style, if need be. If the Chiefs defense can keep the score low, the Chiefs offense will get their opportunities to points on the board and pull out another upset.
Those are the Eagles’ pressure points. Addicts, let’s hear your thoughts on what the Chiefs need to do to beat the Eagles.