The 2017 and 2018 Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles of ’17 and ’18 are a unique study because of the injury to quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz started 13 games of their Super Bowl season, but after an injury it was Nick Foles that carried them to their actual win. Foles then started the beginning of the following season with Wentz returning to start 11 games that season but getting re-injured and having to turn it back over to Foles for the end of the season and playoffs.
Obviously, that inconsistency at the most important position on the field had significant effect on the team, but it’s not like you can say it was a nail in the coffin for them, since Foles took over and won the Super Bowl the previous season. What else was going on?
Offensively, the biggest difference between the two seasons was the effectiveness of the run game. In 2017, they averaged 132.2 yards per game (3rd in the NFL) and 4.5 yards per carry, but in 2018 those numbers dropped to 98.1 yards per game (28th in the NFL) and 3.9 yards per carry. Now, the Eagles winning less games in 2018 will naturally lead to a decrease in rushing yards because teams run more when they have the lead, especially in the second half. However, winning four less games shouldn’t account for the Eagles going from the 3rd best rushing team in the NFL to the 5th worst team.
The Eagles did lose LeGarrette Blount who had been their leading rusher in 2017 and failed to find a solid replacement. Wendell Smallwood, Jay Ajayi, Josh Adams, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles all contributed some, but the Eagles simply weren’t able to get the run game going like they did in 2017. The offensive line was relatively stable those seasons so it’s hard to put the blame on the big guys up front.
The passing yards, completion percentage, and yards per attempt were all up in 2018, but it didn’t help the offense as they scored almost six less points per game.
On defense they had an even bigger drop off all around. They went from allowing just 306.5 yards per game (4th best in the NFL) to 366.2 (23rd best). They allowed about 40 more passing yards per game and 20 more rushing yards as well. Another huge factor was turnovers. In 2017 they forced 31 turnovers and had a +11 turnover margin. In 2018, those numbers dropped to only 17 forced turnovers and a -6 turnover margin.
The Eagles did have some losses on the defensive side of the ball in 2018. They lost defensive end Vinny Curry and linebacker Mychal Kendricks to free agency and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan missed time with an injury. They had some issues in the secondary as well, but overall it was largely the same cast of characters as in 2017.
So ultimately the biggest drop offs for the Eagles in their attempt to repeat were a loss of production in the run game and a significant all around drop off on defense, including a drastic drop off in turnovers. The good news for Chiefs fans is that those same drop offs don’t appear to be huge concerns for Kansas City.
The Chiefs were only 22nd in rushing last season and took the first running back in the draft in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs are returning almost all of their offensive line as well, with Stefen Wisniewski being their only loss there (and adding Lucas Niang in the draft). So the Chiefs do not looked poised to have a drop off in their rushing attack, if anything it should be improved over last season.
Defensively, the Chiefs were in the middle of the pack in yards per game allowed. With the defense seemingly improving as the year went on, they could be poised for improved overall defensive numbers. The Chiefs are a little thin at cornerback and if Chris Jones were to hold out and miss games due to his contract situation that could have an effect on the defense.
Overall, I like KC’s chances to at very least repeat their numbers from last season. If Jones plays, the corners hold up, and Frank Clark is healthy all season, the Chiefs could actually be noticeably improved on defense.
Finally, the Chiefs were a solid +8 in turnover margin last season. If that number were to drastically swing into the negatives it could certainly hurt the Chiefs chances in repeating as Super Bowl champions. Overall though, I feel like the Chiefs are poised to avoid many of the issues that kept the Eagles from being able to repeat in 2018.
Now let’s do the same thing with the New England Patriots.