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Eagles likely to improve in 2017 based on advanced metrics

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Eagles likely to improve in 2017 based on advanced metrics

If analytics are to be believed, the Eagles have an excellent shot at improving upon last season’s 7-9 record in 2017. Better still, the Giants and Cowboys are likely to experience declines based on the same metrics.

The Eagles were among five NFL teams chosen to improve, while their NFC East rivals make up two of the five picked to decline by ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, all based on advanced statistics. A Football Outsiders alumnus, Barnwell uses the gap between a club’s win total and “Pythagorean expectation” from the previous season to find trends that could point to their rise or fall the following year.

Or, in layman’s terms, basic figures such as the Eagles’ point differential (+36), record in games decided by seven points or less (1-8), and strength of schedule (.544) in 2016 – when taken together – can be a sign of things to come. It just so happens the Eagles were statistical outliers in all three categories, which bodes well.

No team has a better stat-nerd case for jumping into the postseason in 2017 than the Eagles. Advanced metrics suggest Doug Pederson's team was already playoff-caliber last season…

Instead, the Eagles became one of five teams in 2016 to post a losing record despite a positive point differential, which is a particularly weird feat because it hadn't happened once in the league across either of the previous two campaigns. Philadelphia's gap between expected wins and actual wins was the largest of those five, owing to that 1-8 record in games decided by a touchdown.

The Eagles also played either the first- or second-most difficult schedule in the NFL based on metrics, while the ’17 slate projects closer to league average, per Barnwell.

Although strength of schedule may be virtually impossible to predict, the Eagles’ point differential and particularly their inability to win close games is something we’ve already touched on here. As many as five losses last season were decided not merely by one score, but one play. Pure regression to the mean could potentially account for an extra win or two in tight games.

That’s before we even consider the development of Carson Wentz, the expectation Lane Johnson won’t be suspended, the additions of LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery to the offense, and the hope the defense continues making progress in Year 2 under Jim Schwartz.

Compare the metrics to the Giants, who had a worse point differential (+26) and went 8-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer en route to an 11-5 record last season – all while playing the league’s 15th-ranked schedule (.506).

The biggest reason the Giants turned things around is one you'll rarely hear from a fan: They stayed healthy. It's easy to notice when teams struggle with a season of injuries, but teams who are far healthier than the league average often slip through the cracks. By adjusted games lost, the Giants ranked as the most injured team in the league each of Coughlin's final three seasons at the helm. They ranked as the seventh-healthiest team in football last season.

Or look at the Cowboys, who went 7-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer and played the 12 th-easiest schedule (.491) en route to a 13-3 finish.

One of the biggest reasons the Cowboys leaped up the standings in 2016 was their massive improvement in turnover differential…

History tells us the sort of leap the Cowboys made almost always gives way to some decline the following season. Teams that improved by 20 or more turnovers in a given season saw their margin decline by more than 11 turnovers the following year. They declined as a group by an average of more than one win. (Quarterback Dak Prescott) probably won't post a sub-1 percent interception rate next year. That's reality.

And if all of this sounds like a bunch of razzle dazzle with no real substance behind it, consider this: four of the five teams Barnwell predicted to improve in 2016 did just that, while two of the five picked to decline followed suit as well.

Twitter roasts the heck out of Markelle Fultz's brutal free throws

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Twitter roasts the heck out of Markelle Fultz's brutal free throws

Oh man, oh man, oh man. It's finally here. The 2017-18 Sixers season is underway with our squad locked in a pretty tightly contested game down in Washington after a quarter of play.

We've already seen Joel Embiid attempt to destroy the world -- and get fouled.

But the most buzzed about moment from the first frame of the Sixers' young season was clearly when Markelle Fultz went to the foul line and... well, tossed up some ugly bricks.

This isn't the first time we've seen this but it is the first time non-preseason Sixers fans are seeing it. We wondered aloud if the Sixers were doing the right thing with Fulz prior to tonight's game. The lack of information on his injuries is troubling. So what's the deal with that form?

Well, Twitter had a field day with it.

Although Fultz's shoulder looked perfectly fine on this delicious block! He also had a couple of early buckets.

It's a long season, rook. Just please work on that free throw motion.

 

Redskins RB thinks Eagles fans are mean (but maybe a little clever too)

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Redskins RB thinks Eagles fans are mean (but maybe a little clever too)

There's never any love lost between NFC East rivals so this Monday's much-anticipated contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins is sure to bring plenty of chatter to go along with some exciting football.

Philly's reputation often precedes it and there was some new fuel added to that fire on Wednesday when Washington running back Chris Thompson said some inflammatory -- or complimentary, depending how you look at it -- things about our city's thoughtful fans.

Thompson was a guest on ESPN 980 this morning and said he's anxious to play the Eagles in Philly because they're one of the best teams in the NFL. But also for other reasons.

From the Washington Post:

“Philly fans are some of the meanest fans I’ve ever experienced, too,” he said, “so I’m excited about that as well.”

Host Bram Weinstein then asked for any favorite tales, and Thompson obliged.

“You see a lot of the players pregame when we run out of the tunnel, guys just go pray or whatever in the end zone,” Thompson said. “And [two years ago] I went and prayed in the end zone, and one of the [fans] told me, he was like ‘God’s not gonna help you today.’ And I was like oh, shoot. I heard it while I was praying. I was like dang, all right, that’s a little harsh.”

Harsh. But fair!

On a serious note, Thompson also said he's not planning on bringing his family to Philly for the game.

“I heard that’s the one stadium you keep your family from going to,” Thompson told Weintstein. “My family will be here this week, and they were like ‘I want to come to the Philly game.’ I said absolutely not, you’re gonna have to wait until Dallas comes around. Because my step dad, he’s a big guy. And if he starts fighting, It’ll be real bad out there. I was told that right away my rookie year: keep your family away.”

Now, I can't say I disagree entirely. But not just with Eagles games in Philly. NFL games in general are most certainly not a family friendly environment. Every other week there's a video of an incident from Carolina or San Francisco or any other stadium around the country of fans acting in ways that are incredibly unfriendly to a family environment.

I took my now wife to her first Eagles game three seasons ago. We sat in the club level where I joked (kinda) that she wouldn't see any of the infamous rowdy behavior. That was before one of the largest brawls I've ever seen broke out with guys tumbling down row after row. And that was Eagles-fan-on-Eagles-fan violence.