"The stat that really matters"

"The stat that really matters"

In an NFL season, 16 teams play 16 games each, producing 256 winners and 256 losers. Fans and even some analysts believe brilliant coaches and elite talents separate the two columns. In theory, they would be wrong.

ESPN reporter and former Philadelphia Inquirer scribe Ashley Fox published a telling piece on Friday about the only statistic that ultimately matters on the gridiorn: turnover margin. "Since 2000, teams that have been plus-1 [or better] in turnover margin have won 92 of 128 postseason games (a winning percentage of .719). Teams that have lost the turnover battle have won just 14.8 percent of the time."

Fox specifically details turnover margin during the playoffs, but the same holds true during the regular season as well. In 2011, teams that were plus-1 or better won 157 of 200 such games -- a winning percentage of .785.

No surprise, the Eagles were 3-0 when they won the turnover battle, and 3-6 when they lost.

While many would argue defense was this team's biggest problem, we've maintained all along it was turnovers first and foremost. The Eagles had a 6-3 record and allowed 16.6 points per game when they gave the ball away two times or less, but were 2-5 and allowed 25.6 when coughing it up on three or more occasions. Still, plenty are not convinced the defense couldn't have done more.

To put those numbers in perspective, all 32 teams combined to win 17 out of 103 games when they committed three turnovers or more -- a winning percentage of .159. In eight of the 17, or nearly half of them, the losing team was also on the hook for three-plus.

Amazingly, the Eagles won two of the 17.

As for the defense's part in this, the league average was 29.4 points allowed. By comparison, it was 20.4 PPG when there were two giveaways or fewer. Interesting that the difference for both the Eagles and the entire NFL was exactly the same -- nine points.

However, the Eagles were actually superior to the rest of the league. Whether they committed five turnovers or zero, Philly's defense almost always allowed fewer points per game, and the club's winning percentage was the same or better. See for yourself:

 TO  NFL  EAGLES
 5+  0-13 (.000), 34.4 PPG  0-1 (.000), 31.0 PPG
 4  5-24 (.172), 32.2 PPG  1-1 (.500), 25.0 PPG
 3  12-49 (.197), 27.0 PPG  1-3 (.250), 24.5 PPG
 2  59-74 (.444), 22.6 PPG  3-2 (.600), 16.8 PPG
 1  101-70 (.591), 20.1 PPG  2-1 (.667), 20.3 PPG
 0  79-26 (.752), 18.0 PPG  1-0 (1.000), 7.0 PPG
 3+  17-86 (.159), 29.4 PPG  2-5 (.286), 25.6 PPG
 2-  239-170 (.584), 20.4 PPG  6-3 (.667), 16.6 PPG

There have been some accusations that we are cherry picking stats that support an agenda, but all we're talking about here is points scored, and how it correlates with giveaways. Clearly the defense was fine when they weren't being bludgeoned by turnovers, and in practically every instance, they were above average at keeping points off the board. This isn't sorcery, folks, and there really is no disputing it.

Of course, there will inevitably be detractors from our research regardless of its authenticity. You think hiring Juan Castillo was ignorant. You think Andy Reid is a joke, and the talent is overrated. We get it.

Don't take our word for it then. Just ask Bill Cowher, who was questioned about turnover margin days prior to winning his first Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers, notably in his 14th season as head coach.

"The biggest thing that you can control is how you protect the football," Cowher said. "We put more of a concentrated effort on talking about that. On defense, you play hard, get to the ball and try to strip the ball or get an interception. We certainly talk about that. But those can come in bunches, and you can go through periods where you do all of those things and the other team is just taking care of the ball and you don't get a turnover."

>> The stat that really matters [ESPN.com]
>> Turnovers a big part of winning and losing [USA Today, 2006]

Watch: Jon Dorenbos performs glass-shattering magic trick on America's Got Talent

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Watch: Jon Dorenbos performs glass-shattering magic trick on America's Got Talent

Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos was back on America's Got Talent on Tuesday night to continue his magical run on the popular show judged by Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and their pals.

Dorenbos went with card tricks on his first two appearances on the show (trick 1, trick 2) but mixed things up last night with an interesting trick involving some homemade art.

Each of the judges were told to quickly draw something on a piece of paper and Dorenbos easily guessed who drew what. But that wasn't the crazy part. Dorenbos started the performance by walking out with a glass bottle with a prediction on it. At the end of the drawing exibit, Dorenbos broke the bottle and there was an envelope with the exact drawings labeled with each corresponding artists' name.

To move on, Dorenbos will need to earn the fans vote. The voting has closed but will be announced in the coming days. Watch the wild performance below.

He certainly has Doug Pederson's vote:

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Zach Eflin looks for 7th straight quality start

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Zach Eflin looks for 7th straight quality start

Phillies (46-56) at Marlins (54-46)
12:10 p.m. on CSN

A night after shutting out the Marlins, the Phillies were blanked themselves, falling to the Fish, 5-0, on Tuesday. The Phils look to claim a series win this afternoon in the rubber match. Let's take a look:

1. Zach Eflin, quality start machine
Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) allowed nine runs in 2⅔ innings in his MLB debut in Toronto in early June. Things unraveled quickly for him, and the outing made you wonder whether he had the stuff to get major-league hitters out.

He has the stuff to get major-league hitters out.

In seven starts since that debut, Eflin has a 2.08 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and an opponents' batting average of .207. He's struck out only 24 batters in 47⅔ innings, but walked just five. The control he showed in the minors has translated to the majors. With 1.43 walks per nine innings, Eflin has the fourth-best walk rate in the majors among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings, behind only Clayton Kershaw, Josh Tomlin and Mike Leake.

Eflin, who is 6-foot-6, has the look of a future workhorse. He's been one lately for the Phils, pitching two complete games and completing six innings in six straight starts. 

Eflin has not yet faced the Marlins in his young career.

2. Offense needs a spark
Not sure what it is about Tom Koehler that proves so troublesome for the Phillies. He throws in the low-to-mid-90s and has a decent curveball, but the rest of the league has hit him around. Koehler has faced the Phils four times this season and held them to a .149 batting average while posting a 1.64 ERA. Against all other teams, Koehler has a 5.13 ERA and .302 opponents' batting average.

The Phillies' offense has been anemic since the All-Star break, averaging fewer than 3.0 runs per game and hitting right around .200. The players who were so hot before the break — Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos (who was hurt Tuesday) — have cooled significantly. 

The only players who have hit for the Phillies since the break are Carlos Ruiz (7 for 13, two doubles) and the first basemen. Tommy Joseph is 9 for 29 (.310) with a double, two homers and four RBIs, while Ryan Howard has hit .263 with a pair of homers. 

3. Scouting Conley
The Phillies this afternoon face 26-year-old Marlins left-hander Adam Conley, who is 6-5 with a 3.58 ERA in his first full big-league season. 

Conley is a lanky, 6-foot-3 lefty with a whipping arm motion that creates some deception and can't be too comfortable for a hitter to face. He can be truly dominant at times, like he was on April 29 when he no-hit the Brewers over 7⅔ innings. 

Conley has been especially effective over the last month, going 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in seven starts and allowing more than two earned runs just once.

The Phillies faced him on May 16 at Citizens Bank Park and scored one run on eight hits in six innings. 

Conley is a three-pitch pitcher: fastball, slider, changeup. He throws his 92 to 94 mph heater 66 percent of the time. The changeup is such an effective pitch for him because of the aforementioned whip-like delivery. It's hard for a hitter to diagnose the change in speeds when he has wiry arms and legs coming at him.

Conley has reverse platoon splits: Lefties have hit .287 against him while righties have hit just .221.

4. The lineups
The Phillies are going with an unconventional lineup Wednesday. Cesar Hernandez gets his first start of the season at shortstop. Taylor Featherston makes his first start at second base after striking out as a pinch-hitter in his Phillies debut Tuesday. And seldom-used outfielders Tyler Goeddel and Jimmy Paredes are in the corners.

1. Cesar Hernandez, SS
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Tyler Goeddel, LF
7. Taylor Featherston, 2B
8. Jimmy Paredes, RF
9. Zach Eflin, P

And for the Marlins:

1. J.T. Realmuto, C
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Marcell Ozuna, CF
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Miguel Rojas, 2B
8. Don Kelly, 1B
9. Adam Conley, P

5. This and that
• This is the 13th game between the Phillies and Marlins this season. They've split the first 12. It's been a competitive head-to-head matchup between these teams the last three years, with the Phillies going 26-24 against the Fish since 2014.

• The Phillies are 10 games under .500. They haven't been 11 games under since June 28. They're on pace to finish 73-89, which would be a 10-win upgrade over last year.

Stephen Colbert mocks Phillies, introduces Hilly Phanatic

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Stephen Colbert mocks Phillies, introduces Hilly Phanatic

The only surprising thing about Stephen Colbert making fun of the Phillies with the Democratic National Convention in town this week is that it took until Tuesday.

Colbert used our beloved Phillies as the brunt of a joke last night and then invited out the "Hilly Phanatic" instead because the real guy was unvailable.

"Unfortunately the Phillie Phanatic wasn't available for the convention because it belongs to some baseball team and they can't spare him because he's the only entertaining part," Colbert said.

As you can see below, the Hilly Phanatic has the personality of Mike Pence compared to the real Phillie Phanatic. This one looks like the Phillie Phanatic's second cousin from overseas, not from the Galapagos but rather from the land of Smurfs.