The Tipping Points for the Eagles' Defense

The Tipping Points for the Eagles' Defense

When the Eagles' defense holds the opponent to 19 points or less, their record is 6-0 -- 21 points or more, it's 0-8.

On face value, that's pretty damning for Juan Castillo, even though critics are pondering whether the defensive coordinator saved his job after his unit had dominant outings in consecutive weeks. As an aside, I find it curious how two games could completely change the narrative about Juan -- one, the Dolphins were seriously handicapped by injuries, and two, where were those stories after the defense shut down Washington and Dallas back to back? Sometimes the media are even more fickle than the fans. Rant over.

Getting back on track, we were alluding to there being something more to the story, and there is. Over/under 20 points has not been the only "tipping point" for the Birds this season, meaning a statistical threshold that determines when a games is likely to either be won or lost. In games the Eagles' defense holds the opponent to 19 points or less, the offense is averaging two turnovers; 21 points or more, the offense is averaging three turnovers.

I've been trying to tell you guys the Eagles' defense isn't that bad all season. Maybe I was too verbose, or maybe I needed to do a better job of connecting the dots. Today, we put the numbers in a better position to explain.

The Eagles are 4-3 in games where they commit two turnovers or less. In those seven games, the defense is allowing 18.9 points per game.

The Eagles are 2-5 in games where they commit three turnovers or more. In those seven games, the defense is allowing 23.6 points per game.

The data should come as no surprise. The Eagles have led the NFL in turnovers for essentially the entire season. Turnovers put additional pressure on defenses. The offense doesn't put points on the board. Very often the defense is left to defend a short field. The momentum swings. The odds of an offense scoring increase with every yard closer they start to the end zone, just like the odds of a football team winning decrease with every turnover the offense commits.

We can nudge the data even further to accommodate our point by removing the outliers. The Eagles committed three turnovers against the Giants in November, but still limited New York to 10 points. Conversely, the Patriots hung 38 on the defense, while the offense only gave the ball away once. Now the defense allows 25.8 PPG when the offense has three-plus turnovers, and they allow 15.7 PPG when offense is at two or fewer.

Too often the offense has put the defense in precarious positions. So many of this season's losses hinge on a turnover, but when Juan Castillo's troops don't lock it up at the end -- personnel, by the way, that is questionable or new at several key positions -- Juan takes all the blame.

I don't know if he saved his job, but I do know Juan Castillo hasn't received a fair shake.

Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles (5-7) come into Sunday's game against the Redskins (6-5-1) on a three-game losing streak.

The Redskins exposed the Eagles' defense the last time these two teams met almost two months ago on Oct. 16.

Here are our (cough) expert predictions for this Week 14 matchup.

Dave Zangaro (4-8)
After losing three straight games, I couldn't pick the Eagles against just about any team in the NFL. Maybe Cleveland. Maybe Chicago. 

But against Washington? Nah. Can't do it. 

Sure, I know Washington comes into the Linc on a two-game losing streak, and they're clearly not a top team in the NFC. It just doesn't matter. Kirk Cousins is a decent quarterback and Washington clearly has enough weapons to shred the Eagles like they did for 493 yards in the first meeting. 

For the Eagles' offense, Carson Wentz hasn't looked good in a long time and this week he enters with a few of his skill position players banged up. 

This looks like another loss to me. 

Washington 26, Eagles 20

Derrick Gunn (5-7)
The Eagles are an embarrassed, desperate team, and a win over the Redskins could lift the weight of what has been a downward spiral. Ryan Mathews and Jordan Matthews returned to practice this week, but can they jolt this offense back to life? Carson Wentz has played like a rookie the last three games, and the once stout defense has crumbled.

So here come the Redskins, losers of two in a row but still very much in the playoff conversation. The Redskins' defense is beat up and could be missing several key players, but unfortunately for the Eagles, Washington's offensive weapons are relatively healthy, except for tight end Jordan Reed, who's listed as questionable with an AC joint sprain. Matt Jones and Robert Kelley pack a punch out of the backfield. 

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been in a zone. Over their last six games, Cousins has averaged 352.6 passing yards, plus he's thrown 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. 

The Eagles remember what Washington did to them back in Week 6, but I feel their revenge motives will fall short.

Redskins 27, Eagles 17

Ray Didinger (5-7) 
With all the talk this week about effort and players dogging it, I fully expect the Eagles to come out focused and fired up at home Sunday. Here's the problem: I just don't know if they are good enough to win the game. Motivation is one thing, but talent is another and right now, the Eagles are lacking in that area.
 
The players have been called out by their coach, by the media and by the fans so if they have any pride at all they will come out and play hard against the Redskins but I look at the matchup of this Eagles' secondary against the Washington receivers — especially a hot DeSean Jackson (25.3 yards per catch the last three games) — and I don't see a happy result.
 
Redskins 24, Eagles 17

Corey Seidman (5-7)
Close game, better performance from Carson Wentz and an awakening in the run game, but not enough defensive talent to shut down what Washington will try to do deep with DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder, over the middle with Jordan Reed and short with Pierre Garcon.

Redskins 31, Eagles 27

Andy Schwartz (5-7)
It's simply come to this. I can't pick the Eagles to win a game the rest of the season until they do.

I want to think the offense will benefit from the return of Ryan Mathews and Jordan Matthews. And I want to think the defense will play with desperation and break out of its "slump" and make some big plays.

But I won't believe it until I see it.

Redskins 24, Eagles 16

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took a shot off his right hand in the second period Saturday and has a bone bruise. 
 
The Flyers will watch it because sometimes the swelling prevents wearing a glove comfortably the next day.
 
Ghost, who has five points – all assists – over his past six games, was hit with a puck in the second period of a 4-2 win over the Stars. He went to the bench and tried to shake it off, but left for the dressing room shortly after a Flyers power play began in the period’s final three minutes.
 
He participated for part of the power play, then left the ice and did not return until the start of the third period.
 
“It was good by then,” he said. “Obviously, it hurt a bit.”
 
The Flyers play in Detroit on Sunday night. 
 
Ghost has 16 points (four goals) in 29 games this season. X-rays were negative, he said, adding he was not worried about the hand, which was badly swollen after the game.