Game of the Week: Eagles at Titans
Philadelphia visits Tennessee for the second time in history for a huge inter-conference battle between two Super Bowl hopefuls fighting to stay atop tough divisions.
But there's a big difference between the Eagles, Titans and those other teams on the list. All those other teams feature elite quarterbacks: Indy's Manning and New England's
Philadelphia and Tennessee, meanwhile, are led by a strange hodgepodge of troubled or aging passers. Frequently, the teams don't even know who'll be under center from week to week. Despite the lack of continuity, both teams pass the ball as well as the league's best. Here's how the four passers have performed this year:
Those are great numbers from a curious quartet: Vick spent two years at the height of his career in jail; Kolb had started just two games in three years when Philly traded away its best QB in a half century (
Young or Collins looks like a game-time decision for Tennessee; Kolb will take the field for the Eagles, but Vick appears fully recovered from his rib injury and will probably see playing time.
Despite the lack of continuity, all four quarterbacks have put up big numbers and helped their teams win games. It's an enviable situation for both clubs in a league in which consistency at QB means everything and in which so many teams struggle to find even one good player at the position.
Stat That May Interest Only Us of the Week: Collins is No. 12 all time in career passing yards (38,877). The quarterbacks keeping him out of the top 10 are
Fisher has won all three previous meetings:
2006 -- Tennessee 31, Philadelphia 13 (in Philly)
2002 -- Tennessee 27, Philadelphia 24 (in Tennessee)
2000 -- Tennessee 15, Philadelphia 13 (in Philly)
Fisher's unblemished record against Reid -- the NFC's best coach of the past decade -- has come during an era of clear AFC domination over the NFL's senior circuit. The NFC has not posted a winning record against the AFC since 1995.
The recent trends are not favorable for Philly, either. The AFC went 37-27 in inter-conference play last year, with only the champion Saints saving the NFC from further embarrassment (5-0 vs. the AFC, including the Super Bowl win).
The AFC is 15-11 in inter-conference play this year, and the Titans have already bested two of Philly's
The Eagles, for their part, dominated at Jacksonville, 28-3, in their lone game against an AFC opponent.
The Titans right now are No. 2 in the indicator, behind only the
Credit a vastly improved pass rush led by defensive end
Babin's defensive end mate,
Examined through the colorful statistical kaleidoscope of our Defensive Hog Index, the Titans are No. 12 against the run (4.0 YPA), No. 3 at forcing Negative Pass Plays (13.13 percent of dropbacks end in a sack or INT) and No. 2 on third-down defense (opponents convert 28.9% of attempts).
The NFL is all about winning the passing wars -- but in terms of efficiency (passer rating, yards per attempt) and not volume (attempts, completions, yards). Efficiency wins Super Bowls. Volume wins your barroom fantasy football league.
And the Eagles and Titans are legit Super Bowl contenders, at least at this point in the season, because they're winning the passing efficiency wars.
Before the start of the 2009 season, to prove the importance of passing efficiency on both sides of the ball, Cold, Hard Football Facts.com introduced a new Quality Stat:
The theory was that the best teams are the teams that dominate the passing wars. Well,
We have full confidence the indicator will prove its worth again. The Chargers actually top
But the rest of the list is quite relevant to our Game of the Week: the Eagles and Titans are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, dominant in their passing efficiency on both offense and defense. The Eagles and Titans -- and it's no coincidence -- are followed immediately on the Passer Rating Differential list by last year's Super Bowl teams:
Philadelphia-Tennessee is a battle of two evenly matched clubs, each of whom harbors legit Super Bowl hopes. The Eagles enjoy slight advantages in passing efficiency on offense and defense, while the Titans are better in the trenches, topping Philadelphia on both our
If you're looking for one statistical mismatch that could turn the game in favor of one team, look at what happens when the Eagles have the ball and step back to pass.
Philadelphia, despite its efficiency, has suffered an extraordinarily high number of Negative Pass Plays: nearly 10 percent of dropbacks this year have ended in a sack or interception. Only eight teams, most of them bottom dwellers, suffer Negative Pass Plays more often than the Eagles.
Tennessee, as noted above, counters with perhaps the league's best pass rush and one of the best defenses at forcing mistakes in the passing game: the Titans force a Negative Pass Play (sack or INT) on more 13 percent of dropbacks, the third best rate in the NFL.
Look for a big sack or pick by Tennessee to ultimately turn the tide in its favor.