NFC East jumble continues as advanced stats highlight ways to win, and lose
The Eagles were the only NFC East team to leave Week 5 with a win, and they did so convincingly. The Giants were handed their first loss in the Daniel Jones era, the Cowboys once again failed to reproduce their stellar offense from the first few weeks of the season, and Washington fell so hard to New England that their head coach is now unemployed.
(Reminder: Expected Points uses data from previous NFL seasons to determine how many points a team is likely to come away with on a given play, based on down, distance, time remaining, and field position. The difference in expected points at the start of a play and expected points at the end is referred to as expected points added, or EPA.)
The Eagles offense had an average day in the air, but were led to a 25-point victory on the back of three turnovers and two defensive touchdowns. They held the Jets to the worst passing EPA/play of the week, before the Browns did Browns things on Monday Night Football.
The Giants had a rough game against Minnesota. Their ground game was their second worst performance of the season by EPA/carry, but it's tough to run the ball well when you're down to your third-string running back. The Vikings, who have been the run-heaviest team this year, had their best passing game of the season against the Giants defense. It was the worst passing defense performance for the Giants since the season opener in Dallas.
Washington took an early lead on New England, but failed to score any points over the final minutes of the game. They did have their most efficient rushing game of the season, but weren't able to run the ball much as they trailed for most of this contest.
Dallas actually had above average passing and rushing offenses this week, despite a three interception day from Dak Prescott. Ezekiel Elliott had a good day on the ground, but like Washington, he didn't get as many opportunities because of a negative game script.
Week 5 Top Players
Carson Wentz was again just as efficient as his team needed him to be. He only threw one pass more than 20 yards downfield, but it didn't matter, as the two defensive touchdowns for the Eagles were enough to win the game on their own. On the other hand, Dak Prescott had his highest average depth of target (ADoT) of the season, largely a case of playing almost the entire game from behind. He was about average, which in his case is a huge drop from where he began the year.
Daniel Jones also played from behind for much of the game and was forced to throw deeper than usual, to less success. Colt McCoy did about as well as either of the other Washington quarterbacks did last week, and about as well as anyone has done against New England this season.
My favorite little nugget here is that Miles Sanders, running back, ran deeper routes this week than Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver. I wouldn't knock Jeffery on this at all though, as it's tough to judge a passing offense in a game where they were leading the whole time. If anything, it says more about the Eagles' confidence in Sanders as a receiver.
Three of the four highest average target depth receivers this week play in the NFC East. Rookie wideout Darius Slayton caught his first touchdown pass and also lead the NFL in ADoT. He finished with the fourth best EPA/target in the league this week.
It turns out Washington's good rushing day wasn't at all due to their running backs. Adrian Peterson had the second worst EPA/carry in the league, and Wendell Smallwood wasn't all that much better. Their team rushing success was all due to the big play by wide receiver Steven Sims.
Jordan Howard continues to see an increased workload in Philadelphia's offense. His EPA/carry was slightly negative, but he did finish in the top half of the league in success rate. Zeke had the best day of this bunch, but didn't see as many carries as he might be used to.
Here we are looking at a couple metrics designed to look mostly at the play of a defense's front seven. The x-axis shows playmaking EPA against run plays, an accumulation of the EPA lost by an offense on plays where the defender...well, made a play. Think tackles for a loss and forced fumbles. On the y-axis, we've got expected sacks. Expected sacks combines pressures from a defender with the sack rate from opposing quarterbacks to give the number of sacks a player should likely see from his pressure rate.
The Eagles' 10-sack day on Sunday resulted Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox being two of the top-5 pass rushers by xSacks. Markus Golden and Maliek Collins lead the charge in New York and Dallas, respectively, though neither compares to the top-end production in Philadelphia.
Cole Holcomb sticks out as the best run defender in the NFC East by playmaking EPA. The Dallas linebacker combo of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith continues to be stout against the run as well, both among the top-20 linebackers in this metric.
Top Offensive Play
Washington's Steven Sims took an end-around 65 yards to the house in the first quarter against New England. It was the biggest EPA play given up by the Patriots this year, and the East's biggest EPA play of Week 5. (5.77 EPA)
Top Defensive Play
Orlando Scandrick's first game as an Eagle was an impressive one. He finished with two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. That strip-sack touchdown was the East's top defensive play in Week 5. (-9.25 EPA)
The Giants get a really difficult task of traveling to New England for Thursday Night Football. This might be the most dominant Patriots team we've seen since 2007, which means if anyone can pull the upset, it's inexplicably the Giants.
Washington heads to Miami for a battle for the basement. The loser here could potentially be in prime position for the top pick in this year's draft. Neither team has had much success on the ground, but Washington has at times had a decent passing game. If their air attack looks more like it did in the first three weeks, they should get the win. If it looks like it did the past two weeks, this could be a long game.
The Eagles get a strong rushing team in Minnesota this week. The Vikings are also coming off of their strongest passing game of the season, so the Eagles' pass rushers will need to continue their impressive play. Carson Wentz will likely be called upon much more in this game than he has been the last two weeks.
The Cowboys have a great chance for a get-right game against the Jets. The Jets were brutalized by the Eagles defensive line last week, and while they have Sam Darnold back, they've still got the same offensive line. Prescott and Elliott both should feast in this one.