The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the strangest 2021 NFL playoff teams. Ahead of the season, betting markets set the Eagles' win total at a lowly 6.5, and the team itself was thought to have one of the least talented rosters in the league. As a result, many expected Philadelphia to finish at bottom of the standings.
Yet, on the back of sharp coaching and a vastly improved Jalen Hurts, the Eagles have guaranteed their spot in the playoffs. So what are we to make of them in each of their potential wild-card matchups now that they’ve arrived? Can they pull off an upset?
Note that all stats cited in this article will be coming from neutral game scripts: early downs inside the 20-yard lines with a score margin of 20 points or less. Additionally, RPOs will be counted as runs, and screens will be their own separate category.
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The Rams are unequivocally the Eagles' worst potential matchup. Most of this centers around the battle between Los Angeles' offense and Philadelphia's defense in the middle of the field. The Eagles are one of the worst teams in the NFL at covering the middle of the field, as their opponents target that area on 44.6% of dropbacks at a clip of 0.37 expected points added per play. Both of those metrics rank in the bottom 10 of the NFL, playing exactly into what the Rams want to do on offense.
They target the middle of the field on 40.9% of dropbacks at a clip of 0.40 EPA per play, which each rank among the top 10 in the NFL. One of the Rams’ biggest offensive strengths is one of the Eagles’ biggest defensive weaknesses, so this is a recipe for disaster.
The story doesn’t get much prettier on the opposite side of the ball. While much has been made about the Eagles’ league-best EPA per rush mark, their passing attack has been nothing to sneeze at either. They gain 0.11 EPA per pass, which is good for ninth in the league, but this comes with the large caveat of their easy schedule.
And blitzing greatly diminishes their numbers too. Philadelphia's EPA per pass attempt drops to 0.05 in such situations, good for 16th in the NFL. Los Angeles will look to capitalize on that with devastating effect, given their top 10 blitz rate, and has a very good chance of shutting down Philly’s running game with their fifth-best EPA allowed per rush mark
Verdict: Very low chance of an upset
A month ago, this matchup likely would’ve gone as poorly as a Rams-Eagles game, but the Bucs’ fortunes have changed quite a bit. In particular, losing Chris Godwin to injury and losing Antonio Brown to Antonio Brown appears to have mitigated their will to throw the ball over the middle.