Ah, the Eagles bye week: The one week of the NFL season where I can watch basketball, hockey or Bob’s Burgers (or, as fate would have it, the Nicolas Cage cinematic gift to folklore and mythology, the veritable tour-de-force of high drama, the thespian opus otherwise known as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).
Nick Foles is a sorcerer. There, I said it. I don’t know how else to explain his 16-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, his 9.6 yards-per-attempt average or his 128.0 quarterback rating. What sorcery is this?
Just to be clear, mere mortals need to digest a few statistics on that insane performance against the Raiders:
- Foles went 22-for-28 for 406 yards and seven touchdowns, tying the NFL record for touchdowns thrown in a single game. He joins three Hall of Famers and Peyton Manning, a surefire future Hall of Famer.
- Foles had more touchdowns (seven) than incompletions (four).
- Foles’ seven touchdown passes equaled the amount of total touchdowns that the Raiders had scored up to that point all year.
- Foles is the only quarterback to achieve a perfect rating this season, 158.3.
- He looks like Napoleon Dynamite.
While not necessarily relevant, that last part adds to his growing legacy and whimsical identity. That he followed that historically good game with two more stellar ones—throwing a combined three touchdowns and 526 yards in wins over the Redskins and Packers—shows that the game against the Raiders was no fluke.
And this newfound alchemy is extending to the other players, too. Since Foles came in under center against the Giants in Week 5, DeSean Jackson is averaging 84.5 yards per game—not outrageously productive but still very good. But the guy who’s been benefitting most is that other wide receiver, the guy best known for his—how do you say it—passion for country music: Riley Cooper. Before Nick Foles, Cooper was averaging 18.6 yards per game. With Foles in, though, that number has jumped to 71.3.
If you prorate that number across a full 16 game season, you’d see Cooper with 1,140 yards. Am I convinced that Riley Cooper is that good? Not really. A lot of his receptions have come on blown coverages (not to mention all the space he has to work with thanks to DeSean Jackson constantly drawing double-coverage). But he has had some head-scratchingly good plays. He’s looking like a foundation of this team for years to come.
Amid all this high-fiving and preemptive playoff beard growing, one thing is seemingly lost in the shuffle, though: this team’s improving, opportunistic defense. Admittedly, the defense is still awful; it ranks 31st in yards allowed per game. But, the Eagles’ D has been successful where it matters most: in the red zone. The defense has allowed an average of 4.2 points per game in the red zone (fourth-best in the league) and has only allowed opponents to score points—touchdowns or field goals—in 78 percent of the time in the red zone (also fourth-best in the NFL). Credit goes to first-year defensive coordinator Bill Davis for brewing up some Nicolas Cage-like magic and squeezing the most out of his young D.
This week’s matchup against an upstart Arizona Cardinals team poses a real challenge to the formula, though. The Cardinals boast one of the league’s top defenses and a much-improved pass attack led by Carson Palmer. But after a week off, the Birds should—should—put up a good fight. This might be my inner Nick Cage talking, but I’m expecting a good fight, a fantastical battle to see which witch’s brew works best.
Who’s Balthazar? The guy who will deliver a Nick Cage-style fantasy ass kicking in Week 12: DeSean Jackson. DJax is on fire with 985 yards after just 11 games. Arizona’s glaring weakness on D is its pass defense, where they allow an average of 235.8 yards. While Jackson will be shadowed by talented cornerback Patrick Peterson, I still expect Jackson (with a league-leading 19 plays of at least 20-yard gains) to break off a big play or two.
Who’s Maxim Horvath? The guy who’s out for world domination… and your team’s damnation in Week 12: Jason Avant. How you’ve let us down! We thought you’d be that safety-valve for the young Nick Foles, an easy completion whenever he needed a few yards. But after averaging 30 yards over your past three games and with just one touchdown … let’s just say it’s time to stop holding out hope for a breakout game.
Who’s Dave Stutler? The guy who’s got good intentions (but questionable ability) in Week 12: Eagles Defense. I know, I know, I just spent time talking them up. But, the Cardinals’ offense has been much better over the last four weeks, and Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer has managed to throw for 1,146 yards, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in that span. There will be good matchups in the coming weeks; this, however, isn’t one of them.
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4