WHO WILL BE “BEST IN PENNSYLVANIA” IN THE 2014 NFL SEASON?
Everyone remembers that the up-and-coming Philadelphia Eagles won their division and made the playoffs last year…and that the Pittsburgh Steelers missed the postseason after another disappointing campaign. But, that does that automatically mean the Eagles will rule the state of Pennsylvania once again in the 2014 season?
The betting markets say “maybe but just barely!”
Summer “regular season win totals” centered around 9 for Philadelphia (after a 10-6 performance last year), and either 8.5 or 9 for Pittsburgh (after a pedestrian 8-8 run). That’s surprisingly close considering that Philadelphia is a young team positioned to improve even further under second-year head coach Chip Kelly, while Pittsburgh seems to be sinking in the wrong direction after getting their shot at glory.
With those two teams kicking off dress rehearsal week Thursday Night in a national TV game you can watch on the NFL Network, let’s review the most important strengths and weaknesses for both teams from 2013…
PITTSBURGH’S 2013 STRENGTHS
- Yards-per-play defense pretty good at 5.2, but it came vs. soft schedule
- Ranked #4 in the AFC in yards-per-pass-attempt, and #6 in AFC in fewest picks thrown
Frankly, Pittsburgh didn’t have a lot going for them last year. They finished 8-8 while facing one of the easiest schedules in the league. Ben Roethlisberger is still an authoritative force late in close games because of his experience. But, the team as a whole was way behind the true elites. A shadow of their former selves.
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PITTSBURGH’S 2013 WEAKNESSES
- The defense was poor at taking the ball away, an issue that’s been true for a few years
- The defense was poor at getting sacks
- The defense allowed 40% on third downs, worse than league average
- The offense only ran for 86.4 yards-per-game, third worst in the AFC
Again, they played a WEAK schedule, yet couldn’t make high impact defensive plays or run the ball on offense. Roethlisberger carried the team to the .500 mark in a soft division in a soft conference. At least there are clear categories that the franchise can focus on improving. The dress rehearsal will give you a good chance to evaluate those areas.
PHILADELPHIA’S 2013 STRENGTHS
- Led the NFL at 8.7 yards-per-pass-attempt
- Led the NFL at 160.4 rushing-yards-per-game
- Was second in the NFC and third in the NFL in takeaways
- Had a stellar TD/INT ratio of 32/9, which was even better with QB Nick Foles
The Eagles did benefit from playing a softer schedule than many others in the NFC (though not as soft as Pittsburgh’s!). But, they really abused that schedule statistically. An offense that is great in the air and on the ground while avoiding turnovers is as lethal as it gets. Great debut for Kelly, and then a great delayed debut for Foles.
PHILADELPHIA’S 2013 WEAKNESSES
- First down mark of 39% is much worse than you’d expect given offensive production
- Defense allowed 40% on third downs to a soft schedule
- Defense was bottom third of the league in getting sacks
- Inexperienced under pressure, leading to a stat rout in a home playoff loss to New Orleans (outgained 434-256, lost third down conversions 54% to 25%)
The Eagles may have shown their true colors in loss to the Saints. Despite playing at home, they needed a 2-0 turnover advantage just to stay competitive. It’s true that they almost won despite getting spanked in the stats. But, championship contenders don’t get spanked in the stats on their home field by a Wildcard team. Philadelphia can run away from teams worse than they are…but may not be ready yet to make an impact against those who are better. That, plus the “due to fall back to earth” theory is behind why the market isn’t projecting double digit victories.
JIM HURLEY will definitely have a TV SPECIAL for you in Thursday’s dress rehearsal kickoff. You can always purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about longterm service, call us in the office during normal business hours this week at 1-800-323-4453.
The schedules are more active over the next few days. We’ll preview the national TV games through the weekend by looking at the 2013 strengths and weaknesses of teams being featured.
Friday: NFL TV Preview: Oakland at Green Bay on CBS
Saturday: NFL TV Preview: New Orleans at Indianapolis on CBS
Sunday: NFL TV Preview: San Diego at San Francisco on CBS
Next week we’ll pick up with the pennant races for at least a day…and then we’ll transition to the start of COLLEGE FOOTBALL which begins Thursday August 28 with marquee matchups like Texas A&M at South Carolina and Boise State vs. Ole Miss (in Atlanta).
NFL teams are excited about their dress rehearsals. But, the show is always going on at NETWORK because clients expect to win every day. Get in the Winner’s Circle Spotlight with handicapping superstar JIM HURLEY!
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