The kickoff of the 2015 NFL season is only two days away, so it’s time to start rolling out the previews and predictions. Peter King picked division winners, playoff match-up winners, and new world champions on MMQB. He predicted a Ravens/Packers Super Bowl 50, with the Packers defeating your favorite team to get there:
Philadelphia/Dallas. Flip a coin. I like the Eagles better, by a bit, mostly because the Cowboys lost their best defensive back (Orlando Scandrick) for the year this preseason, and because Philadelphia scored faster this preseason than the Kardashians printed money. But there’s no insurance for Sam Bradford staying upright for the season; if he does, the Eagles are as good as anyone in the NFC, and maybe better.
NFC Championship: Green Bay 30, Philadelphia 26.
On a less gut-feeling level, and certainly a more “statistical” one, FiveThirtyEight says the Eagles are most likely winning the NFC East, but just barely. The Eagles’ projected wins this season comes in at 9.4 to Dallas’ 9.3, and their playoff odds land at 63.6% to Dallas’ 62.2%. Here’s the breakdown, in part:
Teams as good as Philly was last season tend to retain more talent than average. Since the Eagles went 10-6 a year ago, we’d have expected them to bring back 82 percent of their [Approximate Value], which would rank 11th-highest in football this season. But all that chaos means that Philadelphia’s projected continuity percentage for 2015 is merely 68 percent, good for fourth-lowest in the league.
Only the San Francisco 49ers had a larger negative disparity between their expected and actual continuity rates, and the Niners might have just suffered through the worst offseason in NFL history. By contrast, the Eagles’ moves were largely by choice: Kelly turned this roster upside down as part of his grand plan to bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia.
If he succeeds, though, he’ll be bucking four and a half decades of NFL history. Even after controlling for their Simple Rating System (SRS) scores the previous season, teams that had as much roster turnover as the Eagles tended to win about a half-game fewer than would be expected if they’d posted an average rate of continuity.
That’s they key. If Chip succeeds, he’s setting a new trend, one where coaches are going to start demanding full control of their rosters and searching for diamond-in-the-rough quarterbacks. But then again, if Kirk “Kurt” Cousins is as bad as people expect him to be – it’s the Redskins, it’s going to be bad – that might all even out in the NFC East. Only certain coaches will get that roster control they want.