I'm searching for that certain "it" to define this football team. I want to know if the Eagles are about to get hot and get on a roll and do all the things I think they can do, and I want more than anything to rush from one Sunday to the next and shorten all of this wait time. Can't stand it. I wonder if the Eagles feel "it," or if they carry the confidence needed to win big games.
"It is a feeling you have, and I think we're getting there," said defensive Darren Howard. "We're not hot yet. Two wins in a row does not make us hot. We just need to go to Seattle and keep winning and see what happens."
Until then, let's look at some numbers and talk one way or the other about what the statistics mean ...
Turnover Ratio, plus-7
This is an excellent indicator that the Eagles are a good team, but there is also the fact that the Eagles were a plus-1 in a loss at Dallas and a plus-2 in the loss at Chicago. Over the course of a season, yes, keeping a good margin generally indicates a team is going to win a lot of games. In the wins over San Francisco and Atlanta, the Eagles have six takeaways. The emphasis they made in the off-season to produce more turnovers has paid off.
Teams win 80 percent of the time when they finish on the right side of the plus/minus table. That's why losing in Dallas (Eagles had a plus-1) and in Chicago (plus-2) was so troubling.
Keep an eye on this statistic. The Eagles are tied for second in the NFL in the turnover ratio department. If they stay there all year, the Eagles should be in the playoffs.
First-Down Differential, plus-1.80 yards
Interesting stat, and it sounds great that the Eagles have gained 5.88 yards per first-down offensive snap, and have allowed 4.08 yards defensively on first down. The offensive number is fourth in the league and the defensive number leads the NFL. By comparison, the Giants have averaged 5.67 yards per offensive first down and have allowed 4.37 on first downs, a differential of 1.30 yards.
So what does it mean? It means the Eagles are playing well on first down on both sides of the ball. That is a good thing. Looking ahead, the Eagles are 16th in the league in third-down efficiency offensively and they are seventh in the league in third-down defense.
Top 10, Total Offense And Total Defense
The Eagles are ranked eighth in the league in total offense and seventh in the league in total defense, joining only the Giants, the Redskins and the Cowboys as teams who rank in the top 10 in both total offense and total defense.
Those numbers speak to the strength of the teams in the division. The NFC East is very, very good. I'm not a big fan of the total offense and total defense statistics, because they are measurements of yards gained, not points scored.
Good statistic for the Eagles, comparing apples to apples, but how much does it really mean? Give me a points per drive statistic, which should be an official, major, widely-recognized statistic in this league.
Sacks Differential, Plus-11
With 23 sacks by the defense and just 12 allowed offensively, the Eagles have a differential that ranks fourth in the league behind the Giants (plus-20), Tennessee (plus-16) and Denver (plus-12). This seems to be a statistic that correlates with wins, right?
This is another statistic to monitor for the remainder of the season. If the Eagles can keep up the pressure on a consistent basis defensively, they are going to continue to take the football away. And if Donovan McNabb stays upright, well, the offense can only benefit.
I like this statistic. It isn't the be-all, end-all to determine how a team is playing at the line of scrimmage, but it tells a pretty accurate story.
Yards Per Game Differential, Plus-64.4 Yards
Hand in hand with total offense and total defense, the Eagles have a high rank in this category (third in the NFL), gaining 372.4 yards on offense and allowing 308.0 yards defenisvely. Comparing the plus-64.4 yards number to the rest of the league, Washington leads the NFL with a plus-91.2 yards, the Giants are second at plus-88 yards, Baltimore is fourth at plus-62.7 yards and Dallas is fifth at plus-60.4 yards.
Yards are yards. Points is what is important, right? Which leads us to ...
Points Per Game Differential, Plus-8.1 Points
Here is another high ranking. The Eagles are third in the league with their plus-8.1 points, among a group that is led by Tennessee (plus-13.3 points), the Giants (plus-10.9 points), Chicago (plus-6.6 points) and Pittsburgh (plus-6-.4 points).
Clearly, if the Eagles continue to rank high in the league in this statistic, yeah, they're going to have a great season. They've won big against the Rams (38-3) and San Francisco (40-26). The three losses were by four points to the Cowboys, four points to the Bears and six points to Washington. The points scored/points allowed differential is good, so far.
So why are the Eagles 4-3? Coaches and players talk about "making plays" as the difference between winning and losing games, and only a few plays separated the Eagles from being much better than 4-3. The team hasn't scored enough touchdowns in the red zone -- that is perhaps the major statistical category where the Eagles rank low and is a huge reason why the record isn't better.
Hey, I'm killing time here. Sunday is still a long ways away. I'm waiting for the "it" moment for this football team in 2008, the moment when we know -- and the team knows -- the direction it will take this year.