NFL Handicapping: Philadelphia Eagles and Nick Foles
by Trevor Whenham - 11/12/2013
Nick Foles shocked the world two weeks back when he tossed seven touchdown passes against the Raiders. It was, at worst, the second-best performance by any quarterback all season. There was some obvious skepticism — was this a one-hit wonder like we say from Matt Flynn two years back? The answer there isn’t clear yet, but Foles bounced back with another very strong showing against the Packers last week. Now handicappers are faced with a bigger challenge. Is Foles really any good? Can he keep this level of play up? Can he be trusted, and will he provide any betting value? When pondering those questions, here are six questions to consider:
Impressiveness of stats: There is no question that what Foles has done in the last two weeks is incredibly remarkable. Two games back he came out and threw seven touchdowns, and he was as close to perfect as a QB can be. This week he wasn’t up to that level, but he still had an exceptional game. In the last two weeks his combined stat line is almost impossible — 34-of-46 (73.9 percent), 634 yards, 10 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 155.3 (158.3 is perfect). On the year he has 16 TDs without a pick, and he has a very impressive yards per attempt of 9.24 (an average of over seven is more than solid). You wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that the sample size is small for Foles, but there are few quarterbacks who have put together the numbers Foles has in the limited time he has played — especially when he has bounced in and out of the lineup because Chip Kelly can’t seem to stick to anything. Whether it lasts or not, what we have watched Foles do is very interesting.
Opponents: The bulk of Foles’ production has come against the Raiders and the Packers. Neither squad is known for their defensive excellence, but they aren’t atrocious, either — the Packers are 20th in the league in passing yards against, and the Raiders are one spot worse. While he hasn’t faced a massive test so far, the good news is that the road the rest of the way is reasonably smooth as well. His remaining opponents are Washington (26th against the pass), Arizona (19th), Detroit (27th), Minnesota (29th), Chicago (22nd), and Dallas (32nd). If Foles is indeed for real, he is going to have a chance to show it the rest of the way.
Luck on his side: Against the Packers, two of his three touchdowns involved a fair bit of luck. They could just have easily been interceptions if the luck hadn’t been on his side. Luck is a very big part of success in the NFL, of course, so the fact he has enjoyed it is a good thing. Handicappers know, though, that you can’t get too excited when things go particularly well for a player just like you can’t get overly frustrated when luck turns against a player who is fundamentally sound despite the lucky bounces. To put it another way, Foles isn’t going to go interception-free all year, but you don’t need to get down on him too much if he throws a few — as long as his ratios still stay in a strong position.
System has helped: It took a while for Kelly to find a QB he could be comfortable with, and Foles was not foremost in the mind of most because he isn’t as explosive on his feet as Vick by any means. When it comes down to it, though, Foles — with his accuracy, poise under pressure, and willingness to make the right play without regard for ego — is an excellent fit for what Kelly needs. He may not be the long-term solution, and Foles could perhaps be even better in a completely pass-committed offense, but at this point there is a synergy between player and system that could be sustainable and successful the rest of the way. Foles certainly has the support of his teammates.
Right tools around him: Foles isn’t particularly fleet of foot himself, but the speed he has around him is incredible. LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper all have elite speed, and the accuracy and arm that Foles possesses have been able to take full advantage of that speed.
Division is very winnable: The Eagles have a manageable schedule down the stretch, and they are now tied for first place in the NFC East. They have a real chance to win this division and make the playoffs at this point since the Cowboys don’t exactly inspire confidence. The team has something to play for, and they are playing very well right now. That momentum and excitement could be a huge tool for Foles and company — it is much easier to get momentum rolling and stay focused and performing at a high level when you have something to play for.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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