Why home-field advantage matters so much for the Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on Monday after they beat the Oakland Raiders 19-10 at Lincoln Financial Field. It may have been an ugly performance, but its importance cannot be underrated.
For starters, consider the basic fact the Eagles are 7-0 at home. But the bigger development is that the home-field edge could make up for the downgrade at quarterback to Nick Foles from the injured Carson Wentz.
To gauge the bounce from home-field advantage against the drop in production at quarterback, you have to dive into the nitty-gritty a bit.
Wentz, before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 14, completed 60 percent of his passes for 253.5 yards per game, producing a 101.9 passer rating. Back up Nick Foles has completed 59 percent of his passes for 200 yards per game and an 88.1 rating. The offense, as you might expect, has slowed down as a result: with Wentz, the Eagles scored 2.4 points per drive but just 1.8 per drive with Foles.
That's definitely a dip, but scoring 1.8 points per drive is an above-average rate this season. Add in an Eagles defense that is allowing just 1.5 points per drive, the fifth-lowest rate in 2017, and Philadelphia would produce the ninth-largest net points per drive mark in the NFL this year with Foles under center, a rate on par with the 9-6 Baltimore Ravens and higher than the 11-4 Carolina Panthers.
In terms of points, the Eagles are projected to score 18 points per game with Foles, three points less than they did with Wentz. However, using the same data that helped construct our power rankings - which highlights a team's actual and expected win percentage for the year, Philadelphia gets at least a 10 percentage point boost to its win probability over each of the NFC teams currently in the playoff picture due to home-field advantage. Translate that to points, as Las Vegas does to calculate its point spreads, and you get a boost of about three points. That effectively bridges the gap between Wentz and Foles on the field.
It goes without saying the Eagles would be better off with home-field advantage and Carson Wentz, but at least now the home venue neutralizes the impact of starting Foles.
Losing Wentz hurts, but securing home-field advantage should greatly help the Eagles navigate the loss of an MVP candidate by improving their odds of winning without him.
Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.