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February 03, 2018

Mailbag: Who is going to win Super Bowl MVP?

In our weekly Eagles chat on Friday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow.

Question from Moose in Saudi: Who will be the Super Bowl MVP, and why?

Jay Ajayi has been with the Eagles for nine games. Here's a breakdown of his touches in three-game increments:

 Jay AjayiTouches per game 
 First three games7.3 
 Middle three games14.0 
 Last three games18.3 

In addition to Ajayi's steady increase in touches, I was really sold by a great piece that is worth your time from Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, which shows the Patriots' struggles against the run when the opposing offense is in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs). An excerpt: 

The Patriots defense is particularly susceptible to runs out of 11 personnel.

This year they are allowing a 61% success rate and 6.0 YPC to offenses when they are running the ball out of 11 personnel.  These rankings are well worse than the NFL average of 47% success and 4.6 YPC out of 11.

And when these teams run out of shotgun from 11, they average 6.7 YPC and post a 59% success rate against New England.  The numbers don’t get much better for the Patriots even when stripping out potential garbage time.  When stripping out all runs where the offense was behind by over 10 points, the Patriots still allowed 6.6 YPC and a 56% success rate to 11 personnel in shotgun.

But it’s not just isolated to shotgun, as this year the Patriots still allowed a 64% success rate and 4.9 YPC to RBs-run from 11 personnel when under center.

So what does this mean for the Super Bowl?

The Eagles are one of the most run heavy teams from 11 personnel, recording nearly 60% of their total rushes on the year from 11 personnel.  The only teams with a higher rate of runs in 11 personnel were the Raiders and Rams.

I think the Eagles unleash Ajayi on Sunday, and I think he rewards them for it.

Question from JPP’s Index Finger: Is Belichick going to pull out the Philly parade route crap again as motivation?

Honestly, if you need that as extra motivation to play in the Super Bowl, then there’s something wrong. I think all of that is overrated.

Question from Robb Gaylord: How does the low number of snaps for the Eagles’ defense compare with the Patriots’ defense? Are the Eagles fresher out there on Sunday?

I wouldn't worry about how many snaps each defense has played. In my view, it’s a non-factor. Both teams had a bye before the playoffs began. Both teams blew out one of their playoff opponents and could take it easy in the fourth quarter. And both teams had a bye, obviously, leading up to the Super Bowl. 

Both teams have completely clean injury reports. Not a single player on either team is even listed as questionable. Both teams should be well rested for this game.

Question from LostInChiTown: If Eli can carve up this time with the short passing game, what will Brady do? All the pass rush in the world doesn’t matter if Brady gets the ball out in two seconds.

That's a concern, however, the Eagles have faced a lot of teams this season that try to get the ball out quickly. According to the NFL's NextGen stats, Brady got the ball out, on average, in 2.7 seconds. The following is a list of the quarterbacks the Eagles faced this season, and how fast they got the ball out: 

Quarterback Average time to throw
Derek Carr, Raiders 2.49
Eli Manning, Giants 2.50
Philip Rivers, Chargers 2.60
Carson Palmer, Cardinals 2.61
Alex Smith, Chiefs 2.67
Kirk Cousins, Redskins 2.69
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears 2.70
Tom Brady, Patriots 2.70
Cam Newton, Panthers 2.71
Matt Ryan, Falcons 2.72
Brock Osweiler, Broncos 2.74
Case Keenum, Vikings 2.78
Dak Prescott, Cowboys 2.82
Jared Goff, Rams 2.92
Russell Wilson, Seahawks 3.10

As you can see, Brady and the Patriots are right in the middle. They utilize both the short passing game, and they'll also take their shots down the field. If the Pats come in with the idea that they'll just go solely with the short game in fear of the Eagles' pass rush, then that's a win before the defense even sets foot on the field.

The Eagles will get their pass rush opportunities, and when they do, they have to make them count.

Question from FredSanford: With the Eagles making the Super Bowl without Wentz, does this dull his shine? I was bullish on Wentz for MVP, but after all the success without him, how much of it was him?

Fred. I can’t believe this is even a question. As a reminder...

Wentz made plays this year that maybe two or three other human beings on Earth could make. The shine has not dulled at all, in my view.

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