Is Philly's turnaround legitimate?
The playoff odds are still against them, but the Eagles' improvement is real
After losing four straight games to fall to 1-4, the Philadelphia Eagles have climbed back into the NFC playoff picture by beating the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in their past two games. As it stands, according to Football Outsiders' playoff odds report, Philadelphia now has a 33.8 percent chance of reaching the postseason, up from just 10.1 percent after Week 5.
The question on everyone's mind at the moment, however, is, "Which of these teams is the real Eagles?" Is it the team that dominated the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 and Cowboys in Week 8, or the team that produced five mediocre-at-best performances sandwiched in between? As with any question of this type, the answer lies in both the statistics and the game film.
First, the stats. When trying to figure out whether a team's wins have been due more to randomness than skill -- and therefore whether they're likely to continue winning as the season progresses -- it's useful to look at five things: strength of opponent, record in close games, fumble recovery luck, interception luck and injuries. Much of the time, what looks to the naked eye like a good team just ends up being one that's benefited from an inordinate amount of good fortune, and vice versa.