In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles went 13-3 under second-year head coach Doug Pederson, finishing third in points scored behind the highly-touted 2016 draft pick they traded up for: QB Carson Wentz. They had been fifth in DVOA the season before and were again fifth in DVOA, showing consistency under the offensive-minded Pederson. The Eagles won the NFC, went to the Super Bowl, and won it over the New England Patriots.
In 2018, the Los Angeles Rams went 13-3 under second-year head coach Sean McVay, finishing second in points scored behind the highly-touted 2016 draft pick they traded up for: QB Jared Goff. They had been second in DVOA the season before and were again second in DVOA, showing consistency under the offensive-minded McVay. The Rams won the NFC, went to the Super Bowl, and lost to the New England Patriots.
It’s not a perfect comparison by any means but if you expected the comparison to be perfect, wow lower your expectations. The comparison also doesn’t end there.
As the Rams were on their way to the Super Bowl for the first time in 17 years, Philadelphia had regressed to 9-7. They had slipped from fifth in DVOA to 16th, including a -.3% offensive DVOA, which ranked 16th in the league. Wentz, a serious contender for MVP a season earlier, wasn’t bad but didn’t meet expectations and concerns for health mounted as he once again missed the end of the regular season and postseason due to injury. The Eagles had instead been leaning on Nick Foles (formerly of the Rams, acquired in trade from Philadelphia), who had a record of 10-3 in his start over those two years.
Well, Los Angeles had a much similar follow-up to their Super Bowl game against the Patriots.
In 2019, the Rams also dropped from 13-3 to 9-7. They also had the exact same offensive DVOA as what the Eagles had: -.3%. Jared Goff had been a serious contender for MVP in 2018 and though he thankfully did not suffer any injuries, expectations have been re-set a bit after a disappointing campaign. Foles is not involved here in any way, but I guess it feels like it’s been a couple months since I remembered that Nick Foles is oddly really good in Philadelphia sometimes and rarely anywhere else.
It’s worth asking what happened to the 2019 Eagles then.
The good news for Philadelphia is that Wentz played a full season and did relatively well considering that the Eagles were so thin at receiver. The bad news is that they didn’t really “rebound” in anything and ended up as a really average 9-7 team and ranked 11th in DVOA. More positive news for Philadelphia though is that they did make the playoffs, but it would be surprising if 9-7 wins the NFC West like it works in the NFC East. This is also a factor in why the Eagles made the playoffs in their Super Bowl follow-up and the Rams didn’t:
The Eagles played the 15th-hardest schedule by DVOA in 2018 and the Rams played the NFL’s most difficult schedule by DVOA in 2019. Will LA catch the fifth-easiest schedule next year like Philadelphia just had?
Also, both of these teams play football. It can’t all just be coincidence.