Chip Kelly's Offense (11/05/14)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing

Good news: the Philadelphia Eagles are 6-2 and are in first place in the NFC East.

Bad news: quarterback Nick Foles has a broken collarbone and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Aaron Rodgers missed seven weeks last year with the same injury.

Good news: the Eagles have an experienced backup who has twice led his team to conference championship games.

Bad news: the backup is failed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

To be fair, Sanchez looked good at times in relief of Foles last Sunday against the Texans. Sanchez threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He also tossed two picks, one of which wasn't his fault but that was against a Houston defense missing both of its starting cornerbacks.

Chip Kelly's offense does not require a star under center to succeed. Everyone remembers Foles' amazing run in 2013 when he threw 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Few remember that Foles had lost a training camp battle to Michael Vick earlier in the year and in six starts as a rookie threw as many touchdowns as interceptions in Andy Reid's last season in Philadelphia.

If Sanchez starts the rest of the season, how will this impact the Eagles playoff and Super Bowl odds?

We simulated the remainder of Philadelphia's schedule with Foles and Sanchez as the starters to find out. Note: in the simulations we assume that Tony Romo is the starter for Dallas the rest of the season.

With Foles as the starter the Eagles are projected to score 29.0 points per game and to finish with a 10.4-5.6 record (an average of 50,000 simulations). Philadelphia is 77.8% likely to make the playoffs and 5.6% likely to win the Super Bowl.

With Sanchez as the starter, the Eagles are projected to score 28.6 points per game and to finish with a 10.2-5.8 record. Philadelphia is 76.3% likely to make the playoffs and 4.7% likely to win the Super Bowl.

This tells us two things. Chip Kelly's offense is quarterback friendly and there is not much of a difference between Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez as a starting quarterback in this system.

The main takeaway for Eagles fans is that Philadelphia should not have to rush Foles back as Sanchez should prove adequate as a starter.

How quarterback friendly is Chip Kelly's offense?

"I didn't even know Foles was out, saw the bomb to Maclin, and I turned to congratulate him and it was Sanchez,“ Jason Peters told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Peters is the starting left tackle for Philadelphia. Perhaps quarterbacks are so interchangeable in Kelly's offense that one wouldn't notice a change.

Can any backup quarterback have success in this system?

Last week Brandon Weeden completed less than 55% of his passes and threw two interceptions in Dallas' loss to Arizona. However, with Weeden as a starter in Kelly's offense, the Eagles would finish with a 10.0-6.0 record and have a 3.2% chance of winning the Super Bowl. Philadelphia would be twice as likely to lift the Lombardi Trophy with Weeden as the starter the rest of the way than the Cowboys would be with Weeden under center in the remaining games.

Even with average talent at quarterback, Chip Kelly has one of the NFL's best offensive systems.

Quarterback Proj. Record Playoff Odds Super Bowl Odds Avg. Points/Game
Foles 10.4-5.6 77.8% 5.6% 29.0
Sanchez 10.2-5.8 76.3% 4.7% 28.6
Weeden 10.0-6.0 70.7% 3.2% 27.5