20 October 2016

2016 Week 7 Picks

This week, the Eagles host the undefeated Vikings, aka The Revenge of The Bradford.

I still think trading Sam Bradford was the right thing to do, particularly given what Howie got for him and how well Carson Wentz is doing (let's put it this way: Wentz is NOT the reason the Eagles have dropped the last two). Still, it stings, at least a little. He's playing great for them WITHOUT Adrian Peterson, and their defense has been solid so far, too.

Meanwhile, while the Birds have a potentially terrific rookie QB, there are too many holes - and not enough depth - all over the place. The o-line. The wideouts. The secondary. This could be a great team someday, but that day is not this day.

Anyone think the Birds are going to win?

Yeah, me neither.


In the rest of the matchups:

Bears at Packers: Packers

Giants "at" Rams (in reality, in London): The Giants are a better team, but I think the Josh Brown mess is going to blow back on them. Rams, for my upset pick

Saints at Chiefs: Chiefs

Colts at Titans: Titans

Browns at Bengals: Bengals

DC at Lions: DC

Raiders at Jaguars: Raiders

Bills at Dolphins: Bills

Ravens at Jets: Ravens

Buccaneers at 49ers: 49ers

Chargers at Falcons: Falcons

Patriots at Steelers: Pats

Seahawks at Cardinals: Seahawks

Texans at Broncos: Broncos

On bye: Cowboys, Panthers

17 October 2016

It May Be Time to Revise Expectations

Eagles 20, Washington Football Team 27, Sunday, October 16, 2016

Who knew Lane Johnson was the key to everything?

Stud of the week: Making his first appearance, Wendell Smallwood. Way to go, rookie! He did not
have a great day on the ground (4 attempts to 6 yards, and no that's not a typo) or through the air (1 reception for 14 yards), but he did run back a kickoff 86 yards for a TD to give the Birds their first points of the game, which was quickly followed by a Malcolm Jenkins pick-6 that gave us all a (false) sense of hope.

The rest of the game? If you look up "hot mess" in the dictionary, there's a link to video of Ryan Kerrigan sacking Carson Wentz (almost completely removing his jersey in the process) on the Eagles first possession, and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the game.

The offensive line couldn't block. The receivers couldn't catch. The backs couldn't find holes. Wentz had a down game, overthrowing a lot of guys (it's early to panic, but he may be regressing to the rookie norm). The defensive line couldn't pressure Kirk Cousins. The secondary couldn't cover. At least special teams did a good job, but I don't want to see Donnie Jones 4,546,235 times in a quarter.

If you'll recall, when I picked this game as a Birds' close win so optimistically only four days ago, I was worried about the offensive line. So that was prescient, because Halapoulivaati Vaitai did not have a good day (in case you were lucky enough to be in a coma or attending your mother's funeral yesterday afternoon). He did OK when they gave him help, but when they didn't, Ryan Kerrigan was up in Wentz's face in a nanosecond every snap.

All of a sudden, WFT remembered how to stop the run and tackle. Just our luck. And the Birds' D, as I mentioned, suddenly forgot how to get to the QB. If you can pressure Kirk Cousins, he makes mistakes, like the pick-6 to Malcolm Jenkins. If not, he looks like freakin' John Elway back there. Meanwhile, the WFT receivers were running wild all over the damn field, with no one in midnight green anywhere near them. DeSean Jackson is going to get his catches, sure, but so did Pierre Garcon AND Jamison Crowder AND Vernon Davis AND some guy named Chris Thompson who might've just been a fan who happened to wander onto the field.

And penalties. OK, sure, the officiating last week in Detroit was, like, historically bad. They really should be able to keep track of which team is on offense and which is on defense. That seems like a minimum standard to be a professional referee, right? But this week, the zebras were within a normal range of deviation bad. Yes, there was one DREADFUL block in the back penalty called on Wendell Smallwood that really didn't happen and killed a big gain on 3rd down after which the Eagles ended up punting...again (4,546,236 and counting). And there was plenty of holding called where there was obvious offsetting holding from the WFT. But this is now THREE games in a row with a ridiculous amount of penalties. You can't win that way, guys, not consistently.

I guess one bright spot is that the game was a lot more lopsided watching it than the score reflects. The Eagles were able to keep battling even though it seemed pretty obvious after the first half that they were going to lose. The defense woke up and only allowed two field goals after the half (of course,  they had already given up 21 points and were down by 10, so it was too little too late). Despite being nearly decapitated a number of times, Carson Wentz didn't panic or make a ton of mistakes (although taking those sacks at the end....ouch), and it is only his fifth start (although if you want to scare the shit out of him, show up at his house in two weeks dressed as #91 in the burgundy and gold).

Just as a reminder, here are the current NFC East standings:

Read it and weep, Birdgang.

Also, the road doesn't get easier. The Eagles face the undefeated Vikings next week (and you KNOW Sam Bradford wants to burn his old team), and the current combined record of their next six opponents is 24-9. Yikes.

13 October 2016

2016 Week 6 Picks

This week, the Eagles are coming to town to take on the Washington Football Team (aka WFT, aka DC).

Did you hear the rumor that DeSean Jackson might be interested in coming back to Philly? On the one hand, terrible idea. On the other hand, since none of the Birds' other receivers can seem to get any separation at all and Carson Wentz seems to have quite the arm, maybe not. Regardless, I don't expect him to show up at the NovaCare Center for practice tomorrow, so at least for this week, the point is moot. Chef Spouse still has your jersey, though, Peanut!

I have to admit, I was both surprised and disappointed at last week's loss to the Lions. Damn it! I have expectations now.

I gotta tell you, I'm worried about Josh Norman, particularly given the aforementioned inability of the wideouts to get separation. At least Jordan Matthews is bigger than Norman, and has shown a willingness to go up and get the ball. Speaking of size, I'm also hoping Zach Ertz gets some touches.

The other big concern is that Lane Johnson's suspension is on, and it's started. Can the line hold up without him?

If it can, and Wentz can hit some of his bigger receivers, and we see some Darren Sproles and some more of Kenjon Berner and Wendell Smallwood (so far, the WFT can't tackle for shit), and the Birds' defense can harry or even knock down Kirk Cousins, Sunday should be fun (well, for me anyway, if not for my neighbors). If the line falls apart and Josh Norman can take some passes away from Nelson Agholor, it could be a long day.

I like the Eagles, but I suspect it's going to be a nail-biter either way.

In the rest of the matchups...

Do you really want my picks? So far this year, they've pretty much been shite.


OK, but don't say I didn't warn you....

Broncos at Chargers: I know they're down at the moment, but I think the Broncos are going to pull this out, not least of which because the Chargers are EPICLY bad in the second half.

49ers at Bills: Bills

Browns at Titans: Titans

Giants at Ravens: Giants

Panthers at Saints: Saints (see I TOLD you something was wrong with Cam)

Jaguars at Bears: Jags

Rams at Lions: Lions

Steelers at Dolphins: Steelers

Bengals at Patriots: Pats

Chiefs at Raiders: Raiders

Falcons at Seahawks: Seahawks

Cowboys at Packers: Packers

Colts at Texans: Texans

Jets at Cardinals: Cards

On bye: Buccaneers, Vikings

10 October 2016

Into Every Football Season A Little Rain Must Fall

Eagles 23, Lions 24, Sunday, October 9, 2016 

Doug Pederson may have learned many things under Andy Reid's tutelage, but he clearly didn't pick up Andy's "always win after the bye" thing. Maybe he was absent that day?

Stud of the week: Making his billionth appearance in this spot, Darren Sproles. He remains, at 33
years old, one of the best all-round utility players in the game. He only had a total of about 70 yards all together (rushing, catching, punt return), but they were important yards, particularly on the ground, where he made the most of his trademark "quick cut and hit the hole." I don't know how much longer he can play at this level - I hope a long time - but I do know that Philly is going to miss the hell out of him when he's done.

OK, no one thought the Eagles were going to go 16-0 this year, even after their hot start, so we all knew this was coming. Likewise with Carson Wentz and interceptions. Still, this was a frustrating game to watch.

The defense was completely MIA in the first half. Now this is just a theory, but I think it might be because Mychal Kendricks appeared to be playing in place of Nigel Bradham who I'm guessing was being disciplined because of the "gun in carryon" mess? Maybe? But Kendricks was not good, and when Bradham came back in the second half, all of a sudden the defense was playing lights out, like we've come to know and love in the past month. Remember when we all thought Mychal Kendricks was going to be the shit? Yeah, so that doesn't seem to be working out. Thing is, you can't really be getting down 14-0 by the end of the first quarter (and then 21-7 midway through the second) and expect good things to happen.

I feel like Keystone Kops ending to the first half summarized a lot of what went wrong with the game, including the bad officiating. First, the Sproles "chop block" call, which was some serious BS.  Dude's just short. What's he supposed to do, whip out a step ladder? Then there was the deep pass to Jordan Matthews that almost wasn't because "number 98 was illegally downfield." It's literally not possible for DEFENSIVE LINEMAN Connor Barwin to be illegally downfield ON OFFENSE. WTF, zebras? Then 1-10 turns into 1-20 due to O-line holding, then Wentz get sacked, then Zach Ertz, in his first game back, gets called for offensive PI, leading to 3-36. Fortunately, Ertz redeemed himself on the next play, and got Caleb Sturgis (who is playing LIKE A BOSS) set up for a 50 yard field goal to send the Birds into the locker room down by 11, but still, that was a hot mess of a series.

And speaking of: where were the tight ends all day? Aren't the Lions supposed to be really bad at defending tight ends?

Things, and by "things" I mean the defense, improved significantly in the second half, even causing a turnover deep in Lions' territory, and then the Birds had to settle for a short field goal. Not good on the road in a loud stadium against a team that desperately needed the win.

Even with all that mess, the Birds managed to go ahead with 6 and change left in the game, and the defense forced a fairly quick 3-and-out with just under 5 to go. Hope! Just don't screw it up, Birds - keep it on the ground, get some yards, put up another field goal, get up by 5, defense has really tightened up, we're good here!

Or not.

Ryan Matthews fumbled (credit the Lions' Darius Slay for a well-placed helmet). And the zebras blew another call, and this one was a killer. The Birds still would've had to punt, but Jason Kelce clearly touched the ball when he was clearly on the paint. What should've been a dead ball was called a turnover. About a minute of game time later, it's the Lions putting up 3 to go ahead by 1.

And then Carson Wentz finally made a rookie mistake. He *had* time to methodically get the ball downfield, and the Birds' hot kicker would have been good from 50+, and yet I guess he thought he saw something, bombed it to Nelson Agholor, and that was all Big Slay needed. Pick. Game over. (PS, Nelson, when you realized you weren't going to be able to come down with that ball, you had ONE JOB: make sure Darius Slay doesn't. And you failed, man.)

That being said, Wentz is still playing OUTSTANDING overall (even, other than the pick, yesterday, when it seemed like NO receiver could get ANY separation EVER), and it was good to see him have to battle back from being down and do it mostly successfully and without getting rattled.  To quote Reuben Frank:
His numbers through four games: 91 for 135 (67.4 percent) for 1,007 yards with seven touchowns and one interception for a 103.5 passer rating. Insane.
Insane, indeed. I'm still nervous to say it out loud, but it's possible the Birds have FINALLY found Donovan McNabb's successor.

This loss could turn out to be a good thing. The last thing the Birds need at this stage is to get swelled heads about how awesome they are, and, if they can rebound against DC next week, this week will go down in the Tale of 2016 as a critical reality check at just the right time.

06 October 2016

2016 Week 5 Picks


OK, not really, but the Eagles are taking on Jim Johnson heir apparent Jim Schwartz's old team - you know, the one that fired him - the Lions.

The big concern is that the Eagles will now have swelled heads after their hot start and not be ready to play after a week off. (Well, that and that Lane Johnson's status is, as of Thursday, still in question.)

Thing is, I don't see either Jim "Don't Get Labeled a Dumb Ass" Schwartz and Doug Pederson are going to let the guys get slack. I don't think Carson Wentz is going to lose focus. I think Zach Ertz is going to feel Trey Burton breathing down his neck.

Trap game? I don't think so - but we could be seeing what Halapoulivaati Vaitai's got more than we all anticipated.


In the other matchups:

Cardinals at 49ers: I know, I know - once again, the game has already started. I was flying back from celebrating a milestone birthday with You-Two-Calm-Down-Or-I'm-Turning-Off-The-TV Dad and the rest of the fam (including Dorkman, The Lovely Ms. Dorkman, and their three kiddos) in Tennessee and then had dance classes, so cut me some slack. Also, Cardinals

Patriots at Browns: So I pick the Pats, and they get SHUT OUT by the DAMN BILLS. That's not going to happen again this week. Pats

Bears at Colts: Colts

Titans at Dolphins: Dolphins. Oh, Marcus Mariota, when will you live up to your potential?

DC at Ravens: Ravens

Texans at Vikings: Vikings

Jets at Steelers: Steelers

Falcons at Broncos: Broncos

Bengal at Cowboys: Bengals

Bills at Rams: Rams

Chargers at Raiders: Raiders

Giants at Packers: Packers

Buccaneers at Panthers: Bucs (upset pick, also I think there's something really wrong with Cam Newton)

On bye: Chiefs, Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks

29 September 2016

2016 Week 4 Picks

I hate early bye weeks, particularly with the Birds on a real roll.

But there's nothing I can do about that, so on to the picks:

Dolphins at Bengals: Bengals (Yes, I know the game has already started, and the Bengals are up. I'm a business trip. Cut me a little slack.)

Colts at Jaguars: Jags

Titans at Texans: Texans (although with JJ Watt on IR, this game just got a lot more interesting)

Browns at DC: DC (and RGIII doesn't even get a shot at getting some back on the Washington football team, poor guy)

Seahawks at Jets: Seahawks

Bills at Patriots: I've learned my lesson. Never start a land war in Asia, never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and never pick against Belichick at home. Pats

Panthers at Falcons: I've been really disappointed at how the Panthers have dropped off this year (so far), but I don't think they've fallen so low that they'll lose this one. Panthers

Raider at Ravens:  Going with the Raiders as my upset pick

Lions at Bears: Lions (in case you haven't been paying attention, the Bears are, like, epically terrible this year)

Broncos at Buccaneers: Broncos (that's just not even fair - they should make Trevor Siemian throw with his left hand or only let the Broncos field 10 guys or something to keep the game from being an utter blow out)

Rams at Cardinals: Cards

Saints at Chargers: Chargers

Cowboys at 49ers: Cowboys (although Chip could do us a solid and pull off the upset....oh, who am I kidding?)

Chiefs at Steelers: Steelers (if the Chiefs do pull off the win at Heinz, though, the Eagles week 3 victory will look a little less impressive)

Giants at Vikings: Vikings

On bye: the Birds (obviously), Packers

26 September 2016

"He's Got the Juice"

Eagles 34, Steelers 3, Sunday, September 25, 2016

Well, that was unexpected. EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE predicted the Steelers would win this game. I myself was only hoping that the Eagles wouldn't get embarrassed.

Well, some people got embarrassed at the Linc Sunday afternoon, but it wasn't the guys in midnight green.

Stud of the week: once again, I am not picking Carson Wentz, despite the fact that, as Reuben Frank
Aw! Look how excited Connor Barwin is!
points out
: "Wentz has managed to put together one of the finest three-game stretches in Eagles history, not just by a rookie but by any quarterback." No, the guy I want to recognize this week is Darren Sproles. The 33 year old running back has been looking like he's lost a step or two of late, and with Ryan Matthews iffy at best, many of us were getting a little anxious about the Birds' running game. And then, on the first drive of the second half, with the Eagles up 13-3, but the game certainly far from out of control, Wentz rolled right in response to defensive pressure, Sproles saw his QB scrambling and went with him, and Wentz dropped a sweet pass right into his hands right in stride, he juked about 9000 times and shook off ALL THE STEELERS and scampered 73 yards into the end zone. With that, the rout was on.

I have to give a shout-out to rookie Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner for stepping up when Ryan Matthew's bum ankle meant he couldn't go. The Steelers aren't the Bears - they aren't the Browns. They have a good defense and were - and still are - a popular pick for Super Bowl 51. Those guys combined for 121 yards on the ground against a good team.

While the Birds' offense obviously had a good day, we need to talk about the D for a minute.

I'm pretty sure that at least 7 guys were wearing #27 yesterday, because Malcolm Jenkins was all over the damn field, flying to the ball, tackling guys, and knocking away passes. Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan, and Brandon Graham got consistent pressure on Big Ben all day. He never looked comfortable in the pocket, and when the Steelers got into must-pass situations (basically the entire second half), they stayed in his face, and forced about a zillion incompletions.

Despite giving up a few big plays, rookie Jalen Mills continues to impress, too, fighting, learning, never giving up, and never making the same mistake twice. Also gotta love the kelly green hair.

And when the Birds do give up a big pass play, it ends there. YAC? No YAC for you! Guys are actually tackling well and consistently.

Let me just let Jim Schwartz sum it up:

I know just how you feel, Jim.

We also need to talk about Carson Wentz. The kid is playing lights out right now. Like historically good. That quote in the title of the post? Brent Celek, as reported by Sam Donnellon. Celek's not wrong. We all know eventually he'll throw a pick. Eventually, he'll have a down game. Eventually, the Birds will have to play from behind. Eventually, he'll have to make some sort of mistake. Right? I mean, he's not a robot. Or is he? What he's doing is unprecedented. To quote NFL.com: "Wentz is the first rookie in NFL history without an interception in his first 100 pass attempts to begin a career." Small nothing school, heart-warming back story, goofy smile, big risk trading up to get him (and ninja move by Howie Roseman in getting the Birds' 2017 picks BACK in the Sam Bradford trade) and all, this guy looks to me like the future.

What is that strange emotion? Is it....hope?