22 September 2016

2016 Week 3 Picks

Regular readers are aware that I've been pleasantly surprised at how well the Birds have done so far this year. Wentz might in fact be the QB of the future, Doug Pederson's coaching well so far, the young receivers (Matthews and Agholor) are finally showing some improvement, and the defense, under Jim Schwartz, is looking quite stout. The secondary is still a problem and they don't have a good long-term answer at running back, but so far, so good.

The Eagles are 2-0.

So are the Steelers.

But there's 2-0, and there's 2-0.

When the 2016 schedule came out, most of us had this game noted as very possibly their toughest game of the year, and nothing I've seen in the past two weeks has changed that assessment. Carson Wentz will be facing his first top-10 defense, and the Eagles revamped defense will have to face their first seasoned, high quality QB.

Spoiler alert: they're not going to win.

What I am hoping for is a close, competitive game where Wentz can handle the pressure Keith Butler will throw at him, where we see good special teams play, and where the Birds strong front defensive line manages to get some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. As long as that happens - and they don't break our shiny new QB - I'll consider it a successful outing.

Steelers

In the other matchups:

Texans at Patriots: Do the Pats even have a QB at this point? It's foolish to pick against Bill Belichick at home, but that's just what I'm doing. Texans

Cardinals at Bills: Cardinals

Raiders at Titans: Titans

Browns at Dolphins: Dolphins

Ravens at Jaguars: Remember how I picked the Jaguars to beat the Chargers, and then they got stomped? Fool me once...Ravens

Lions at Packers: Packers, who are playing at home and are likely still pissed about losing to the Vikings last week

Broncos at Bengals: Bengals

Vikings at Panthers: Panthers

DC at Giants: The LOLSkins strike again - it's chaos down here in Hogs country, and my schaden is feeling pretty freudey at the moment. Giants

Rams at Buccaneers: Bucs (that thing with the Seahawks last week was a fluke, right?)

49ers at Seahawks: Seahawks (that WAS a fluke, RIGHT?!?!?)

Jets at Chiefs: Chiefs

Chargers at Colts: Colts

Bears at Cowboys: the Cowboys *should* have no trouble here - Dak Prescott is playing well, and even their somewhat sad sack defense should be OK against Brian Hoyer (they're going to lose just to spite me, aren't they?)

Falcons at Saints: The Saints are struggling this year, but I have to believe on the 10 year anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina they'll find some of that old Brees/Payton magic at least one more time. Saints


20 September 2016

Cautiously Optimistic

Eagles 29, Bears 14, Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm not quite ready to get on the Carson Wagon to Wentzadelphia (which I prefer to "Wentzlyvania" and to paraphrase Suzy Kolber), but I'm feeling significantly more optimistic than I was on Friday, April 29.

Stud of the week: No, I'm not picking Carson Wentz, despite the fact that he did have quite a good
game (which we'll get to in a minute). I'm going with Trey Burton. It's not easy being the #3 tight end behind Brent Celek (who may not be quite at his peak as a receiver anymore, but who still kills it on blocking and YAC) and Zach Ertz. But with Ertz out with a rib injury, Burton was starting and he made the most of his night, recording five catches for 49 yards and his VERY FIRST NFL TD. Good job, buddy! With Ertz out for an as-yet undetermined amount of time, it was good to see the #3 guy step up in a big way.

Other guys did good, too!

The defense is, with a few tiny hiccups, on fire so far this year. To quote Reuben Frank:
...but two games in, the Eagles have allowed 17 points, have six sacks, forced four turnovers and have yet to give up 300 yards. They’ve allowed only three second-half points.
So much for "Jim Schwartz is washed up," am I right?

Ryan Matthews short TD run in the fourth quarter and on fourth down when our kicker was looking iffy was masterful, too. He looked like he was stopped and maybe going down, and then he popped around, kept his legs churning, used his hand to keep his balance, and motored on into the end zone.

Speaking of, Caleb Sturgis had us all Googling "whatever did happen to Cody Parkey after the Eagles cut him," but it seems to have just been cramps on a hot and humid night in Chicago. Get that man some Gatorade, stat! At least, unlike the Bears' coaching staff, Doug Pederson didn't have to spend halftime dialing up guys from the practice squad asking, "How fast can you get to Soldier Field? We're running out a players, here, man!"

Jalen Mills has come under some criticism for giving up a long completion to Alshon Jeffrey and whiffing on a tackle on Eddie Royal. Let's put that another way: the 22 year old rookie starting his first pro game in place of injured cornerback Leodis McKelvin gave up ONE big completion to the much taller Pro Bowl receiver he was assigned to cover, and whiffed on one big tackle. Dude's spunky! He'll be fine.

Some guys did not do so good. Jason Kelce, I'm looking at you. Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, STOP DROPPING THE DAMN BALL.

So let's get back to Carson Wentz. 21/34 for 190 yards, 1 TD and no picks is a good - but not great - night, but as many people have already noted, he was not exactly helped by his team. He had a great completion to Brent Celek called back for a Jason Kelce penalty, and both Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor dropped beautiful passes that would have been long completions (likely TDs). Wentz played better than his stats reflect.

The stats also don't show that he's only been the starter for two weeks, and that this was his first prime time game, his first nationally broadcast game, and his first road game all in one. He seemed remarkably calm, and did an excellent job (I thought) of seeing the field and what was coming at him, changing plays and protection at the line, and going through his reads like a seasoned veteran (and far better than certain seasoned veterans - cough, cough Kirk Cousins - were able to manage on Sunday).

During the broadcast, Chucky and the new guy (let's call him Milky Milquetoast) reviewed the Parade of Sadness that has been the Eagles QB situation since Donovan McNabb. If you missed it, be glad, because .500 Michael Vick was BY FAR the high point of the last six seasons, and the Eagles have tried five different guys at starter since 2010. Is Carson Wentz THE ONE? I'm not calling him Neo yet, but I have hope for the first time in a long time.

14 September 2016

2016 Week 2 Picks

No, it wasn't your imagination - there was no recap of week 1. Why? I didn't see the game. Misplaced loyalty to to Riley "Racist" Cooper? Nope. I was on a plane on my way to a client site. Ah, the glam life of the consultant.

Anyway, Carson Wentz certainly defied my expectations of him, posting a VERY solid first outing. OK, it was against the sad-sack Browns, but he still looked like a competent NFL quarterback, and it's been a while since such a rare beast has been seen in Philly.

The defense underperformed my expectations after this summer's hype, but hopefully that was an aberration.

Jordan Matthews had a solid day, too, although the Birds could really use some more wideouts, so if you see any NFL-caliber receivers wandering around the local Kroger, give them Dough Pederson's number, will you?

Anyway, this week the Birds travel to Chi-town to take on the Bears on Monday Night Football. And I'll be able to watch the game. So that's an improvement over last week. Will the Birds be able to keep up their winning streak, making it two in a row?

The Bears lost pretty convincingly to the Texans last week. Was that a factor of the Texans getting better or the Bears getting worse? Well, the Texans threw a shit-ton of money at their offense in the offseason, and it seems to have paid off, snatching Brock Osweiler from the Broncos (who don't appear to need him anyway, if their win over the Panthers to open the season is any indicator), so maybe they really are that much better. Then again, Jay Cutler got sacked five times. On the third hand, the Texans still have JJ Watt. Which the Eagles do not, and thanks for letting me borrow oe of your hands.

Do I feel lucky? I do, and I'm calling an Eagles win. Come on, lucky two!

In the rest of the matchups:

Jets at Bills: Jets

Bengals at Steelers: Everyone has the Steelers (well, at least of the experts who've made their picks by the time I'm writing this, at 8 pm ET on Wednesday), but I think I'm going with the Bengals as my upset pick for the week. Ginger solidarity.

Titans at Lions: Lions

Cowboys at DC: DC always brings it best for the Cowboys, and the WFT dropped their home opener in humiliating fashion to the Steelers in prime time. I think Kirk Cousins 2016 is Nick Foles 2014, but I also think DC is going to be pumped for this game and will continue what the Giants started last week in "welcoming" Dak Prescott to the NFC East. DC

Ravens at Browns: Ravens

Saints at Giants: Giants

49ers at Panthers: I did get to see the 49ers DEMOLITION of the supposedly new-look Rams last week, and much as it pains me to admit it, they looked totally revamped under Chip Kelly (thanks for nothing, asshole). Meanwhile, the Panthers disappointingly dropped their season opener in Denver. I have to believe they're not going to drop to 0-2, particularly facing a West Coast team at home in the early game, traditionally a tough spot for Cali teams. Panthers.

Dolphins at Patriots: Pats - hey, isn't that how Tom Brady originally got the job? Doing well when he went in on relief for Drew Bledsoe? I'm just saying.

Chiefs at Texans: Everyone also has the Texans, so call this one another upset pick. Chiefs. More ginger solidarity.

Seahawks at Rams: Seahawks

Buccaneers at Cardinals: Cards

Jaguars at Chargers: Changing of the guard in the AFC? Yep - Jags

Falcons at Raiders: Speaking of changing of the guard, Raiders

Colts at Broncos: No Peyton? No problem! No Brock? No problem! Yes, apparently, the Broncos' defense really is THAT good. Broncos.

Packers at Vikings: Packers

On bye: none

08 September 2016

2016 Week 1 Picks

Everybody ready for some football? Well, I'm not sure the Eagles are, but the rest of us are ready to watch them, even though there's a reasonable chance this is going to be a disaster season. Rookie head coach, rookie starting QB, significant portion of the team replaced. On the up side, most of us probably aren't expecting much, so maybe we can all just enjoy the games the Birds win and not get too fussed about the losses.

Who am I kidding? Deadspin is probably right, and we're all going to have weekly meltdowns between now and January 1, 2017.

At least the Eagles start with an easy one, the Cleveland Browns, featuring our old nemesis, RGIII. For years, I've been saying that he got a raw deal in DC under the Shanahans and that he was likely still salvageable as a very good QB. And then he got picked up be Cleveland, where QB dreams go to die. So yeah, that's probably not going to work out for him.

Meanwhile, the D was the only real bright spot of the pre-season, so it's entirely possible the Browns will be down to Josh McCown by halftime Sunday.

(Hey, remember those funny Verizon commercials Luke McCown did last year? I bet Josh is kicking himself that he didn't manage to land that gig.)

Which the Birds are going to need, because did I mention that they're starting their rookie QB on Sunday? Because that tends to go so well. At least Howie got the 2017 draft picks back in the Sam Bradford trade. That was some Draft Day-level wheeling and dealing there, Howie. One man's trash is another man's "OH SHIT! We need a QB - ANY QB - stat!" On the downside, it also seems like a pretty clear signal that the front office has completely given up on 2016. Already.

But the Birds should start the season with a win, because seriously: Cleveland. But when they're 1-0 at 4 pm Sunday, let's not get crazy, OK?

In the other matchups (and realize that I'm mostly picking based on how teams finished last year, which by now is pretty much totally irrelevant, but there you have it):

Panthers at Broncos: Panthers.

Packers at Jaguars: Packers

Bills at Ravens: Ravens

Bears at Texans: Texans

Buccaneers at Falcons: Falcons

Vikings at Titans: Vikings. Enjoy it while it lasts, Sam.

Bengals at Jets: Bengals

Raiders at Saints: Saints (the Raiders are probably a better team at this point, but it's the Superdome! I don't really see the Saints dropping their home opener.)

Chargers at Chiefs: Chiefs

Dolphins at Seahawks: Seahawks

Lions at Colts: Colts

Giants at Cowboys: Giants (Also, can we talk for a minute about the dearth of quality backup QBs? Because this is getting serious. Mark Sanchez-level serious, y'all.)

Patriots at Cardinals: Cardinals

Steelers at WFT: Steelers

Rams at 49ers: Rams (who also get the short commute for West Coast games now)

23 August 2016

You Blew Up the Team!

Greetings, Eagles fans. It's been many months since I posted, mostly because I was so depressed about the team by the end of the 2015 season, I just couldn't bear it any more. I didn't even recap my own record, so I'll do that now:

I ended up 158-98 on weekly picks, better than everyone at ESPN other than Jaws, Christ Mortensen, and TJ.

I had three AFC playoff picks correct, but I messed up the Chiefs' position, same with the NFC playoff picks, only I messed up the Packers' position.

In other words, a pretty normal season for me.

And then everything went nuts at the NovaCare Complex. Chip fired. Doug Pederson hired. New coaching staff. Half the team gone, potentially including Cody Parkey. Carson Wentz drafted. Sam Bradford acting like he's Tom Brady (or at least has Tom Brady's record of success). Lane Johnson and PEDs. Carson Wentz immediately breaks rib. Picking up free agents with character issues. WTFs for everyone!

With the pre-season well underway, it's time to gird my loins and start paying attention again. Also, I need something to distract me from the horrifying if extremely slim possibility that Donald Trump could become president. And I need to learn the names of a bunch of new players.

My only takeaway from the preseason so far, other than Wentz's aforementioned broken rib is that after years of the reverse, it looks like the Birds' D is going to be their strength in 2016, while the O is a BIG question mark. I haven't seen a receiving corps this talented since the days of James Thrash and Todd Pinkston, and I don't think that was what Jeff Lurie meant when he talked about getting back to the way the team was under Andy Reid. They also don't appear to have a top RB. I love Darren Sproles, too, don't get me wrong, but dude's 33, which is getting into geriatric territory for a back. Maybe it doesn't really matter. Does anyone think this team is going to win more than 8 games this year?

(crickets, coyotes howling, tumbleweed)

Yeah, we're rebuilding. Again. Still? A process that feels like it's been going on since 2010. But at least there will be football, even if it's being played at a mediocre level by a bunch of guys I don't know.

(I know, I know - I'll stop being such a Negative Nancy on or about September 8. Probably.)


02 January 2016

2015 Week 17 Picks

But first: the Chip Kelly era is over. Jeff Lurie did this just as I was in the process of trying to finish packing for an early flight to Aruba, where I've been enjoying Sun, Sea, Sand on One Happy Island for the past several days.

IgglesBlitz and Bleeding Green Nation are dissecting this move in detail, and you should definitely go there for analysis.

My main thoughts on this are: it seems like Lurie wanted to strip Chip of his GM/personnel responsibilities (and he was certainly a much poorer GM than coach), Chip said no, and Jeff said, "Bye, Felicia!" Afterwards, Chip's been all, "I was never - and never wanted to be - the GM!" which will all know is BS. It seems likely to me that he'll end up in Tennessee, and I suspect that will probably go well for him, as long as the Titans make sure they have a strong personnel team that's NOT Chip.

I can't really speak to the locker room dynamics, but there seems to be at least some evidence that, while ALL the players were shocked by the timing, more than a few were not that unhappy at the result. And that's not great.

Now we wait to see who the new head coach will be (Hue Jackson! Please, Hue Jackson! Matt Patricia is an interesting idea, too.)

On to the final week's picks:

Games with playoff implications:

Jets at Bills: Jets (who will then make the playoffs - go, Jets!)

Patriots at Dolphins: Pats (who would then be the damn top seed in the AFC AGAIN)

Ravens at Bengals: Bengals, who potentially would still have the ability to get a first round bye with a Broncos loss, which they really need to get Andy Dalton back - and yes, it's unlikely the Broncos will lose, but the Bengals can't do anything about that.

Steelers at Browns: Steelers, who could take the six seed *if* they win and the Jets lose. Prediction: they'll do what they can, although it won't be enough, because the Jets aren't going to lose.

Titans at Colts: Colts, who are still not mathematically eliminated, but it won't matter, because they need the Jets AND the Steelers to lose, and that's also not going to happen.

Buccaneers at Panthers: Panthers, who want to hold that #1 seed

Raiders at Chiefs: Chiefs

Chargers at Broncos: Broncos

Seahawks at Cardinals: Cards, who could take #1 if the Panthers lose (I think), which also means the Seahawks will go #6

Vikings at Packers: This may be the most interesting game of the week, as it will determine the winner of the NFC North. I'm calling for the upset, with the Vikings winning in Green Bay, and taking the division in the process.

Games without playoff implications:

Eagles at Giants: Giants, I hope, because the best thing the Birds can do for themselves at this point is improve their draft position. Also, note to interim head coach Pat Shurmur: PLAY THE DAMN BACKUPS.

DC at Cowboys: DC - no playoff implications here, because DC can't possibly do better - or worse - than the #4 seed in the NFC

Saints at Falcons: Falcons

Jaguars at Texans: Texans

Lions at Bears: Bears

Rams at 49ers: Rams


28 December 2015

Turn Out the Lights....The Party's Over

Philadelphia Eagles, 24, Washington Football Team, 38, Saturday, December 26, 2015

Yes, I know the season's not officially over yet, but let's be serious.



Oh my, I knew it was coming, and it was still incredibly painful to watch. The fact that we had ribs, collards, mac and cheese, apple pie, bourbon, and Lifelong Eagles Fan Mom and You-Two-Calm-Down-Or-I'm-Turning-Off-the TV Dad with us helped, but not enough. Not nearly enough.

The Eagles lost, and they lost in the most 2015 Eagles-ish way possible:

Sam Bradford fits a perfect pass into a tiny window! (See: his very first completed pass, to Nelson Agholor)

San Bradford and DeMarco Murray BOTH fumble on the same play!

As I posted on the private Eagles Facebook group I'm a member of: "First Sproles drops the punt, then Bradford AND Murray both drop the ball on the SAME play, then Murray drops the ball AGAIN. Ladies and gents, your 2015 Philadelphia Eagles."

And then Sam fumbles again! (And DeAngelo Hall recovers for the WFT TD)

Zach Ertz has a great catch!

Sam Bradford overthrows a WIDE open Zach Ertz with nothing in front of him but green, green grass!

Zach Ertz fumbles and WFT recovers!

Zach Ertz drops one that's right in his hands!

DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP DROP

(Were the Eagles #1 in wideout drops this year, or did it just feel that way?)

Malcolm Jenkins rocks! Only why does he appear to have big slabs of uncarved maple for hands?

Fletcher Cox....well, he was actually awesome all night. Which is why he's going to the Pro Bowl.

Why, why, WHY could NO ONE cover Jordan Reed? SRSLY PPL.

WHY CAN"T KIKO ALONZO DO ANYTHING RIGHT?

Sam Bradford nearly gets killed. Sam Bradford nearly gets killed. Sam Bradford nearly gets killed. Sam Bradford nearly gets killed.

HELLOOOOO? Anyone got an offensive line?

(Hey Chip: the offensive line is actually important in professional football. FYI.)

How did our D manage to make Tom Brady look like Kirk Cousins a few weeks ago, and make Kirk Cousins look like Tom Brady Saturday night? I do not know, but there you have it

As Tommy said: "This is the most inconsistent Eagles team in a long time. They were up and down all year long. You would think one area was a strength and a few weeks later it was a major liability. The polar opposite would happen to some other part of the team. You could never figure out what was real…what was the foundation of the team." PREACH.

What. A. Mess.

Here are a few things that are clear:

Chip the GM needs to be fired. Chip the coach *may* get another shot.

The three-headed running game did not work. DeMarco Murray needs to go back to the Cowboys. Or to hell, for all I care. But Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews can stay. Call me! :)

The Eagles need a goddamn offensive line.

Sam Bradford is not the future of this team, but he may be the 2016 of this team.

WHY CAN'T THE DAMN RECEIVERS CATCH THE DAMN BALL?!?!?! You had ONE JOB, RECEIVERS. ONE JOB.

We miss you, Jordan Hicks.

Bryon Maxwell is not a #1 cornerback. He may not be a #3 cornerback.

WHY CAN'T THE DAMN D TACKLE? THIS IS NOT A COMPLICATED FOOTBALL CONCEPT. USE YOUR DAMN ARMS.

Get your mock draft ready, and hope that no one important gets hurt next week.

And on the up side, I won't have to interrupt my tropical vacation in Aruba to watch a game that's now meaningless.

PS Ex-Navy Cheesehead: ever missed, never forgotten