31 October 2011

2011 Week 8 Recap

Eagles v. Cowboys, Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween! Of course, this week's recap will be the annual trick-or-treat edition, as I write in my witch costume jumping up to answer the doorbell while waiting for MNF to start.

In attendance: Just Shoegal, Chef Spouse and me - SNF games are tough on people who have to go to work in the morning.

Menu: homemade butternut squash ravioli with butter sage sauce, salad, yummy treats from Shoegal

Stud: Shady McCoy, of course, who pretty much OWNS this category this year. I've already asked Santa to bring me his jersey for Christmas. Could he be any more awesome? I don't think so. To recap: 185 yards on the ground on 30 carries and two TDs, plus another 15 yards through the air. The second coming of BWest? You know it.

Since we're all thinking it, I'll go ahead and say it: "Where the HELL have these guys been for the past 6 weeks?" I'm glad they finally decided to show up, but seriously, I was expecting them in week 2, not week 8. Better late than never.

OK, sure, a bunch of new guys on the field and pretty much an entirely new coaching staff are going to take come time to gel. Seven weeks, to be precise.

Are the Eagles becoming a team that can run the ball and shut teams down on defense? Because that would be an interesting switch to the Andy Reid playbook. The thing I loved most last night was seeing the long drives sustained by nice runs and short passes over the middle. Dictionary west coast offense. Those were some BIG holes the offensive line was creating. Andy Reid could have run through those holes himself. Hell, he probably could've driven the team bus through them. What made it even sweeter is that the Cowboys came in with one of the top ranked run defenses in the league.

Clearly Rob Ryan game planned to take away DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and in that, he was pretty successful. Maclin and DJax had 3 catches each, for 54 and 31 yards respectively. The thing is, if you're going to put all your guys on those two, that leaves Jason "Hands" Avant, Brent Celek and Clay Harbor to run free in the middle of the field. Now throwing across the middle is not the easiest thing for the relatively short (at 6 feet on the nose) Mike Vick. Then again, the o-line gave him such a nice clean pocket all night long, he could drop back as far as he needed to.

And on D, it seems like I may owe Juan Castillo an apology. It wasn't showy - it wasn't like there were a zillion picks and sacks (1 and 4) - but the Cowboys were just totally out of sorts all night long. They only had 12 first downs, and, if I recall correctly, only THREE in the entire first half. The Eagles D was getting off the field and only made one mistake all night long (Kurt Coleman got a little over excited), allowing the only Cowboys' score, in scut time (aka "the entire 4th quarter").

Oh, and did I mention? No turnovers. THAT was a treat. Big time.

THIS is what we were expecting 6 weeks ago. Hopefully, the guys can keep it up. Because the team that played LAST night looks pretty damn unstoppable.

Around the rest of the league:

Ravens over Cardinals: The Cardinals jumped out to a treat of an early lead, but the Ravens had a trick for them, to the tune of 24 (?) unanswered points, to win the game.

Vikings over Panthers: Cam Newton sure is a treat (on the eyes, too), but those tricky Vikings forced two fumbles, got a great day out of Adrian Peterson, and, ultimately, got a treat of a field goal out of the aptly-named Ryan Longwell to sneak a 3 point win.

Texans over Jags: No tricks here, only another treat of a day from Arian Foster.

Giants over Dolphins: The Dolphins almost tricked the Giants into a trap game, but ultimately, the Giants pulled out a win. No treats here - sooner or later (probably sooner) Tony Sparano is going to be fired.

Rams over Saints: Raise your hand if you picked this one. (crickets) The Rams treated their fans to a fantastic end to a fantastic week. Not only did the Rams get their first win, it was over the mighty Saints not some sad-sack team like the Colts. It's a great week to be a sports fan in the S-T-L.

Titans over Colts: I wonder if the Colts are being tricky to Suck for Luck? It's a treat to see the AFC South up for grabs this year.

Bills over Redskins: OMG, someone needs to talk Redskins fans down off the ledge. The Bills are a treat this year, as was Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract extension, and they sure tricked Mike and Kyle Shanahan, shut out for the first time EVER. Guess "The System" isn't looking so tricky these days, is it, Shanny?

Lions over Broncos: Told you the Lions would pull it back together! Tim Tebow might not be quite the treat Broncos think he is, but the Lions D had a treat or two of their own ready to go, registering seven sacks.

Steelers over Pats: The Steelers, who looked pretty soft early on, seem to be returning to their usual tricky form. It was a real treat to watch them frustrate Tom Brady all afternoon. And that tricky Troy Polamalu managed a real treat of a play in punching the Brady fumble into the endzone for a safety.

Bengals over Seahawks: Andy Dalton looks a treat in Cincy, and the Seahawks...well, people in Seattle should wish this is a trick. Congratulations to Marvin Lewis, now the winningest coach in Bengals history

49ers over Browns:  Was Alex Smith just tricking us all this time, or did he just need Jim Harbaugh to treat us to some good play? Of course, Frank Gore's treat of 134 yards and a TD didn't hurt.


27 October 2011

Sunday Schedule: Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's COWBOYS week, y'all. OK, maybe it doesn't have quite the same zing as it used to - our Eagles are used to winning and to dominating the NFC East, and it's been a long time since the Cowboys have been good, but hey - they did knock our boys out of the playoffs in 2009. Which, by the way, is the only playoff game they've won since 1996. HA!

Anyway, it's a prime time matchup, which is awesome other than the whole getting up Monday morning thing.

It will be a full day of football as usual, of course, with the following up for the early games:

1 pm: likely Dolphins/Giants, and wow, the 1 pm games are likely to suck

4 pm: Redskins/Bills (I'll be ducking out for a dance practice, but Chef Spouse is around for the duration)

For the menu, Chef Spouse is thinking fresh pasta, since we have a bunch of winter squash from the CSA to cook down anyway. If I get my act together, I'll make us some baguettes, too, and we'll probably have salad. Bring something to go with.


26 October 2011

2011 Week 8 Picks

The Cowboys are coming to town!

OK, I know - the rivalry is not what it once was. The Eagles have mostly owned the NFC East for the past 10+ years, and the Cowboys have one precisely one playoff game since 1996. Yes, that win knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs in the first round for the first time under Andy Reid in 2009 and thank you for bringing up such a painful memory.

Anyway, at this point the Eagles are seriously shaky. Then again, so are the Cowboys. Actually, I'm starting to think the entire league is shaky, other than maybe the Packers and the Pats. The Cowboys never know which Tony Romo they're getting from one week to the next - hell, from one play to the next. Then again, Eagles fans have NO idea what team is going to show up from one quarter to the next. The team that puts up points with ease or the team that can't find the endzone with both hands, a map, a flashlight, a GPS, and a sherpa? The team that relentlessly pressures the QB and stuffs the run, or the team that lets themselves get gashed for yards practically every play, on the ground and in the air? I swear, the team is schizophrenic so far this year, and they're going to make their fans (aka "us") completely nuts if they don't cut this shit out.

On the other hand, even at 2-4, the Eagles are far from out of it in the NFC East. And although Andy has trouble closing, he definitely has a track record of getting the team to step up at critical times. Like now. When they need to win, a LOT, to stay in consideration for a post-season.

In the end, I have to go with the fact that Andy Reid owns the game after the bye week and pick the Eagles.

In the rest of the matchups:

Saints at Rams: Saints. This is your official freebie pick of the week.

Jaguars at Texans: Texans. I think. After watching the Jags dismantle the Ravens last week...yeah, but both teams were incredibly sloppy, only the Jags were slightly less so. And Arian Foster! OK, I'm sure. Texans.

Dolphins at Giants: Giants. OK, you get two freebies this week.

Cardinals at Ravens: Even after that mess on Monday Night Football - as one of my friends called it on Facebook: "unwatchable" - I don't see the Ravens dropping a home game to the Cards. No way. Ravens.

Colts at Titans: Titans. Hm, OK, THREE freebie picks.

Vikings at Panthers: This is an interesting matchup with two high draft pick rookie QBs facing off, but I have to go with experience (relatively speaking) and pick Cam and his Panthers.

Lions at Broncos: The Lions will get back on track this week. Or at least they better, because the NFC North is tough this year, and if they drop too many more games, they'll be out.

Redskins at Bills: Bills. And I'm not just picking against the Redskins because they're in my division. The Bills are actually pretty damn good this year. The Redskins, in what's become a continuing theme for them, are not.

Bengals at Seahawks: Bengals. Did you realize that the Bengals are 4-2? OK, they haven't exactly been playing the Packers, Saints, and Pats every week, but still. Guess they aren't missing Carson Palmer too much. Wonder if the Raiders can get a refund?

Pats at Steelers: This should be a helluva good game. I don't know if the Steelers can shut down the Pats high powered offense, and I also don't think they can keep up in a shoot-out. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Pats.

Browns at 49ers: 49ers. Jim Harbaugh is working the Harbaugh magic out there in Frisco, I'm telling you!

Chargers at Chiefs: Chargers. Oy. Am I really picking the team that lost to the Jets over the team that beat the Raiders? I guess so. I hope Philip Rivers took some time to get his head straight this week.

On bye: Bears, Buccaneers, Falcons, Jets, Packers, Raiders



24 October 2011

2011 Week 7 Recap

Mini-recaps this week, since I was busy cooking and didn't follow the games too closely.

Panthers over Redskins: The deal with Mike Shanahan is supposed to be that he has this system, and as long as you follow The System, the particular players don't really matter. After all, he's won all those Super Bowls, right? So he must know? I'm just spit balling here, but I'm thinking that John Elway had something to do with it. Just theorizing, but maybe they won all those Super Bowls BECAUSE of John Elway and IN SPITE OF the Shanahan system. And John Beck is no John Elway.

Browns over Seahawks: SNOOZE. 6-3, and that was with two field goals blocked. You-Two-Calm-Down-or-I'm-Turning-Off-the-TV Dad has a tradition of taking a Sunday afternoon nap, and I'm betting that even the people who were AT THE STADIUM were asleep by the second half.

Falcons over Lions: Oh Lions, don't crap out on me already! It's not even November! At least Stafford is still vertical. Sort of.

Broncos over Dolphins: Giving up 15 points in about two minutes? The Fins deserved to lose. I'd guess that Tony Sparano would be fired during the bye week, but that ship has already sailed this season for the Fins. Has a head coach ever been fired without benefit of a bye week to bring someone else in? We could see history this year.

Jets over Chargers: Another end of game collapse! And I thought for sure the Chargers would get over the East Coast thing this week. Also, the Jets still have (at least) nine games to go this season. Little tip from me to their opponents? Double Plax in the end zone. Long time Eagles fan here. Trust me on this one.

Bears over Bucs: Just when I start thinking the Buccaneers might be getting something going (see last week and the win over the Saints), they blow it. This is what parity looks like.

Texans over Titans: So, apparently, Arian Foster's feeling a little better. You know, just a little. To the tune of 234 yards. Yowza.

Steelers over Cardinals: Duh.

Chiefs over Raiders: Last night on Football Night in America, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison were debating who there is to like in the AFC West. They couldn't figure it out, and neither can I. The Chargers fall apart to the Jets. The Raiders stink it up against the Chiefs. Who are now 3-3. Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer were Bad and Worse. Broncos? Yeah, not Broncos. What a mess. Who knew Jason Campbell was so critical?

Cowboys over Rams: Again with the duh.

Packers over Vikings: The only surprise was that the game was as close as it was. Guess the Pack can't totally dominate every single team every single week. I'm smelling a repeat.

Saints over Colts: Speaking of total domination...Chef Spouse has recently been making the argument that Peyton Manning should win MVP again this year. If we're judging by the player whose team can't live without him, Chef Spouse has a point. Boardwalk Empire was really great last night, by the way. The first season was a little slow - they were clearly setting up characters and story lines - but this season has been outstanding. I really love the Richard Harrow character and hope that something nice happens for him. I also love Margaret Schroeder. I think if Nucky can just see it, she could be a tremendous genuine partner for him. Why I am writing about this? Because I quit watching at halftime in favor of Boardwalk Empire. It was that pathetic. I seriously don't know why Jim Caldwell still has a job.

Oh - and Food Lab: Corn Tortillas was great. You can check the blog later this evening to read all about it.


20 October 2011

2011 Week 7 Picks

The Eagles are on bye this week, but with the Cowboys coming up on Sunday Night Football next week, they better not be resting on their laurels - or anything else - after the hopefully season-saving win over the Redskins last week. The defense still needs work, the offense still needs to learn how to score points in more than two quarters per game, and I won't feel fully comfortable about special teams until Alex Henery kicks at least one game winner from 40+. Short version: there's a lot of work to be done.

Anyway, other teams are still playing this week, and here's who I think is going to win:

Chargers at Jets: I know the Chargers have had trouble coming east historically and the weather's starting to turn chilly and all that, but they're a MUCH better team than the Jets, at least so far this year. This game shouldn't be a problem for them. Chargers.

Seahawks at Browns: Don't let that win over the Giants fool you - the Seahawks are still not very good. The Browns aren't great, either, but I think they'll get this one by virtue of home field.

Falcons at Lions: Lions. Yep, you read that right. Have I mentioned lately that I'm totally on their bandwagon? Hell, at this point, I'm riding shotgun.

Bears v. Buccaneers: I think these London games are idiotic. There's this thing? Called TV? And people in the UK have it, too? So if they're really interested in American football, they can, you know, WATCH it? Without sending teams the whole way across the Atlantic. Oy. Also, Bucs.

Broncos at Dolphins: aka, Bad at Worse. Avert your eyes. Dolphins. Which, if I'm right, will put the Colts up (down?) by one game in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes.

Redskins at Panthers: Regardless of which QB starts for the Redskins, this should be a blow out in their favor. Notice I said "should be." If it's not, forget calling for Rex Grossman's head - Redskins fans will be calling for Shanny's head. Which is exactly what's going to happen. Panthers.

Texans at Titans: Texans. Another bandwagon where I'm riding shotgun.

Steelers at Cardinals: Will Kevin Kolb ever pull it together? Well, not this week. Steelers.

Chiefs at Raiders: Even without Jason Campbell, I think the Raiders will be able to stretch the Al Davis Memorial Winning Streak to 3. Hope Carson Palmer's happy now. At least he gets his first start with his new team facing an opponent many college and even some high school teams could probably whup.

Packers at Vikings: Man, the Vikes just cannot catch a break. Oh right, they play in the NFC North. Sorry Christian Ponder, but your first pro start is going to be a disaster. Hand off to Adrian Peterson and hold on to your knickers. Packers.

Rams at Cowboys:  Even if Tony Romo melts down again and/or Jason Garrett doesn't trust him to do anything right, it shouldn't matter. The Rams are a hot mess, and there's enough film on AJ Feeley that they won't even get the "surprise QB" bump some teams occasionally get to enjoy. Cowboys.

Colts at Saints: Coach Payton should be back on the sideline (or at least the press box) in his cast/brace, but it won't matter - even I could coach the Saints to a win over the Colts at this point. Saints.

Ravens at Jaguars: I don't read The Onion much anymore, but I do follow them on Twitter. They tweeted something really funny recently to the effect that the sole message on the Jags fan board was from this guy looking for directions to the stadium. That pretty much sums it up. Ravens.

Joining the Eagles on bye: 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Giants, Patriots

Also, this is the ONLY place to get my picks this week. Some commenters on my syndication sites were kind of being jerks, and I do this for fun, so if it's not fun...well, you do the math. You guys, my loyal readers, are special. XOXOX.


19 October 2011

Sunday Schedule: Sunday, October 23, 2011

We're closed again this week, because we're taking advantage of the bye week to do a long-delayed Food Lab. We'll return next week for the big Eagles/Cowboys matchup on Sunday Night Football on October 30 (costumes encouraged).

In the meantime, here's what we'll be watching while we're labbing:

1 pm: Redskins at Panthers

4 pm: Rams at Cowboys

(Both games are likely to be blowouts in favor of the NFC East team, but gotta keep an eye on the division regardless.)

SNF: Colts at Saints (hm - or maybe we'll just watch Boardwalk Empire in real time)

MNF: Ravens at Jaguars (seriously, even in the offseason, who thought that would be an interesting game?)


17 October 2011

2011 Week 6 Recap

Eagles at Redskins, Sunday, October 16, 2011

In attendance: Shoegal, Chef Spouse - small group, thank goodness, since we didn't get home from a week in Seattle until after 10 pm Saturday night

Menu: 'cue from Inspire. Sadly, it was not. Inspired. Also sadly, the really good 'cue place in our neighborhood, Kenny's, isn't open on Sundays. And Steelers Transplant still lives in Tampa, which means we don't get his amazing 'cue either. No 'cue - what's a gal to do?

Stud of the week: Kurt Coleman, I'm looking at you! Kurt had a huge day, particularly given the fact that he wasn't even a starter until, I think, this week, replacing the truly awful Jarrad Page. Kurt hauled in three of Sexy Rexy's four picks, batted down some additional passes, and was in on about a million tackles. Way to ensure that starting position STAYS yours. Gotta give a shout-out to Brent Celek, too. Nice circus catch, buddy.

First, I have to get one thing off my chest:

WHY CAN'T THE EAGLES PLAY FOUR FREAKIN' QUARTERS OF COMPLETE FOOTBALL ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL?

Sigh.

A win's a win, and the Eagles desperately needed this one, but the fact that the offense scored all their points before the half and almost let the Redskins and their backup (new starting?) QB John Beck back in does not make me happy.

You know how, for the past four weeks, it's felt like the Eagles couldn't catch a break no matter what? Every batted pass resulted in a pick, guys who normally protect the rock gave it up, if the first level of the D missed a tackle there was NO ONE to clean it up, even the kicker was missing short field goals?

I guess someone paid a curandera to come smudge the locker room with sage or something, because damn, did the team's luck turn.

Of course, it also helped that Rex Grossman remembered that he's, well, Rex Grossman. You aren't going to turn the ball over that much and still win. Trust me - after the last four weeks, I know. Oh God, do I know.

Other things that helped:

The defense showed up ready to ball. I called the Skins to win this game in part because I wasn't seeing much in the way of results from all the defensive tweaking. I figured the team needed the two weeks of the upcoming bye in order to, oh, I don't know, scrap the entire defensive coaching staff and scheme and start over. Silly me. I still don't think Juan Castillo is going to work out long term as the DC, but at least the players seem to have remembered how to tackle and get to the ball and stop drives in the red zone and get the hell off the field on 3rd down. Maybe they were all threatened with being traded to the Rams. Whatever it was, it worked.

Shady McCoy had another huge game. Mike Shanahan's right: he IS the best back in the NFL.

Brent Celek remembered how to play football (see above).

Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant remembered how to HOLD ON TO THE BALL.

To quote Bleeding Green Nation, Nnamdi Asomugha channeled Sheldon Brown, laid the wood we're used to seeing from a midnight green #24, and broke Chris Cooley's hand in the process. Not that I'm ever happy about injuries, but Cooley does run his mouth. A lot. A LOT.

The coaches actually planned the game relatively well. Yes, we all know Andy Reid is addicted to the big play. But this week, he must've been wearing some kind of patch or chewing some special gum, because he and Marty dialed up running plays and short drops with quick passes to keep Mike Vick from getting killed. And thank goodness, because Vince Young did not impress with his two plays from scrimmage.  (Oh, and by the way? Andy was right to challenge that spot at the end of the game, and the zebras were BLIND in calling Shady short. BLIND.) And they didn't get cute in the red zone, and look what happened: two TDs and two field goals.

Mike Vick didn't have a huge day, and you know what? That's fine by me. Last year's MNF show aside, if he throws for a jillion yards, it generally means that the Eagles are in BIG trouble.

A lot of the DC sports press today has been all about, "if only a few plays had gone the other way..." Yeah, tell me about it. In case you haven't noticed, the Eagles weren't blown out once in those four losses. So I feel you, Redskins fans, I do, but I'm glad YOU'RE the ones wailing about "if only!" this Monday.

In the end, the guys finally played like they cared. And, at least yesterday, that was enough.

Around the rest of the NFL...

Falcons over Panthers: Did you see Cam Newton bust out the Deion Sanders TD dance? Funny stuff. What's not funny is being 1-5 (so glad the Eagles are not in that camp today).

Bengals over Colts: How many ways are there to say, "The Colts suck without Peyton Manning"? Because I'd got 11 more weeks to go and I'm already running low on alternatives.

49ers over the Lions: OK, the Lions are for real, as I've been pointing out for the last five weeks. Apparently, the 49ers are, too. I've heard the 49ers are also really, really grateful for David Akers. You're welcome, and you can send the gifts of high-end small batch and single barrel bourbons to me. I'll be sure Howie Roseman gets them, I swear. Also, throw down between the coaches? LOVE!

Packers over Rams: Well, sure. Sam Bradford is hurt and AJ Feeley's their new starting QB. Spags, Feeley - it's like old home week.

Giants over Bills: Really, Bills? Really? After last week, you couldn't take care of the Giants for us? Thanks for nothing. My only hope is that none of the NFC East teams can play at all consistently this year, and the Giants ALWAYS fall apart in December.

Steelers over Jaguars: I'm pretty sure the Steelers should be really worried that they only beat the Jags by 4. They should also be really worried that Troy Polamalu might have a concussion.

Ravens over Texans: The Ravens are also for real. You know, just in case you weren't sure.

Raiders over Browns: Poor Jason Campbell just can't catch a break. He finally gets a little stability and starts winning some games, and the next thing you know: broken collarbone, Heal up quick, Jason. The West is wide open. Also, nice win on the day the team was honoring Al Davis. Who was a nut job, make no mistake, but also highly influential, both for the Raiders and the entire NFL.

Patriots over Cowboys: Pop quiz: you give the ball back to Tom Brady, Pats down by 3, with just over two minutes left. What do YOU think is going to happen, dumb ass? Sloppy game on both sides, but how does that game turn out any other way than it did? Seriously?

Buccaneers over Saints: The worst injury of the day was to Sean Payton, who took a major hit to the knee from one of his own players on the sidelines and couldn't even finish coaching the game (I think he had surgery today). Well, that and the injury to the Saints' pride in losing to the Bucs.

Bears over Vikings: First of all, say it with me, "Do NOT kick to Devin Hester. EVER." Jeez, people, get with the program! And McNabb got benched for Christian Ponder. Given the fact that his receivers dropped EVERYTHING, including passes that hit them between the numbers and on the hands, and the fact that the Vikings' O-line is TERRIBLE, I don't think that ass-whuppin' was Big 5's fault. I also think this might be the end of the line for him. NFL Network calling?


13 October 2011

2011 Week 6 Picks

This week, our beleaguered Eagles travel to DC to take on the NFC East leading Redskins. Back in August, who would've thought I'd be writing that sentence in mid-October? So far this season, it's been like Bizarro NFC East, with the Eagles front office behaving like Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato in days of yore, and the Redskins plugging away and winning games. LOLskins, indeed.

You know what the Skins are really good at this year? Running the ball. You know what the Eagles couldn't do if you paid them? Stop the run. No really - these guys are well-paid, and look what's happened in the first five games. You know what it takes to stop the run? Solid linebackers and defensive players who can tackle. So our boys in green are 0 for 2 there.

The Philly news media and my fellow bloggers have been all about "this is a MUST-WIN game!" this week.

Yeah, so was last week's game against the Bills. And so was the Eagles week three home opener against the 49ers. And the week two matchup against the Giants.

The team needs to make MAJOR adjustments. Maybe to coaching, maybe to personnel, either who they have or where they're playing them (or both), and certainly to their approach to practicing and preparing for games and to playcalling. So, you know, everything. I don't see that happening until the bye week which, mercifully, is next week. Hopefully the team won't have given up by then, because they're going to go into it 1-5.

Redskins (God help me).

In the rest of the matchups:

Panthers at Falcons: The Panthers are on the rise and the Falcons have lost their 14-2 magic, but they are still damn hard to beat at home, and I don't see them letting a divisional game slip away, particularly with one of the NFC wildcard spots virtually guaranteed to the North at this point. Falcons.

Colts at Bengals: Adam Schefter started a tweet storm with his bit on SportsCenter this morning about what he would recommend - if anyone was asking - in the way of hypothetical, proposed trades. The next thing you know, someone tweeted "Dawkins being traded to Philly" as fact, and we were off to the races. But Schefter did have one thing right - the Colts should just trade everyone they can to get as many draft picks next year as possible to go with their new QB, Andrew Luck, and their new head coach, Peyton Manning. Bengals.

49ers at Lions: If you're not an NFC East fan, this is the game to watch in the 1 pm time slot. Both teams are way outperforming expectations this year. With the Lions, it's been building. Looking at what's been going on with that team in the past few years, anyone with half a brain in her head could see they were on the cusp of something great. This is the year it all starts coming together for them. In the meantime, you may remember the 2005 draft, when Aaron Rodgers was taken in the first round, but not until pick 24. Remember who was drafted #1? Yep, Alex Smith. For the past six years, he's looked like a HUGE bust. Then a little thing happened I like to call "Competent Coaching." Jim Harbaugh is having a tremendous effect on that entire football team, not least their QB. I give the edge to the Lions because I feel like their climb from the cellar of the NFL is on a stronger footing, because they're at home, and because their division is much tougher. Also, Team of Destiny! Lions.

Rams at Packers: There's at least one game per season where I advise one of the teams to forfeit. This would be that game. Just forfeit, Rams, and save yourselves the shame of being the first team in NFL history to lose by three digits. Packers, with the gimme pick.

Bills at Giants: I was reading Big Blue View and the Giants fans seem, to me, to be irrationally optimistic about their ability to handle the hot Bills. Face it guys: the NFC East is just not very good this year, and these Bills are not your daddy's Bills. Bills.

Jaguars at Steelers: You know what other long-tenured head coach's days are looking numbered? Jack Del Rio. Steelers.

Texans at Ravens: This is a tough one to call. Both teams have posted BIG wins over the Steelers. I know the Texans are dealing with some injuries at this point, and I know the Ravens are playing at home, but I have to go with my recently graduated Team of Destiny. Texans.

Browns at Raiders: Look for the Raiders to extend their Al Davis Memorial Winning Streak to two this week.

Cowboys at Pats: Even if Tony Romo doesn't completely melt down at some point during the game - which is starting to look like a weekly occurrence - there is NO WAY the Cowboys win this game. Yeah, I know the Pats have, statistically, the worst defense in the entire league. I also know that the Cowboys will NOT be able to keep up on offense. No way. Pats. Yes, that means three NFC East teams will lose this week. Told you we aren't very good this year.

Saints at Buccaneers: The Bucs seem to be regressing, which is too bad, because they were showing some promise. Back to blacked out games, Tampa. Saints.

Vikings at Bears: The Bears o-line is putrid this year, which just might be enough to keep the Vikings in this game. But I still think Lovie's team will walk away with a W, as long as Jared Allen doesn't completely flatten Jay Cutler. And even that might not be enough.

Dolphins at Jets: Finally, the Jets are facing an opponent they can DEFINITELY beat in the 0-4 Dolphins. At least they better, or Rex's head might literally explode on the sidelines. Jets.

On bye: Broncos, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Seahawks, Titans

Sunday Schedule: Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chef Spouse and I will finally be home to watch the games this weekend! However, we do need a solid headcount for Sunday because we will just be getting home from Seattle, so if you're planning to come, we need to know by text, email, or call NO LATER than Saturday, October 15.

On to the schedule:

1 pm: Eagles/Redskins (of course) - second game will be Bills/Giants

4 pm: Pats/Cowboys - second game either Texans/Ravens or Saints/Bucs (we'll take a vote)

SNF: Bears/Vikings (aka, "Everyone gets to go to bed early!")

MNF: Dolphins/Jets (aka, "Everyone gets to go to bed early again!")

Menu: since we'll have just gotten home, we're going to get some kind of takeout. Chef Spouse is thinking that we'll try Inspire BBQ, which recently opened in our neighborhood and is supposed to be quite good. And unlike all the OTHER BBQ joints in our 'hood, it's actually open on Sundays.


10 October 2011

2011 Week 5 Recap

Eagles at Bills, Sunday, October 9, 2011 

In attendance: just me and Chef Spouse. I'm on a business trip in Seattle, and his dad lives out here, so he came with.

Menu: room service

Stud of the Week: there isn't one. Seriously. No one.

The DirectTV Sunday Ticket To Go was experiencing some significant buffering issues during the game today. It could've been the fact that I was on hotel wireless. But I prefer to think that DirectTV was trying to protect me from witnessing what Bleeding Green Nation referred to as the "vortex of errors and futility that has ensnared the Eagles." 

If you had put some money on the Bills being 4-1 and the Eagles being 1-4 in week 5 a month ago, you'd probably be able to afford some REALLY good booze to help you dull the pain right now.

Those few seconds of hope I enjoyed when it looked like they might just pull off the comeback win were fun. I enjoyed them. They might be the last I get this season.

What else is there to write about this team? Can't tackle? Check. Like, epically, historically bad at tackling? Check. Offensive turnovers at critical times? Check. Dumb penalties that extend opponents' drives? Check. Lack of defensive take-aways? Check. Doing nothing with whatever takeaways they do get? Check. Ineffective in the red zone on both sides of the ball? Check. Inexplicable coaching decisions? Check, check, check.

"Why wasn't Mike Vick the stud? After all, he broke Randal Scramble's all time QB rushing record today." Well, sure - and he threw four picks (although they weren't all his fault). And let's not forget the brain fart at the end of the half that cost the Eagles three points.

"What about Jason Avant? He had a career day!" Yep, and two critical turnovers. Hands Avant had TWO turnovers. And both at the worst possible times.

Fellow Eagles Maniac and I were Facebooking during the game. I suggested it might be time to sacrifice a goat. She feels like the goat we should start with is Juan Castillo.

How can this team find so MANY different ways to lose?

In the battle between five hundred total yards of offense and five turnovers, five turnovers will always win out. Well, lose. You know what I mean.

I really don't know where the guys go from here. I'm pretty sure Juan Castillo has to go. If not now, then during the bye week. Actually, if the Eagles drop next week's game to the Redskins (which I fully expect them to do), Andy Reid might not have a job after the bye week.

It used to be that, when the Eagles needed someone to step up, he did. Whether it was a big defensive stop, or a takeaway, or a pick-6, or a 14 second McNabb scramble, or Brian Westbrook turning a sure tackle for a loss into a 40 yard gain, or even Freddie f-ing Mitchell catching a 4th and 26, somebody would always step up. Not anymore.

The Eagles have plenty of guys with great fantasy stats. What they don't have is a team. And I don't know how they fix that.

Around the rest of the NFL...

Saints over Panthers: But just barely and on a last-minute (literally in the final minute) TD. The Panthers are going to be really good in another year or two.

Raiders over Texans: If I had known Al Davis was going to up and die, I would've called this game differently. Hey, you think if someone whacks Jeff Lurie, the Eagles might win another game this season?

Chiefs over Colts: I called it! Also, at least there's one team that's worse off than the Eagles!  For the moment!

Bengals over Jaguars: I really need to actually WATCH a Bengals game at some point to check out young Mr.Dalton.

Vikings over Cardinals: Looks like the Vikings have finally figured out how to win games. Hand off to Adrian Peterson. And it took them FIVE WEEKS to remember that?

Seahawks over Giants: You know that thing I said above about how you can't win games if you keep giving the ball away to the other team? Yeah, that. And the Seahawks even lost Tavaris Jackson.

Steelers over Titans: Just when you think the Titans are getting good, they screw up. Just when you think the Steelers are dead, they spring back to life. I should've remembered both of these things in calling this game.

49ers over Bucs: HOLY CRAP. 48-3. And the Bucs are a pretty decent team this year. Frank Gore's clearly back, and maybe, just maybe, Alex Smith is actually turning into a QB.

Chargers over Broncos: Beginning of the Tebow era? Probably. He didn't win, but he did play well, in sharp contrast to Kyle Orton, and he's fun as hell to watch.

Pats over Jets: Their record is better, but the Jets are almost as big a disappointment this year as the Eagles. Almost.

Packers over Falcons: It was all (or nearly all) Falcons in the first half, but you just can't keep the Packers down. Damn, they look good.


06 October 2011

Sunday Schedule, Sunday, October 9, 2011

Another game, another weekend when we're out of town. Yep, we're closed again - in Seattle for work.

Good games to watch this week include:

1 pm - well, I'll be watching Eagles/Bills, thanks to Sunday Ticket To-Go, but I think Raiders/Texans will be a much better game

4 pm - I'll be working. You should catch Jets/Pats

Back next week!


05 October 2011

2011 Week 5 Picks

This week, the Eagles travel to Buffalo to take on the 3-1 Bills. The Bills give up a ton of points, but the Eagles are even weaker on D, particularly with the loss of Trent Cole (who is suffering from the same injury I sustained back at the Eagles Academy in February, which I happen to think is a weird coincidence - he's my favorite player, so maybe that means I'm his favorite fan?). And I'm not so sure the offense can keep pace in a shoot-out, which is what's going to happen Sunday. Bills.

In the rest of the matchups:

Saints at Panthers: Saints. The Panthers are way better this year, but they're not THAT much better.

Chiefs at Colts: I'm gonna do it.  Even though the QB and the coach are having screaming matches on the sidelines, I'm calling the Chiefs. Yep, the Colts are that bad this year. Does anyone else think that Jim Caldwell always looks like he's not sure where he is or how he got there?

Seahawks at Giants: Giants. Even when they were good, the Seahawks had trouble winning on the road. And they aren't good anymore.

Bengals at Jaguars: Bengals. After years of having O but no D, now the Bengals have D and a young QB. Sounds like a winning combo to me, at least this week.

Titans at Steelers: Another upset pick - Titans.

Raiders at Texans: Texans all the way, baby. Although the loss of Andre Johnson does worry me. But Adrian Foster should have a HUGE day against the Raiders' porous run D.

Cardinals at Vikings: In the matchup of Former Eagles QB v. Former Eagles QB, I'm going with youth. The Cards have been right in all their losses. The Vikings have, too, but I think the Cards are trending the right way. Also, I picked them to win the west, so I have to show a little faith, right? Cardinals, who will get their first win EVER in Minneapolis.

Buccaneers at 49ers: The Bucs were uncharacteristically sloppy last week putting away the Colts. The 49ers were uncharacteristically sharp upsetting the Eagles. To me, that says Bucs.

Jets at Patriots: Patriots. The Jets are too inconsistent, and the Pats are, well, the Pats. And Nick Mangold is still iffy for Sunday. Centers: unsung, often unknown (other than Jeff Saturday), vitally important.

Chargers at Broncos: Chargers.

Packers at Falcons: Packers. Who look damned near unstoppable so far. Aaron Rodgers just gets better and better.

Bears at Lions: Lions, baby! And how often would you be able to make that call in, like, EVER?

On bye: Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams, Ravens, and Redskins



03 October 2011

2011 Week 4 Recap

Eagles v. 49ers, Sunday, October 2, 2011

In attendance: Life-long Eagles Fan Mom, Chef Spouse, You-Two-Calm-Down-or-I'm-Turning-Off-the-TV Dad, and about 50 of their closest friends and our assorted relatives. (We were up in PA celebrating a milestone birthday for my pops and warming their newly renovated kitchen.)

Menu: all kinds of yummy goodness cooked by Life-long Eagles Fan Mom, birthday cake, and something else...what was it?...oh yeah: don't forget the tears, recriminations, and bile.

Stud of the Week: well, of course, it was Mike Vick, who had a career day for all the good it did. Given the way this season is going, I'm thinking of renaming this feature Goat of the Week, only there are WAY too many candidates.

It probably comes as no surprise to hear that many people who know me casually are aware that I love the NFL. One of the first questions I always get is about fantasy football. The thing is, I don't play fantasy football. Why? Because I'm much more interested in team chemistry and how players function as a team than in people's individual stats.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Week 4 passing leader: Mike Vick. Number 2 in receiving yards: DeSean Jackson. Jason Babin had three sacks. Jason Avant had at least one circus catch. Tight end Clay Harbor had a great day, too.

That does not a team make.

For years, we've all mocked lil' Danny Snyder and the LOLSkins for putting together a fantasy football team and thinking it was the same thing as a functioning football team. Now that the shoe's on the other foot, I think we can all say it's damned uncomfortable.

How does a team this talented blow their third second half lead in as many weeks? 

Even with the re-jiggered linebackers, the Eagles still can't stop the run. Worse? They have (purportedly) three of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and they can't stop the pass, either. Was it just me or did Asante Samuel quit on the play on the 49ers last TD? You know - the one that won the game? And I'm thinking about putting Nnamdi Asomugha's picture on the side of a milk carton because I have no idea where in the hell he's gone. 

While the defense deserves the heat they're taking, the offense isn't blameless. For the second? third? year running, this team is terrible in the red zone. What was Ronnie Brown thinking? Even worse, it appears to have been a designed play. DUMBEST. PLAY. EVER. Have the coaches turned the creation of plays over to a bunch of sugared-up Pop Warner 6 year olds? The team seriously has NO WAY to power it in from the one? NO WAY? That seems like a rather urgent problem to address.

How does the team put up nine MILLION yards of offense and only score THREE points in the ENTIRE SECOND HALF?

Watching Maclin's fumble right before the two minute warning was pretty much the equivalent of ripping out my still-beating heart, stomping on it, and then turning it over to a Cowboys fan, but honestly, prior to that when Alex Henery missed that second field goal, I knew in my gut the team was going down.

Speaking of missed field goals, it was a terrible day for both teams' kickers. Chef Spouse has a theory that The Linc was so confused at seeing Akers there in red and gold, the stadium itself was literally rejecting field goals. I do not know, but I do know that missing two field goals from inside the 40 is ridiculous.

You know how when you're watching a game, you'll sometimes get that feeling that a big comeback is starting? Your team is down, but you just know, you KNOW, that they're going to pull it out? Why does it feel like the Eagles are never that team? They're always the team that is come-back-ed upon.

What it comes down to is that the Eagles have a bunch of guys to whom they paid a bunch of money running around on the field wearing the same uniforms, but they aren't a team.

And then the Phillies lost, y'all. Damn. At least the Cowboys blew an even bigger lead than the Eagles - it should divert a little of the national media attention.

Around the rest of the NFL...

Bears over Panthers: Well, sure, but Cam Newton had another solid performance and the Panthers actually had a chance to win it. Also, special teams coaches? Write this down in pen: do NOT kick it to Devin Hester. Also, keep an eye on Matt Forte.

Bengals over Bills: Trap game. Letdown after the big win over the Pats last week. Ouch.

Titans over Browns: Looks like the Titans weren't as wrecked by the loss of Kenny Britt as I thought they would be.

Lions over Cowboys:  I'm not certain, but I think Tony Romo may have thrown more TDs for the Lions thean he did for the Cowboys.  To quote the SportsBlog Nation recaps: "Calvin Johnson will drink your milkshake." Yes, he will. He'll even have seconds. The Lions are 4-0 y'all. Team of Destiny! Also, Tony Romo doesn't need a coach - he needs a psychiatrist. 

Texans over Steelers: The final score makes the game look much closer than it actually was. Is it time to start asking how good Mike Tomlin is? Or did he Gruden his way to greatness?

Saints over Jags: Duh.

Chiefs over Vikings: Oh my God, I hate to see McNabb going down like this.

Redskins over Rams: Again, duh. How much do I hate that the Redskins are leading the NFC East? I live in DC. You guess.

Giants over Cardinals: Calls like the "Victor Cruz gave himself up" BS make me wonder if the games are fixed. Seriously.

Falcons over Seahawks: Barely. What was with the second half rallies this week? Man! On the one hand, it's not easy to win at Qwest Field. On the other hand, it's the Seahawks. THE SEAHAWKS.

Packers over Broncos: Again with the Duh. The Packers are scary good this year. Repeat? Maybe.

Pats over Raiders: Well, yes.

Chargers over Dolphins: Again, duh.

Ravens over Jets: It was either Al or Cris, but I think it was Al, who remarked that you had a better chance of scoring while on defense on Sunday night. He's not wrong.