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

24 December 2015

2015 Week 16 Picks

Happy Holidays, y'all!

I know we're all not getting our number one wish this year - a Super Bowl win - but I'm hoping that the non-football parts of your year and celebrations have been good.

We're down to the last two games, both divisional. The Eagles, as we all know, "control their own destiny." Win out, and THEY get to lose a home playoff game to the Seahawks. Lose either one, and that NFC East wildcard round loss will happen in DC.

But first, the Birds themselves have to face the Washington football team, at home, night game, Boxing Day.

Can the Eagles pull off the win? I dearly hope so, but Washington has been playing a lot better lately. The two teams' defenses rank about mid-pack equal, but the DC offense is playing much better than Chip Kelly's boys, and that will likely make all the difference. That, and the fact that DC is gunning for only its fourth divisional title this millennium.

Sadly, I think I'm picking DC. So start thinking about your draft previews, people.

In the other matchups:

Chargers at Raiders: Raiders

Patriots at Jets: Pats

Texans at Titans: Texans

Browns at Chiefs: Chiefs

Colts at Dolphins: I think Dolphins, which is the same thing I said last week v the Chargers and I was wrong about that, so who knows?

49ers at Lions: Lions

Cowboys at Bills: Bills

Bears at Buccaneers: Bucs

Panthers at Falcons: Panthers. One more to go!

Steelers at Ravens: Steelers

Jaguars at Saints: Saints (even after Monday's game, I still believe...that they won't lose to my perennial whipping boy team)

Rams at Seahawks: The Seahawks will get it done to hold on to the #5 NFC playoff spot.

Packers at Cardinals: Cards

Giants at Vikings: I know Odell Beckham Jr. is benched this week, but the Giants are still fighting for their playoff lives, too, and Eli Manning seems to play best in dire situations. I know everyone has the Vikings, but I'm taking the Giants as my upset pick.

Bengals at Broncos: This is a tough one - the Bengals are guaranteed a playoff spot, but they don't have their division wrapped yet. The Broncos are still leading their division, but could easily slip behind the Chiefs or even out of the playoff picture entirely. Both teams have issues at QB, and the Bengals desperately need that first round bye if they hope to have Andy Dalton back for a playoff run. I think his team will deliver, and I'm *still* keeping the flame alive for a Bengals/Panthers Super Bowl. Bengals.

16 December 2015

2015 Week 15 Picks

With three weeks to go, we have a three-way tie for first (I use that term loosely) in the NFC (L)East.

And everyone has at least one divisional game remaining, which means this will be an exciting end to the season for all of us - well, other than the Cowboys, who are the only team who are pretty much out of it at this point (and it occurs to me that, even at 4-9, they may not be mathematically eliminated. Wait: is that possible? Yes, it is, at least as of Wednesday, December 16. Yikes.)

Two of the Birds' remaining games are against NFC East rivals: DC and, to end the season, the Giants. I also think it may be the case that, regardless of what happens this weekend, as long as the Eagles win both of those games, they win our sorry-ass division. Which, for those who are bad at math (or at least at counting), would be wining the division at 8-8. Which may happen.

Double yikes.

So what do I think will happen this weekend, as the Eagles take on the Cards in prime time?

After beating the Pats, anything is possible.

But (say it with me) if I pick them to win, they lose, and if I pick them to lose, they win.

So I'm picking the Cardinals, and hoping for a 9-7 finish to spare us the shame of a .500 divisional winner.

(Hey, it's been working so far....)

In the other matchups:

Buccaneers at Rams: Bucs

Jets at Cowboys: Jets

Bears at Vikings: I think Vikings, but this one could go either way. The Bears have been playing better lately, and divisional games - who can tell?

Falcons at Jaguars: The Falcons have really fallen off a cliff after a hot start, but I just can't see them losing to the Jags. Then again, I didn't think the Colts would get beaten like a red-headed stepchild by the Jags last week, either, so who knows? But I am going with the Falcons, which may be a mistake.

Texans at Colts: Texans.

Panthers at Giants: The G-men have a history of getting hot late in the season, but I'm pretty sure they're about to run into an ice storm called Cam Newton/Luke Kuechly and slide right off the road (that metaphor ended up a mess, didn't it?). Panthers.

Titans at Patriots: Pats

Bills at DC: I've got the Bills, and not just because it would REALLY help out the Birds, although that, too.

Chiefs at Ravens: Chiefs

Browns at Seahawks: Seahawks

Packers at Raiders: Packers

Broncos at Steelers: Steelers

Dolphins at Chargers: This is another one that could go either way, and there's definitely more than a bit of "who cares?" to this matchup, but I'll go Dolphins.

Bengals at 49ers: Rough week last week, and Andy Dalton being out at least for a few weeks is a big problem. Can the Bengals rally without him? At least they have an easy one this week, where even if AJ McCarron (WHO????) has a tough time adjusting, their defense should be able to take care of business pretty much single-handedly. Bengals.

Lions at Saints: We're actually going to be in New Orleans for this game, and we thought pretty seriously about getting tickets, but then we realized we'd probably have more fun at a sports bar in the Vieux Carre. Plus, can't miss that street party when the Saints win!

10 December 2015

2015 Week 14 Picks

This week, Shady McCoy returns to Philly.

DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA.

We all know that Shady was traded, unwillingly, in the off season for Kiko Alonso (looking like a big mistake at this point) and replaced by DeMarco Murray (same) and Ryan Mathews (less so, at least when he's able to play).

We also all know that the trade did not go down as smoothly as at least the Eagles' Front Office would've liked.

So now, the week of the game, we've got drama around "would Chip shake Shady's hand?" (yes) and "would Shady shake Chip's hand?" (apparently, no, even if he was on fire and shaking Chip's hand was the only way to activate the sprinkler system)

FFS, Shady, it's not like Chip is Hitler - or, worse, Donald Trump!

And then there's this bit of unhingedness, courtesy of Herm Edwards:

So yeah, apparently, amidst all the yelling, there will also be a football game played Sunday.

Which I need to pick.

When I pick the Eagles to win, they lose.

When I pick the Eagles to lose, they win.

Our shitty division is still very much in reach. Whichever team wins it is going to get annihilated in the wild card round, but whatever. That's not for, like, a month!

You know what that means: I'm calling the Birds to lose. So they can win.

Because logic.

Bills

In the other matchups:

Vikings at Cardinals: Cardinals

49ers at Browns: Anyone know who's playing QB for *either* of these teams at this point? Does it even matter? The 49ers will probably win, because their defense isn't entirely dreadful, which is about the best I can say about any aspect of either of these teams at this point.

Lions at Rams: Rams (me and Chris Mortensen, lone wolfing it)

Saints at Buccaneers: Bucs

Titans at Jets: Jets

Steelers at Bengals: The is a big test for the Bengals, and I think they're going to pass. Bengals. Ginger power!

Colts at Jaguars: Colts

Chargers at Chiefs: Chiefs

DC at Bears: I suspect DC will win this one, just to prolong the agony in the NFC East

Falcons at Panthers: Panthers go 13-0, baby!

Seahawks at Ravens: I was having drinks with a former coworker who's a big Ravens fan last night, and he pointed out that 8 of the Ravens 11 offensive starters are out at this point. That explains a lot. Seahawks

Raiders at Broncos: Will Peyton be back? Who cares? That new guy is looking pretty solid! Besides, the Broncos are going to keep riding their defense to wins, and Sunday will be no exception. Broncos.

Cowboys at Packers: Now the pressure is off Matt Cassel, it should be smooth sailing from here on out, right? SIKE! Packers (who are also struggling with injury this late season, but let's be serious)

Patriots at Texans: Did the Eagles provide the blueprint for bad teams to beat the Pats? Well, Tom Brady certainly doesn't like to be harried, and JJ Watt LOVES to harry QBs. Is that enough? Probably not, because you do have to be able to put points up to beat the Pats, which the Texans have not shown themselves to be particularly adept at doing so far this season, so while it would be great to see the Pats lose three in a row, it also seems pretty unlikely. Pats (but Go JJ!)

Dolphins at Giants: What's with all the primetime NFC East games the past few weeks? Did someone in the NFL scheduling office lose a bet? Speaking of prolonging the agony, the G-men are likely to win this one, too. Oh NFC East, why do you torture us so? Giants.


07 December 2015

Even a Stopped Clock Is Right Twice a Day

Philadelphia Eagles 35, New England Patriots 28, Sunday, December 6, 2015

OK, that headline is not entirely fair to the Birds, who played a great game yesterday. A great game that NO ONE saw coming. Literally the only person I know of who picked the Eagles was this one nutty guy in Chef Spouse's work pick 'em league who intentionally picks the craziest things he can each week. And I'm pretty sure even HE was like, "OK, this seriously is too improbable to happen."

Chef Spouse and I were decorating for the holidays this weekend, and we intentionally planned to be working on the tree during the game because we figured we'd need the distraction. So we made some nog from scratch (including the raw eggs, because we're crazy like that) and settled in for what we assumed would be a MASSIVE DRUBBING.

Oh, lordy, were we wrong.

Stud of the week: Chris Maragos. Wait - who? After all Sunday's fireworks, Chris WHO? Special teams ace Chris Maragos, who, as the first half was winding down, and the Patriots had mis-managed the clock and had to punt, came through the line with the key block that Najee Goode scooped up to tie the game at the half, which swung the momentum pretty much permanently. THAT Chris Maragos.

Although, really, many people could've qualified for Stud this Week. Najee Goode, for scooping up the Maragos block and scoring, rather than just falling on it. Darren Sproles with the 83 yard punt return TD and a great game on both the running and receiving sides. SO GLAD to see the coaches using him more. You know what's better than Darren Sproles? MORE DARREN SPROLES. Walter Thurmond for batting the pass that Malcolm Jenkins grabbed for the 99 yard house call. Brandon Marshall with the pick in the end zone. Brandon Graham with two sacks. Connor Barwin with two sacks. The entire D for pressuring Tom Brady into happy feet. Sam Bradford with NO PICKS (on a night when Touchdown Tom threw TWO) and three truly outstanding throws: the Zach Ertz TD, the Jordan Matthews TD, and the key completion to Riley Cooper for a first down as the Birds were trying to hang on. Riley Cooper for using his two brain cells to bat the THIRD Pats onside kick attempt out of bounds. Lots of outstanding play from a team no one believed in (including me).

Not everything was perfect. Sam got lucky on a few passes that weren't picked but that could've been. DeMarco Murray continues to disappoint. Miles Austin was benched last night and cut today, and THANK GOD. It's about damn time. Someone tell rookie Kenjon Barner that he needs to get BOTH arms on the ball at the end of the game. Truly, had Gronk not been out when that turnover occurred with just over a minute left, the Pats would've tied the game and who KNOWS how things would've gone down in OT (probably not well for the Birds).

But this truly was, as the players pointed out on Twitter, a team win.

I also have to give credit to Pats fans, much as it kills me. I have several close peeps who are Pats fans, and they were universally great on social media. To quote one: "Any given Sunday, people. Philly deserved it." And then there's this. Pure class.

So where do we go from here? Damned if I know. But for now, just enjoy the win (and root for the Cowboys tonight, which...well, at least root against DC). First time for everything, including the Birds beating the Pats at home while Tom Brady is the QB.

03 December 2015

2015 Week 13 Picks

Next up, the Eagles travel to Foxboro to face the 10-1 Patriots.

What's been funny, this week, on NFL Network and SportsCenter, is to listen to the talking heads point out that Gronk is out, as are Dont'a Hightower and Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman and, adding insult to, uh, injury, linebacker Jamie Collins has some "unspecified illness". So apparently this will actually be, you know, a game.

RIIIIIIIGHT.

The Pats could replace half their players with *fans*, *fans* who are *kids*, and they'd still kill the Eagles.

60 points are not impossible.

Chef Spouse and I will be decorating the tree and partaking liberally of the nog on Sunday afternoon. I figure it will provide a pleasant distraction. We may even turn off the sound in favor of the A Charlie Brown Christmas album if things get REALLY dire.

Do I even need to type this?

Patriots (who at least are no longer undefeated, and congratulations to the Broncos - the entire NFL-viewing nation outside of a 100 mile radius around Boston thanks you)

In the other matchups:

Packers at Lions: Packers

Jets at Giants: (which I guess means that the stadium will be full of Giants fans, so Jets fans, watch your backs) Jets

Cardinals at Rams: Cardinals

Falcons at Buccaneers: Falcons

Seahawks at Vikings: Seahawks

Texans at Bills: Bills

Ravens at Dolphins: Ravens

Bengals at Browns: Bengals

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

49ers at Bears: Bears

Broncos at Chargers: Broncos (Go, Brock Osweiler! Chef Spouse pointed out that that sounds like a porn name, but I think that's mostly because of repeated viewings of Boogie Nights)

Chiefs at Raiders: Chiefs

Panthers at Saints: I'd love to see the Saints win, but I think Superman is going to 12-0 - Panthers

Colts at Steelers: Steelers

Cowboys at DC: DC



 

29 November 2015

Stick a Fork in 'Em

Philadelphia Eagles 14, Detroit Lions 45, Thursday, November 26, 2015

It took a few days, but I'm finally up for writing about the sorry state of the Birds. I am very happy that they played the early game Thursday, since we were somewhat distracted from the mess on the field by Thanksgiving meal preparation.

I'm not going to bother to recap the game, other than to say: BLEH. Also, the Lions are not nearly as bad a team as their reputation this year. They just got off to a slow start on the season. Not that that's any excuse for two weeks in a row of dreadful losses. First time in team history the opponents have scored 45 points two weeks in a row. That is NOT the kind of record you need to be setting, guys.

Stud of the week? No stud this week - no one did anything worth praising. Well, the guy in charge of the Gatorade kept the cups full, but everyone ELSE screwed up royally.

To quote Tommy Lawlor: "The 2015 season has gone from frustrating to full on nightmare."

What is going on here? Let's take it in turns:

The Defense

How has the defense gone from the strength of the team to dumpster fire in 11 quarters of football (the first quarter against the Dolphins being their last solid showing)? Are they just gassed because the offense can't stay on the field? Maybe, but you'll have to excuse me for thinking that guys in their 20s and early 30s (the prime of their health and vitality) who are being paid millions of dollars to PLAY A GAME should make sure they’re in shape to play THE ENTIRE GAME. I personally have run marathons. I have friends who have run ultra marathons. I don't buy that being on the field for 35 or 40 minutes of football (rather than 30) constitutes an excuse for poor play. Nope nope nope.

Tommy points out that they're tackling badly and expending too much energy and attention on trying to strip the ball rather than wrap guys up. And if they're beat and trying to get off the field, I guess I can understand that. But I still say they should be in better shape and able to play the whole damn game. And smart enough to play their assigned positions correctly. Jordan Hicks, who knew that you were the key to the D, rook?

The Offense

There's been a lot of ink (well, electrons anyway) spilled to the effect that Chip and Pat Shurmur have simplified the offense to make things easier on Sam Bradford coming back after basically two years lost to injury, and several opposing defensive players have gone on the record that the Eagles are easy to defend because the offense is predictable.

Maybe, maybe not. But it *is* the case that the three-headed running back monster is NOT working for the Birds. No one is getting enough touches to get any momentum, and the weaknesses of the patchwork o-line have become glaringly evident since Ryan Mathews went down with a concussion against the Dolphins.

Meanwhile, the wideouts still can't catch the ball reliably. No one expects them all to be Odell Beckham Jr. but we're all shocked when one of them does manage to complete a catch, and that's not good.

Also, way too many 45-second three-and-out drives. WAY too many.

Special Teams

Special teams hasn't been terrible. But last year, we enjoyed a heaping helping of special teams fireworks that may have hidden some of the other flaws in the team. The Birds still have a great punter in Donnie Jones, but Caleb Sturgis has been far less reliable than a HEALTHY Cody Parkey, and the Birds have not been enjoying much in the way of outstanding (or even adequate) kick off or punt returns to help the offense start with a short field.

Coaching

Has Chip lost the locker room? I don’t know, you don’t know, and neither does anyone who’s not in the locker room with the team.

Of course, that’s certainly been the media narrative since Chip got rid of DeSean Jackson, and out of the literally hundreds of guys he’s coached over the years, the sports media has managed to find a few people who are willing to anonymously call him an asshole.

Here's the thing: if you polled everyone who’s ever worked with me over the course of my career, and asked, "Several people have said that The Snark is a jerk. We'll keep your name out of it, but what do you think? Is she a jerk?" I know you’d find at least a few people who’d agree. That's true for you, too, by the way.

I have a theory about the whole "why did Chip let XX guy go?" Despite what a few players have claimed, it seems highly unlikely to me that it's a racial thing. He's brought in as many African-American (and Latino and Native American) guys as he's let go.

I think it’s much more likely that he was looking to get rid of all of Andy Reid’s guys.

Hear me out:

In the disaster 2012 season, when Andy Reid was having probably the worst year of his life, the team stunk, but at least to an outsider, there was a palpable sense that they were a family standing by Big Red in his worst hours.

Chip is not a kumbaya guy - he doesn’t want to hug and kiss and cry, he wants to monitor your sleep patterns and resting heart rate and whatnot and plug it into a spreadsheet and use that to figure out the optimal ingredients for today’s smoothie.

Do you have to have that family feeling to be successful? No - I don’t get any sense that the Pats are anything more than a bunch of guys showing up to win games and GIT PAID, and Bill Belichick is certainly not a warm and fuzzy father-figure type coach - and I think the holdovers with that attitude didn’t fit what Chip is trying to do.

The question becomes: can he find the right players to fit what he's trying to do AND meld them into a well-functioning unit? The early returns are not good.

Will he still be the head coach on Black Monday? The next five weeks will likely determine that. Jeff Lurie is a patient owner, but five more games like the last two likely get Chip fired. I don't see how it could go any other way.

Meanwhile, next up is a road game against the Patriots, which...I don't even know if I want to watch it. I don't see how it will be anything other than horrible. Chef Spouse and I are planning to put the tree up next Sunday afternoon, so at least I'll have that to distract me ("now why the hell are they BLINKING?!?!?!?").  Plus egg nog. LOTS of egg nog.

25 November 2015

2015 Week 12 Picks

Happy Thanksgiving, football fans!

I'm hoping you have much to be thankful for this year. I know I do: Chef Spouse, good health, nearing the end of my third year running a successful business, friends who make me laugh and think, Lifelong Eagles Fan Mom, You-Two-Calm-Down-or-I'm-Turning-Off-the TV Dad, my brother Dorkman, the lovely Mrs. Dorkman, and their kids, engrossing hobbies (some of which I'm actually pretty good at), a full wine fridge, the privilege of living in a hip and exciting neighborhood in Washington, DC, one of the prettiest and most interesting cities in the world, the three pies I baked this afternoon. Lots of good.

You notice I did not mention the Eagles there.

That was intentional.

You'll also notice that just about everyone is picking the Lions on Thanksgiving, despite the fact that they currently have a worse record than the Eagles.

I've pretty much given up on the Birds this year. I'm not in the "fire Chip!" camp yet, or even in the "fire Chip the GM!" camp. I get that he's focused on the fact that 10-6 isn't good enough and that he was willing to blow shit up to try to be better. And that it might take more than a few months to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Intellectually, I understand.

That doesn't make this season any more fun.

Will the Birds win another game in 2015? I suppose it's possible, but I wouldn't bet the mortgage.

Lions.

In the other matchups:

Panthers at Cowboys: Panthers

Packers at Bears: Packers

Raiders at Titans: Raiders

Bills at Chiefs: Chiefs

Buccaneers at Colts: Colts (upset pick)

Giants at DC: Giants (who are probably going to win the division this year, for as much good as that will do)

Saints at Texans: Saints (also an upset pick, but they're coming off their bye and firing Rob Ryan, so I'm hopeful that they'll turn it around, at least enough to beat the Texans)

Vikings at Falcons: Falcons

Rams at Bengals: Bengals

Chargers at Jaguars: Jaguars - also worst game of the week (well, other than the Eagles game, of course)

Dolphins at Jets: Jets

Cardinals at 49ers: Cardinals

Steelers at Seahawks: Steelers

Patriots at Broncos: So want the Broncos to win, so don't think they will - Pats

Ravens at Browns: A lot of people are down on the Ravens at this point, and I get that, but the ESPN analysts are UNIVERSALLY picking the Browns, and that seems crazy to me. I'm going to be contrary and pick the Ravens as a result.


23 November 2015

Debacle

Philadelphia Eagles 17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45, Sunday, November 22, 2015

Other D words: Disaster. Disgusting. Demolished. Demoralizing. Dreadful.

Stud of week: Um....I seriously can't come up with anyone. Josh Huff had a TD and then vanished.
Darren Sproles had a TD, and then ended up in a screaming match with Mark Sanchez on the sideline. Caleb Sturgis, for making a totally pointless 43 yard field goal (what was Chip thinking?)? Donnie Jones, who at least punted well this week? Oh! I know! Walter Thurmond, who had a forced fumble and a sack. And was apparently the only member of the defense who hadn't accidentally taken an Ambien right before the game started. ("What? They told me it was a Tic-Tac!")

Look, everyone expects Mark Sanchez to do some good things, and some very, very bad things. Like throwing three picks. Comes with the territory. But I was expecting the Birds to ride their strong D to a good game - and a win.

So tell me: how did what was a well-ranked run defense allow the most ground yards since 1973?How did they only record ONE sack on a rookie QB? Why did Billy Davis not call for some blitzes? ANY BLITZES? How did they manage to make DOUG MARTIN look like freaking Emmit Smith? And Jameis Winston look like Tom Brady? THE BUCS STARTED THE SECOND HALF WITH A NEARLY TEN MINUTE DRIVE THAT RESULTED IN YET ANOTHER TD. (Yes, I know I'm shouting. You should've heard me yesterday.)

The only good thing was that yesterday was our monthly football party, so I had a large crowd of friends around me to distract and console me, and quite a few kids here to keep me from bursting a blood vessel screaming imprecations at the TV.

At this point, this team gives hot messes a bad name. You do realize that they're about to lose to the 3-7 Lions on Thanksgiving, right? Gee, that win over Dallas sure was fun. Apparently, I should've recorded that game so I could just re-watch it for the next six weeks.

And ahead? The Patriots (where the Dec. 6 game is no longer the national game and I'm thinking seriously about not watching because I don't know if my eyeballs can stand THE HORROR). The Bills (and don't think LeSean McCoy doesn't want to embarrass Chip Kelly). The Cardinals. Oh my God, SEND BOURBON. STAT.

Wait let's think: we could eat the Thanksgiving meal mid-day and skip the Lions (or just drink heavily through it). The Pats, I may just skip. Because there's no way that ends well. The Bills, I'll be at my winter dance performance. The Cardinals, I'll be in New Orleans. The DC team, well, that's Boxing Day and Rebirth is playing here in DC, which is starting to look REALLY appealing. And I'll be in Aruba on January 3 for the Giants game.  I may be able to miss most of the rest of the 2015 season! Go me!

Wow, that's Depressing.

19 November 2015

2015 Week 11 Picks

This week, the Eagles host the 4-5 Buccaneers. Much like with the Dolphins last week, this *should* be a relatively easy win for the Birds. The Bucs have a rookie QB who has been inconsistent in the first half of the season (not surprising - that's what you get when you start a rookie). They give up a lot of points and a lot of yards. Even with Mark Sanchez under center, this should be an easy win.

On the other hand, Jameis Winston is playing a lot better recently, and the Birds seem to be making losing games they should win their thing this year.

Once again, pretty much all the experts have the Eagles, and I still believe (and *last* week was Official Upset Week Of The 2015 Season, right?), so I'm picking the Birds, but this team is so damn frustrating this year, pretty much no outcome would surprise me.

In the other matchups:

Titans at Jaguars: Pretty much everyone has the Jaguars, but I'm taking the Titans with the upset. Also, I'm REALLY glad I have PFunk tickets for tonight, because this is going to be the worst game of the week.

Raiders at Lions: Raiders

Colts at Falcons:  After a strong start, the Falcons have stumbled lately, but I still think they'll be able to take care of business at home. Falcons.

Jets at Texans: Both of these teams surprised me last week, Jets with a loss and Texans with a win (and then there were two - undefeated teams, that is). Will that happen again this week? Nah - Jets.

Broncos at Bears: Is the Peyton Manning era coming to an end? Is the guy who backs him up any good? Guess we'll start finding out Sunday, and lots of people are calling the Bears as a result, but the Broncos have been winning this year in spite of Peyton and thanks to their top-ranked D, and that hasn't changed. Broncos.

Rams at Ravens:  Nick Foles has been benched, never a good sign. The Rams should be able to win this one, particularly with the Ravens in some sort of a tailspin, but I think the Ravens will pull this one out at home. Although, again, probably *not* the game to watch in the 1 pm timeslot.

Cowboys at Dolphins: Will it be the triumphant return of Tony Romo? Well, he's supposed to be back, and amazingly, although it's highly unlikely the 2-7 Cowboys will make the playoffs, in the NFC (l)East this year, it's not impossible. While it would be REALLY helpful if the Dolphins could beat the Boys for us this week (it's the least they owe us after LAST week), I suspect the Return of the Romo will give the Boys a boost. Cowboys.

DC at Panthers: Panthers

Chiefs at Chargers: Chiefs

Packers at Vikings: ARodg is hurt, too. Rough year for QBs. I like the Vikings top-ranked D and Adrian Peterson's wheels to give them the win at home. Vikings.

49ers at Seahawks: Seahawks. A year ago, this would've been a good game.

Bengals at Cardinals: Now this WILL be a good game. Will the Bengals drop two in a row? I don't think so. Bengals.

Bills at Patriots: Pats

On bye: Browns, Giants, Saints, Steelers (and this is the end of the bye weeks)


16 November 2015

Sanchized

Philadelphia Eagles 19, Miami Dolphins 20, Sunday, November 15, 2015

It was obviously Official Upset Sunday. Seriously, I'm at 6-7 going into MNF, which has me at my worst weekly pick record of the season regardless of what happens tonight, and I'm doing *better* than most of the experts. Why didn't someone warn me?

Stud of the week: Brent Celek. HUGE game from the veteran tight end. 4 for 134 and a long of 60.
Good to see a guy who's usually relied on to block lighting it up. For all the good it did. Not that that's Brent's fault.

The first quarter was great. The Dolphins scored a field goal, but then the Birds answered right back with a TD set up by Celek's 60 yard catch and run. On the next possession, the defense forced a safety, and then the Birds scored AGAIN, also set up by a long Celek catch and run.

And I'm thinking to myself: "We're finally going to have a win that's never in question, a game that's fun and relaxing to watch, and it looks like the fact that EVERYONE called the Birds isn't going to be the kiss of death for once this year."

Not so fast, Sparky.

First Caleb Sturgis killed us by missing a 32 yard field goal. THIRTY TWO YARDS!!! Did I mention that the margin of loss was ONE POINT?!?!?!

Then Donnie Jones killed us with a blocked punt (not entirely his fault).

Jason Kelce killed us all damn day. "That was the worst game of my entire career" indeed. Actually the entire O-line was killing us, culminating in Chris McCain killing us by knocking out Sam Bradford (both literally and figuratively), who was actually playing really well.

Miles Austin killed us by whiffing on a totally catchable long pass from Sam, by not dragging his toe on a sure TD, and by contributing to the final nail in the coffin (see below) because that end zone pick was at least partly on him.

Then Jarvis Landry killed us by making a miracle catch off a Connor Barwin batted pass in the middle of ALL THE EAGLES IN THE WORLD, including Vince Papale, Jaws, and ghost of Chuck Bednarik, and NONE of them came down with it.

Then Riley Cooper killed us by a freaking illegal shift penalty that took a Zach Ertz TD off the boards.

Finally, Mark Sanchez delivered the coup de grace, throwing (say it with me) a pick in the end zone on 2nd and goal with four minutes to go (MILES AUSTIN) and the Birds down BY ONLY ONE POINT.

Here's the real problem: the NFC East is terrible. Like, EPICALLY bad. Why is that a problem? Because in a normal year, Bleeding Green Nation could look at the 4-5 record and settle in for the final seven games, knowing that the playoffs were out of reach, so we could all just sit back, drink our beer, and enjoy the games in peace, regardless of the outcome.

This year? 7-9 could easily win this crappy division, which means the Birds are still alive, which means we all have to keep caring about whether they win or lose.

Seven more games to go.

13 November 2015

2015 Week 10 Picks, Part 2

The Birds are officially entering the second half of the season, which will see them hosting 5 of their remaining 8 games, at .500. (Not that home field seems to be much of an advantage for the Eagles these days, but I attribute that more to Chip preparing them to play in loud/hostile territory than to any lack of support from the Philly Phaithful.)

And speaking of hosting, this week, they've got the perplexing Dolphins. I say "perplexing" because they fired their head coach maybe the earliest any team has ever done that, in their early bye week, after a 1-3 start, with two of those losses being divisional games. Since then, they've beat two bad teams (the Titans and the Texans) and lost two more divisional games. I'm not sure that's progress, particularly given the fact that Joe Philbin hadn't been there very long. Looks like those big off-season contracts for Ryan Tanehill and Ndamukong Suh didn't have quite the effect the Dolphins were hoping for.

Just about everybody's picked the Eagles (although the same could be said for the Jets last night, and thanks a lot for starting me in an 0-1 hole this week, Jets), and I think the Birds should pull this one off, too, but I am worried about Jason Peters's back and Malcolm Jenkins's head and whether or not DeMeco Ryans will be good to go (because with no rookie sensation Jordan Hicks, the Birds need him). But all those situations are probably manageable, particularly since the Jenkins thing doesn't appear to be serious.

As long as the Eagles don't get caught looking ahead (to the Bucs? yeah, we're probably safe there), this should be a win, and hopefully a less "I'M ABOUT TO HAVE A STROKE" win than last week.

In the other matchups...

Damn Jets.

Lions at Packers: Packers (and man, have the Lions fallen apart this year)

Cowboys at Buccaneers: Tony Romo is the X factor here, and he's still not back. I'm taking a Bucs upset.

Panthers at Titans: 9-0, here they come! Panthers.

Bears at Rams: I'm going with the Rams on the strength of their D, because Nick Foles has  not been brilliant, but the Bears have been worse.

Saints at Washington: The Saints can still score some points, and after a promising start, the Washington defense has disappointed. Saints.

Browns at Steelers: Steelers, who just keep on rolling no matter who's on the field, which is rather extraordinary.

Jaguars at Ravens: This should be an easy pick for the Ravens, but they've been so bad this year. I think they'll probably pull off the home win, but I also think this will be the worst game of the week.

Vikings at Raider: Both of these teams are impressing this year, and I think they're pretty evenly matched, but the Vikings are shutting opposing offenses down, and I think they'll be able to do that Sunday as well. Vikings.

Patriots at Giants: The G-men are the Pats kryptonite, although Tom Brady is playing with an awfully big chip on his shoulder this year. I really want to call the upset, but I don't think I can. Pats. (watch, this will be the week I'm wrong about that)

Chiefs at Broncos: Speaking of great defense, Broncos.

Cardinals at Seahawks: Cardinals

Texans at Bengals: Speaking of 9-0, guess who else will get there? Bengals.

On bye: 49ers, Chargers, Colts, Falcons

12 November 2015

2015 Week 10 Picks, Part 1

Thursday kind of got away from me, and I have theater tickets tonight, so I'll have to write my full picks for the week tomorrow morning, but I just wanted to get this one out there before the game starts:

Bills at Jets: Jets

More to follow....

09 November 2015

Is It OK to Look Now?

Philadelphia Eagles 33, Dallas Cowboys 27, Sunday, November 8, 2015 

I have to be honest, I missed the end of regulation. When the officials called not ONE but TWO totally bogus defensive pass interference penalties on Byron Maxwell to keep the Cowboys' final drive going and send the game into overtime, I was so enraged, I thought I was going to stroke out, and I was exiled to the backyard to cool off. As I said at the time (well, once I'd calmed down): "It's one thing if the bad calls are going both ways. But when one team is CLEARLY benefitting, it's a problem."

[Side note: When it went to OT, Fellow Eagles Maniac remarked: "Byron Maxwell will probably get a PI call during the coin toss." I was seriously afraid she was going to be right.]

In the end, it all worked out, but not before I nearly set Chef Spouse's bestie's neighborhood on fire.

Stud of the game: Jordan Hicks. Who is making a strong case for defensive rookie of the year. He's had an amazing season so far, with last night's pick-6 and five tackles (and one assist) adding on to his already impressive season numbers. Hope that injury he sustained at the end of the game is just a bruise, because the Birds' resurgent D needs him.

Also, Jordan Matthews seems to have gotten over his dropsies. I don't know who threatened to trade him to the Jaguars during the bye week, but good job! Give that guy a cookie!

Also: Brandon Graham. TWO strip-sacks. Sadly, the Birds recovered neither, but that's not his fault.

Also: Caleb Sturgis. 53 yard field goal?!?!? WHUUUUTTTT??? Somebody's been eating his Wheaties. Or also got threatened with a trade to Jacksonville. Whatever - it's working.

Also: replacement o-linemen Lane Johnson and Dennis Kelly. Yes, the Cowboys' defense really is good, and yes, they were able to control both the pass rush (ONE sack on Sammy) and the LOS for the run (the Birds gained 173 yards on the ground, with several of those gains extending critical drives). I was really nervous about going into this game missing Jason Peters, and the backups stepped up in a BIG way.

Also: Sam Bradford. When the game went to OT, I was even more despondent, because I had no faith that Sam would get it done. I take it back. I was totally wrong, and Sam, I'm sorry I doubted you. You were clutch last night, all night, but particularly in OT. If this is true (and there's no reason to think it's not), THAT IS BALLER. Happy 28th Sam! (We'll talk about your need to play like this CONSISTENTLY later, after you've had a chance to enjoy your win.)

Two areas for Chip to improve on: I don't even know WTF was up at the end of the half, but whatever it was, it didn't work. And could you possibly try a different set of plays to start a game at some point, Chip? EVERYONE seems to know what's going to be called, and if I see one more 3-and-out to start the game, I think I'm going to have a coronary (at least Chef Spouse's CPR training is up to date).

Nothing else to say but: Ain't no Monday like a Beat Dallas Monday!.

Actually, there IS one more thing to say: everyone's seen the horrific photos of Nicole Holder by now. Greg Hardy is a violent criminal. The Cowboys organization should be ashamed that he's still on the field. And I *could* bitch about that all the live-long day or harass him on Twitter. Or I could follow WIP's lead and make a donation to their GoFundMe campaign to benefit the Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas, TX. Which is what I've just done, and you should, too.

05 November 2015

2015 Week 9 Picks

This week, the Birds travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys - and so do I. Travel to Dallas, that is. I wasn't planning to suit up, unless Chip really needs me.

Chef Spouse and I will in fact be in the Big D, visiting his bestie, but we're planning to watch the game from the confines of said bestie's house, where the brisket is smoked with love and some pretty serious skill, the bourbon flows freely, and his dog will be there to comfort me as necessary.

The Eagles are, as we all know, coming off their bye. There was all sorts of wild speculation during the bye about possible trades (Colin Kaepernnick coming in, Vinny Curry going out, Chip himself headed to Tennessee to rejoin his boy Marcus Mariota). Long story short: none of that happened. What did happen is that offseason blockbuster trade Kiko Alonso got healthy as did top draft pick Nelson Agholor (and please God, may he be at least one Eagles' receiver without bricks for hands).

The Birds' defense continues to ride high. We'll see if a little extra practice time, and time to reflect on what they've done wrong, has helped the offense.

Tony Romo is *not* back yet, and that's probably good news for the Eagles.

By all rights, the Eagles *should* win this game, even with the extremely shaky Sam Bradford under center. Hell, the D should be able to win it pretty much on their own, as long as the O can avoid making egregious mistakes (which is far from a sure thing with this bunch).

Do I dare call this one for the Eagles? I do, so help me God.

And at least if I'm wrong, there will be excellent bourbon to drown my sorrows.

In the rest of the matchups:

Browns at Bengals: Bengals

Packers at Panthers: Both teams are top-ranked on both sides of the ball. And the Packers have to be smarting after that loss to the Broncos last week. Most of the experts have picked the Packers. But they are mortal away from Lambeau, and I feel an upset coming on. Panthers.

DC at Patriots: Pats (watch - the one time I don't pick an upset, we'll see the upset of the century)

Titans at Saints: Saints

Dolphins at Bills: Bills

Rams at Vikings: Vikings

Jaguars at Jets: Jets (also, next year, I think I'm going to *start* the season with "Better luck next year, Jaguars!")

Raiders at Steelers: Big Ben is back, and speaking of smarting from a loss, Steelers.

Giants at Buccaneers: The Bucs have been so inconsistent this year, blowing a big lead in DC one week, beating the Falcons the next. Of course, the NFC East has been one big mess of, well, big hot mess. So this could really go any way. The G-men should have this one, but at this point, NOTHING that happens in the NFC East surprises me.

Falcons at 49ers: Speaking of teams in disarray who are NOT in the NFC East, the 49ers may not win another game this year (do they play the Jags at any point?). Falcons.

Broncos at Colts: They keep saying that nothing is physically wrong with Andrew Luck, and maybe that's so, but I gotta say that watching him Monday night, it looks to me like something is off. Peyton, on the other hand, apparently connected with Ponce De Leon, because he's looking like his old self again. And the Broncos were winning even when he was looking off. Translation? Broncos.

Bears at Chargers: Oh, Chargers, you've been breaking my heart - and messing with my record - all season long. I think you've probably got this one, not because you're so great, but because the Bears are just that bad. Chargers.

On bye: Cardinals, Chiefs, Lions, Ravens, Seahawks, Texans


29 October 2015

2015 Week 8 Picks

The bye week edition, in which we all get a week off from tearing our hair out about why this team can't play more consistently, and some time to gird our loins, so o speak, for the remainder of the 2015 season.

To the picks!

Dolphins at Patriots: Everyone has the Pats. Not me. Upset pick. New-look Dolphins. (Yes, I know I keep picking against the Pats as an upset pick, and I've mostly been wrong. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so maybe this is my week.)

Lions at Chiefs: Chiefs, who surprised me with a win over the Steelers last week and are looking to keep that winning streak going to, um, two. Hey every streak has to start somewhere, right?

Buccaneers at Falcons: Falcons

Cardinals at Browns: Cardinals

49ers at Rams: Rams

Giants at Saints: Are the Saints getting it together? Maybe - they managed to upset the Colts last week. Can they do it again? (well, that's assuming beating any NFC East team this year can count as an upset, which is debatable) I'm going to go with yes, and a recapturing of the Dome Field Advantage. Saints.

Vikings at Bears: Vikings

Chargers at Ravens: Something is deeply wrong with the Ravens this year. I know west coast teams have trouble coming east, and the Bolts aren't exactly tearing it up this year, either, but I'm going with the Chargers.

Steelers at Bengals: Bengals (who I think may go all the way this year - you heard it here first)

Titans at Texans: Titans

Jets at Raiders: Raiders

Seahawks at Cowboys: Is Tony Romo back yet? No? Seahawks.

Packers at Broncos: Packers

Colts at Panthers: Panthers

On bye: Bills, DC, Eagles, Jaguars

26 October 2015

As Expected

Philadelphia Eagles, 16, Carolina Panthers 27, Sunday, October 25, 2015

We all knew the Birds were likely to lose, so the fact that they did is not terribly shocking. What will be somewhat shocking is this post. Generally, when the Eagles lose, I go off on everyone - the players, the coaches, the announcers, the equipment manager, the bus driver, the guy in section 303 selling beer - everyone. Not this week. The Panthers are an undefeated team that looks like the real deal this year, and they were playing at home. Their linebackers are outstanding, their run game is outstanding, and Cam Newton is coming into his own as a starting QB (which I'm happy to see - I've always liked him). The fact that the Eagles were in it the whole game and battled hard is, I think, extremely promising, particularly in the weak NFC East. Not everything was great - and we'll get to that in a minute - but I feel more hopeful about this team than I have in weeks.

Stud of the week: Malcolm Jenkins. Actually, I could make an argument for Nolan Carroll, Byron Maxwell (!!!), or Jordan Hicks, too. But Jenkins continues to shine week after week, and to be a leader on the D. His gorgeous, improbable pick last night is only the latest in the great plays he's made this season. Any more Saints want to come to Philly? Because so far, they've all been winners.

I probably have to give a shout-out to the offensive line, too. Not that they played lights out - they didn't - but there are virtually no original parts there and they did OK. Well, other than original starter Jason Kelce who seems to have lost his mind this year. What's with all the penalties, bae? But when Jason Peters went down and Dennis Kelly came in and everyone got shuffled around, I was all: "there goes Sam Bradford's leg - and the rest of him." And that turned out NOT to be the case. He got planted a few times, but it wasn't dire, and the Birds continued to have at least some success running the ball. Way to go, backups!

The defense continues to be a bright spot, too, with rookie Jordan Hicks playing WAY above expectations, Connor Barwin spying Cam and mostly keeping him from running (well, other than the TD - sigh), and three picks. Which, sadly, weren't enough. And you would normally think they would be.

But.

Well, let me just quote:



Catch the f'in football, indeed.

Look, beating up on Sam Bradford is fun, no doubt, and it strikes me that he may not be in Philly again next year (hope he didn't buy a house), but he played decently last night, under a fair amount of pressure.

WHY CAN NO ONE CATCH A FUCKING PASS?!?!?!?!?

Everyone had drops: Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, DeMarco Murray, Zach Ertz, Darren Sproles (!!!!), Miles Austin. Drops on keeping drives going. Drops in the end zone. Drops on the final drive. DROPS DROPS DROPS DROPS DROPS.

Again, this sums it up:



And this could really be ANY of the Eagles' receivers. Look, Sam is far from a perfect QB. But that means that SOMEONE has to step up and MAKE A GODDAMN PLAY.  Particularly when HE HITS YOU IN THE HANDS. Jesus.

Well, as Tommy pointed out, nobody died. And it's the bye, when everyone - RECEIVERS, I'M LOOKING AT YOU - can think about what they've done wrong and how they can improve. And the sucktacular NFC East is still eminently winnable.

So enjoy the bye week - that's for the fans, Birds, you all need to put some work in - and let's come back ready to BEAT DALLAS.

22 October 2015

2015 Week 7 Picks

This week, the Eagles travel to Carolina to face the undefeated Panthers on Sunday Night Football. Two primetime games in a row. Again, guessing the NFL schedulers are wishing they could get a do-over on that one, particularly after the mess that was last week's game.

The Panthers are, in case you missed it, currently undefeated. They've had a softer schedule than the Eagles, but THEY'RE UNDEFEATED. Yeah, they have to lose sometime. Probably. But I don't think it's going to be this week.

I suspect it will be a close game. Both teams have top-ranked defenses, and I expect the Eagles D to be able to keep Cam and Greg Olsen in reasonable check. But the Panthers will not be as incompetent with all of Sam Bradford's giveaways as the Giants were. It's just not even possible. If he throws picks - and we have no reason to think he won't - the Panthers WILL take advantage of that.

I know I've been joking about picking the Eagles to lose so they win (AND IT'S WORKING, FWIW), but I really AM picking the Birds to lose this week.

Panthers

In the rest of the matchups:

Seahawks at 49ers: Seahawks

Bills at Jaguars: Bills

Buccaneers at DC: I'm going with DC, but it's entirely on the strength of their defense, because speaking of picks, I give you KIRK COUSINS.

Falcons at Titans: Falcons

Saints at Colts: Colts

Lions at Vikings: Speaking of defense, Vikings

Steelers at Chiefs: The Steelers are out of quarterbacks. The Chiefs are out of a running game. Sadly, this might be the worst game  of the week. Steelers, again on the strength of their D. Which is good, because see above RE: quarterbacks.

Browns at Rams: Rams

Texans at Dolphins: Dolphins

Jets at Patriots: Jets. Upset pick. You just watch.

Raiders at Chargers: Raiders. Which may be another upset pick.

Cowboys at Giants: I was wrong. Two NFC East teams? THIS is the worst game of the week. I think the G-men got this. But you might want to hide your kids regardless.

Ravens at Cardinals: Cardinals

On bye: Bears, Bengals, Broncos, Packers

20 October 2015

Comedy of Errors

Eagles 27, Giants 7, Monday, October 19, 2015

Comedy not tragedy, of course, because the Birds won, but did anyone else feel like you were watching a three-hour episode of "C'mon man!" last night?

OK, that's not totally fair. The defense played GREAT. Speaking of...

Stud of the week: Nolan Carroll. MANY players on the D could be in this slot (we'll get to that in a
minute), but it felt like Carroll's pick-6 changed the momentum of the game in a way that the Giants could not recover from. If you recall, the G-men took the opening kick off and proceeded to saunter down the field almost unimpeded by the Birds, scoring the first seven points of the game in about 4.5 minutes of game time, with Eli completing 5 of 5. Ouch. The Birds then proceeded to go (say it with me) three-and-out. Double ouch. A great pick by DeMeco Ryans, who just wanted it more than Larry Donnell, set up the Birds first scoring drive, after which a monster play from Brandon Graham stopped the G-men on  4th down. And the Birds went three-and-out. Again. Triple ouch. And then our boy Nolan read Eli all the way, jumping a route and creating a gorgeous pick-6. It was only the beginning of the second quarter, but after that, the Eagles D and the O-line pretty much took control of the game. Astonishingly, for a team ranked near the top in run D and passing O, the Giants never really contested for the rest of the game. The D hasn't looked this good since we lost Jim Johnson. I'm serious. (Oh - and props to Nolan for covering Odell Beckham Jr. successfully most of the night too. Sure, OBJ might've been somewhat hobbled, but I still didn't want to see Byron Maxwell on him in single coverage - AND THANKFULLY I DIDN'T.)

And it was a good thing the Birds had a big night from the defense, because Sam Bradford was not brilliant. Amazingly, the Birds had MORE turnovers than the Giants, 3 pick from Sam to Eli's 2 (plus 3 fumbles to the Giants' 2). Admittedly, you can't blame Sam for all the picks. When Riley Cooper inexplicably stops on a route HE JUST RAN SUCCESSFULLY FOR A TD and Sam overthrows him and gets picked, that's not Sam's fault. And you know Riley knew the route, because HE HAD JUST RUN IT SUCCESSFULLY FOR A TD. "I must've been absent that day, Coach," won't fly, Riley. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. Under- and over-thrown receivers. Drops. Fumbles. Negating big defensive plays by handing the ball right back to the Giants, through picks, fumbles, or more three-and-outs.

The Birds won by 20 points, to quote Tommy Lawlor, not because of Sam but in spite of him. That'll work against bad teams like the Saints and Giants, but it will NOT work against, say the Packers. Or the Cardinals. Or the Panthers.

Last night was, of course, the game where they inducted Brian Westbrook into the Eagles hall of fame. Donovan and Wolverine were on hand, running out of the tunnel in West 36 jerseys, to share in the celebration. I remarked to Chef Spouse: "Seeing these guys makes me realize that I don't have the emotional connection to the team that I used to." And it wasn't just the marquee players. It was about David Akers, and John Runyan, and Tra Thomas, and Darwin Walker, and Troy Vincent, and Duce Staley, and Lito Sheppard, and Sheldon Brown, and even Freddie Mitchell, James Thrash, and Todd Pinkston (in case you've forgotten, the Birds' top three receivers in 2003, and THAT should make your hair stand on end). I don't have chemistry yet with the 2015 Eagles. Too many new faces. (At one point, Taylor Hart comes in, and I'm like "who the hell is THAT guy?" Just like with Brandon Bair a few weeks ago.)

And I think that's part of what's going on here for the Birds. They're still developing their team chemistry. We all want it to go faster. We NEED it to go faster (did I mention that they're playing undefeated Carolina next week?). But it takes as long as it takes. We can already see signs that things are getting better. Most of us, myself included, were ready to call for Billy Davis's head after losses to the Cowboys and PARTICULARLY to DC (oh, the humanity!) Meanwhile, the Eagles' D has quietly moved into 6th in points allowed. The O-line is patchwork and Jason Peters and Jason Kelce have not been playing all that well (Kelce, I'm looking at you after last night in particular). And they've quietly only allowed one sack in the past two games (OK, not that either the Saints or the Giants have a terrific pass rush, but Bradford has had ALL THE TIME in the world back there). And the Birds' running game is finally getting going, at least a bit. (And major props to DeMarco Murray's smarts on the Birds' final two drives last night getting the yards that were there and then getting down in bounds to keep the clock running. That's some heads-up football there.) And we've all heard that the running game is the key to Chip Kelly's offense, like, nine gajillion times. The team needs to get better overall. Sam Bradford is a HUGE question mark. So is Caleb Sturgis (although he had a better night last night). The entire receiving corps needs to up their game. But 3-3 leading the NFC East is about a million miles from where we all feared we'd be after the 0-2 start. Hopefully, things are looking up all over.

15 October 2015

2015 Week 6 Picks

Shaping up this week: another NFC East battle...well, maybe "battle" is a little strong. This is the NFC East we're talking about. Dustup? Slap fight?

Anyway, the Birds will be hosting the Giants on Monday Night Football. And the Birds are 2-3. And the Giants' most exciting player, Odell Beckham Jr., is injured. Bet the NFL schedulers wish they could get a do over on that one.

Could the Birds win? Of course. The Giants are IN THE NFC EAST, people.

But here's the thing: I've picked the Birds to beat the Falcons, the Cowboys, and DC. And they've lost all three. I've picked then to lose to the Jets and the Saints. And they won both.

Coincidence? Maybe.

But the Birds need all the help they can get at this point. So I'm picking them to lose.

(Trust me - this makes sense. In my head.)

Giants

In the rest of the matchups...

Falcons at Saints: oh my God, this is almost as painful as picking the Cowboys to beat the Eagles, but I really don't see how the Saints pull this one off. Falcons.

DC at Jets: Jets

Cardinals at Steelers: Much as I enjoyed seeing Mike Vick play well on Monday Night Football (even though I'd picked the Chargers), I don't think he can pull off miracles two weeks in a row. Cardinals.

Chiefs at Vikings: Alex Smith has already spent a substantial portion of the 2015 season lying on his back looking at the sky. That is only going to get worse now that the Chiefs running game has imploded just as badly as Jamal Charles's knee. Vikings.

Bengals at Bills: Bengals

Bears at Lions: I've got the Lions, but I suspect this will be a close game

Broncos at Browns: Broncos

Jaguars at Texans: Texans

Dolphins at Titans: Titans

Panthers at Seahawks: Panthers with the upset pick. Hey, they're coming off their bye, the Seahawks offensive line is a mess, and the Panthers are playing some SOLID D so far.

Chargers at Packers: Packers

Ravens at 49ers: Ravens

Patriots at Colts: Pats

On bye: Buccaneers, Cowboys, Raiders, Rams


08 October 2015

2015 Week 5 Picks

No game recap this past week, of course, because I was on vacation in Italy and thus didn't witness the most recent humiliation. I'm *still* in Italy enjoying la dolce vita as I write this so:

1. I'm currently exempt from kvetching about the mess that my team has become.

2. This will be brief, because I don't really feel like spending time I could be drinking wine and enjoying the scenery thinking about the 2015 NFL season, which is only going to make me angry at this point.

Do I think the Eagles can beat the Saints? Sure.

Do I think they're going to? Nope.

Saints

In the rest of the matchups:

Colts at Texans: Colts

Bears at Chiefs: Chiefs

Seahawks at Bengals: Bengals

DC at Falcons: Falcons (Who will, with this win, sweep the NFC East. Oh the humanity!)

Jaguars at Buccaneers: Bucs

Browns at Ravens:  Ravens

Rams at Packers: Packers

Bills at Titans: Bills

Cardinals at Lions: Cardinals

Patriots at Cowboys:  Patriots

Broncos at Raiders: Raiders (upset pick)

49ers at Giants: Giants

Steelers at Chargers: Chargers

On bye: Dolphins (who need to get their shit together on the coaching front, and is it just me, or is this the earliest major coaching shake up ever?), Jets, Panthers, Vikings


01 October 2015

2015 Week 4 Picks

Hurricane Joaquin-style!

This week, the Eagles *might* be traveling to DC to take on the Washington football team. Or not.

As one of my friends posted on Facebook: "Well, it will either be a bunch of rain....or the apocalypse."

Pretty much.

Assuming the game DOES take place (either in DC, or, apparently, Detroit), it should be interesting. These are two deeply flawed teams that are, in some ways, attempting a similar fix: game-manager QB, run the football, play good D.

Of course, if culture really does beat scheme, we all know where this is going.

I have to say, for all his flaws, Sam Bradford is a superior QB to Kirk "Picks" Cousins. (Seriously: how can he be a better choice at QB than RGIII, when they've thrown the same number of picks but RGIII has, like, 600 more career passes? I don't get it.)

Speaking of picks, I think that could be the key to this game. The Eagles D has been very opportunistic, jumping routes and leading the Eagles to a tie for third place in number of takeaways. And the run D is pretty stout. If the Birds can force Kirk into the air - and I think they can - this could be a very long day for DC.

The Birds offense HAS to get going, though. I know Cody Parkey has been struggling, but Caleb Sturgis is definitely a downgrade, and the weather is going to be dreadful Sunday. Having to punt won't be so bad - DC's special teams are terrible - but there will be NO guaranteed field goals. We need to see the Sam Bradford of the pre-season, not of the first three games. I think - I hope - his ability to get the ball out fast will help, since DC has been making hay so far with a pretty solid pass rush (which has been helping out their pretty weak secondary). If he can get the ball out before the pass rush can get there, there should be some opportunities for the Birds' mostly MIA wideouts.

I think the game is going to be the usual NFC East slugfest (although the boxers aren't looking quite so prime this year), I think weather is going to be a major factor, I think it's going to be a mess, and I think the Birds are going to win.

In the other matchups:

Ravens at Steelers: The Steelers should win this game. They're at home, without Big Ben, it's true, but Mike Vick has done this before a few times, and there's clearly something wrong with the Ravens. But will they REALLY go to 0-4? I just can't see it. Ravens. Also, upset pick.

Jets at Dolphins: Jets

Jaguars at Colts: Colts

Giants at Bills: Bills

Panthers at Buccaneers: Panthers

Raiders at Bears: Raiders

Texans at Falcons: Falcons

Chiefs at Bengals: Bengals

Browns at Chargers: Chargers

Packers at 49ers: Packers

Rams at Cardinals: Cardinals

Vikings at Broncos: Broncos

Cowboys at Saints: Aw man, second upset pick. I realize it's HIGHLY unlikely, but I can't pick the Cowboys over the Saints at home. I'm almost definitely wrong here, but I'm going with the Saints.

Lions at Seahawks: Seahawks

Lots of fairly obvious picks this week (if you look at expert picks around the Web, the degree of unanimity or near unanimity is shocking). Which means at least a few teams are going to surprise us all.

28 September 2015

An Ugly Win Is Still a Win

Eagles 24, Jets 17, Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Monday after a win is much better than the Monday after a loss.

Stud of the week: Really want to go with either Darren Sproles (THAT PUNT RETURN) or Jordan
Hicks (10 tackles, a fumble recovery, AND a pick) again. But the way those two are playing, they're going to appear here a lot this season, so I need to spread it around a little. With that in mind, I'm going with Ryan Mathews, who proved that the Birds CAN SO run the ball, even against a good defense. He went over 100 yards on the ground and had a receiving TD. Yes, he dropped a pass on what likely would have been another TD and had a very untimely fumble (where Jordan Hicks and Brandon Bair saved his bacon moments later, and more on Bair in a minute) when the Birds were trying to seal the win, but he ran hard and delivered when the Birds needed it. Whoa Mary, did we need it.

Speaking of Brandon Bair: who is this guy? I counted three batted passes, one that was picked, as mentioned above, at just the right time. And I've never heard of him. So I looked him up. Turns out, he was a UFA who spent three years riding the pine for three different teams, played all 16 games with the Birds last year doing not very much, spent the first two weeks of 2015 inactive, and then had a great game Sunday. I'm guessing he's been spending all that downtime in an adult rec volleyball league, because he was knocking stuff down seven ways from Sunday on, uh, Sunday.

I do have to talk a little more about Darren Sproles, who had two TDs Sunday, including that highlight reel punt return where he made EVERYONE miss. Yes, he got help with some solid blocks, but I'm pretty sure he slipped through all 53 Jets on that run. With the recent announcement that #36 is being considered for the Hall of Fame class this year, Chef Spouse remarked, wistfully, that some of the most exciting words in his football watching career have been: "Westbrook breaks free." I think "Sproles breaks free" may be running a close second. That guy is just insane. I don't know why the Saints (or the Chargers, for that matter) let him go, but thanks y'all!

I also have to talk a little more about Jordan Hicks, who's playing like a stone-cold pro at this point. Rookie shmookie. He keeps this up, he can be my schmoopy. And also, maybe, my next jersey.

Speaking of schmoopies, Byron Maxwell showed up! Billy Davis has been taking some heat in various fan quarters, but the Birds D is actually playing well, allowing only 36 points over the 10 quarters when Julio Jones wasn't spanking them (anyone else still have PTSD from that?), and they're on the field A LOT. Thankfully, Davis has realized that Maxwell needs help to cover the #1 wideout on the other team (Brandon Marshall, for instance) and has started providing it. Memo to Billy: he's not Richard Sherman. You're welcome.

To quote BGN: "My point is that the Eagles' defense (with an assist from special teams) is carrying this team while the offense is still in a funk."

Let's not get crazy - it's not the second coming of Jim Johnson - but how long has it been since any Birds fan has been able to say that? (I'll tell you how long - 12 years, and thanks for the refresher, Tommy!)

Also, the O line kept Sam Bradford clean. So that was good.

I guess we'll have to move to Sam Bradford, who is not playing well. If I can see that he's staring down the receiver from the comfort of my Eagles woman cave, that is not good. And I can. Admittedly, his receivers are not helping him. Dropsies, dropsies, dropsies. He's not throwing picks, so he is an upgrade over Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. But he's playing like, well, like he hasn't played in years. Which is basically true, but at some point, he needs to stop looking like he just woke up from a bizarre dream and is not sure how he ended up on the football field in pads with a bunch of large men trying to pancake him.

Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews is practically on the side of a milk carton. Next to him are Miles Austin (too early to say "waste of a roster spot?") and Zach Ertz. Brent Celek managed to escape that fate merely because he remains a money blocker. Sigh. The Birds need a passing game, like immediately.

Also, Cody Parkey is now on IR. He had such a great year last year that I'm hopeful that his early season struggles are just the groin injury - which is apparently now much worse - and that when he heals up, he'll be back to 2014 form. In 2016, of course, and welcome Caleb Sturgis! Don't screw up.

But this was, as a number of people have mentioned, a team win. Name players stepped up. No name players stepped up. If Chip can just get Sam Bradford to play like a competent professional NFL quarterback, the NFC East crown is still very much in the Birds' reach.


24 September 2015

2015 Week 3 Picks

Here we go again. The Eagles are 0-2. Several other teams are, surprisingly, 0-2 as well, including the Seahawks, Saints, Colts, and Ravens (plus the Giants, Bears, Lions, and Texans).

On the other hand, raise your hand if you think the Eagles could beat the Seahawks at this point...or the Ravens....or the Colts....

[crickets]

Tommy Lawlor is urging us not to panic - yet - and he's probably right - for now.

[Excuse me while I get myself a drink - it'll help with the whole "not panicking" plan.]

I don't feel good about this game. One, everyone's talking about how the Jets have never beat the Eagles. So jinx right there.

Second, the Jets defense remains excellent. Andrew Luck couldn't figure out the Jets defense last week (see above RE: 0-2). Sam Bradford, I think we can all agree, is no Andrew Luck.

Third, the Jets actually have offense at this point too, now that Rex Ryan left town and IK Enemkpali took out Geno Smith.

I'm picking the Jets. Sigh. 0-3, here we come.

In the rest of the matchups:

DC at Giants: DC shocked the hell out of a lot of people last week, including me, going back to old school ground and pound football of the famous Hogs era to pick up the win over the Rams. Can't really figure them out yet this year - nor can I figure out what is going on with the Giants, giving up fourth quarter leads in two consecutive weeks. I think I'm picking the Giants to win, because I can't imagine they'll go 0-3, which is ironic given that I've just predicted the Eagles will go to 0-3, but apparently, logic has left the building

Falcons at Cowboys: The Cowboys are down their #1 receiver and their starting QB. That didn't stop them from spanking the Eagles, but they will not get past the Falcons so hobbled. Falcons.

Colts at Titans: Speaking of teams that aren't going to go to 0-3, Colts.

Raiders at Browns: I *still* can't believe the Raiders beat the Ravens. I think I'm on the Black Hole Bandwagon, at least this week. Raiders.

Bengals at Ravens: Am I really picking the Ravens to go 0-3 with the Birds? Apparently I am, sticking with my pick to take the division this year, the Bengals.

Jaguars at Patriots: Pats. Also, ouch.

Saints at Panthers: More companions on the 0-3 train! Panthers.

Buccaneers at Texans: Everybody has the Texans, and I suppose I do, too, but I think maybe Jameis Winston figured out some things about the NFL last week, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a Bucs upset win, either.

Chargers at Vikings: Everyone has the Vikings, too, and I just don't see it. I think I'm going Chargers for my upset pick (having a hard time wrapping my head around the Chargers being an upset....)

Steelers at Rams: Steelers

49ers at Cardinals: Cards

Bills at Dolphins: Dolphins

Bears at Seahawks: Here's team that will *not* be on the 0-3 bus. Seahawks (What, you thought I was going to say "Bears?" Not a chance.)

Broncos at Lions: Broncos

Chiefs at Packers: Really want to pick the Chiefs, and if they were playing at Arrowhead, I probably would, but let's be real. Nobody beats the Pack at home. Packers.

21 September 2015

Dazed and Confused

Eagles 10, Cowboys 20, Sunday, September 20, 2015

As in me, at 7 pm last night, and as it what former Oklahoma roomies San Bradford and DeMarco Murray looked like yesterday afternoon.

Stud of the game: Yes, there was one! Continuing the Eagles tradition of the number 58 =
awesomesauce, rookie Jordan Hicks got called on when both Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks went down to injury and turned in an excellent seven tackle, one sack, one forced fumble (that was recovered by Fletcher Cox and led to the Eagles longest drive of the day...which ended in a Bradford pick in the endzone. But that's not Jordan's fault) debut. He and Malcolm Jenkins (who also had a recovered fumble that could've put the Birds in scoring position if Sam Bradford hadn't immediately fumbled it back - also not Malcolm's fault) were pretty much the only bright spots in an otherwise dismal performance.

Where to begin? How about with the offense?

NO run game to speak of.  The thing about an up-tempo offense is that you HAVE to be able to to move the ball on the ground for it to work. A successful running attack is NOT optional. Andy Reid could get away with putting the entire game on Donovan McNabb's arm (and legs) periodically and have it mostly work (a least up through 2008). Sam Bradford, to state the obvious, is not Donovan McNabb. The temptation is to blame new linemen Allan Barbre and Andrew Gardner, but nobody was doing a good job, not even pro bowlers Jason Peters and Jason Kelce. When even Darren Sproles can't get going, there's a serious issue.

Last week, Sam Bradford had a rough first half, and I could feel the early stirrings of panic. What if his flashes in his rookie year with the Rams were the exception, rather than the rule? And then he came out in the second half and played well. Yeah, he doesn't have a big arm, but he got the ball out accurately and quickly, and the pick that ended the game for the Eagles was on Jordan Matthews, not him. Maybe he just needed a little more time than 1/2 of one pre-season game to knock the rust off. Well, this week, he stunk it up. Oh, he had help: pretty much every Eagles wideout dropped at least one pass that was RIGHT to him, and the pick that ended the game for the Birds was once again, not his fault (Zach Ertz, please report to the woodshed). But missing a wide-open Riley Cooper in the endzone? Sam's fault. Throwing a pick RIGHT TO Sean Lee in the endzone? Also Sam's fault.

Chip Kelly's "high-powered" offense put up three points. Don't give me "ten" - that TD at the end of the game was garbage time and you know it (realistically, the whole game was garbage time, if we're being honest - the Birds looked totally overmatched pretty much from the start).

And after being a highlight of the 2014 season, special teams wasn't all that special last week, and this week, allowed Danny McCray to rip through the line and block Donny Jones's punt, giving the Cowboys their first TD and opening up their lead to the ultimate margin of victory, ten points.  At least Cody Parkey knocked through a 46 yarder with ease. See? If he actually has a minute to get set, he's still a good kicker!

The D did play well. Against a team that was missing its top wideout and, after early in the third quarter, it's Pro Bowl, franchise quarterback. Still, they didn't give up an offensive TD until the final five minutes of the game, and that was after they'd been on the field for what seemed like 50 of the elapsed 55 game minutes (see above RE: no run game). But if the offense continually goes three-and-out, they are going to give up points eventually. It's inevitable.

Can the Birds turn it around? I have no idea. The division is weak this year - the Cowboys are hobbled by injury, the Giants are just as bad as the Eagles are (maybe worse), and DC...remains DC (despite their upset win over the Rams yesterday). Does anyone truly believe they're going to the playoffs with Kirk Cousins? So it's still anyone's to take (possibly with 7 wins, oh, the humanity). But watching the Seahawks/Packers game last night, do any of us really believe that, even if the Birds do pull it together to win the division, they are going anywhere in the playoffs? After the past two weeks, and in comparison to the excellent football played last night, they don't even look like a professional football team at this point.