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.