11 November 2016

On Hiatus

This blog is on hiatus for the time being. I'm not sure when - or if - I'll be back.

Football doesn't seem very important right now.


07 November 2016

A Tale of Two Turnovers

Philadelphia Eagles 23, New York Giants 28, Sunday, November 6, 2016

"But wait!" you say. "Didn't BOTH teams have two turnovers?"

They did, but Results May Vary.

Was hoping to get a pic of the pick, but this will have to do
Stud of the week: Jordan Hicks. It's been great to the see sophomore linebacker back on the field this year. He recorded five solo tackles, two assists, and a critical pick that gave the Birds a chance to win it at the end. It's not *his* fault they couldn't do anything with it. Shout out also to Nigel Bradham who was involved in TEN tackles. Even Troy and Joe, The Idiot Twins (who were commentating) were impressed. (And for Troy apologists, I refer you to BGN's weekly 10 Things post - be sure to read to the end.)

So about those turnovers: the G-men got two in the FIRST QUARTER and scored TDs off BOTH. The Birds answered with two of their own, but points? One three-and-out, one turnover on downs. Lots of other stuff went wrong, too, but that difference right there is huge in a game that was won by five points.

A few other thoughts:

Where have they been hiding Bryce Treggs? I get that he's a rookie and all, but he's the only receiver who seems to have any downfield speed. What's the holdup? Particularly when Nelson Agholor is the other option. Oh, and Jordan Matthews? A fade route is going to mean that the ball gets thrown OUTSIDE. I feel like I shouldn't have to be telling you this at this point in your career, but as the final Eagles offensive play of the game clearly showed, you haven't learned this yet. Consider yourself informed.

Can we ask Zach Ertz to retrace his steps so he can find his lost ability to break a single tackle?

Where did Wendell Smallwood go? I remember him playing well early in the season, but all of a sudden, Darren Sproles is the #1 back. Look, I love the guy, too, but he's 33. Making him the #1 back does not seem smart, at least to me.

Also, Dougie P, I like the idea of going for it on fourth down BUT NOT EARLY IN THE GAME WHEN YOU'RE LOOKING AT A NEAR-CERTAIN FIELD GOAL. TWICE. TAKE THE POINTS, SON. Do I need to remind you the Birds lost by 5?

As Tommy Lawlor puts it:
This is a really frustrating Eagles team right now.
Two things: I feel like I've heard that before, and you nailed it there, man. He also mentions that they either need to play more consistently with the existing roster or go ahead and keep playing erratically, but upgrade the talent. To quote him again:
...we have a solid group of players that makes costly mistakes and just isn’t good enough to overcome them.
PREACH.

Given that it's week 9, I don't know about you, but I'm voting for option 1 for now, and urging the Front Office to consider option 2 in the off season, aka, we're at the stage in the season where you gotta dance with the one whut brung you.

I am happy to see the NFC East return to former glory with the *worst* team in the division being at .500, but I'm not happy that that team is the Eagles. The way the Cowboys are playing right now, the division is out of reach, which after the Eagles' hot start is pretty disappointing. Ah well, on to the Falcons.

Finally, as I hope you're already aware, tomorrow, Tuesday, November 8, is election day. Voting is one of our most important rights and duties as citizens of a democratic republic. I urge ALL my readers, no matter who you plan to support, to exercise your right to vote. Not sure where to go? As long as you know your address, the League of Women Voters can hook you up with the details of your polling location, and the National Association of Secretaries of State can answer any questions you have about voting rules and requirements in your state (including WHEN the polls are open). VOTE! It's really, really important.

03 November 2016

2016 Week 9 Picks

Man, did I get annihilated on my picks last week. Chef Spouse says it's because he followed me, and he's literally in last place in his office weekly Pick 'Em pool this year. So maybe I should lie to him and say I didn't make any picks this week? Hmmm....bears experimenting.

The other thing I've been noticing is that when I pick the Eagles to win, they lose, and when I pick them to lose, they win.

You know what that means, right?  Damn right I'm picking the Giants this week.

And a brief note on the Josh Huff situation. I only know what I've read in the sports media, but given my relative lack of information, it seems like the front office did the right thing. Now I just wish the league as a whole would take domestic violence as seriously as they take being pulled over for speeding while carrying some chronic and a gun.

In the rest of the matchups:

Falcons at Buccaneers: Falcons

Steelers at Ravens: Steelers

Cowboys at Browns: Cowboys

Jaguars at Chiefs: Chiefs

Jets at Dolphins: Dolphins

Lions at Vikings: Vikings

Panthers at Rams: Panthers

Saints at 49ers: Saints

Titans at Chargers: Chargers

Colts at Packers: Packers

Raiders ar Broncos: Raiders

Bills at Seahawks: Seahawks

On bye: Bears, Bengals, Cardinals, Patriots, Texans, Washington Football Team

31 October 2016

"Some Things Never Change...And Some Things Do"

Philadelphia Eagles 23, Dallas Cowboys 29, Sunday, October 30, 2016

You know, even with turning over the entire coaching staff (other than Dave "All I Do Is Be Awesome" Fipp), getting a shiny new QB, and replacing a bunch of the skill players, it is still the case that, when the chips are down and the game is on the line, and we need a big offensive series or a major defensive stand, Bleeding Green Nation can count on the Birds to fail to deliver, crushing our hopes and dreams in the process.

Well, at least it wasn't a tie.

Stud of the week: I'm picking Ryan Mathews, because he scored and he managed not put the ball on the turf once this week. Yes, the bar has been lowered. Substantially. I can't pick Darren Sproles every week, folks! (or can I?)

If you recall, my three keys to an Eagles victory were:
I think Jim Schwartz will figure out a way to rattle Dak and pressure him into making some mistakes, and we've seen that the D can be real ball hogs. Count on Dave Fipp to bring some special teams magic, too.
Well, they managed all three. Fipp and special teams brought the magic (a 55 yard field goal? that is, to quote my friend Reggie, "stoopid good," as was Josh Huff's 53 yard kick off return at the end of the third quarter), Dak was clearly rattled and did not actually play very well, Jordan Hicks had an end zone pick that led to an Eagles field goal (a 10 point swing) and the Birds even scored 23 points in regulation, five higher than what the Cowboys have been allowing. But it still wasn't enough to get 'er done. Why?

Tackling, or lack thereof. It's a basic football skill, right? So why can't the Birds do it? I can't even count how many times I saw Ezekiel Elliott run by the entire defense, offense, special teams, practice squad, IR list, coaching staff, equipment manager, and the intern who dispenses the Gatorade. Man, did the Birds miss Bennie Logan Sunday night. Get well soon, big man.

Secondly, the Birds are so thin on the O-line that at one point, I'm almost positive I saw Jason Peters drag a tackling sled onto the field to line up next to him at guard.

Also, NO ONE CAN CATCH THE DAMN BALL other than Darren Sproles, and, intermittently, Jordan Matthews. Oh wait, Zach Ertz can usually catch a two yard pass, but that's all you're getting from him. Could someone please sit him down and explain YAC? He seems to be utterly unfamiliar with the concept. Use a diagram or puppets if you have to. Here's the thing: he's 6'5" so statistically, he'd do better if they just handed him the ball at the line of scrimmage and he fell forward.

Too many WR screens? Hell yes (we'll get to that in a minute), but what other options does Doug Pederson have, if NONE of the receivers can get any separation downfield?

As Reuben Frank put it:
The Eagles’ desperate need for a playmaker has never been so glaring as it was Sunday night in Dallas. Wentz can throw the ball down the field, he just has nobody who can get open. And when they do get open, they drop the ball.
Yep. The Eagles need to put a priority on drafting O-line in the next few years, but they need a decent receiver, like, YESTERDAY.

Meanwhile, none of the running backs can hang onto the ball, either, other than Darren Sproles, and sometimes (only you can never tell when) Ryan Mathews. When Wendell Smallwood fumbled at the beginning of the fourth quarter, leading to the Cowboys field goal that cut the Eagles lead  to 7, I knew we were in trouble.

Pederson proceeded to follow that debacle up with an idiotic trick play that was followed by an even more idiotic screen pass (when they were NOT working) when they COULD NOT afford to lose yards, because it knocked them out of field goal range, or at least Pederson apparently thought so, which is dumb because Sturgis had already nailed one from 55 (twice, actually), but, continuing on the brain fart train, Pederson decided to punt, when letting Sturgis attempt the 53 yarder could've kept it a two-score game, and that was the final nail. The game would continue for nearly another 14 minutes (including OT), but raise your hand if you knew, right then, it had slipped away. [watches while EVERYONE raises their hands]

Bad play calling, as the private Eagles fan group I belong to universally agreed. The problem is, when the only offensive skill player you can rely on other than the QB is Darren Sproles, your options get pretty limited pretty fast. Dude's multi-talented, but he's 33, and he can only do so much.

MUST. GET. DECENT. RECEIVER. ASAP.

(Does this feel familiar, or what? Shades of Donovan McNabb and three-headed "monster" that was James Thrash, Freddie Mitchell, and Todd Pinkston. Hopefully, Doug will figure out faster than Andy did that he has to get his QB some targets.)

How much trouble would one get in, really, if she up and kidnapped AJ Green? Asking for a friend....





27 October 2016

2016 Week 8 Picks

DALLAS WEEK!

Time to get your hate on.

And at the beginning of the season who would've guessed that, with two rookie starting QBs, these two teams would be playing IN PRIME TIME for the mid-season lead of the NFC East?

(Not me.)

Dak Prescott is playing, as we all know, extremely well. Meanwhile, the Dallas D, although not top-ranked and not terribly successful causing turnovers or pressuring QBs, is holding opposing teams under 18 points. If you can do that, you'll win a lot of games.

Meanwhile, the Birds are hot and cold.  Sometimes the D looks like world-beaters - and sometimes they *get* beat like a redheaded stepchild. Carson Wentz, turns out, does throw picks. PENALTIES PENALTIES PENALTIES.

What's going to happen Sunday night? This season, it does seem like the Eagles play up - or down - to the competition, and the 2016 Cowboys are no joke, so I hope we'll see the GOOD Eagles this week.

Pretty much everybody has the Cowboys, but I have a good feeling about this one, so I'm going Eagles. I think Jim Schwartz will figure out a way to rattle Dak and pressure him into making some mistakes, and we've seen that the D can be real ball hogs. Count on Dave Fipp to bring some special teams magic, too. (And F Dallas.)

In the other matchups:

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

DC "at" Bengals: DC

Chiefs at Colts: Colts (upset pick, well upset pick aside from the Birds, that is)

Raiders at Buccaneers: Bucs

Seahawks at Saints: Seahawks

Lions at Texans: Lions

Jets at Browns: Jets (hey, Cleveland, you can't win them all, unless you're Boston and willing to make an actual pact with the devil)

Patriots at Bills: Bills (another upset pick)

Cardinals at Panthers: Cards

Chargers at Broncos: Broncos

Packers at Falcons:  Packers

Vikings at Bears: Vikings

On bye: 49ers, Dolphins, Giants, Rams, Ravens, Steelers












24 October 2016

Are We *Sure* These Are Both Professional Football Teams?

Philadelphia Eagles 21, Minnesota Vikings 10, Sunday, October 23, 2016

But the real winners are the research assistants for ESPN's Monday Night Countdown "C'mon Man!" segment, who just have to play the not even 3 minutes of game time in the first quarter that saw a total of FOUR turnovers and a recovered fumble, and they're done for the day. It's Miller Time! Fellow Eagles Maniac and I were pretty much watching the game through our fingers at that point.

Stud of the Week: Making his first appearance of the year, Josh Huff. After a mess of a first quarterin which both teams were scoreless, the Vikings had finally managed to get in range to kick a field goal. On the ensuing kick-off, Huff fielded the ball at the Philly 2 yard line (generally a very bad idea), and streaked 98 yards for a touchdown (assisted by excellent blocks from tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, which BGN breaks down very nicely). The Eagles never again surrendered the lead to what had been the only remaining undefeated team, and in fact gave up no more points aside from a garbage-time TD. (Also, Dave Fipp's work with special teams continues to be quietly excellent. Caleb Sturgis made all his attempts and Donnie Long Ball Jones had another solid punting day.)

After last week, I was worried about the O-line. The Vikings have a VERY good defense, and the o-line (Halapoulivaati Vaitai in particular), was not brilliant last week. Stefan Wisniewski even took the uncharacteristic (at least in the Birds' locker room) step of calling Vaitai and the coaching staff out publicly after his dreadful performance against the Washington Football Team (admittedly, Wisniewski is not exactly a disinterested party here). Mercifully,Vaitai was better this week. The whole line was better this week.

Another encouraging sign: Carson Wentz threw two picks that were 100% his fault. They didn't get tipped, or bounce out of a receiver's hands, and nobody zigged when he should've zagged. Nope. Wentz just threw it to a Vikings defender. Twice. So why is that encouraging? Because he didn't lose his shit over it. One of the key things rookies, particularly rookie QBs, need to learn is how to let bad plays go and move on to the next snap. And he did. And when the Birds' got the penalty on the extra point and decided "what the hell, let's go for 2!" he executed an excellent QB keeper for the score.

The real story of the game, though, was the defense. Great moments included:

The entire defense escorting Malcolm Jenkins down the field after his pick, even if the TD was called back because he was touched down.

Connor Barwin stripping the ball from Sam Bradford and Beau Allen picking it up. A fat boy defensive TD would've been great, but on a day when his breast cancer survivor mom was there and he was wearing a pink ribbon in his increasingly long ponytail (that he's growing out to donate to Locks of Love), it was still pretty sweet.

FOUR FORCED FUMBLES. FOUR.

SIX SACKS. SIX.

Jordan Hicks had EIGHT SOLO TACKLES. EIGHT (plus three assists). Good to see him worthy of his #58 again. Proud tradition to uphold there, sophomore.

Stopping the Vikings on 3-1 and 4-1 from the Birds' 6 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. NO POINTS FOR YOU.

The Birds' have a top-ranked defense. The last two weeks, they haven't played like that. This week, they did. And hey! Look at the score!

A not-so-great moment? Ryan Matthews can't hold on to the damn ball. I don't care how his ankle is feeling if he keeps putting the ball on the turf in critical situations.

This now sets up a HUGE contest in prime time against the Cowboys next Sunday night about which I'm sure the NFL schedulers are giggling with glee. Eagles/Cowboys pretty much always merits one prime time slot - both teams have passionate nation-wide fan bases - but the NFL has to be particularly pleased with their luck this year, with a matchup of two hot rookie quarterbacks in Wentz and Prescott and two well-ranked defenses (the Eagles currently coming in at #5, and the Cowboys in the mid-teens). So we all enjoy the win for, like, 10 more minutes and then start freaking out, right?



20 October 2016

2016 Week 7 Picks

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

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

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

Anyone think the Birds are going to win?

Yeah, me neither.

Vikings.

In the rest of the matchups:

Bears at Packers: Packers

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

Saints at Chiefs: Chiefs

Colts at Titans: Titans

Browns at Bengals: Bengals

DC at Lions: DC

Raiders at Jaguars: Raiders

Bills at Dolphins: Bills

Ravens at Jets: Ravens

Buccaneers at 49ers: 49ers

Chargers at Falcons: Falcons

Patriots at Steelers: Pats

Seahawks at Cardinals: Seahawks

Texans at Broncos: Broncos

On bye: Cowboys, Panthers




17 October 2016

It May Be Time to Revise Expectations

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

Who knew Lane Johnson was the key to everything?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read it and weep, Birdgang.

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

13 October 2016

2016 Week 6 Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the rest of the matchups...

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

Really?

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

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

49ers at Bills: Bills

Browns at Titans: Titans

Giants at Ravens: Giants

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

Jaguars at Bears: Jags

Rams at Lions: Lions

Steelers at Dolphins: Steelers

Bengals at Patriots: Pats

Chiefs at Raiders: Raiders

Falcons at Seahawks: Seahawks

Cowboys at Packers: Packers

Colts at Texans: Texans

Jets at Cardinals: Cards

On bye: Buccaneers, Vikings

10 October 2016

Into Every Football Season A Little Rain Must Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or not.

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

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

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

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


06 October 2016

2016 Week 5 Picks

GRUDGE MATCH!

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

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

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

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

Eagles

In the other matchups:

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

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

Bears at Colts: Colts

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

DC at Ravens: Ravens

Texans at Vikings: Vikings

Jets at Steelers: Steelers

Falcons at Broncos: Broncos

Bengal at Cowboys: Bengals

Bills at Rams: Rams

Chargers at Raiders: Raiders

Giants at Packers: Packers

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

On bye: Chiefs, Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks



29 September 2016

2016 Week 4 Picks

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

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

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

Colts at Jaguars: Jags

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

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

Seahawks at Jets: Seahawks

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

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

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

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

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

Rams at Cardinals: Cards

Saints at Chargers: Chargers

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

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

Giants at Vikings: Vikings

On bye: the Birds (obviously), Packers






26 September 2016

"He's Got the Juice"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me just let Jim Schwartz sum it up:


I know just how you feel, Jim.

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

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

22 September 2016

2016 Week 3 Picks

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

The Eagles are 2-0.

So are the Steelers.

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

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

Spoiler alert: they're not going to win.

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

Steelers

In the other matchups:

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

Cardinals at Bills: Cardinals

Raiders at Titans: Titans

Browns at Dolphins: Dolphins

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

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

Broncos at Bengals: Bengals

Vikings at Panthers: Panthers

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

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

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

Jets at Chiefs: Chiefs

Chargers at Colts: Colts

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

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


20 September 2016

Cautiously Optimistic

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

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

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

Other guys did good, too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 September 2016

2016 Week 2 Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the rest of the matchups:

Jets at Bills: Jets

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

Titans at Lions: Lions

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

Ravens at Browns: Ravens

Saints at Giants: Giants

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

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

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

Seahawks at Rams: Seahawks

Buccaneers at Cardinals: Cards

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

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

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

Packers at Vikings: Packers

On bye: none

08 September 2016

2016 Week 1 Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panthers at Broncos: Panthers.

Packers at Jaguars: Packers

Bills at Ravens: Ravens

Bears at Texans: Texans

Buccaneers at Falcons: Falcons

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

Bengals at Jets: Bengals

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

Chargers at Chiefs: Chiefs

Dolphins at Seahawks: Seahawks

Lions at Colts: Colts

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

Patriots at Cardinals: Cardinals

Steelers at WFT: Steelers

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

23 August 2016

You Blew Up the Team!

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

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

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

In other words, a pretty normal season for me.

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

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

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

(crickets, coyotes howling, tumbleweed)

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

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


02 January 2016

2015 Week 17 Picks

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

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

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

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

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

On to the final week's picks:

Games with playoff implications:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raiders at Chiefs: Chiefs

Chargers at Broncos: Broncos

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

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

Games without playoff implications:

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

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

Saints at Falcons: Falcons

Jaguars at Texans: Texans

Lions at Bears: Bears

Rams at 49ers: Rams