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.


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)