Tag Archives: Denver Broncos

Eagles-Packers Sad Haiku

Welp.

There have been more panful losses over the past calendar year, but the Eagles have not looked that overmatched since a visit to Denver last September.

That was really, really bad. The entire country saw how good the Eagles can look against a struggling team last Monday, and today, most of them saw how bad they can look against an elite quarterback.

The way I see it, there are three approaches one could take after what transpired over the past three hours.

1. Jump off the Walt Whitman. The Eagles are a fraud, pretenders and not contenders at 7-3. Chip Kelly was ridiculously out coached, and Mark Sanchez isn’t good enough to get them to the playoffs. The defense is awful, and Dallas is going to win the division. 

I don’t believe any of that for a second. I do have some obvious concerns about Sanchez, and the defense certainly underachieved today, but that line of thinking is a big time overreaction for a team still sitting pretty.

2. Today wasn’t a big deal at all. Aaron Rodgers does this to everyone, and the Packers caught a few lucky breaks. LeSean McCoy will get on track, and the pass rush will be better. We have nothing to worry about and will be fine in a January rematch. 

I would buy into this rationale more than the first approach, but completely tossing this game out of the window would be brushing away some clear issues. The Eagles are better than what they showed today but came up short on a big stage.

3. The Packers are nearly unbeatable at Lambeau with Aaron Rodgers, but the Eagles never gave themselves a chance. Between bad penalties like Trent Cole jumping offsides on third and long in the first quarter and untimely turnovers, this one unraveled quickly. The Eagles are still 7-3 and in great shape. They haven’t been blown out in quite some time and were perhaps due for a letdown, but doesn’t make it hurt any less. 

That is the way I mostly look at this. The Eagles are still in excellent shape overall but are trying to survive with a backup quarterback and a secondary that features three players who likely would not start for most other teams between Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, and Nate Allen. Rodgers, being one of the smartest and beset signal-callers on the planet, knew that and targeted Fletcher early and often.

In a chance to showcase himself for potential head coaching gigs next season, defensive coordinator Billy Davis looked miles behind Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

Short yardage situations in the red zone are still a troublesome issue, and LeSean McCoy doesn’t look like LeSean McCoy even with 80 percent of the offensive line together.

Unfortunately, this team is still trying to recover from a few awful draft classes toward the end of the Andy Reid regime and are not getting much impact from this year’s rookies aside from Jordan Matthews. Marcus Smith, Jaylen Watkins, and Taylor Hart cannot get on the field, and Josh Huff is making mistakes every time he gets on the field.

The Eagles are at a point where while their roster is greatly improving, they still can’t afford to miss on many guys and need immediate impact from rookies whenever possible. They are getting absolutely nothing from their first round pick, and it hurts against an elite team like the Packers.

It is also becoming increasingly important that the Eagles win the division and find a way to get the second seed for a first round bye. 5-0 at home, 2-3 on the road. Despite being a very good road squad in 2013, they are clearly not the same team away from Lincoln Financial Field this season and need to end up there in January.

Thankfully there is a path for that. The Packers, Lions, and Cowboys all have three losses, and the Cardinals face four teams currently above .500 in their last six games.

A roadmap exists, and it starts next week at home against a bad Titans team before Turkey Day in Dallas.

Stay tuned for an announcement about something on our blog this week, but in the meantime, let’s hit the haiku and try to shake this one off some:

Fletcher picked on bad

Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, oh my

Still seven and three

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Five Numbers I Would Like to See on the Stat Sheet when Eagles-Colts Concludes

If you have read anything else or follow me on Twitter, then you already know this, but I want this one bad tonight.

The Colts are my Super Bowl pick, and I really like Andrew Luck, but I want to see Nick Foles beat him head-to-head. Just like last week, I will roll out some numbers that I believe could key an Eagles road victory in Indianapolis tonight.

Against the Jaguars, we only hit on two out of five numbers but were very close on two others. Around midnight tonight, we will go back and evaluate whether or not the goals were reached, so without further ado, let’s introduce them.

Here are five Eagles numbers that I hope to see in the box score after the final whistle tonight.

  1. Less than 45 rushing yards for Trent Richardson — Richardson was fantastic at Alabama and had sky high potential coming out of college but has mostly been a bust so far. One way to solve Andrew Luck is to make the Colts offense one-dimensional. The Eagles run defense did a nice job against Toby Gerhart last week, limiting him to 42 yards on 18 carries, but I have seen them make average running backs look above average in the past. They are very capable of keeping Richardson in check, and doing so would grease the wheels for a win.
  2. No more than one turnover for Nick Foles — Between two fumbles and a red zone interception in the first half last week, Foles was responsible for three turnovers. I do not think the Eagles have to crush the turnover battle to win tonight, but losing it by two like they did against Jacksonville would be less than ideal. You got this, Nicky.
  3. Jeremy Maclin with 90+ receiving yards — Maclin had a great opener with four receptions for 97 yards, including a 68-yard go-ahead touchdown. Even the most cynical of Eagles fans had to be happy for him. Now, it is just a matter of turning in those performances consistently. There should be room to throw against the Colts defense, and two nice games in a row would be an awesome start to the season.
  4. At least 14 first half points — The Eagles do not have to come out firing completely on all cylinders, but they will not be able to survive another first half shutout tonight. If they win the coin toss, Chip Kelly normally likes to defer so they begin the third quarter with the ball after being afforded halftime adjustments. Fourteen points after the first 30 minutes should have them at the very least within striking distance.
  5. Andrew Luck sacked three or more times — The Colts offensive line is not known to be a particularly strong unit, and Luck was sacked by the Broncos three times in the opener. The Eagles got Chad Henne for three sacks in the opener last week, and a good amount of Billy Davis’ blitz packages seemed to be getting home. If Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks, or someone else can put Luck on his back a few times, the Eagles chances of leaving Lucas Oil Stadium 0-2 will greatly increase.

I wanted to put something in here about LeSean McCoy, but you just expect him to have good games at this point in his career, so it almost seems like a waste to highlight that. McCoy still managed to average 74 yards even with the offense sputtering last week, and I do not think it is out of the question for him to go over the century mark tonight even with no Evan Mathis along the offensive line.

There you have it. This is what I will be looking for in about 14 hours: 45, one, 90, 14, three, and hopefully a nice 2-0 record along with sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Nick Foles, Overcoming Adversity, and Earning Patience

Regardless of the twists and turns that his NFL career takes, the numbers ’27 and two’ will always be synonymous with Nick Foles.

It represents the touchdown to interception ratio that the Eagles’ third-year quarterback posted during the 2013 season, (technically 29 and two if you count the two touchdown passes thrown in a playoff game where Foles out dueled future Hall of Famer Drew Brees).

It also represents an NFL record and normally serves as a conversation starter about the signal-caller going forward. Foles believers cite it to illustrate just how good he was last year and to show that they are convinced he is a franchise quarterback. Foles doubters mention that the two numbers are not sustainable and that some regression in 2014 is guaranteed.

The exercise is a great example of how the same statistic can be bent in different ways to form two complex arguments.

Foles’ projections for 2014 are all over the map. I personally put him down for 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions before the season started. Regardless of what folks think he will do for an encore though, those numbers ’27 and two’ should have one unifying trait between fans and detractors.

They should be a reminder of patience as the year gets into full swing — Way more patience than what was exhibited Sunday afternoon when Foles got off to a less than stellar start against the Jaguars in the season opener.

A promising season was less than 30 minutes old, and calls for Mark Sanchez began to ring out both at Lincoln Financial Field and throughout Eagles Twitter. Philly.com even went as far as to put up a poll about the topic as the Eagles struggled through an ugly first half that saw them head into the locker room down 17-0.

I am not sure how much the page has been visited post-Sunday but as of clicking on late Thursday night calls for Sanchez were still at 33.1 percent.

Eagles-Jaguars Poll

Thankfully, Chip Kelly, Pat Shurmur, and Bill Musgrave stuck with their Pro Bowl quarterback knowing he had recovered from adversity before and could do it again.

Benching a quarterback who is healthy but ineffective has always been a real sensitive topic to me. The position comes with so much prestige that you cannot simply put the toothpaste back in the tube once it is out.

If you pull a quarterback coming off a breakout season less than a half into a new one, you better be sure the good version of Sanchez from the preseason isn’t a mirage because you may never get Foles back once the trigger is pulled.

It is not like baseball when your ace has a bad start and the manager takes the ball telling him to try again five days later. Five days later may never arrive in this instance.

Sticking with Foles paid off as the quarterback went 15-for-22 for 183 yards in the second half with two touchdown passes. The 68-yard bomb to Jeremy Maclin may have been a bit of a coverage bust, but the 25-yard pass to Zach Ertz to cut the Jaguars lead to three had some nice touch on it.

Foles was certainly shaky during the first 30 minutes, but it should say something about him that he was able to bounce back quickly, just like last November where he threw seven touchdown passes two weeks after playing an awful game against Dallas that saw him exit with a concussion. At the time, it was believed that Foles had fumbled away his chance to win the starting quarterback job with Michael Vick recovering from injury, but he quickly got another shot and made the most of it.

Lost in all of this as well is that Foles was not the only quarterback to have some Week 1 issues. Tom Brady avoided throwing an interception but was 29-for-56 — a measly 4.4 yards passing per attempt — in a 33-20 loss to the Dolphins.

Completions Attempts Yards Turnovers Score
4 8 46 2 (fumbles) 17 — 0
6 9 56 1 (interception) 10 — 0

Take a look at these blind quarterback stats for a second. The top column is Foles’ first three drives. The bottom column is Andrew Luck’s first three drives against the Broncos Sunday night.

Luck, the Eagles’ Week 2 opponent, did not have a particularly good start to the season either, but nobody freaked out and called for Matt Hasselbeck to replace him because Luck was the number one overall pick in the draft back in 2012. He gets a pass for any bad stretches he experiences, chalked up to growing pains and learning on the fly. Foles was the 88th pick in the same draft class and the sixth overall quarterback selected. He does not get those passes because most third round picks are perceived to not be franchise quarterbacks.

You would think after 2013 that we would be past this, but apparently that isn’t the case. The fact that Foles was a third round pick should be irrelevant after what he did last season. Foles’ numbers were better across the board and both quarterbacks won their respective divisions. The only difference was Luck got to play one more game because his defense held when he led a fourth quarter comeback in a playoff game while the Eagles’ special teams let Foles down.

The Colts were my Super Bowl pick, and I also had them winning on Monday when I did my Eagles predictions, but I cannot wait to see the reaction should Foles outperform Luck like he did with Brees last January.

This should be a fun time when it comes to following the Eagles. It reminds me of the 2000 and 2001 Andy Reid teams where the talent was good enough to get to the playoffs, but sky high expectations had not yet set in to the point where watching was more stressful than fun and anything short of a Lombardi Trophy would be considered an absolute failure.

The big difference I see between now and then is that the Giants were still pretty formidable in those days before falling off for a few years. Right now, the rest of the NFC East is awful.

Foles won way more than he lost in 2013 (nine wins compared to three losses specifically), and I often think about tying that into a Chip Kelly quote a few days after the playoff loss to the Saints last year.

Kelly was essentially asked by a reporter if he considered himself an ‘NFL coach after completing his first season in the most competitive league in the world. In typical Kelly fashion, he responded by saying that he thought he was an NFL coach 10 times and not one seven times, an obvious ode to the Eagles record.

Well, if we apply the same logic, Foles was a franchise quarterback nine times and not one three times. Seventy five percent — That sounds pretty damn good to me.

A record setting touchdown to interception ratio, nine wins, the first NFC East title since 2010, and a flawless fourth quarter playoff drive. Natural regression suggests he cannot repeat that, but let your mind wander for a second. What if he does? What if he comes really close to those numbers again?

And you were ready to potentially throw all of that away because of one bad half?

If Nick Foles did not already have your trust going into Sunday, he probably did not earn it, however, he should have earned your patience last season, and that should last for way more than a half.

The Eagles are in Sole Possession of First Place in the NFC East

Thanks to the Lions thrashing the Giants on Monday Night Football last night, the Eagles sit atop the NFC East standings after Week 1.

Ugly losses from the Redskins and Cowboys preceded the Giants beatdown.

This is a bit rare in part because teams sometimes face a squad within their division in the season opener, but as mentioned last night, there is some precedent here with the year 2006 coming to mind.

In Week 2, the Eagles will already know what the rest of the division has done heading into their Monday Night showdown against the Colts. The Giants have a tough home matchup against the Cardinals. The Cowboys are on the road against the 1-0 Titans, and the Redskins host the Jaguars, who gave the Eagles all they could handle for three quarters.

The only other team alone at the top of its division is the Broncos.

I agree, Chip. First place does taste good.

Chip GIF

Feeling Lucky: 2014-2015 NFL Predictions

The Seattle Seahawks will put a halt to a near-decade long streak, becoming the first team since the 2005 New England Patriots to win a playoff game coming off a Super Bowl title.

Pete Carroll’s squad will do more than just win one game in January though. They will once again represent the NFC in Glendale on February 1, 2015, but the Seahawks will not repeat as champions.

If you picked up on the subtle headline hint, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will dethrone the Legion of Boom and hoist the Lombardi Trophy nearly five months from now.

Andrew Luck rises, Russell Wilson nearly does it again, Nick Foles takes another step forward, Colin Kaepernick takes a small step back, and Robert Griffin’s slide continues.

That and more as we predict team-by-team records and how the playoffs will play out below.

You can choose for yourself how much stock you put in my predictions. Last season, I did nail Seattle as my preseason Super Bowl champion but picked them to beat the Texans in the big game so…welp.

I cannot promise that I will be spot on. If I could, I might as well be in Vegas right now, but unlike hack Mike Freeman, I will try to hold myself accountable if they are embarrassingly bad.

Without further ado, let’s hit it.

NFC East

Eagles (11-5) (2)

Giants (8-8)

Redskins (6-10)

Cowboys (5-11)

Thoughts: It would be a big surprise if the Eagles do not win this semi-comfortably, and if things go according to plan, they will jump out to a quick one-game lead over everyone after this weekend. The Giants are not as bad as some seem to think but won’t be good enough to seriously challenge for a wildcard spot. Redskins and Cowboys bring up the rear in a relatively weak division.

NFC North 

Packers (10-6) (4)

Bears (9-7)

Vikings (8-8)

Lions (5-11)

Thoughts: The Seahawks can make just about an squad look bad, so I’m not reading into the Packers loss last night a ton. Aaron Rodgers hides a lot of their flaws, but they will once again find a way to take the division. The Bears come up just short again, the Vikings are a pleasant surprise, and the Lions remain the Lions.

NFC South

Saints (10-6) (3)

Bucs (8-8)

Panthers (8-8)

Falcons (7-9)

Thoughts: Always the toughest division to handicap. I think the Saints are a cut above the rest and expect Tampa Bay to be better now that they are free of the Greg Schiano experience. I love me some Kelvin Benjamin, but who else is Cam Newton throwing to outside of Greg Olsen? The Falcons get the honor of being the best last place team in the league.

NFC West

Seahawks (13-3) (1)

Cardinals (10-6) (5)

49ers (10-6) (6)

Rams (3-13)

Thoughts: It nearly happened last year, and this season it actually will — Three playoff teams out of the wild, wild west. Seattle avoids the Super Bowl hangover. I am no Bruce Arians fan, but that Cardinals team is solid. They beat out the 49ers, but Jim Harbaugh’s squad overcomes a rough start to grab the final playoff spot in the conference. The Rams win the Jameis Winston/Marcus Mariota sweepstakes.

AFC East

Patriots (11-5) (3)

Jets (8-8)

Dolphins (7-9)

Bills (4-12)

Thoughts: The more things change, the more things stay the same. The Pats roll once again while the Bills sit in the cellar. The Dolphins and Jets hang around but can’t quite crash the playoff party.

AFC North

Bengals (10-6) (4)

Ravens (8-8)

Steelers (7-9)

Browns (4-12)

Thoughts: Andy Dalton once again gets the Bengals to the playoffs and once again loses in the first round. The Ravens just miss for two straight years. I would have had the Steelers with another win or two a month ago, but they just looked awful in the preseason. Johnny Manziel gets the gig pretty early and Cleveland but makes numerous NFL front offices breathe a sigh of relief that they passed on him last May.

AFC South

Colts (12-4) (2)

Texans (9-7) (6)

Jaguars (5-11)

Titans (4-12)

Thoughts: The Colts have this thing clinched by Week 12 with the Jaguars and Titans as complete afterthoughts. Bill O’Brien works his quarterback magic and gets the Texans to the playoffs in Year 1.

AFC West

Broncos (13-3) (1)

Chargers (11-5) (5)

Chiefs (8-8)

Raiders (3-13)

Thoughts: The Broncos cruise to another division title as they play out the schedule hoping for redemption in the playoffs. Mike McCoy’s Chargers take another step forward while Andy Reid’s Chiefs take a slight step back. The Raiders remain the Raiders, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Playoffs: 

AFC Wildcard Weekend

Chargers over Bengals

Patriots over Texans

NFC Wildcard Weekend

Saints over 49ers

Cardinals over Packers

AFC Divisional Playoffs

Colts over Patriots

Broncos over Chargers

NFC Divisional Playoffs

Eagles over Saints

Seahawks over Cardinals

AFC Championship Game

Colts over Broncos

NFC Championship Game 

Seahawks over Eagles

Super Bowl

Colts over Seahawks

Would love to hear your predictions if you have any because FOOTBALL BACK

Chip GIF

The Eagles Host the Steelers in a Preseason Game Tonight and I Would Like to See These Five Things Happen

The Eagles play their third preseason game at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight, and for all intents and purposes, it is their final exhibition contest.

Yes, they still face the Jets at Lincoln Financial Field a week from today. I get that the fourth preseason game is a night for guys locked in position battles and in some cases fighting for their football lives.

That is nothing to joke about, but tonight is the last time that the Eagles starters will be on the field together before the opener against Jacksonville on September 7th.

The third preseason game — for that reason — is often considered the most important of the bunch.

This is only my opinion, but it seems that the Steelers have lost some luster over the past two or three years. They are coming off uncharacteristic back-to-back 8-8 seasons and lost a playoff game to Tim Tebow the year before that.

Still, Ben Roethlisberger is fresh off a nice outing last week against the Giants that featured a 76-yard touchdown pass to star wide receiver Antonio Brown. I expect them to compete in a solid AFC North division this year, making them a solid opponent for the final dress rehearsal.

As I mentioned before, we can worry about sorting out the bottom of the roster next week. I’m mainly focused on the starters in this one, so without further ado, here are five things I’m looking for tonight.

  1. A clean game from Allen Barbre — I was not concerned with Lane Johnson’s replacement for the first four games at the beginning of camp. I am now. It is often difficult to evaluate offensive line play without coaches tape, but it doesn’t require an offensive line guru to know that Barbre has looked shaky through two games at right tackle. He played well when called upon to step in for Jason Peters against the Packers last season. Hopefully that Barbre shows up against Jacksonville (and three more times after that), but I would like to see that Barbre tonight.
  2. A made field goal by Alex Henery — If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Henery is 0-for-1 on field goals this preseason, and I would like to see him change that even if it comes on a chip shot. I explored the Henery issue more in-depth a few days ago. Even with the acquisition of rookie Cody Parkey, I still expect Henery to enter the season as the Eagles kicker. He has the power to prove a lot of people wrong but needs to make the team to do that and another missed field goal would give Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman more to ponder there.
  3. Maclin, Cooper, and Matthews Catching Passes from Nick Foles — Tonight marks the first time ever that this trio is on the field together. Unsurprisingly, Nick Foles looked good targeting fringe-level receivers last Friday in New England. The wide receiver position remains a question mark for many fans. Foles has a chance to throw to the big boys and ease some concerns about them in the process.
  4. Marcus Smith generates a pass rush — Smith seems to be the most popular overreaction topic right now with some folks already declaring him a bust and drawing comparisons to the infamous Brandon Graham over Earl Thomas decision by the Andy Reid regime in 2010. My take: Smith looked pretty good against the Bears and not so good last week against the Patriots. I like a lot of the instincts I see in terms of knowing where to be, but he needs to be coached up as a pass-rusher. I am guessing a hurry or sack would feel really good, and with how long Big Ben sometimes holds the ball, maybe he will get one.
  5. Nolan Carroll to erase memories of Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh — Carmichael and Marsh are good guys and bad NFL cornerbacks. Carroll was signed away from the Dolphins to be a decent NFL cornerback, expected to provide depth in the secondary and maybe push Cary Williams or Bradley Fletcher for a starting job. I don’t need to see anything spectacular tomorrow night. Just get through the game healthy and don’t get toasted doing it.

Aside from a few bumps and bruises and rookie Josh Huff suffering a shoulder injury, the Eagles are relatively healthy for late August standards.

Let’s do it one more time while accomplishing these things and worry about figuring out the last few roster spots this time next week.

“The Kid from Stanford Who They Got Playing for ‘Em” is Going to Be Really, Really Good

No, I’m not talking about fifth round pick Ed Reynolds.

This blog post is inspired by a question that my dad would repeatedly ask last Eagles season every time Zach Ertz made a big catch.

“Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for ’em?” 

I am unsure if he ever learned the rookie tight end’s actual name.

No worries, “the kid from Stanford” went on to have a very solid first season in midnight green, finishing his rookie campaign with 39 catches for 491 yards and five touchdowns (including a playoff game with three receptions for 22 yards and the go-ahead score with under five minutes remaining).

(5:18 mark of the video to see the pretty touchdown)

Extrapolate the final eight games of the regular season over a full year, and the total would come out to 44 receptions for 536 yards and eight touchdowns.

Now in his second NFL season, Ertz is going to be even better. Through two preseason games, he has posted six catches totaling 86 yards and a nice touchdown last Friday night against the Patriots, using his size to get open and haul in the red zone catch from Nick Foles. (Vine available here if it does not embed properly)

Early on last year, Chip Kelly and the Eagles coaching staff was hesitant to put Ertz on the field a ton because he needed to improve as a blocker and had struggled with some drops in the preseason.

Kelly, rightfully so, still loves Brent Celek, who is going into his eighth season with the birds, but it is going to be impossible for him to keep Ertz off the field this year. Look for the offense to feature some more two-tight end sets and do whatever it takes to get Ertz on the field.

I realize what I am telling you here isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s exciting to have a young weapon who is on his way toward becoming a stud.

This chart from Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com paints an even more complete picture. Sorted by yards, it compares the rookie seasons of some of the game’s current elite tight ends, and the only player to post better numbers than Ertz is Rob Gronkowski with the Patriots in 2010.

Tight End Chart

In his final season at Stanford in 2012, Ertz posted a line of 69-898-6, and I foresee him doing something very similar to that this year, just add in a few more touchdowns.

The only tight end in the league who is a lock to put up better numbers than Ertz is the Saints’ Jimmy Graham. Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron will be hard to beat, but I would not at all be shocked if it happened, which brings me to this.

Zach Ertz Tweet

Do that, dawgies.

I am fully expecting to hear “Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for em?” a ton over the next five and a half months.