Tag Archives: Lincoln Financial Field

10 Things I Think I Think

In the mood to write a little bit after that frustrating opener, and it’s been a month and a half since a 10 Things I Think I Think post.

Let’s hit it below with thoughts on Chip, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, Cody Parkey, Billy Davis, beating the Cowboys at home, and more:

  1. Don’t hate Chip’s decision to try the field goal and take the one-point lead. Hate the way it was rushed and wish he would have used a timeout to gather more information. Talk to Dave Fipp about his range pregame, slow things down for a minute and go. Not saying it would have made the difference but with so little time on the clock, Parkey looked rushed and uncomfortable lining up.
  2. As I said, understand the call to kick the field goal, but there’s a weird trend of Chip going against his nature and getting super conservative in those situations. The Arizona game last year comes to mind immediately. This is still a team built on its offense, and it’s odd that the coach for one reason or another isn’t betting on his strengths there.
  3. Still have a ton of confidence in Parkey. My haters will have a field day if I’m wrong, but he was perfect from beyond 50 yards out last season. Way better than Alex Henery ever was or will be.
  4. Let’s talk quarterbacks, shall we? It’s going to be natural to compare Sam Bradford and Nick Foles as the season goes on with Foles winning Round 1. Both quarterbacks had the ball deep in their own territory late in the fourth quarter with their teams trailing. Foles engineered a game-tying touchdown drive and won in overtime because winning is what he does. Bradford threw a game-ending interception and lost, something that he knows a lot about since being in the NFL. People like to overrate quarterback ‘wins,’ pointing to examples such as Vince Young having a winning record as a starter, but unlike pitcher wins in baseball, there is no bullpen and less variables. Barring injury, the same quarterback plays the entire game and has the ball in his hands for nearly half of it. When only 16-games are being played as opposed to 162, the margin for error is slimmer. At some point it doesn’t matter how you win, but simply that you did. Bradford was hot, having only thrown two incompletions in the second half prior to the interception, but the end result was all too familiar. It’s unfair to say that Chip made the wrong decision after 60 minutes of football, but in order to be right, he’ll need two multiple-year trends of Bradford and Foles to reverse with only 15 games for it to happen.
  5. Given Billy Davis credit in the past but the more I watch, the more I get concerned. Not a bad defensive coordinator by any stretch, just not sure he’s a Super Bowl caliber one either.
  6. ‘Soft,’ ‘Overrated,’ ‘Bradley Fletcher,’ ‘Nnamdi.’ Byron Maxwell has been called a lot of mean things over the past day, deservedly so, but I wouldn’t make these conclusions based on one week. Julio Jones is really fucking good. That said, he’s probably lucky the Cowboys won’t have Dez Bryant on Sunday.
  7. Nelson Agholor — Great preseason, underwhelming actual debut. Nothing to worry about but hope the Eagles can get him more involved.
  8. I think Monday is the most I’ve ever seen the Eagles run a sweep play with their backs. Suppose that’s what happens when you don’t invest in guards and need an alternative to the inside zone read.
  9. Fair or not, Sunday is huge not just for this year’s team, but for Chip’s career. At some point, you need to beat the Cowboys at home. Andy Reid was very good about this early in his Eagles tenure. Chip hasn’t done it yet, and if he doesn’t do it this weekend, there will be folks who hope he doesn’t get another chance in 2016.
  10. It’s fun playing in a division where 50 percent of it is eliminated after Week 1. The Redskins and Giants are going nowhere. The Cowboys don’t have arguably the best receiver in the game and struggled on Sunday to beat a poorly coached Giants team. The sky isn’t falling, but it would be nice to see a rain cloud or two go away come 8 p.m. Sunday.

We Give a Damn About the Drama That YOU Do Bring: An Introduction to Our Eagles Training Camp Series and a Request for YOUR Questions

Beginning Sunday morning and continuing through September 14 leading up to the Week 1 Monday Night opener against the Atlanta Falcons, we’ll be answering an Eagles question on the blog each day as we countdown from Day 1 of training camp to the start of the regular season.

That’s right, the announcement of a series that we not so subtly teased the other day has arrived.

There will be content every day, and the best part is that YOU get to have a say in what it is because we give a damn about the drama that YOU do bring.

Should you continue reading, you will hear the phrase ‘we give a damn about the drama that you do bring’ a few additional times. Those words, and more so, the idea behind it is near and dear to my heart when it comes to writing and interacting with people on the Internet.

When I began to get deeper into writing about sports during my college career, one particular thing about the industry and some of the people in it bothered me above all. I felt as if they took their readers for granted, looking down upon them, insulted that someone would dare disagree with their opinion or leave a critical remark in a comments section.

Interacting with their readers was a chore rather than something that should have been a fun part of the job, and what could have been an intelligent sports conversation with opposing viewpoints turned into a writer belittling a reader, under the false impression that ‘you need me more than I need you’ as opposed to being appreciative of readers, the primary reason that someone has deemed what you do worthy of being compensated in some way.

What others saw a hinderance, I saw a competitive advantage. I would respond to all of my Twitter mentions, even those who disagreed with me on certain things, and would try to go into the comments section of my articles and interact with readers. I was no better than the people leaving the comments. I worked hard and just happened to be given a platform where people read what I had to say, and I appreciated them taking the time to pay attention to my content and wanted them to know that they were indeed valued.

Websites, blogs, even traditional newspapers that exist in an online format are nothing without their community.

I had a few haters who I was never going to win over and subscribed to the idea that if a couple people didn’t dislike you, you were doing something wrong, but I was always up for a discussion should they have ever had the courage to engage me.

These thoughts should come with a couple caveats. First off, not everyone who writes about sports is an arrogant prick. There are plenty of writers out there who do make it a point to appreciate their audience and approach interactions with an open mind. Second, there are a good number of folks who are still finding success for the time being while looking down upon the role of their readers.

I think and hope that it will begin to evaporate as more options are presented to readers and the importance of social media continues to expand, but it has not fully done so yet to completely remove people with that smug attitude from positions of power.

Back to the project at hand, I certainly have some questions made up already. I love talking to myself and could get to 44 if need be, but I would much prefer some come from the readers because we give a damn about the drama that you do bring.

From high level stuff like how long I think Chip Kelly will remain the Eagles coach to more nitty-gritty inquiries like how much the third down defense can improve from last season with a revamped secondary, we’ll pose compelling questions and attempt to give you quality answers day in and day out that state an opinion and subsequently drive conversation.

For a general idea of what to expect, the initial few posts will focus on Kelly as he enters Year 3 with the Eagles fresh off a wild offseason, his first with absolute power. From there, we’ll transition into certain team questions about different position groups, key players, run-pass ratio (I’m a sucker for a good run-pass ratio story), and more.

We’ll also have some fun along the way. We’re gonna play oddsmakers and break down the favorites to be the new whipping boy of Slap Bet’s crew with Nick Foles now in St. Louis. We’ll wax poetic about Huff Daddy’s kick return touchdown against Tennessee that had a 1 p.m. Lincoln Financial Field crowd going crazy and some of the other unforgettable moments of what looked like a memorable 2014 season before it was derailed in December.

We should probably allocate some time to talk about Sam Bradford (and maybe Mark Sanchez too), because ya know, quarterback is a pretty important position after all. Other than that, the direction of the 44-day project is very much up to you.

I have done a very similar series when I covered Penn State football (below is a screenshot of what posts will generally look like if you replace the subject matter with Eagles stuff), but I want to put more power in the hands of the readers.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 9.25.00 PM

For those who want to join us on Sunday morning, here is how the specific launch will go down from a timing standpoint:

10 a.m. 11 a.m: Over the course of this hour, we will send 10 total tweets in a segment I call ’10 Things I Think I Think’ about the Philadelphia Eagles headed into training camp.

11 a.m: We will publish a blog post that features these 10 tweets and expands on them.

11:10 a.m. — In addition to 10 Things I Think I Think, our series will be off and running as we answer the first of 44 questions.

We’re ready, but we want YOU to drive the conversation. Pick a question. Hit us up on the Twitter machine (@drewBbalis) or drop a line in the comments. As long as it’s appropriate, we’ll fit it into the series because…cue it

WE GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE DRAMA THAT YOU DO BRING.

An Early Chance to Exorcise Dallas Demons

Reactionary posts to the NFL schedule being released normally aren’t my thing.

There are a bunch of folks feverishly playing win-loss with the schedule not yet even two hours old and meaningful football still nearly five months away. I have always maintained that I don’t go on the record with predictions until the conclusion of the final preseason game. Why do so now when you have even more information at your disposal on Labor Day Weekend?

Despite the opening sentence here and aforementioned paragraph, I thought this would be a good time to emerge and update this blog for the first time since the fateful day in January when Chip Kelly gave several Eagles fans mini heart attacks before winning a power struggle against Howie Roseman.

I’m doing this because I deemed it necessary when I checked my phone at 8 p.m. and my eyes gravitated towards the following:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 9.20.45 PM

That’s a home opener against Dallas — The first such occurrence since the 2002 season, and the earliest the teams have played since 2008.

From an emotional standpoint, it’s exciting. From a football standpoint, it’s scary. It’s scary because the Eagles have a disturbing recent trend that I don’t believe is addressed nearly enough:

They can’t beat Dallas at home.

Dallas has escaped Lincoln Financial Field with victories in three consecutive seasons. Go back all the way to 2007, and the Eagles have only held serve at home against their arch rivals twice. The average margin of victory in the past three Cowboys victories is 13.3. In other words, it hasn’t been that close.

It set the Cowboys up to win the division back in 2009 and did the same last December, this time keeping the Eagles out of the playoffs altogether. Had the Eagles won on that miserable Sunday night, they would have essentially had the NFC East wrapped up with two weeks to play. Instead, they lost their grip on the division and playoff positioning.

Had the Eagles repeated their Thanksgiving day performance and won a game that many expected them to, who knows what might have happened. Nick Foles might still be the Eagles quarterback — or maybe Mark Sanchez. Kelly, with a playoff team for two straight seasons, may never have felt the need to march into Jeffrey Lurie’s office and demand more power. Maybe LeSean McCoy would still be in midnight green and DeMarco Murray still in Dallas.

No one knows.

What we do know is that the Eagles have struggled on their home turf recently against their biggest competition for the division crown.

Week 2 presents a chance to end a losing streak that spans four seasons, three quarterbacks, and two head coaches. Given the wild offseason that could get even more crazy next Thursday, the football world will be quick to judge how the Eagles look coming out of the gate.

It’s only one game, but it sure is symbolic, and it could determine how much games a few months down the road matter.

Other Random Schedule Thoughts:

  • The Eagles are 6-2 in primetime under Chip Kelly. No qualms about opening on Monday Night in Atlanta.
  • Speaking of one of those two losses, if there’s a random game I want to win, it’s the contest against the Saints at home stemming from the playoff loss in January 2014. A faction of Eagles Twitter who never liked Nick Foles has mockingly labeled it the ‘Foles left the field with a lead’ game. After outplaying Drew Brees and leading a nice fourth quarter comeback to put the Eagles in the lead before a raucous home crowd, Foles and the Eagles offense stood on the sideline while the Saints ended their season on a field-goal at the gun. I sometimes randomly wake up in the middle of the night thinking about that game and what could have been for both Foles and the Eagles. There’s a score to settle.
  • If I had to pick an early trap game, it’s potentially Tampa Bay. It’s not that I think they’ll be good, but it’s sandwiched between a couple tough opponents and an easy chance to be looking ahead.
  • Love that there’s a bye before the second Dallas game in early November.
  • Love even more that we’re turning up on Turkey Day again, this time in Detroit.
  • While it didn’t help against Seattle last season following a mini bye after Thanksgiving, a few extra prep days for the Patriots certainly cannot hurt.

Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score When Eagles-Cowboys Concludes

If you read this post and suddenly think “hey this sounds kinda familiar,” that’s because it most likely will be. On Thanksgiving, the Eagles had a perfect gameplan and executed nearly perfectly in their 23-point beatdown of the Cowboys in Dallas.

We hit on two of our five numbers that day and came extremely close on two more as the birds embarrassed the Cowboys in front of a national audience.

Tonight they will try for a repeat with control of the NFC East one again up for grabs and the stakes even higher this time with only three regular season games remaining.

The plan will be similar: Force the Cowboys to be one-dimensional and set the edge against DeMarco Murray while getting LeSean McCoy going on offense and mixing in high percentage throws for Mark Sanchez.

Whether or not the Cowboys can adjust remains to be seen. Conventional wisdom says it will not be quite as easy for the Eagles tonight, but if it is, the box score could look somewhat similar to two and a half weeks ago.

Let’s hit the five numbers that I believe could key an Eagles victory and hope to see around midnight tonight.

  1. Less than 65 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray — Beating the Cowboys starts with beating DeMarco Murray, and the Eagles have been one of the most successful teams at beating the Cowboys recently because of their ability to beat DeMarco Murray. That was a weird sentence, wasn’t it? In his last 17 games, Murray has been held below 75 yards twice — In Week 17 against the Eagles last year (48) and on Thanksgiving (73). Tonight, I’m setting the bar at below 65. Do it, and we’ll be celebrating come midnight.
  2. Tony Romo sacked three or more times — This one is also quite simple. When sacked three or more times this season, Romo is 1-3. When dropped behind the line of scrimmage two times or less, he is 8-0. You hearing this Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, and Vinny Curry? Let’s get after it.
  3. Mark Sanchez completing at least 60 percent of his passes — In the first Eagles Cowboys game, Sanchez completed an insane 69 percent of his passes. Overall, he is 3-0 with the Eagles when surpassing the 60-percent benchmark and 1-2 when he is below that. Get there tonight, and the offense should be moving just fine.
  4. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Another trendy statistic. In games where McCoy averages more than four yards per carry, the Eagles are 5-0 this season. In games where he does not, they are 4-4. McCoy had his best game of the season on Thanksgiving with a season high 159 yards. Do it again, Shady.
  5. Jordan Matthews with at least 80 receiving yards — Matthews, like the rest of the Eagles offense, was a little quiet against Seattle last Sunday, but the rookie had a huge 27-yard touchdown reception from Sanchez in the first Cowboys game, and the middle of the field should once again be open. Sanchez loves looking Matthews’ way, and he should have every opportunity to have a big showing tonight.

As honorable mentions, I expect my dude Zach Ertz and Darren Sproles to make a few key plays tonight. So there you have it, folks. We got 65, three, 60, four, 80, and hopefully a huge home win that leaves us playing for a second consecutive NFC East title next week.

Take it away, Mr. G and Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

Sad Eagles-Seahawks Haiku

When I used to cover Penn State, I found that a few of my better game stories came after emotional losses. They were a team playing with nothing to lose. Victories were fun, but defeats were — for me at least — easy to shake off given the situation they were facing.

Unfortunately, the Eagles — my first love — produce different emotions, and trying to throw something together about that game is proving to be difficult.

Ten days ago, it felt like the Eagles were on top of the world. and the defending Super Bowl champions sent them crashing back down to earth. Thanks to a muffed punt and some gutsy play-calling by Chip Kelly, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead.

The euphoric feeling quickly evaporated though as they would only score seven more points throughout the day as Russell Wilson did Russell Wilson things en route to 24 for the Seahawks.

Some less than stellar officiating may have helped them get to 24, but the Eagles were so thoroughly dominated on the stat sheet that I don’t feel I can devote a ton of space to bashing officials without pointing out the lopsided numbers.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 8.32.35 PM

Not pictured in that screenshot is that Doug Baldwin, a rather pedestrian wide receiver, had more receiving yards than the entire Eagles team. After playing an efficient game in Dallas, Mark Sanchez never truly looked comfortable.

This was the lowest point total for the Eagles in a game since their last regular season home loss — against the Giants on October 27 last year — and it may have been the most out of sync the offense has looked since then, save for maybe the 49ers game earlier this season.

The Eagles were outplayed in a lot of areas and shown how far their quarterback and secondary play still needs to progress before they can hang with the Seahawks, and yet there are some plays and moments where it’s hard not to wonder ‘What if?’

The ineligible Seahawks lineman downfield on their first touchdown drive that wasn’t called, the ill-advised timeout with a minute remaining in the second quarter, the pass that sailed through the hands of Zach Ertz early in the fourth quarter, and last but certainly not least, the Malcolm Jenkins dropped interception later on in the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, the Eagles are EXACTLY where I expected them to be after 13 games of this season. What I did not expect is some other teams like the Cowboys and Lions to have the exact same record. The NFC playoff picture is really tight, and 9-4 doesn’t go as far as it may have in past seasons.

It is still very likely the Eagles find themselves in the NFC playoff field. It will be a near certainty should they beat Dallas again next Sunday, this time at the Linc where they are 6-1 on the season, but rather than playing for a complete division clinch and a potential inside track on a first round bye, both are a bit dicier than they would have been with a statement victory today.

Like most losses, today really sucked, but it wasn’t a death sentence, just a wake-up call, and we’ll all feel more awake after we beat Dallas at home on Sunday night next week.

Let’s hit the haiku, win the game next week, and check on the health of Nicky Foles.

Refs bad Sanchez worse

Outclassed by Russell Wilson

Trust Chip after loss

Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score when Eagles-Seahawks Concludes

Before the season, I predicted that the Eagles would head into today’s game with a 9-3 record and a 6-0 mark at home. And then I picked them to lose to the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, thinking Pete Carroll’s defense would be too much for them.

Well, sure enough, the Eagles enter this highly anticipated NFC showdown at 9-3 and undefeated at home, and the more I look at the matchup, the more I think they’re going to improve to 10-3 and 7-0 at home.

Even after holding both the Cardinals and 49ers to three points in back-to-back weeks, the Seahawks just don’t scare me that much away from CenturyLink Field. The Eagles have been lights out at the Linc this season, and I expect that to continue today.

Let’s hit the five numbers that I believe could help make it happen and hope to see in the box score as this one concludes:

  1. Less than 70 rushing yards for Marshawn Lynch — The Seahawks essentially run their offense through two players, Russell Wilson and Lynch. With Golden Tate in Detroit and Percy Harvin exiled to the Jets, that’s it. Contain them, and you win the game. Seattle is 3-3 this season in games where Lynch is held below 70 yards. They are 5-1 when he eclipses that mark. After holding the NFL’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray to a season low 73 yards on Thanksgiving, the Eagles front seven should be ready to go.
  2. At least one sack for Fletcher Cox — The third-year defensive end has a sack in three of his last four contests and had his formal coming out party in front of a national audience on Turkey Day with two tackles for loss to go with the sack. It really seems like Cox is coming into his own after battling consistency issues early on in his career. Dropping Russell Wilson one or more times today would be a great way to show that.
  3. Mark Sanchez completing at least 63 percent of his passes — After dealing with some accuracy issues and only completing 56.7 percent of his attempts against the Panthers and Seahawks, Sanchez has been on point over the past two contests going 50-for-72, equating to 69.4 percent. I don’t expect that today against the Seahawks secondary, but staying above the 60 percent mark will be key in keeping the offense moving in perhaps his toughest challenge to date.
  4. Darren Sproles returning a punt at least 20 yards — If the Eagles have a distinct advantage in one area today, it is special teams. I’m expecting an impact play from either Sproles or Huff Daddy, and ideally there will be way more Seahawks punts than Seahawks kickoffs.
  5. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Reports of McCoy’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The Eagles Pro Bowl running back has looked electric over his past two games, but the Titans and Cowboys front seven is no Seahawks. Running room will be tougher to come by today, but the Eagles are 5-1 this season when McCoy averages four or more yards per carry. Let’s make it 6-1 and push it to three straight games in a row over the century mark.

The Jeremy Maclin-Richard Sherman matchup gets an honorable mention and warrants watching as well obviously. I don’t expect Maclin to go for 150+ yards like he has three time prior this season, but he should be able to hold his own.

There you have it, folks. Seventy, one, 63, 20, four, and hopefully double digit wins and playing for a second consecutive NFC East title next Sunday night.

Fist pump away, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

Cody Parkey Kickoff Tracker and Contest: #BackInBlack Seahawks Edition

Yours truly is a bit under the weather, and Eagles rookie Cody Parkey has been dealing with a bit of a groin injury, but neither is going to stop us from our weekly contest today and another All Black Everything day at the Linc.

Ten days ago, we were blessed with Parkey facing Dan Bailey, and now he opposes arguably an even better kicker than Bailey in Steve Hauschka, and perhaps the one thing standing behind Parkey and a Pro Bowl berth.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 2.05.17 PM

Things will be incredibly interesting should today’s showdown against the defending Super Bowl champions rest on the leg of either kicker late in the contest, but ideally, the Eagles will be able to put things away before that, in part due to their rock solid special teams.

You know the drill. Let’s hit it.

Tweet at me (@drewBbalis) before kickoff today guessing the number of touchbacks Parkey has AND the Seahawks average starting field position on his kickoffs (far right column of the chart — sans brackets)

I’ll take (4, 21). 

Get your guesses in before 4:25 p.m. Don’t piss off Claude.

Updated Contest Leaderboard: 

Drew Balis — Four points

Gavin Steinhubl — Four points

Nick Rapak — 3.5 points

Cory Sprankle — Two points

Dan Spevak — Two points

Evan Kalikow — One point

Updated Stats:

  • 78 kickoffs in 12 games
  • 67 of those kickoffs in the end zone
  • 41 of those kickoffs for touchbacks
  • Average opponent starting field position of 21.09

Your chart will of course be updated throughout the game.

Game # Opponent Kickoff Number End zone Touchback Starting Field Position  Average Starting Field Position 
1 Jaguars 1 Yes Yes 20 20
1 Jaguars 2 Yes No 13 16.5
1 Jaguars 3 Yes Yes 20 17.67
1 Jaguars 4 Yes Yes 20 18.25
1 Jaguars 5 Yes Yes 20 18.6
1 Jaguars 6 Yes Yes 20 18.83
1 Jaguars 7 Yes No 13 18
2 Colts 1 Yes Yes 20 [18.25], 20
2 Colts 2 No No 27 [19.2] 23.5
2 Colts 3 Yes No 27 [20] 24.67
2 Colts 4 Yes Yes 20 [20] 23.5
2 Colts 5 Yes Yes 20 [20] 22.8
2 Colts 6 Yes Yes 20 [20] 22.33
3 Redskins 1 Yes No 18 [19.86] 18
3 Redskins 2 Yes No 13 [19.4] 15.5
3 Redskins 3 Yes Yes 20 [19.43] 17
3 Redskins 4 No No 41 [20.71] 23
3 Redskins 5 Yes Yes 20 [20.67] 22.4
3 Redskins 6 Yes Yes 20 [20.63] 22
3 Redskins 7 Yes Yes 20 [20.6] 21.71
3 Redskins 8 Yes Yes 20 [20.57] 21.5
4 49ers 1 Yes No 20 [20.55] 20
4 49ers 2 No No 22 [20.61] 21
4 49ers 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.58] 20.67
4 49ers 4 Yes Yes 20 [20.56] 20.5
5 Rams 1 Yes Yes 20 [20.54] 20
5 Rams 2 Yes No 26 [20.74] 23
5 Rams 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.71] 22
5 Rams 4 Yes No 24 [20.83] 22.5
5 Rams 5 Yes No 18 [20.73] 21.6
5 Rams 6 Yes No 21 [20.74] 21.5
5 Rams 7 Yes No 21 [20.75} 21.43
6 Giants 1 Yes Yes 20 [20.73] 20
6 Giants 2 Yes Yes 20 [20.71] 20
6 Giants 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.69] 20
6 Giants 4 Yes Yes 20 [20.67] 20
6 Giants 5 Yes No 24 [20.76] 20.8
6 Giants 6 Yes No 24 [20.84] 21.33
7 Cardinals 1 Yes Yes 20 [20.82] 20
7 Cardinals 2 Yes Yes 20 [20.80] 20
7 Cardinals 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.78] 20
7 Cardinals 4 Yes Yes 20 [20.76] 20
7 Cardinals 5 Yes Yes 20 [20.74] 20
8 Texans 1 Yes Yes 20 [20.72] 20
8 Texans 2 Yes No 8 [20.44] 14
8 Texans 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.43] 16
8 Texans 4 Yes Yes 20 [20.42] 17
8 Texans 5 Yes No 6 [20.16] 14.8
9 Panthers 1 No No 19 [20.13] 19
9 Panthers 2 Yes No 31 [20.36] 25
9 Panthers 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.35] 23.33
9 Panthers 4 Yes Yes 20 [20.34] 22.5
9 Panthers 5 Yes Yes 20 [20.33] 22
9 Panthers 6 Yes Yes 20 [20.33] 21.67
9 Panthers 7 Yes Yes 20 [20.32] 21.43
9 Panthers 8 Yes No 37 [20.61] 23.38
10 Packers 1 No No 16 [20.53] 16
10 Packers 2 No No 20 [20.52] 18
10 Packers 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.51] 18.67
10 Packers 4 No No 22 [20.54] 19.5
11 Titans 1 Yes No 17 [20.48] 17
11 Titans 2 Yes No 42 [20.83] 29.5
11 Titans 3 Yes No 25 [20.90] 28
11 Titans 4 Yes No 19 [20.89] 25.75
11 Titans 5 Yes Yes 20 [20.85] 24.6
11 Titans 6 Yes No 16 [20.78] 23.17
11 Titans 7 Yes Yes 20 [20.77] 22.71
11 Titans 8 Yes No 22 [20.79] 22.63
11 Titans 9 No No 21 [20.79] 22.44
11 Titans 10 Yes Yes 20 [20.77] 22.20
12 Cowboys 1 Yes Yes 20 [20.77] 20
12 Cowboys 2 No No 33 [20.94] 26.5
12 Cowboys 3 Yes Yes 20 [20.92] 24.33
12 Cowboys 4 Yes No 23 [20.95] 24
12 Cowboys 5 Yes No 24 [20.99] 24
12 Cowboys 6 No No 23 [21.02] 23.83
12 Cowboys 7 No No 35 [21.2] 25.43
12 Cowboys 8 Yes No 13 [21.09] 23.88
13 Seahawks 1 No No 23 [21.11] 23
13 Seahawks 2 No No 18 [21.08] 20.5
13 Seahawks 3 Yes No 9 [20.93] 16.67

Sunday Morning Haiku and Trying to Stomach Rooting for the Patriots

(Screenshot via NFL.com)

Morning, folks.

As you’re well aware, the Eagles do not play today following Thursday’s Thanksgiving beatdown of Dallas. If you need a break from Sunday stress, you have a one week respite.

If you’re anxious to get back at it like me, there are other games you can keep an eye on that will impact the jumbled playoff picture in the NFC.

The two games in particular to hone in on are the Falcons hosting the Cardinals at 4 p.m., and even more importantly, the Packers hosting the Patriots slated for a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

The Eagles currently lead the Packers by half a game, but the Packers of course have the tiebreaker over the birds after a blowout victory in Lambeau two weeks ago.

I actually think the Cardinals could lose a few more games. They have only scored 17 combined points in their past two games and have a tough stretch against the NFC West coming up.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.19.43 AM

The Packers on the other hand, have a pretty favorable schedule following their date with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick today.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.21.35 AM

The Eagles at some point need to get ahead of them by a game in order to avoid a potential January date in Lambeau, and the Patriots might be their way of doing it.

For a multitude of reasons, it is hard to root for the Patriots, but to make the Eagles path to the Super Bowl easier, that is the task today.

Enjoy today before Seahawks week, and a fantastic matchup between my favorite coach in sports (Chip Kelly) and my third favorite coach in sports (Pete Carroll).

Past history be damned. Root for the Patriots if you can stomach it, and don’t get too used to Sundays without Eagles football. Aside from a Week 16 Saturday game in D.C., we’ll hopefully be going all the way through the first day of February.

Let’s hit the haiku:

Super Bowl champs loom

As playoff picture takes shape

Go Patriots Go

The Eagles-Cowboys Showdown is Important Today But Contrary to What Any National Narrative Might Suggest It Won’t Necessarily Decide the NFC East

By the time I finish writing this post, kickoff between the Eagles and Cowboys with first place in the division on the line will be less than nine hours away.

We’re getting closer, but that’s still a ton of time for more hype to be generated about the Thanksgiving matchup. This game has been circled on the slate for many since the schedule was released in late April, but the circumstances are a bit different than most expected, certainly a contrast to what I anticipated.

Yes, the Eagles head to Dallas with the exact same record as I thought they would at 8-3, but the Cowboys are also a surprising 8-3 when many picked them to win only five or six games. I like to think my predictions have been mostly decent, but Dallas right now, pending a ridiculous collapse that I don’t think even they are capable of, appears to be the big miss right now.

If you told me in August that the Eagles would head into this game 8-3, I would have told you that they would have the NFC East virtually clinched already, but they don’t, and despite what anyone tells you to create excitement, neither team will be that close to winning it as people loosen their belts tonight and settle in for Seahawks-49ers.

Today’s contest is no doubt important, and whichever team does win will have a bit of an easier path to the division crown, but unlike the Week 17 virtual playoff games in 2008 and 2013, this isn’t a do or die type of deal.

I do think though, that the Eagles head into today with a bit of a long-term advantage over Dallas. Let’s examine why:

These are the current NFC East standings:

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Take a look at that seventh column from the left there — The division record one.

You will see that the Eagles are undefeated in the division at 2-0 while Dallas sits at 2-1 after dropping a home game to Washington exactly one month ago to the day. That is so significant because if the teams split their two games and finish with the exact same record, it will be the first tiebreaker used to decide the division winner.

Below are both teams’ remaining schedules, with the Eagles first and the Cowboys below them.

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Discounting the two games against each other in a three week span, the Eagles common opponents have a combined record of 13-20 while the Cowboys face teams with a cumulative record of 15-18.

Since the Eagles have not yet lost within the division, they could split their two games with Dallas, win all of the others, and take the division at 12-4. The same does not hold true for Dallas. Going 4-1 down the stretch would certainly put them in the playoffs, but if the Eagles matched them and took a game from them, they get the NFC East crown, a home playoff game, and quite possibly a first round bye.

Such a scenario would have the Eagles with a 5-1 record in the division while Dallas would only be 4-2.

How realistic is it to expect the Eagles to win all three games against the Seahawks, Redskins, and Giants?

That is up to your interpretation. They have already defeated the latter two at home, and Seattle looks like a much different team away from CenturyLink Field, currently holding a 2-3 road record.

The Eagles have not been road juggernauts this season though, also holding a 2-3 record away from Lincoln Financial Field. The Giants and Redskins are certainly not the 49ers, Cardinals, or Packers, but playing back-to-back NFC East road games late in the season is never a slam dunk, even against squads who have packed it in.

In stark contrast to the Eagles, the Cowboys are undefeated on the road and currently hold a 3-3 home record. Three of their last four games after today will be played elsewhere, but that might not be so bad if you think their strong road play holds up.

We have examined a lot of hypothetical scenarios, but quite honestly, the Eagles path to the division is in theory quite simple:

Win at least one game against Dallas and don’t lose any others.

How you feel about things over the next month ultimately depends on how you feel about different elements of the Eagles right now. Do you trust Chip Kelly down the stretch? I sure do and personally think you should, especially with extra time to prepare for the Seahawks. Do you trust Mark Sanchez to beat Dallas at least once if Nicky Foles isn’t back in two and a half weeks? That answer might be a bit more dicey for some.

I am not intentionally trying to downplay today’s matchup. It should be fun. It may be stressful, and like a lot of you, I will probably be doing battle with a food coma right before kickoff from eating an early dinner.

It may seem like I am cautioning you against a letdown throughout this post, but I actually think the Eagles are going to win 30-27. Provided Mark Sanchez can exorcise some demons of Thanksgiving past and not turn the ball over more than once or twice, the birds should be able to move the ball against a better than expected but still somewhat vulnerable Dallas defense and contain DeMarco Murray.

Just keep things in perspective. If we’re celebrating a huge road victory tonight, the Eagles will be in a prime position to repeat as NFC East champions, and I’ll be pumped as all hell, but don’t panic and go jumping off the Walt Whitman in a tryptophan induced rage should things not go right.

The national narrative might be that the winner today gets the division, but either way, there is a lot more work to be done.

Eagles Crush the Titans Haiku

That did not quite have the euphoric feeling that the Week 16 contest against the Bears brought last season, but for a 1 p.m. kick against a bad AFC team, it was pretty good.

After what has been mostly a miserable rookie year, Josh Huff took the opening kickoff to the house, and while the Titans — with a little help from the officials — hung around for a half, the Eagles never looked back, leading by at least six points from start to finish.

Watching a game live doesn’t lend to the best analysis, and quite honestly, I’m not sure a ton can be learned from what transpired today. In many ways, it was another case of the Eagles beating up on a bad team before they get tested by a better one in a few days.

Give the birds credit for bringing it though more or less from start to finish. It would have been easy to overlook and be unprepared for this game, a bad characteristic of Andy Reid coached teams that led to some of the miserable recent history against the Titans, but aside from two ill-advised interceptions by Mark Sanchez, the Eagles played a mostly mistake free 60 minutes of football.

LeSean McCoy had one of his best games of the season, and Jordan Matthews continued his strong rapport with Sanchez. Cody Parkey’s streak of 17 consecutive made field goals ended, but he quickly started a new one with three second half kicks.

The secondary and linebackers had a few too many breakdowns in coverage but held Zach Mettenberger to a 51.2 completion percentage. Connor Barwin and Trent Cole balled out.

Mychal Kendricks is really good. Marcus Smith is really bad.

The biggest positive of the day had to be getting the running game going as McCoy and Darren Sproles both scored touchdowns and more importantly averaged more than four yards per carry. Whichever team runs the ball more effectively could very well be the key factor in Thursday’s showdown in Dallas, and McCoy heading into that tilt feeling good can only help.

Sanchez still requires a ‘wait and let’s see him play against better teams and defenses’ approach. His accuracy was improved, but he seems a lot more comfortable throwing on the run than standing in the pocket and delivering good passes. His two interceptions were worse than most of the picks thrown by Nick Foles, and this brings his total to six in less than four games.

Sanchez is certainly good enough to beat bad teams, but the Eagles only face two more bad teams on their schedule between the Redskins and Giants. To get the birds to where they want to be, he’ll need to beat the Cowboys at least once and the Seahawks.

Elements of Thursday scare me. Tony Romo against Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher really scares me. The game looks a lot more daunting than I anticipated before the season, but Dallas certainly looks beatable tonight so far.

Let’s hit the haiku, keep rooting for the Giants, and hopefully have sole possession of first place by midnight.

Huff Daddy rises

Jordan Matthews shines again

Ten straight at the Linc