Tag Archives: Mark Sanchez

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

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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

#BirdDay Statement and Sole Possession of First Haiku

That was awesome.

What a gameplan by Chip Kelly and Billy Davis. What an opening drive. What a game.

Aside from what turned out to be a harmless LeSean McCoy fumble in the third quarter, the Eagles just dominated their NFC East rival in their house for all of the nation to see.

Mark Sanchez exorcised his demons of Thanksgiving past and outplayed Tony Romo, who admittedly entered today having a terrific year.

McCoy more than doubled DeMarco Murray’s output on the ground, as the Cowboys running back was held to a season low 73 rushing yards.

Jeremy Maclin at one point had more receiving yards than the entire Cowboys team and outperformed Dez Bryant.

Chip Kelly was miles ahead of Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli throughout the afternoon.

We can nitpick and point at the Eagles red zone struggles. That is a legitimate concern, and the attempted fade pass to Riley Cooper seemed like a real odd call towards the end of the first half, but honestly, I’m too excited right now to get into that.

The Eagles are now 3-0 in the division while Dallas is 2-2. As I wrote earlier this morning, today would not decide the division, but the Eagles now sit in a prime position to repeat as NFC East champs. A win two and a half weeks from now at Lincoln Financial Field, where they are 6-0 this season, against the Cowboys, would just about clinch things.

There is more I want to write, and if time permits, I will dive into some deeper and more analytical things tomorrow and Saturday, but we’ll worry about that in a little while.

Happy Thanksgiving, Philadelphia, let’s hit the haiku.

Bird Day in Big D 

Sole possession of first place

Tasty Cowboys tears 

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

I would be lying if I said I had a great feel for what is about to transpire later today as the Eagles and Cowboys do battle down in Texas with the winner at least temporarily claiming sole possession of first place in the NfC East.

I was pretty sure the Eagles would lose to the Packers 11 days ago, and I was certain they would win last Sunday, but this one is really tough to pin down.

While I have gone back and forth throughout the week, I am on record in another post this morning as picking the Eagles 30-27, and here are five numbers I hope to see that could get them there:

  1. Less than 60 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray — The Cowboys running back already has 268 carries over 11 games. Last year, he only had 217 in 14 games. Dallas will try to pound him to make things easier and more balanced for Tony Romo and company, but the Eagles run defense should hopefully be up to the task. In 17 of his last 18 games, Murray has rushed for at least 63 yards. The one game he didn’t? The season finale last year against the Eagles where he only ran for 48 yards on 17 carries.
  2. Tony Romo sacked more than two times — In 10 starts this season, the Cowboys quarterback is 7-0 when sacked two times or less and 1-2 when sacked three or more times. You hearing this Connor Barwin? The Eagles pass rush will have to be much better than it was two weeks ago against Aaron Rodgers when the Packers signal caller had all day to throw, but getting to Romo and his bad back a few times could go a long way.
  3. Josh Huff returning a kickoff 35 yards or more — After what has been a tough rookie season featuring a shoulder injury and some rough mistakes, Huff Daddy rose up last week and took the opening kickoff to the house against the Titans. Expecting that again today might be a bit much, but if Huff can have a couple decent returns that shorten the field for Sanchez and the Eagles offense, it would be a big help. A shorter field means less hypothetical throws to make mistakes on before reaching the end zone.
  4. Mark Sanchez only throwing one interception — As usual, I am budgeting at least one interception for Sanchez, because well, that’s what he has done throughout his career, but any more than that could swing this game in the Cowboys favor. One of the picks last Sunday may have been more Riley Cooper’s fault than the responsibility of the quarterback, but for however much longer he holds this job, Sanchez has to start doing a better job taking care of the football for the Eagles to have success against some of the upcoming teams on their schedule.
  5. At least 80 receiving yards for Jordan Matthews — This might seem like a high expectation to put on a rookie, but in his last three games with Sanchez, Matthews has posted 138, 107, and 77 yards respectively with no less than five catches in each game. There is no reason that strong rapport shouldn’t continue today, and the Eagles will be in great shape if it does should this one turn into the shootout many expect.

There you have it, folks. Sixty, two, 35, one, 80, and hopefully a huge road victory go along with delicious food.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Let’s win another big game in Dallas.

Take it away, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.21.33 AM

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.21.47 AM

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