Thursday, December 31, 2009

Leighton to start in net for Flyers in Winter Classic

Quite a life Michael Leighton is leading these days, huh? Since being scooped up off the trash pile two weeks ago by the Flyers, the journeyman goaltender has made a big impact, going 4-0 with a 1.70 goals against average. While I wouldn't expect the hot streak to last and he will likely be sent packing once Ray Emery is healthy, Leighton certainly is making the most of his limited opportunity with the Flyers.

Leighton, coming off a shutout of the Rangers yesterday, has even been announced as the starter in net for the Flyers in the Winter Classic against the Bruins. There was plenty of talk that Brian Boucher would be the man in net, seeing as how he is from Rhode Island, but Leighton definitely deserves the nod with how he has played.

Leighton will even be wearing a special Winter Classic mask, one that features the city of Philadelphia and the Winter Classic logo. This image via John Boruk of CSN's Twitter:

Phillies to sign reliever Danys Baez

And the Phillies busy offseason continues. After the trade for Roy Halladay and the signings of Placido Polanco, Juan Castro, Ross Gload and Brian Schneider, the Phillies still had one more area of the team to take care of: the bullpen. According to Jon Heyman on Twitter, the Phillies have made their first move in shoring up the bullpen: they will sign right-handed reliever Danys Baez.

Baez, who has played for the Indians, Rays, Dodgers, Braves and Orioles in his 8 year career, is a former closer turned set-up man. He played for the Orioles in 2009 and had a solid year, posting an ERA of 4.02 and a WHIP of 1.13 in 71 innings of work. Baez was a closer from '02-'05, saving over 100 games and even made the 2005 All Star team.

The years and value of the contract are not known at this point but as long as the Phillies didn't break the bank, Baez is an excellent signing. He will likely be a 7th inning guy for the Phillies, replacing Chan Ho Park, who won't be coming back. With this signing, the Phillies bullpen is nearly complete. With Brad Lidge closing, Ryan Madson coming in for the 8th inning, Baez and J.C. Romero for the 7th, Chad Durbin for the 6th and Clay Condrey likely coming back, the Phillies are just a second lefty out of the pen short of a complete bullpen. While I had assumed the Phillies would still pursue a lefty option via free agency, Phrontiersman, via Twitter, pointed out that the Phillies would be smarter to give Sergio Escalona and Antonio Bastardo first crack at the job.

Danys Baez will make a solid addition to the Phillies bullpen. He will provide them with less versatility than Chan Ho Park in that he won't often go multiple innings but he will still be solid in the set-up role. Baez was signed with the money the Phillies got from the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay trade, so I would call this a good use of money. Your 2010 Phillies are shaping up very nicely for a return trip to the World Series.

Bring on the playoffs: NFL Week 17 Predictions

With playoff spots and playoff positioning still on the line, here are my picks for Week 17. At the end of the picks, I will break down what the playoff match-ups will look like if everything goes as I predict.

Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.

Record Last Week: 10-6, .625
Overall Record: 164-76, .683

Sunday Early Games:

Colts (14-1) @ Bills (5-10) With the number one seed already sewn up, I would assume that the Colts won't let Peyton Manning play more than 2 quarters in this one. While the Colts could easily get a 3 touchdown lead against the Bills in the first half, Curtis Painter has shown that he can't hold a lead if his life depended on it. My pick: Bills

Jaguars (7-8) @ Browns (4-11) The Jaguars need a ton of help to get into the playoffs but they won't know if they are going to get that help until after their game is over. The Browns have been playing well recently but I don't think they will be able to slow down Maurice Jones-Drew. My pick: Jaguars

Bears (6-9) @ Lions (2-13) I've never rooted harder for the Bears than I did last week in their epic Monday Night game against the Vikings. Boy, that Jay Cutler sure is a roller coaster, isn't he? My pick: Bears

Niners (7-8) @ Rams (1-14) One of these teams hasn't quit despite being well out of the playoff picture. The other team wants to wrap up their number one pick in the draft so they are starting a no-name quarterback and resting their Pro Bowl running back. My pick: Niners

Steelers (8-7) @ Dolphins (7-8) The Steelers seem to think they are going back to the playoffs to defend their championship. Has no one told them they need some serious help to get back in? Perhaps they should have actually shown up against the Browns a few weeks back. I'm still waiting for them to "unleash hell". My pick: Steelers

Giants (8-7) @ Vikings (11-4) Which team has faded worse this season? The Vikings collapse from certain number 2 seed to hopeful number 3 seed has been remarkable. Perhaps this Brett Favre guy isn't as good as everyone in the media says? At least his team hasn't punted on the season like the Giants have. My pick: Vikings

Falcons (8-7) @ Bucs (3-12) Give the Bucs credit for not packing it in and going for the number one pick in the draft. I think the "magic" runs out this week, however, when the Falcons finish their season with a strong 9-7 record. My pick: Falcons

Saints (13-2) @ Panthers (7-8) It's hard to say what the Saints will do in this game but I don't see them playing all of their starters the entire game when they have the number one seed wrapped up. The way they are struggling, however, it wouldn't surprise me to see Drew Brees in there late in the 3rd quarter. As for the Panthers, I think they continue their hot play and get themselves to .500. My pick: Panthers

Patriots (10-5) @ Texans (8-7) Bill Belichick loves to stick it to teams so you can bet he will try to roll the Texans right out of the playoff picture. Count on all the starters playing for the Pats because if they don't sit during an undefeated season, why would they sit here? My pick: Patriots

Sunday Late Games:

Eagles (11-4) @ Cowboys (10-5) As if an Eagles/Cowboys match-up needs any extra hype, this one is not only for the NFC East, the Eagles are also looking to lock up a first round bye. There are a ton of great match-ups in this one, from Asante Samuel against Miles Austin to the banged-up Eagles o-line against the solid Cowboys d-line. I expect this one to resemble the Giants/Eagles game from a few weeks back with teams scoring touchdowns back and forth and the last team with the ball will very likely win. As long as Donovan McNabb doesn't throw 10 passes into the dirt, I like the Eagles to move the ball at will against Dallas. If the Eagles defense can just find a way to get some pressure on Tony Romo, we know how easily he will crumble. The Eagles always beat the Cowboys at the end of the season, it's just tradition at this point. My pick: Eagles

Packers (10-5) @ Cardinals (10-5) If you have any clue what will happen in this game, you are a smarter man than I. If the Vikings win against the Giants, this game should be a battle of the backups. If the Vikings lose, Arizona would have an outside shot at the number 2 seed in the NFC and they would play to win. Of course, the most likely scenario is that these teams will play each other in the first round of the playoffs so neither will want to show anything this weekend. I'll go with the home team. My pick: Cardinals

Redskins (4-11) @ Chargers (12-3) I don't care who plays or doesn't play for the Chargers, the Redskins have given up. They want a new coach and losing this game will help show Jim Zorn the door. My pick: Chargers

Titans (7-8) @ Seahawks (5-10) Much like the Redskins, the Seahawks have given up on 2009. The Titans, on the other hand, even though they have been eliminated, have proven they will play hard no matter what. My pick: Titans

Ravens (8-7) @ Raiders (5-10) If the Ravens win, they are in. The Raiders played spoiler last year against the Bucs but I don't see it this year. Ray Rice should go off and carry the Ravens to victory. My pick: Ravens

Chiefs (3-12) @ Broncos (8-7) The Broncos will win this game but they won't know their fate until the Jets play later in the day. You can bet everyone in Denver will be huge Bengals fans for the day. My pick: Broncos

Sunday Night Game:

Bengals (10-5) @ Jets (8-7) The Bengals will have nothing to play for at this point in the day, which will just anger fans in Denver. These two teams will very likely play again next week so neither will want to show everything, though the Jets will need to show enough to win their way into the playoffs. My pick: Jets

NFC Playoffs:
Byes: (1) Saints, (2) Eagles
First Round Match-ups: (6) Cowboys @ (3) Vikings, (5) Packers @ (4) Cardinals

AFC Playoffs:
Byes: (1) Colts, (2) Chargers
First Round Match-ups: (6) Ravens @ (3) Patriots, (5) Jets @ (4) Bengals

Those are my picks for Week 17 of the NFL Season. Check back every Thursday during the postseason for my playoff predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comment section!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eagles to send 6 to 2010 Pro Bowl (maybe)

The initial Pro Bowl rosters were announced today and the Eagles are going to be well-represented in Miami. As of now, six Eagles have made the NFC team: K David Akers, DE Trent Cole, WR/KR DeSean Jackson, T Jason Peters, CB Asante Samuel and FB Leonard Weaver. Each player, with the possible exception of Peters, is very deserving of a spot and was basically a lock to make the team. Jackson was so good that he even made it for two positions, something that has never happened before.

It's hard to argue that the Eagles should have more players in the Pro Bowl, but a case can be made for Sheldon Brown. Brown has had an excellent year and would certainly be the first cornerback to make the team should one of the current NFC CB's get injured. A case could also be made for Brent Celek and even Donovan McNabb, but both were hurt by playing at positions filled with a ton of talent. Many players end up dropping out of the Pro Bowl so I wouldn't be surprised if an Eagle or two gets added in the coming weeks.

Of course, if all goes well, none of the Eagles will play in the Pro Bowl. Remember, the Pro Bowl is being played the weekend before the Super Bowl during the "dead week", so if the Eagles make the Super Bowl none of their players would play for the NFC. I'm sure they wouldn't be too disappointed if they don't get to suit up for the Pro Bowl.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Eagles are one win away from a first round bye

Thanks to an incredible performance on Monday Night by the Chicago Bears, your Philadelphia Eagles are now one win away from the Number 2 seed in the NFC. The Bears knocked off the Vikings, 36-30 in overtime, to drop Minnesota to 11-4, the same record as the Eagles.

Now, if the Eagles knock off the Cowboys next week, not only do they win the NFC East, they also get a first round bye. And you thought the game next weekend couldn't get any bigger!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eagles lose Jamaal Jackson for the season

The plight of the Eagles offensive line continues. Just when the group started to gain some consistency and develop some real chemistry, they lose their anchor: center Jamaal Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Jackson, who had started 70 straight regular season games, injured his leg yesterday in the win over the Broncos. An MRI today revealed the tear that will keep him out until at least the preseason next year.

While Jackson is their best offensive lineman, the Eagles do fortunately have some quality depth along the offensive line. Nick Cole will move from right guard to center and should be solid there. Starting at right guard will likely be Max Jean-Gilles, although Andy Reid has already said that the much beleaguered Stacy Andrews could see some time there as well. Andrews has been a major disappointment this year and has been a healthy scratch for the last few weeks. Him getting his act together would go a long way towards the Eagles not missing Jackson that much.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eagles wake up just in time to edge Broncos

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)
I seem to say it every week but, eventually, the Eagles inability to play 4 solid quarters of football will hurt them. Fortunately for them, when the Eagles aren't napping, they are one of the best teams in the league. Despite taking most of the second half off, it didn't stop the Eagles from winning their 6th game in a row against the Broncos, 30-27.

The game was truly a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Eagles offense dominated the Broncos, moving the ball at will as the Birds cruised to a 20-7 lead. Donovan McNabb was about as good as he could be, passing for nearly 250 yards and two touchdowns against a Broncos secondary that was one of the best in the league coming into the game. McNabb favorite target when the offense was clicking was Brent Celek, who he hooked up with on several big plays, including a 47 yard touchdown. The defense also played solid, keeping the Broncos receivers in front of them and not allowing Kyle Orton to get Denver going downfield at all.

The second half was a completely different story as the Eagles flubbed and fumbled away their lead, allowing the Broncos to fight back into the game and tie it up at 27 late in the 4th quarter. Fumbles by McNabb and Macho Harris coupled with a bad pick by McNabb put the Eagles on their heels. The passing game lost most of the magic that it had early in the game as McNabb made a series of poor decisions but managed to come to life at just the right time as a Jeremy Maclin catch along the sidelines led to a game-winning David Akers field goal in the waning seconds of the game.

Despite complaints about their inconsistent play, Eagles fans should be happy with the result. The Eagles knocked off a tough AFC opponent that needed to win to get closer to the playoffs. Yes, they didn't play a perfect game, but the Eagles have shown they can come up with just enough plays to win the close ones. With a showdown with Dallas with the NFC East on the line next week, the Eagles will need to put together a complete game if they want to ensure a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, if this team could just put together 60 minutes of football...

Eagles/Broncos Inactives: Westbrook, Maclin back

The Eagles and Broncos announced their inactive players for their Week 16 match-up:

Eagles: OL Stacy Andrews, WR Kevin Curtis, DB Quintin Demps, DT Trevor Laws, OL Mike McGlynn, CB Geoffrey Pope, TE Martin Rucker, QB Michael Vick

Broncos: DL Chris Baker, QB Tom Brandstater, S Vernon Fox, RB LaMont Jordan, FB Spencer Larsen, CB Ty Law, G Seth Olsen, WR Eddie Royal

The biggest news in this game is that both Brian Westbrook and Jeremy Maclin are back for the Eagles. I would expect Westbrook to get very limited action, possibly 5 touches or so. WR Kevin Curtis is back to being inactive after making a comeback last week, perhaps he suffered a setback in his recovery. Also not playing for the Eagles is Michael Vick, who was injured last week. Vick could still be used as the emergency quarterback but Kevin Kolb is the backup for today.

As for the Broncos, Eddie Royal is their biggest name on the inactive list. Royal is a big threat in the return game so Denver will miss him there.

It's a big game for the Eagles this week, both for playoff scenarios and for the return of Brian Dawkins. While I miss Weapon X as much as the next fan, I hope the Eagles torch him all day today. GO BIRDS!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Halladays from All Things Philly Sports!

Santa Roy and Amaro the Elf have already given us all a great Christmas gift! Enjoy the holidays, ATPS readers!

NFL Week 16 Predictions

What a great time of the year, not only do we have the holiday's but we also have the NFL Playoffs right around the corner! While the NFC is basically decided except for the positioning, the AFC is still a mess of 7-7 teams looking to sneak into the postseason. With so many teams still in the mix, we should have a fun final two weeks.

Here are my picks for Week 16 of the NFL season. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.

Record Last Week: 10-6, .625
Overall Record: 154-70, .688

Friday Night Game:

Chargers (11-3) @ Titans (7-7) The only team hotter than our Eagles is the Chargers. Everyone keeps assuming that the Colts will just keep rolling right into the Super Bowl but you can't forget that the Chargers have owned Indy the last few years. The Titans unlikely playoff run officially ends this week. My pick: Chargers

Sunday Day Games:

Bills (5-9) @ Falcons (7-7) Whether Matt Ryan plays in this one or not, the Falcons will win. Mostly because the Bills will be starting third string QB Brian Brohm in this one. Yikes. My pick: Falcons

Chiefs (3-11) @ Bengals (9-5) The Bengals played inspired football last week and nearly knocked off the Chargers. They could be in for a nice playoff run as they play for the memory of Chris Henry. My pick: Bengals

Raiders (5-9) @ Browns (3-11) Hey, the Raiders aren't that terrible after all! After they win this one and then lose to the Ravens next week, their 6-10 record will actually look fairly respectable. If they can just get rid of JaMarcus Russell, they could be a .500 team. My pick: Raiders

Seahawks (5-9) @ Packers (9-5) It's looking more and more likely that the Packers will be facing the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs in Arizona. Aaron Rodgers should be salivating, he will have a field day throwing against the Cardinal secondary. My pick: Packers

Ravens (8-6) @ Steelers (7-7) There are a ton of playoff implications in this game. If the Steelers can knock off the Ravens and bring them back towards the pack, the AFC playoff picture becomes incredibly muddled, especially if/when the Eagles beat the Broncos. I'm all for muddle. My pick: Steelers

Texans (7-7) @ Dolphins (7-7) Win and you keep your slim hopes alive, lose and you are done. The Texans never win games when they absolutely have to. The Dolphins should run all over them. My pick: Dolphins

Jaguars (7-7) @ Patriots (9-5) Goodbye, Jaguars, from the AFC playoff picture. I still can't believe they were ever in the mix. My pick: Patriots

Bucs (2-12) @ Saints (13-1) This is a nice bounce-back game for the Saints. Look for the offense to get right against Tampa Bay. The loss to Dallas will end up doing more good for the Saints than harm. My pick: Saints

Panthers (6-8) @ Giants (8-6) The Giants offense has looked really good the last few weeks, you have to credit Eli Manning for putting to rest all the talk about how bad he is when the weather gets cold. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if he reverted to his old self in this one. With a slight playoff shot left, you have to expect the G-men will play inspired football. Too little, too late, though. My pick: Giants

Rams (1-13) @ Cardinals (9-5) Congrats on having the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Rams. Too bad with one pick you can't draft a quarterback and a wide receiver. And an offensive line. And a secondary. My pick: Cardinals

Lions (2-12) @ Niners (6-8) With a game against Detroit this week and the Rams next week, the Niners should finish the season at .500. Good for them! My pick: Niners

Broncos (8-6) @ Eagles (10-4) A lot of people seem to have mixed emotions about the return of Brian Dawkins. Look, I wish the guy finished off his career in Philadelphia, too, but would the Birds really be better with him? Would they have 11 wins now instead of 10? Regardless, the guy deserves a standing ovation from us and then the Eagles need to burn him for a few touchdowns so we won't miss him anymore. With the Cowboys playing the Redskins, this is basically a must-win for the Eagles. My pick: Eagles

Jets (7-7) @ Colts (14-0) I've heard a few people mention this: if the Jets want to win and stay in the playoff hunt, they need to hit Peyton Manning early and often and force the Colts to take him out of the game. It won't make a difference, though, the Colts will build themselves a nice lead and coast in the second half. My pick: Colts

Sunday Night Game:

Cowboys (9-5) @ Redskins (4-10) Nice of the Cowboys to get a gift game at this time of the year. Come on, Redskins, you know you have one last fight in you! My pick: Cowboys

Monday Night Game:

Vikings (11-3) @ Bears (5-9) More Brett Favre drama! Wow! All I know is that the rest of the NFC shouldn't be fearing the Vikings as much as they did a few weeks ago. They are slipping and it isn't all Favre's fault. My pick: Vikings

Those are my picks for Week 16 of the NFL Season. Check back every Thursday during the season for the latest predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comment section!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Eagles fans pelt Niners fans with snowballs

I know this doesn't help the rep of us Philly fans but I gotta share this video from yesterday's game of Eagles fans pelting two poor, helpless Niners fans with snowballs:

What else should you expect if you wear the opposing team's jersey to the Linc?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eagles hold off Niners to clinch playoff spot

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)
One of these days the Eagles will have to play 4 full quarters of football. Luckily, against mediocre teams like the Niners, when the Eagles take the 3rd quarter off it doesn't come back to bite them. I guess we should be happy with the bottom line: the Eagles clinched a playoff berth with their 27-13 win over the Niners on Sunday.

It was an uneven game for the Eagles offensively as they looked unstoppable at times and completely out of sync in others. They started strong, taking the opening drive right down the field for a quick 7 points, but later stalled as Donovan McNabb made his usual array of underthrows and wild passes. Sure, McNabb completed passes to 8 different receivers and managed 300 yards of passing, but his 2 interceptions and poor decision-making could have been damaging if the Niners were a better team that was better equipped to take advantage of miscues.

Luckily, the Eagles remembered their recipe for offensive success just in time: get the ball to DeSean Jackson. Jackson had yet another big game, catching 6 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also added a 9 yard rush for good measure. Getting the ball to DeSean as many times as possible in as many ways possible should be priority number one for the Eagles. He is easily the Eagles offensive MVP with the way he can score any time he touches the ball. I would hate to see what the Eagle offense would look like without Jackson.

While the Eagles offense had their struggles, the Eagles defense was mostly solid throughout. Sure, they allowed Frank Gore to become the first running back to get 100 yards rushing against them this season, but they also attacked Niners QB Alex Smith early and often, forcing him into three picks, several wild throws and numerous throw-aways. Most importantly, whenever the Eagles offense failed to convert on 4th down or turned the ball over, the defense was there to make a big play to keep the Niners from clawing their way back into the game.

With the win, the Eagles clinched a playoff spot and remained in first place in the NFC East. With the Cowboys knocking off the Saints yesterday, the Eagles had to win this game to stay one step ahead of Dallas in their quest for a home game in the first round. Everything appears to be setting up for a Week 17 clash between the Cowboys and Eagles with the NFC East on the line. If the Eagles want to win that game and if they want to do anything in the playoffs, they are going to have to play 60 minutes of football. Mental lapses and offensive lulls just aren't going to cut it against the best teams in the league. This team has just as much talent as any in the NFL, if they put it all together and they keep getting the ball to the uncoverable DeSean Jackson, they are going to be very hard to knock off.

Eagles/Niners Inactives: Kevin Curtis is back

The Eagles and Niners announced their inactive players for their Week 15 game:

Eagles: OL Stacy Andrews, QB Kevin Kolb, DT Trevor Laws, WR Jeremy Maclin, OL Mike McGlynn, CB Geoffrey Pope, TE Martin Rucker, RB Brian Westbrook

Niners: DT Baraka Atkins, LB Diyral Briggs, WR Isaac Bruce, CB Nate Clements, QB Nate Davis, OT Chris Patrick, CB Keith Smith, C Cody Wallace

The biggest news for the Eagles is that WR Kevin Curtis is returning to the field for the first time since Week 2. I wouldn't expect him to do too much but it's nice to see their former top receiver back in action. Both Westbrook and Maclin are still nursing injuries so that is why they are out again. The remaining players are all healthy scratches.

With Dallas inexplicably winning yesterday, this game becomes huge for the Eagles. To stay alone atop the NFC East, they must win. They can also clinch a playoff spot with a win, so the Eagles should be plenty motivated. GO BIRDS!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NFL Week 15 Predictions

Here are my picks for Week 15 of the NFL season. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.

Record Last Week: 12-4, .750
Overall Record: 144-64, .692

Thursday Night Game:

Colts (13-0) @ Jaguars (7-6) I think it's a bit too early for the Colts to be talking about resting starters. Since they'll have a first round bye, their first playoff game is still more than a month away. You can't start gearing down your players when their next game that matters is that far away, there will be too much rust. My pick: Colts

Saturday Night Game:

Cowboys (8-5) @ Saints (13-0) All the talk from New Orleans is that they aren't even thinking about resting the starters, they want the perfect season. When you have a chance to be a legendary team, I think you have to go for it. There are plenty of Super Bowl winners but perfect seasons are few and far between. As for this week, I can't wait to see this team hang another loss on the Cowboys. My pick: Saints

Sunday Day Games:

Patriots (8-5) @ Bills (5-8) Why is Randy Moss already giving up on this team? There is really only one great team in the AFC, the Patriots will have just as good a chance as any team to make a run to the Super Bowl. I guess if it isn't for a perfect season, Moss can't be bothered. My pick: Patriots

Cardinals (8-5) @ Lions (2-11) The Cardinals are the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team. I think they'll bounce back nicely against the Lions, though. If the mediocre Ravens offense can hang 48 points on Detroit, the Cardinals should at least score 75, right? My pick: Cardinals

Dolphins (7-6) @ Titans (6-7) These two teams still consider themselves playoff contenders. While each is a longshot at best, the winner of this game will eliminate the loser. While I would love to see the Dolphins make a run at knocking out the Patriots, the Titans are the better team right now. My pick: Titans

Browns (2-11) @ Chiefs (3-10) The Chiefs seem to be a part of the worst game every week. My pick: Chiefs

Texans (6-7) @ Rams (1-12) Nice work, Texans! You are so good at beating up bad teams after you have eliminated yourselves from playoff contention! Maybe next year you will learn that you have to actually play the first 10 weeks of the season. My pick: Texans

Falcons (6-7) @ Jets (7-6) While the Falcons nearly knocked off the Saints last week, I still won't pick them with Chris Redman at quarterback. With Matt Ryan and Michael Turner still mending injuries even if they do play, I'll take the Jets. My pick: Jets

Niners (6-7) @ Eagles (9-4) You can't look past the Niners but the Eagles should cruise in this home game. I would expect Alex Smith and the suddenly decent San Francisco offense to put up some points against the suddenly porous Eagle D but I also don't see a scenario where the Eagles don't score 30 points in this game. I shouldn't say that, though, because we all remember the debacle in Oakland this year. My pick: Eagles

Bears (5-8) @ Ravens (7-6) Five years ago a game between these two teams would have ended up 7-3. Now, both teams are a shell of their former defensive selves. At least the Ravens will still be able to pick off Jay Cutler 5 or 6 times. My pick: Ravens

Bengals (9-4) @ Chargers (10-3) Chris Henry is in critical condition as I write this and my thoughts and prayers go out to him. Look for the Bengals to play some inspired football for their critically injured teammate. Unfortunately, the Chargers are cruising towards a first round bye and they won't be denied. My pick: Chargers

Raiders (4-9) @ Broncos (8-5) Who starts at QB for the Raiders this week? Who cares! The Broncos need to win this game to stay ahead in the Wild Card race. My pick: Broncos

Packers (9-4) @ Steelers (6-7) I may regret picking against the Packers again but I have to believe their is still some fight in the World Champs. The Steelers may not have anything to play for but pride at this point but they should have enough to bounce back from the embarrassment of last Thursday. Don't worry, Packers fans, you are making the playoffs no matter what happens here. My pick: Steelers

Bucs (1-12) @ Seahawks (5-8) Terrible game #2 for the week. The Seahawks should win easily. Should. My pick: Seahawks

Sunday Night Game:

Vikings (11-2) @ Panthers (5-8) There weren't any better games to pick for the Sunday Night Game this week? This should be a blowout. My pick: Vikings

Monday Night Game:

Giants (7-6) @ Redskins (4-9) The Giants offense will not look anything like they did last week against the Eagles as the Redskins defense can really slow you down. This one should be the low-scoring NFC East struggle we expected last week on Sunday Night. My pick: Giants

Those are my picks for Week 15 of the NFL Season. Check back every Thursday during the season for the latest predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comment section!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's official: Halladay in, Lee out

Despite the little hiccup this afternoon that a player had failed his physical, the mega-trade has gone through: Roy Halladay is a Phillie and Cliff Lee has been traded to the Mariners. The trade is actually two different deals, one between the Blue Jays and Phillies and the other between the Mariners and Phillies.

Here is the breakdown:

Trade #1:
Phillies get: Roy Halladay (now signed through 2013), 6 million dollars
Blue Jays get: Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, Travis D'Arnaud

Trade #2:
Mariners get: Cliff Lee
Phillies get: Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramirez, Tyson Gillies

First of all, I love the acquisition of Roy Halladay. He is one of the best, if not the best, pitcher in baseball. Having him atop the Phillies rotation for the next four years has me very excited. Even though it took the heavy price of Kyle Drabek, the Phillies traded an unknown commodity for a proven ace, which is a deal you have to make. The fact that the Phillies also got some cash in the deal that can be used to sign free agent bullpen help shouldn't be overlooked as another positive in this deal.

The second trade, the dealing of Cliff Lee, is obviously met with some disappointment. Lee was a stud down the stretch for the Phillies last year and a rotation that is anchored by Halladay and Lee, even for one season, would be unstoppable. What has to be understood, though, was that the Phillies gutted their farm system in their trade for Halladay and this second trade re-stocks it. While none of the prospects they got from Seattle are sure-things and aren't as good as who the Phillies traded to Toronto, the farm system won't see a huge drop-off. The other obvious factor in the equation for dealing Lee was money. The Phillies simply couldn't afford to keep his salary on the books this year.

Now that the dust has settled, every Phillies fan should be happy with this deal. The Phillies rotation for 2010 will be Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and either Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick, which is the best in the National League. While you may be disappointed that Cliff Lee is leaving, you can't forget that Halladay is better than Lee and he will be in Philly for four years. There was no guarantee Lee was going to stay beyond this year so that is why the Phillies had to pull the trigger on these deals.

Simply put, the best team in the NL got even better today. Time will tell if it will be enough to overtake the best the AL has to offer.

No Halladay yet: failed physical holds up trade

Someone failed to clear the last hurdle in the Roy Halladay mega-deal. According to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, one of the players involved in the trade that would send Halladay to the Blue Jays and Cliff Lee to the Mariners has failed his physical. Since Halladay and Lee both already passed their physicals, we can assume that it's one of the 6 minor league players that will change hands.

Since it's unclear which minor leaguer has failed his physical, it's unknown which part of this trade is being held up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that one of the prospects from the Mariners (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and Juan Ramirez) failed it so the Phillies can keep Cliff Lee. Of course, it could just as likely be Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor or Travis D'Arnaud from the Phillies that failed which would keep them from getting Halladay.

Don't worry, the Phillies have already agreed to a contract extension with Roy Halladay, so at some point or another he will be with the Phils. This thing just might stretch for a few more days yet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flyers claim new backup goalie Michael Leighton off waivers

Brian Boucher has a new backup in net. The Flyers, desperate for someone with more NHL goaltending experience than Johan Backlund, have claimed Michael Leighton off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. Leighton, who has played in 76 career games, will immediately step into the backup goaltending role.

If you recognize the name Michael Leighton it's because he is a former Flyer. Leighton played 4 games in net for the Flyers in their dreadful '06/'07 campaign. He has also spent time with the Blackhawks and Predators before playing for the Hurricanes for parts of the last three seasons.

This move puts to rest all of the trade rumors that had the Flyers acquiring a new goalie. Unfortunately, though, Leighton is not going to be a long-term solution for the Flyers as he is just a mediocre goaltender. He will be a $300,000 dollar cap hit that will fill in for a few games until Ray Emery is ready to come back. At that point, the Flyers will likely just waive Leighton and move on.

The only really good thing I can say about Leighton is he is better than John Grahame, who the Flyers signed a few days ago. That's really not saying much.

The Halladay deal as it stands now

Nothing is set in stone at the moment, but, according to various sources, here is the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee deal as it stands now:

The Phillies will acquire Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays, as well as some cash. They are also going to get prospects Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and Juan Ramirez from the Mariners. Roy Halladay will also sign an extension with the Phillies for three years, 60 million dollars. The contract extension is believed to be done except for a few minor details.

The Mariners will acquire Cliff Lee from the Phillies for the prospects listed above.

The Blue Jays will acquire prospects Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis D'Arnaud from the Phillies for Halladay.

Essentially, this isn't really a three team deal but rather two separate trades. While I will continue to wait until the deal is finalized to hash out my opinions on the deal, this whole situation is a bit of a head scratcher. I understand that Halladay is a better pitcher and that the Phillies can keep him for longer with an extension but I still hate the idea of trading Cliff Lee. I'm also not crazy about giving up a mega-prospect like Drabek who was apparently "untouchable" at the trade deadline last year. While the Phillies will get a few interesting prospects back from the Mariners, their farm system will definitely be weaker because of these deals.

That said, a rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer/Kyle Kendrick is one of the top rotations in the National League. Whether it's enough to get them back to the World Series is yet to be seen. It's just too bad they couldn't keep Lee and have a rotation that starts with Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Now that would guarantee a pennant!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Halladay? Phillies in talks for blockbuster Lee for Halladay deal

The good news: Roy Halladay appears to be coming to Philadelphia. The bad news: it may be at the expense of Cliff Lee. The long rumored deal that would send Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies is on the verge of happening as part of an epic three team deal that will send Cliff Lee to the Mariners, prospects from the Phillies to the Blue Jays and prospects from Seattle to Philly. None of the details of the deal have been worked out as of yet and there are still talks that Lee won't be part of the deal but it appears that some kind of deal that gets Halladay to Philadelphia is imminent.

Rumors have been flying all day today after word spread that Halladay was in Philly to discuss a contract extension with the Phillies. The Phillies will only trade for Halladay, who will be a free agent after the coming season, if they can get him signed to a long-term contract extension. That would be the reason for the Phillies jettisoning Cliff Lee to get Halladay since Lee has been hesitant to talk extension with the Phillies. While I would hate to see Lee go, I would rather have 5 years of Halladay than 1 more year of Lee.

While this trade is far from official and speculation has run rampant about who the Phillies will give up from their minor league system (Michael Taylor? Domonic Brown? Kyle Drabek?), things seem to be closer with this Halladay deal than any other previous report. I will hold off on commenting about the deal until everything goes through but I'm all for the Phillies doing what they can to bring in Roy Halladay as long as the price they pay isn't too high. Cliff Lee was a monster down the stretch for the Phillies but Roy Halladay is one of the top 3 pitchers in baseball. When you can get a guy like that you do whatever it takes, within reason.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your first place Eagles outscore the Giants in a wild Sunday Night contest

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Ladies and gentlemen, your first place Philadelphia Eagles! Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? After watching the Cowboys fall to the Chargers in the afternoon, the Eagles knew all they had to do was take care of the Giants and they would take over sole possession of the NFC East. While their were some bumps along the way, the Eagles dispatched the Giants in a wild Sunday Night affair, 45-38.

This game was about as far from smash mouth NFC East football as you can get. The Eagles jumped out to an early 14-0 lead after a stellar first drive and a Sheldon Brown fumble return touchdown but the Giants responded quickly by marching the ball down the field with little resistance from the Eagles. The two teams would go on to trade scores for the rest of the game with the Eagles making just a few more big plays than the Giants.

The star of the game for the Eagles was easily DeSean Jackson. Jackson was a threat to score a touchdown every time he touched the ball and he nearly did as he amassed 178 yards and had a pair of touchdowns, one on a 72 yard punt return and the other on a 60 yard reception. For a guy that sat out with a concussion last week, DeSean seemed to be in his best health of the season as he ran wild throughout the night. Donovan McNabb didn't have a great rhythm throughout the night be he knew that he just had to get the ball in number 10's hands and the points would come.

Jackson's big night was a necessity because the Eagles defense couldn't stop the Giants at all. Eli Manning was able to throw the ball all over the Eagles secondary that looked uncharacteristically awful. Somehow, the Giants collection of mediocre receivers managed to find gaping holes in the defense and once they caught the ball, the Eagles defensive backs couldn't tackle to save their lives. To make things even worse, the Giants kept the Eagles off-balance by also running the ball at a 4.3 yards per carry clip. I have no idea what happened to that amazing Eagles defense we saw the last few weeks because the Giants just made them look silly.

With the win, not only do the Eagles take over sole possession of the NFC East, they also knocked the Giants back in their quest for a playoff spot. With three games left against the Niners, Broncos and Cowboys, the Eagles now hold their division title hopes in their hands. With the Saints and Vikings never losing games, there is no way the Eagles can earn themselves a first round bye but they will need the division title so they can host at least one playoff game before having to go to New Orleans or Minnesota.

What an offensive showdown this game turned out to be. Who would have thought an NFC East game in mid-December would end up with 83 points on the scoreboard and about 900 total yards? No matter, the Eagles pulled out their 4th straight win and now are looking down on the rest of the division. Now it's up to the Birds to stay there as they control their own playoff destiny. As an Eagles fan, you can't ask for anything more than that.

Eagles/Giants Week 14 Inactives: DeSean is back

With first place in the NFC East theirs for the taking, the Eagles (and Giants) announced their inactive players for their big Week 14 Sunday Night showdown:

Eagles: OL Stacy Andrews, WR Kevin Curtis, RB P.J. Hill, QB Kevin Kolb, DT Trevor Laws, OL Mike McGlynn, CB Geoffrey Pope, RB Brian Westbrook

Giants: WR Ramses Barden, DT Rocky Bernard, DB D.J. Johnson, RB Gartrell Johnson, OT Adam Koets, WR Sinorice Moss, TE Bear Pascoe, OT Guy Whimper

The biggest news in this game is that DeSean Jackson is back in the lineup for the Eagles. As for who isn't playing, the biggest surprise is Laws. Laws is a healthy scratch and has been passed on the depth chart by Antonio Dixon. Curtis and Westbrook still need a few weeks before they will be ready to play.

Talk about a two-for-one, the Eagles can not only snatch first place in the NFC East, they can also knock the Giants back in their playoff push. This should be a great game! GO BIRDS!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Flyers sign goaltender John Grahame to minor league tryout

With Ray Emery out for several more weeks, rumors have been going around that the Flyers are looking for a new backup goaltender to Brian Boucher, their current starter. The Flyers current backup goalie is Johan Backlund but the Flyers would like to add someone who actually has some experience in the NHL. Apparently several NHL teams have been scouting the Flyers recently so a deal could go down any day now.

The Flyers did make one move today at goalie but it wasn't for a spot in the NHL. John Grahame, who last played under current Flyers coach Peter Laviolette with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008, has been signed to a minor league tryout with the Phantoms. Grahame had been playing in a local men's league this year after spending 8 years in the NHL with three different teams.

While Grahame is believed to just be an option for the AHL and won't be considered in the running for a backup to Boucher, one has to believe that, given his ties to Laviolette, if Grahame looks impressive in the AHL he will get the call. While he isn't the best goaltender out there, Grahame at least has plenty of experience and would really only play sparingly. For now, though, Grahame will take over the AHL role that was vacant after Backlund was called up.

The signing of Grahame won't take the Flyers out of the running for a goalie on the trade market. Look at him simply as insurance should Boucher go down as well. Needless to say, if the Flyers are at any point counting on Grahame to do much of anything in the NHL, their already sinking season has completely tanked.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NFL Week 14 Predictions

Here are my picks for Week 14 of the NFL season. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.

Record Last Week: 10-6, .625
Overall Record: 132-60, .688

Thursday Night Game:

Steelers (6-6) @ Browns (1-11) Oh, how the mighty have fallen in Pittsburgh. Still, there is no way the Steelers can lose this game to the Browns. Which is exactly what I said last week when the Steelers played Oakland. Luckily for Pittsburgh, the Browns are the worst team in the NFL. My pick: Steelers

Sunday Day Games:

Saints (12-0) @ Falcons (6-6) The Saints march (see what I did there?) to 16-0 continues as they beat up on a banged up Falcons team. My pick: Saints

Packers (8-4) @ Bears (5-7) What was I thinking picking against the Packers last week? Is it because I wanted the Eagles to further solidify their playoff position? No matter, I won't be so foolish this week. My pick: Packers

Broncos (8-4) @ Colts (12-0) We all know the history, the Colts OWN the Broncos. The Colts gallop (see what I did there?) to 16-0 continues. My pick: Colts

Bills (4-8) @ Chiefs (3-9) Do I really have to pick this? Um, I'll go with the home team. My pick: Chiefs

Jets (6-6) @ Bucs (1-11) The Jets aren't playing great football right now but they should do just enough to knock off the Bucs. My pick: Jets

Dolphins (6-6) @ Jaguars (7-5) Call me a hater but I just don't believe in the Jaguars. How are they winning all of these games? I like Miami here as they make their late season AFC East division push. My pick: Dolphins

Lions (2-10) @ Ravens (6-6) I've trusted the Ravens a little too much this season. I guess I was wrong in thinking that Joe Flacco was going to take a big step forward this year. They will still knock off Detroit, though. My pick: Ravens

Seahawks (5-7) @ Texans (5-7) The Texans always make their late-season playoff push after they have basically been eliminated. I would say losing Steve Slaton really hurts their running game but I'm not sure they really ever had one this season. My pick: Texans

Bengals (9-3) @ Vikings (10-2) The Bengals always get up for the good teams so I expect this to be a close one. For the sake of the Vikings and their Super Bowl chances I hope the Brett Favre of last week was just an aberration and not a downward trend. My pick: Vikings

Panthers (5-7) @ Patriots (7-5) How about those Patriots and their inability to bounce back? It used to be that when the Pats lost a game they would come back with a vengeance in the following week. Not so much anymore with that bad defense. I still like them to beat Carolina but not by as wide a margin as they should. My pick: Patriots

Rams (1-11) @ Titans (5-7) 9-7 isn't going to get you into the AFC Playoffs so that Titans late-season push is over already. If only they hadn't started so terribly... My pick: Titans

Redskins (3-9) @ Raiders (4-8) I guess the Raiders actually do have some talent! Knocking off both teams in the state of Pennsylvania in one season is no small feat. That Bruce Gradkowski actually looks competent should be the final nail in JaMarcus Russell's career. My pick: Raiders

Chargers (9-3) @ Cowboys (8-4) I may be picking more with my heart than my brain in this one but San Diego is revving up for their yearly late-season surge while the Cowboys are revving down for their yearly late-season collapse. If Dallas couldn't get it done against the Giants what chance do they have here? My pick: Chargers

Sunday Night Game:

Eagles (8-4) @ Giants (7-5) If the Birds win, they can cement themselves as the team to beat in the NFC East. If the Giants win, things get very murky. With DeSean Jackson returning for the Eagles, the Birds are starting to get healthy at the right time. In picking this game, one only needs to check the calendar and notice that it's December. Yep, it's time for Eli Manning to suck even more than he already has this year. My pick: Eagles

Monday Night Game:

Cardinals (8-4) @ Niners (5-7) The Cardinals win over the Vikings last week pushes them into the conversation for the best in the NFC. Of course, they could just as easily lose against the Niners and fall back to the pack. My pick: Cardinals

Those are my picks for Week 14 of the NFL Season. Check back every Thursday during the season for the latest predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comment section!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Eagles extend Andy Reid through 2013

Say what you will about Andy Reid, and Eagles fans sure have said plenty, but the man has staying power in Philadelphia. In a move that was rumored to be coming for weeks, the Eagles announced that they have extended the contract of Reid, who has been with the team since 1999, for three more years, a move that will keep him in Philly through the year 2013.

You hear what the naysayers say about clock management, his inability to win the big one and his one-dimensional offense but Andy Reid is simply a winner. In his 10+ years with the organization, Reid has won the NFC East 5 times, gotten to the NFC Championship 5 times and has had one Super Bowl appearance. He has the most wins in Eagles coaching history and appears to have the Eagles steered towards another playoff spot this year. What more could you want from a coach than for him to field a competitive team every year?

I know, we all want that Super Bowl Title. Reid will have a few more years to try to get that elusive title, years that he will probably be without Donovan McNabb. That will likely be his most challenging time as an Eagle, the time where the franchise transitions from McNabb to a new quarterback. Reid deserves the chance to be here for that transition.

Ross Gload is the newest Phillie

The Phillies sure aren't wasting any time this offseason. Fresh off the signings of Placido Polanco, Brian Schneider and Juan Castro, the Phillies have signed yet another hitter: 1B/OF Ross Gload. According to Ken Rosenthal, Gload, who played for the Marlins last season, signed a two year contract with the Phillies. The amount of money he will get is not yet known.

Gload, who will likely fill the final spot on the Phillies bench, is a lefty reserve player who can play multiple positions. In his 8 year MLB career spent with the Cubs, Rockies, White Sox, Royals and Marlins, Gload has played 1B, RF, LF, one game at CF and even one inning on the mound. It's likely the Phillies will use Gload as their primary left handed pinch hitter, meaning we have seen the last of Matt Stairs with the Phils. Gload is nearly the exact opposite from Stairs as he has no power (28 homers in 1432 AB's) but has hit for a decent average throughout his career (.283).

The signing of Gload likely means the Phillies have completed the position player portion of their roster. The Phillies will have just one new starter in Placido Polanco but they will have several new bench players in Gload, Schneider and Castro. Add in Ben Francisco and Greg Dobbs and the Phillie bench is certainly different but really not much better than last year's version. For example, who do the Phillies turn to now for speed off the bench? Or for that big homer? John Mayberry would have been a solution to the latter question but as of right now there isn't any room for him on the major league roster.

Gload will be a nice piece for the Phillies but he isn't someone to get too excited about. He will get a few timely hits and fill in at the outfield corners from time to time but that's about it. Now that, for better or for worse, the Phils have completed their bench, it's time for Ruben Amaro to move on to the important business of filling out their bullpen. Hopefully they have enough dough left to bring in a quality arm or two.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Flyers lose Emery for 6 weeks

It just gets worse and worse for the Flyers. Already mired in a slump that has seen them lose 8 of their last 9 games, the Flyers got some news today that certainly won't help them climb out of their funk: goaltender Ray Emery will be out 6 weeks. Emery, who uncharacteristically played only 1 of the last 4 games for the Flyers, will have abdominal surgery to repair a torn muscle.

Losing Emery is a pretty big blow to the Flyers but the surgery should help him bounce back from his recent woes. Emery started out the season playing one of the best goalies in the league before fading in the recent weeks; the Flyers think having surgery will get Emery back to playing at the top of his game.

In his absence, the Flyers will go with Brian Boucher in net. Johan Backlund was also called up to be the backup. Boucher hasn't been great for the Flyers this year but he is certainly a capable backup that won't win you a lot of games but he won't lose them, either.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sixers drop 10th straight despite AI's return

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Well, that was certainly the most exciting 10th straight loss I have ever seen. Sixers fans got a nice boost from the return of Allen Iverson to the floor; unfortunately, it wasn't enough to spark the Sixers past the Nuggets as they lost 93-83.

Iverson played as good as could be expected for someone who hasn't played in a month as he scored 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting and added 6 assists and 5 rebounds to go with only 1 turnover. While he struggled to find his rhythm shooting and didn't have much chemistry with the guys on the floor, Iverson played within the offense and didn't try to do everything himself. He played a ton of minutes (38) and certainly helped keep the Sixers competitive with a good Nuggets team.

The return of AI may have helped out the other AI even more. Andre Iguodala played one of his best games this season, racking up 31 points, 4 boards, 3 steals and 2 assists. He played with a ton of passion and proved that, despite the return of Iverson, the team still belongs to Iguodala.

While the return of Iverson didn't help the Sixers snap their long losing streak, you can't blame The Answer. His return was as electrifying as fans expected but it won't turn the Sixers into a great team overnight. The Sixers are simply a bad basketball team that doesn't play defense and is struggling to find their identity on offense. Allen Iverson can't change all of that but it will sure is going to be fun to watch him try.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Eagles roll past injury-plagued Falcons

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
If only it was always this easy for the Eagles. The Eagles, facing a Falcons team that was without 5 starting offensive players, played one of their most complete games of the season as they cruised past Atlanta, 34-7.

The defense was the story in this one as the Eagles nearly got their first shutout since 1996. While Atlanta was playing shorthanded without starting quarterback Matt Ryan and starting running back Michael Turner, the Eagles defense still played inspired, forcing three turnovers and coming up with several big 4th down stops. Atlanta had their moments of being able to move the ball but the defense nearly always responded with the big tackle or the big interception whenever the Falcons threatened to score. In fact, it took a last second touchdown pass for Atlanta to even get on the board in this one. Give the Eagles defense credit for stopping Atlanta when they went for it on 4th down early in the game and not ever letting the Falcons into the game.

Offensively, although they had their usual issues in the red zone, the Eagles had no problems moving the ball at will. Donovan McNabb had another solid performance, leading a fairly balanced attack with 238 yards and a touchdown pass to Leonard Weaver in his three quarters of work. Speaking of Weaver, he was in full beast-mode today as he had 100 total yards of offense, most of them coming on a 59 yard reception. Weaver did so well that the Eagles didn't even use LeSean McCoy that much as he was limited to only 2 yards rushing on 6 carries.

Michael Vick also had his best game for the Eagles in his return to Atlanta. Vick scored his first touchdown as an Eagle on a 5 yard run then later threw his first touchdown as an Eagle on a 5 yard pass to Brent Celek. On top of that, Vick also had his best pass as an Eagle, a 43 yarder to Reggie Brown. Vick played well enough to turn the Atlanta crowd, which booed him when he first stepped on the field, into big fans again as they chanted for him to play in the 3rd quarter.

In all, it was an easy win for the Eagles as they moved to 8-4 on the season and further solidified their playoff position. While the Eagles are still ahead in the Wild Card battle, the win keeps their hopes for an NFC East title alive as they continue to chase the Cowboys. The Eagles are just waiting for Dallas to slip up, which could happen against the Giants later this afternoon, and they will jump into a tie for the division lead.

Give the defense the game ball in this one for nearly getting their first shutout in 13 years. While it's easy to point at the Falcons back-up offense as the reason for the dominance, it's still incredibly difficult to keep an NFL team completely off the board for 59 minutes. If the defense keeps playing the way they did today the Eagles could be in for another deep playoff run.

Eagles/Falcons Inactives: Atlanta is hurting

The Eagles and Falcons have announced their inactives for this week:

Eagles: OL Stacy Andrews, WR Kevin Curtis, RB P.J. Hill, WR DeSean Jackson, LB Akeem Jordan, QB Kevin Kolb, OL Mike McGlynn, RB Brian Westbrook

Falcons: LB Spencer Adkins, LT Sam Baker, RG Harvey Dahl, WR Michael Jenkins, DL Trey Lewis, S Charlie Peprah, QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner

There are no surprises from the Eagles this week as Jackson, Jordan, Curtis and Westbrook are all dealing with injuries. The healthy scratches for the game are Andrews, McGlynn and Hill. Banged up players that will go today include Brent Celek and Brodrick Bunkley. Newly activated wide receiver Jordan Norwood, a Penn State graduate, will make his NFL debut in place of DeSean Jackson although he won't see the field much.

The Falcons will be without 5 starting offensive players today as Ryan, Turner, Jenkins, Baker and Dahl all sit out with injuries. This should be another great opportunity for the Eagles as they will face backups Chris Redman at QB and Jerious Norwood at RB.

The Eagles need to keep pace in the NFC so today is almost a must-win. With how banged up Atlanta is, there is no excuse for our Birds not to win. GO EAGLES!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NHL releases awesome Winter Classic commercial

It's time to start getting pumped up for the NHL Winter Classic. Check out the first commercial done by the NHL, complete with both the Flyers and Bruins throwback jerseys:

Awesome, I can't wait for January 1st!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Flyers shake things up: Stevens out, Laviolette in

The rumors that he would be fired that have seemingly surrounded Flyers coach John Stevens ever since he took the job finally caught up with him today. Stevens, who coached the Flyers for just over 3 seasons, was fired by the Flyers and replaced with former Hurricanes and Islanders coach Peter Laviolette.

Stevens got the axe mostly due to how listless the Flyers have looked recently as they dropped 6 of their last 7 games. While he has gotten the Flyers to play inspired hockey at times during his tenure, Stevens' inability to get the team to play consistently cost him his job. For a team with elite talent like the Flyers, the maddening lulls they seem to go through every season are mind-boggling. While it's difficult to completely blame Stevens for the bad play, it's much easier to fire the coach than to do a wholesale changing of the roster.

Laviolette takes over the Flyers coaching position with the task of righting the ship. As a former Stanley Cup winner with the Carolina Hurricanes, Laviolette will immediately command the respect of a team filled with players who have never hoisted the Cup. While Laviolette doesn't have the greatest track record (he only got the Hurricanes to the playoffs once in his 4 plus years there), he will at least provide a fresh voice to hopefully inspire to climb out of the tailspin they are in.

John Stevens was certainly an adequate NHL coach but he wasn't likely going to lead the Flyers to the Cup any time soon. His laid-back demeanor and limited knowledge of hockey strategy kept him from getting the most out of a talented Flyers team. It's now up to Laviolette to pick up the pieces and get this Flyers club back to the top of the league where they belong.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's official: the Phillies are bringing back Placido Polanco

UPDATE: It's official: Placido Polanco is a Phillie, he has signed the 3 year, 18 million dollar contract.

2009 is the year of the comeback in Philadelphia. First, Brian Boucher returned to the Flyers, then the Eagles brought back Jeremiah Trotter, then Allen Iverson signed with the Sixers. Now, the Phillies are on the verge of bringing one of their old players back to play third base: Placido Polanco.

According to Todd Zolecki, Polanco, who you last remember playing second base for the Phillies in 2005, is close to signing a 3 year deal with the Phillies reportedly worth 18 million dollars. The deal will also include an option for a 4th year and is believed to be finalized pending a physical.

While your first thought might be to question the merit of signing a 34 year old player to a 3 year contract, don't forget how smart the Raul Ibanez signing from last summer looks. Polanco is a steady veteran, one who will likely bat second in the lineup and give the Phillies a .290 batting average and get on base with regularity. While he lacks power, Polanco will get driven in by the big bats and will make a nice addition to the Phillies homer-friendly lineup.

The irony in the signing of Polanco is that the Phillies will be playing him at third base, a position many fans hoped he would play for them back in 2005. If you remember, Polanco was the regular second baseman with the team before he was traded to make room for the emerging Chase Utley. Many fans pleaded with the Phillies to keep Polanco and move him to third base but apparently the management back then didn't think it would work. Now, 4 plus years later, the Phillies will be playing Polanco at third base, a position he really hasn't played with any regularity for several seasons.

With Polanco likely moving into the number 2 spot in the lineup, you are going to see a shake-up in the Phillies order next season. Shane Victorino will drop down, likely to the number 7 spot that Pedro Feliz hit in last season. It's nothing against Victorino, Polanco is just a more ideal number 2 hitter.

The Phillies have apparently chosen to pass on Adrian Beltre and Chone Figgins, the top two free agent third basemen on the market, and instead have gone with an older, more stable veteran in Polanco. While some will be disappointed the Phillies didn't spend bigger bucks to get a more talented player, making this signing should leave the Phils with a few bucks to pick up a relief pitcher or two.

Who will be next in the Great Philadelphia Comeback story? Personally, I'm rooting for the return of Jim Thome or Eric Lindros.

NFL Week 13 Predictions

Here are my picks for Week 13 of the NFL season. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.

Record Last Week: 10-6, .625
Overall Record: 122-54, .693

Thursday Night Game:

Jets (5-6) @ Bills (4-7) Has there ever been a good Thursday night game? At least this one will be close as neither team is very good. My pick: Jets

Sunday Day Games:

Eagles (7-4) @ Falcons (6-5) No DeSean Jackson this week for the Eagles means we are going to get a healthy dose of Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant. Basically, that means there won't be a drop-off. As for the Falcons, they are going to have to figure out how to score against the Eagles without Matt Ryan and likely without Michael Turner. Good luck with that. Knowing the Eagles, this game will be close, but the right Birds will win in the end. My pick: Eagles

Rams (1-10) @ Bears (4-7) Wow, is this Bears team terrible. It's sad how much better Kyle Orton is than Jay Cutler. Every week I keep thinking the Rams will have a shot at winning their second game but every week I just can't bring myself to pick them. My pick: Bears

Lions (2-9) @ Bengals (8-3) The Bengals are closing in on a first round bye in the playoffs. Bet you never thought you would see that in your lifetime. My pick: Bengals

Titans (5-6) @ Colts (11-0) The run ends here, Tennessee. While I do expect them to run all over the Colts, I can't see the perfect season ending at home for the Colts against a team they are clearly better than. My pick: Colts

Broncos (7-4) @ Chiefs (3-8) Remember when teams used to fear playing at Arrowhead? Yeah, not so much anymore. Have the Broncos risen from the dead or where the Giants already a bunch of zombies last week? My pick: Broncos

Saints (11-0) @ Redskins (3-8) And the march to 19-0 continues. Not even Washington's underrated defense can slow down Drew Brees. My pick: Saints

Bucs (1-10) @ Panthers (4-7) The Bucs aren't playing bad football but they simply keep playing teams that are way more talented than they are. Yes, that even includes the quarterback-less Panthers. My pick: Panthers

Texans (5-6) @ Jaguars (6-5) You really have to feel for the Texans, they just can't get over the hump. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt this week because I just don't believe in the Jags. My pick: Texans

Raiders (3-8) @ Steelers (6-5) It doesn't matter if Big Ben plays. He might as well not. My pick: Steelers

Patriots (7-4) @ Dolphins (5-6) Can you say bounce-back game? While the Pats traditionally play poorly against the Dolphins, I really can't see them losing 3 games in a row. By the way, Dolphins, next time you are at the goal line just have Ricky Williams run it in instead of having him try a lame pass. That advice comes to you at no charge. My pick: Patriots

Chargers (8-3) @ Browns (1-10) I've got nothing nice to say about the Browns so I will say nothing here. My pick: Chargers

Niners (5-6) @ Seahawks (4-7) You can actually begin to see how the Niners are going to win some games in the future. They have a solid defense and they are actually starting to put together a good passing game. My pick: Niners

Cowboys (8-3) @ Giants (6-5) Call it a hunch. Call it wishful thinking. Whatever you want to call it, I think the Cowboys begin their late season swoon in New York this week. Dallas really isn't that good, anyway. My pick: Giants

Sunday Night Game:

Vikings (10-1) @ Cardinals (7-4) This was an excellent choice for the Sunday night game, unfortunately I haven't seen anything from the Cardinals that leads me to believe they won't get rolled in this game. My pick: Vikings

Monday Night Game:

Ravens (6-5) @ Packers (7-4) This game will go a long way to determining just how good each of these teams is. The Packers seemed to have turned a corner offensively and defensively and the Ravens pulled out a nice win against the Steelers last week. While it may seem crazy because the game is at Lambeau, I like the Ravens to keep their playoff hopes alive. My pick: Ravens

Those are my picks for Week 13 of the NFL Season. Check back every Thursday during the season for the latest predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comment section!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A.I. is back in Philly: Iverson signs

Guess who's officially back? After days of rumors, denials and contract offers, Allen Iverson and the Sixers have finally signed on the dotted line: A.I. is a Sixer once again, agreeing to a one year, non-guaranteed contract at the league minimum. Iverson will make his debut with the team on Monday, at home, against the Nuggets.

Whether you love the move because of the nostalgia it will bring or hate the move because it doesn't make much sense from a basketball perspective, the Sixers will at least get the city talking about them once again. Will it make them a title contender? No. Will it get them in the playoffs? Possibly. Will it be entertaining to watch? Every minute.

As Ed Stefanski announced the signing this morning, he noted that "we felt that Allen was the best available free agent guard to help us at this time." It's unclear if Stefanski means the best free agent to help them on the court or in ticket sales.

Welcome back, AI, to the city that wished you never left. Please don't make us regret bringing you back!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Phillies sign backup catcher Brian Schneider

With all the talk of needing a third baseman and some bullpen help, the Phillies also needed a backup catcher this offseason to help out Carlos Ruiz. Well, that item can be checked off the list as the Phillies have added catcher Brian Schneider. According to the Allentown Morning Call, the Phillies have signed the 10 year MLB vet to a 2 year contract.

Schneider, who has spend his entire career in the NL East with the Expos/Nationals and Mets, is known as a solid defensive catcher. He spent the last two years with the Mets and was injured for most of last year and hit only .218. Schneider is a local guy, having graduated from Northhampton, and his family is filled with Phillies fans, so he will fit right in. More than that, he's a left handed hitter who will be able to spell Ruiz with a competent bat and above average defense.

This is just the kind of solid but not spectacular move the Phillies needed to make. Schneider was a starting catcher for most of his career so he should slide nicely into a backup role on the Phillies.

Eagles extend Brent Celek through 2016

First it was Winston Justice getting his contract extended through 2013, now it's Brent Celek's turn for an extension. Celek, who has rapidly improved into the most reliable receiver in the Eagles passing game, has agreed to a 6 year contract extension with the Eagles that will keep him with the Birds through 2016.

Celek has made great strides in his 3 years in the league, jumping from 16 catches in 2007 to 27 in 2008 to already 54 catches this season. Despite his case of the dropsies when he was dealing with an injured thumb last week against the Redskins, Celek has proven that he can be trusted to make the tough catches.

This contract extension is just yet another example of the Eagles being smart with their money. They consistently identify the young players they want to keep around and lock them up for long extensions at a cheap rate before they can cash in as free agents. It's a smart business plan but it can lead to some complaining from the player once they play to their potential and they aren't getting paid like the top players at their position.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chris Coste is now dead to us

Scratch Chris Coste off your list of favorite former Phillies, he has gone to the dark side. Coste, who spent 3 plus years with the Phillies before being waived and playing for the Astros last season, has signed with the New York Mets.

There is no guarantee that Coste will actually play any games with the Mets, however, as he was only given a spot on the 40 man roster and not given a guarantee that he would be on the 25 man roster. There is also no word as to whether the Mets expect Coste to play catcher or first base.

It's hard to say if Coste signing with the Mets is an indication of how desperate Coste is to play or how bad the Mets are going to be next season. Losing Coste to the dark side hurts because he is such a good guy, I guess we will always have 2008.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eagles survive, sneak past Redskins

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Another week, another comeback for Donovan McNabb and the Eagles. After what seemed like years between comeback wins for the Eagles, the Birds pulled out their second in a row in the fourth quarter as they edged the Redskins, 27-24.

As always, the Eagles kept this one interesting from the start. Andy Reid, probably thinking he was pretty clever, had the Birds try an onside kick on the opening kickoff, a move that basically gave the Redskins a free 7 points after it failed. From that point forward, it was obvious the Eagles were going to be stuck in a dogfight (poor choice of words?) with the Skins.

The Eagles quickly fought back in the game with an offensive attack that was, for once, a solid mixture of run and pass. The Birds, taking advantage of a Redskins defense playing without Albert Haynesworth, ran the ball effectively all game, something we haven't seen much of this year. Both LeSean McCoy (4.5 yards per carry) and Leonard Weaver (7.3 yards per carry) gashed the Skins for big runs, proving that the Eagles don't need Brian Westbrook to have a productive ground game.

With an offense that was actually balanced for once, Donovan McNabb, with the exception of the third quarter, was effective through the air, finishing with 260 yards. He spread the ball around to six different receivers and overcame three drops by the usually reliable Brent Celek to keep the Eagles in the game. Most importantly, when it came down to crunchtime, with the Eagles trailing by 8 points in the 4th quarter, McNabb had the offense moving at will, picking up huge chunks of yards through the air to Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin.

Defensively, the Eagles were once again not at their best on third downs as the Skins converted 8 of 17 in the game. There is something about this Birds defense that they can't make stops unless the game is on the line. That will likely come back to haunt them at some point this season.

On the injury front, DeSean Jackson left the game in the second half and the early word is that he had a concussion. We all know too well about the lingering effects that concussions can have, we will have to wait and see if Action Jackson will be out for the next game.

So, once again, it wasn't pretty but the Eagles won an important game. A loss to the Redskins would have pushed the Eagles back towards the pack of NFC Wild Card contenders; a win keeps them a game ahead of the Giants and only a game behind the Cowboys. With games looming against the Giants and Cowboys in the coming weeks, the NFC playoff picture is still pretty murky but the Eagles find themselves right in the middle of everything.

Nice win, Birds, but let's try winning a game by a touchdown or two next time. You are going to give everyone in Philadelphia a heart attack at this rate.