Friday, January 30, 2009

At last, my Super Bowl Prediction

Wait, there is a football game this weekend? When you don't have a real rooting interest in the Super Bowl, the time between Championship weekend and the actual Super Bowl is just enough time to forget about football and start thinking about the NBA and the upcoming baseball season. I can't imagine how long the last two weeks have felt for Steelers and Cardinals fans as they have to wait an agonizing 14 days between games. The NFL feels it needs to have a bye week to help build up hype for the Super Bowl but really all the extra week does is make people who aren't fans of the two teams sick of hearing every last detail about what the Steelers backup tackle does to help his team.

Anyway, enough ranting. After a season of predictions, this is my final prediction post of the NFL season. As always, my picks do not take the spread into account, I simply pick the winner.

Last Week: 1-1, .500
Playoff Overall: 6-4, .600

Super Bowl:

Cardinals vs. Steelers
I have picked against the Cardinals in every round of the playoffs, why would I change now? Yes, the Cardinals have an amazing passing game that can take advantage of the Steelers biggest weakness, their secondary. Yes, the Steelers offensive line is awful and the Cards D will be able to hit Big Ben early and often. And, yes, the Cardinals have overcome every obstacle that has been placed in front of them and they seem like a team of destiny. So, why am I taking the Steelers? Because they are the better football team. I don't need to come up with a bunch of gimmicky ways for them to win the game. The Steelers defense is better. They have a better running game. They hit harder. They have a (slightly) better coach. The Pittsburgh Steelers are legitamately the best team from their conference, can you say that about the Cardinals? If you re-played the NFC playoffs 10 times, how many times would the Cardinals get to the Super Bowl? Once? If you re-played the AFC playoffs 10 times, the Steelers would arguably make it 5 or more times to the Super Bowl. The Steelers are simply the better team and they will restore order in the NFL by beating the fluky Cardinals. If they don't, God help us all, I don't know what the world will be like if the Arizona Cardinals are the NFL Champs. My pick: Steelers

Forsberg won't play in NHL this year

Well, at least he isn't dragging it out this year. Peter Forsberg, a perennial candidate to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, has decided that if his foot is healthy enough, he won't return to the NHL, instead he will play in Sweden for Modo.

This news has many Flyer fans breathing a sigh of relief. Speculation had picked up recently that the Flyers were looking to sign Forsberg, possibly to fill in for the injured Danny Briere. While the salary cap implications of signing Forsberg would have made it highly unlikely the Flyers could have actually signed Foppa, it's nice to know that the rumors are going to die off now. The Flyers wanted no part of Forsberg unless he found a magical cure for his ailing feet.

Does this signal the end of Peter Forsberg's NHL career?

Iggy dunks on Yao!

In case you missed it, here is Andre Iguodala's dunk over the 7 foot 6 inch Yao Ming from Wednesday night. WOW!

Hat tip to whoever posted this on YouTube

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Eagles D Coordinator Jim Johnson has cancer

We all guessed something was up when Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was forced to coach from the press box during the playoffs. Few guessed that he would have this serious of a health problem.

News came out today that Johnson, who is 67, has cancer in his spine. He will undergo several weeks of treatment to hopefully thwart the spread of cancer. The good news, if you could call it that, is that Johnson underwent surgery in 2001 to rid himself of cancer and it worked, at least for 7 years.

Johnson said that he wants to continue coaching for the Eagles, if health allows. Right now, football should be furthest from his mind as priority number one has to be getting himself healthy. If he is able to return to the Eagles, then that's just a bonus. Getting rid of the cancer is much more important.

ATPS wishes Jim Johnson a speedy recovery.

Sixers knock off Rockets, reach .500

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Since I bashed the Sixers a bit after their last game, I think it is only fitting that I give them some credit after erasing a 15 point deficit and beating the Rockets, in Houston, 95-93.

The Sixers didn't play particularly well until midway through the 3rd quarter when the Rockets had a 65-51 lead. From that point forward, Philly outscored the Rockets 44-28 and won the game after Andre Iguodala hit a pair of clutch jumpers in the final 2 minutes. Iggy led the team with 20 points while Lou Williams added 17 off the bench.

Elton Brand played much better on Wednesday in his 6th man role. Brand had 14 points, 7 boards and 6 blocks, easily his best game since returning from the separated shoulder injury. Perhaps that will quiet some of those trade rumors?

The Rockets have been one of the hotter teams in the NBA so the Sixers have to feel good about their come-from-behind win. Any time you can knock off one of the top teams in the West on the road, that's a quality W.

3 posts in a row about the Sixers on ATPS?? Let's just say I'm making up for a real lack of Sixers coverage earlier in the season.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thaddeus Young selected for Rookies vs. Sophomores Game

While no Sixer is going to be an All-Star this year, Philly will have at least one representative present in Phoenix on February 13th. Thaddeus Young was selected to be a member of the Sophomore team in the Rookies vs. Sophomore Game which the league calls the "Rookie Challenge".

Young is certainly a deserving player as he has been a solid contributor whether starting or coming off the bench for the Sixers. He has improved a great deal since his rookie season and is posting career high averages for points, steals, rebounds and assists.

Another Sixer had a strong case to be in the Rookie Challenge. Marreese Speights has seen his minutes dwindle lately as Elton Brand works his way back into the lineup but he has been putting up great scoring and rebounding stats all season long. Speights is averaging 8 points, 3.8 rebounds and nearly one block per game while only playing 15.5 minutes a contest. Extrapolate those numbers out to a full-time player and you have a 20/10 guy.

Speights not making the Rookie Challenge isn't a surprise when you look take a look around the league at all the good rookies, especially when you take into account the fact that Greg Oden is still considered a rookie. Here are the complete rosters for the Rookie Challenge:


Michael Beasley (Heat)
Rudy Fernandez (Trail Blazers)
Marc Gasol (Grizzlies)
Eric Gordon (Clippers)
Brook Lopez (Nets)
O.J. Mayo (Grizzlies)
Greg Oden (Trail Blazers)
Derrick Rose (Bulls)
Russell Westbrook (Thunder)

Aaron Brooks (Rockets)
Wilson Chandler (Knicks)
Kevin Durant (Thunder)
Jeff Green (Thunder)
Al Horford (Hawks)
Luis Scola (Rockets)
Al Thornton (Clippers)
Rodney Stuckey (Pistons)
Thaddeus Young (Sixers)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Brand, Sixers come up short against Hornets

Now that the Eagles are done, I figured it was time for me to start paying more attention to the Sixers. After a tremendously slow start to the season, the Sixers have been streaking lately, recently winning 8 straight games and pulling themselves near the .500 mark. It's no coincidence that the Sixers went on this run as soon as their big free agent acquisition, Elton Brand, went down with an injury. With Brand out, the Sixers were able to do what they do best: run and gun.

Well, Brand is back in the lineup and things should really get interesting as the Sixers try to integrate the big man into their running style of play. They were unsuccessful on Monday against the Hornets, a game the Sixers led at halftime by 7 points but still ended up losing 101-86. Brand came off the bench for the Sixers and played only 18 minutes, totaling a whopping 0 points and 3 rebounds. Leading the way for the Sixers offensively was Thaddeus Young, who totaled 22 points. Andre Iguodala chipped in 17 points and added 7 assists but none of it was enough to overcome Peja Stojakovic's 6 3-pointers and Chris Paul's stat-filling line of 27 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and 7 steals. That's right, the barely six foot Paul grabbed 10 boards and nearly put up a quadruple-double.

While this was only the second game back since his injury, Brand's uninspiring play is hardly encouraging. The Sixers are going to have to figure out how to work him into the run and gun offense that the team likes to run otherwise Brand will turn into the most expensive 6th man in the league.

The inability to get the team playing to its strengths was the reason Mo Cheeks was fired. Let's hope Tony DiLeo figures out a way to put the pieces together.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fixing the NHL All-Star Game, Version 2.0

Last year, I laid out my thoughts on how to fix the NHL All-Star Game, a game that was once an exciting contest that has devolved into a hit-less scoring fest. Despite the thrilling finish to this years game, the Saturday Skills Competition continues to be the better event. It's the one time we get to see the stars up close and personal doing what they do best, although the "breakaway challenge" is pretty hokey. This year, I want to re-visit the ideas that I had from last year because they are all still pretty applicable for how to make the NHL All-Star Game a must watch for all sports fans.

*Move the game outdoors. The Winter Classic has been an instant hit. For two years in a row, the NHL showcased its game with an outdoor contest that looks amazing in HD. If the NHL moved the All-Star game to an outdoor location in a cold weather city, thousands more fans will tune in just to see if it is snowing. Of course, I doubt the players would want to play an exhibition game in the cold and snow because of injury risks, so this idea may not be very likely. It would be an instant fix if they ever convinced the players to do it.

*Change the format to Stanley Cup Champs vs. All Stars. The idea of the Eastern Conference playing the Western Conference is boring. There are no rivals across the conferences, and who really cares who wins? The whole idea is flawed from a fans perspective. As a Flyer fan, I root for the Flyers in the game, not the Eastern Conference as a whole. Why would I want to root for the Devils and Rangers players to do well when I hate them? Instead, let's have the previous years Cup winner play against a team of all stars made up of the best player on each team. Sure, this would leave out some deserving players from teams other than the Stanley Cup winner, but with the joke that was the fan voting this year, would it really be that different? Some might argue that the All Star team would blow out the defending champs, but I would disagree. The defending champs have played 40+ games together, while an All-Star team is slapped together for one game.

I like this idea more than some sort of North America vs. the World idea because it doesn't pit teammates against one another. Guys who play together all season long shouldn't have to be opponents for one silly exhibition game.

*Get it on a real network in the US. Versus is getting better, but it still is not a big-time network. I am shocked that this game isn't on NBC. This one is out of the NHL's hands, but they need to be doing everything to beg ESPN to start showing hockey games again. Get the kind of crappy deal the AFL got just to get the game more exposure.

*Have the players wear their team jerseys. This bothers me every year. Figuring out which player is which is nearly impossible when the only thing that signifies what team a player plays for is a small patch on their shoulder. Sometimes the players wear different jersey numbers, too. Get these guys in their regular jerseys, having one team in white and the other in their darks, just like in the Young Stars game. The players are smart enough to figure out who is on what team. The average fan will give up watching the game when they can't tell who the players are.

Those are my ideas adapted from my thoughts from last season. They all still hold true. The NHL already has a better All-Star Game than the Pro Bowl but a few of these changes could make it a must-see, kind of like baseball. Of course, if they could simply have all the best players playing and not bailing out like a bunch of wusses (Crosby!), that would really help the game out.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seriously? Flyers interested in Peter Forsberg

Just when you thought it was dead, it starts right back up again. The rumors that Peter Forsberg was coming back to the Flyers started last season, died down after Foppa signed with the Avalanche, and then seemingly started up again the moment the Flyers were eliminated in the playoffs.

Now, it seems the rumor is gaining some real traction: the Flyers are talking with Forsberg's agent. According to Tim Panaccio of Comcast Sportsnet, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren contacted Foppa's agent to see if the star center was going to play this season. Holmgren went even further and said that "he would like to have Forsberg back in Philadelphia".

I have a few different thoughts on this rumor. First of all, with the Flyers right up against the cap, how in the world would they be able to afford Foppa? When Danny Briere comes back, the Flyers are already going to have to make a serious of moves to get themselves under the cap. If the Flyers were to sign Forsberg as well, an important piece of the current team would have to go. Of course, Briere is still injured, so Holmgren could be throwing feelers out there just in case Briere can't get back on the ice this season. If Briere never quite gets healthy, the Flyers could sign Forsberg and slide him right into Briere's spot on the first line.

Of course, whenever you talk about bringing Forsberg back, you have to consider his health. Foppa was a good, but not great, player for the Avalanche last season, putting up 14 points in 9 games. The Avs couldn't count on him on a nightly basis, however, as he was in and out of the lineup dealing with his foot and ankle problems.

If Briere doesn't come back and if Peter Forsberg is around 90% healthy, then I say the Flyers should bring back their former captain. He is still an excellent passer and I would love to see him dishing passes to Simon Gagne again. If Foppa is still the hobbled Foppa of the last two seasons then the Flyers should just forget it.

Either way, I am sure this is a rumor that won't be going away any time soon. Stay tuned for your daily Foppa.

Briere to miss 4 more weeks after surgery

The Flyers head into the All-Star break 2 points behind the first place Devils in the Atlantic Division, not a bad feat considering the rash of injuries that this team has dealt with. The fact that they have been able to put a team on the ice at all, let alone be competitive, when more than half the team has been injured at one point or another has to be considered a success.

Danny Briere has been one of the key players who has been missing for the Flyers and it looks like he will be out for a while longer. Briere, who last played for the Flyers in early December, underwent successful exploratory surgery on his groin today and is expected to miss the next 4 weeks. The injury has been nagging Briere for over a month, even when he played a few games with the Phantoms last week, so hopefully the surgery will allow him to come back healthy in February.

The season is a marathon, not a sprint, so losing Briere now shouldn't hurt the Flyers too much. Briere will be back when it matters, in the playoffs, and hopefully he will be close to 100% and ready to help the Flyers make a deep run in the playoffs.

The one positive about Briere being out for longer is the Flyers won't have to make a decision on what they should do to clear cap space. Luca Sbisa will remain with the big club and won't have to go back to his junior team and the Flyers won't have to make any salary-dumping moves, at least for now. You never hope for injuries to happen but Briere's surgery has bought the Flyers a few weeks to figure out what to do with their roster.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Next up: Phillies give Durbin 1 year deal

Ruben Amaro doesn't mess around. When faced with 7 players who were arbitration-eligible, Amaro swiftly signed 6 of them and avoided the hassle of arbitration. The latest to sign was Chad Durbin, relief ace and possible spot starter.

Durbin signed a 1 year deal with the Phillies worth 1.65 million. Signing him allows the Phillies to bring back every player from their solid 2008 bullpen. Durbin will continue to play a key role in the 7th and 8th innings as a bridge to Brad Lidge. His ability to come in at any point in the game and get several outs or just a few is invaluable to the Phillies.

The Durbin signing leaves just one Phillie left to deal with, but he's the big one. Ryan Howard is the final arbitration-eligible Phillie and his deal won't be done any time soon. Nice work Amaro, now you just have one more hurdle to get over.

Werth every penny: Phils sign outfielder to two year deal

Another day, another Phillies signing. At least we know that new GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is keeping busy.

The latest Phillie to sign is Jayson Werth, who agreed to a 2 year deal with the Phillies worth 10 million dollars in total. He will make 3 million next season and 7 million in 2010. The contract takes him through his remaining arbitration years.

This is another deal where the Phillies got pretty good value. An average of 5 million per year for a guy who hit 24 homers and drove in 67 RBI while sharing playing time is quite a bargin. I would expect Werth's role to continue to grow, especially since the departure of Pat Burrell leaves Werth as the biggest right handed bat in the lineup.

Credit has to be given to the Phillies for working hard to secure all of these key players to deals and avoiding arbitration. Ryan Howard will remain the elephant in the room for the next few weeks but Amaro has done well to lock up the core of the team that won the World Series.

The Phillies now have just two players who are arbitration-eligible: Chad Durbin and Howard. Expect Durbin to be signed in the coming days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ryan Howard requests 18 million

A situation that is likely going to get dicey got under way today: the Ryan Howard salary arbitration. Today was the day that players and teams exchanged salary arbitration numbers and the Phillies and Howard are already 4 million dollars apart. The big slugger requested 18 million dollars while the Phillies offered 14.

Howard already won a huge case last year that gave him a 10 million dollar contract and now he is requesting the 3rd highest amount in arbitration history. The Phillies are willing to give him a nice 4 million dollar raise, but 4 million more on top of that seems a bit steep. Howard did put up nice numbers and helped the Phils win the World Series but I'm not sure his salary should be nearly double what he got last season.

Stay tuned, this will only get more interesting. It's a good first sign that the Phillies want to give Howard a raise but we will see if the Big Guy is willing to accept anything less than what he thinks he is worth.

Phillies sign Victorino, Blanton to 1 year deals

And then there were three.

When you are one of the key players on a World Series winning team, you can expect a big raise, and that is exactly what Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton got from the Phillies. Both players avoided arbitration and signed one year deals with the Phillies. Victorino, who made 480,000 last year, will make 3.125 million in 2009. Blanton signed for 5.475 million, a raise over the 3.7 million he made last year. Both deals are solid moves for good prices considering how important each player is to the team.

Victorino will be worth every penny as a sparkplug in the lineup who provides speed and even the occasional homer. I would have liked to see him sign on for longer but he won't be going anywhere because the Phillies still own his rights for a few more years.

Blanton will solidify the back end of the rotation as he will assume the 3rd or 4th starter spot. He brings consistency with the knowledge that the Phillies will get a strong start from him every 5th day.

With these two players signing, the Phillies are left with just three arbitration-eligible players: Chad Durbin, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth

All Things Philly Sports turns one!

Today is a big day in history: it is the one year anniversary of the creation of All Things Philly Sports! And, oh yeah, Barack Obama is being Inaugurated today, I guess that is a big deal, too!

One year ago today, I started this site with the hopes of creating a website where Philly fans could read opinions and analysis exclusively about their favorite teams. Well, 365 days, a couple of site re-designs and 745 posts later, I hope I'm at least somewhat accomplishing that goal! Since the site has gotten 125,000 page views in the last year, I know that there is an audience of readers out there and I thank you all for stopping by.

I am not sure I could have picked a better year to start blogging. The Phillies won the World Series, the Eagles made the NFC Championship Game, the Flyers got to the Eastern Conference Finals and the Sixers, well, they made the playoffs! I've had a ton of fun covering all of these teams and all the ups and downs that come with covering these teams for the most passionate fan base out there.

Just for fun, here are the top 10 posts from the site from the last year, based on page views:
1. 2008 NFL Salary Cap Numbers
2. Anquan Boldin may want a trade?
3. Sifting through the Eagles rumors
4. Eagles "going hard" after Larry Fitzgerald
5. Eagles Rumor Roundup
6. Anquan Boldin demands trade, Eagles fans continue to dream
7. Eagles eyeing Moss?
8. Phillies vs. Dodgers NLCS Schedule
9. Eagles playoff scenarios
10. Sarah Palin dropping the first puck for the Flyers

Since that is a decidedly Eagles-centric list, here are the top 3 posts for each of the other teams, based on page views:

1. Phillies vs. Dodgers NLCS Schedule
2. Manny being shopped, possibly to Phillies?
3. Phillies news and notes (from 2/10)

1. Sarah Palin dropping the first puck for the Flyers
2. Cote, Flyers knock out Lightning
3. Flyers rumors: Carter set to sign, Umberger trade?

1. Sixers deal Carney, Booth to make room for Brand
2. Sixers sign Kareem Rush
3. Elton Brand is a Sixer!

Of course, those are just the posts with the most page views, sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to why they are popular (Kareem Rush?? Really?). Here are my Top 3 personal favorite posts from the past year:

1. The drought it over! The Phillies win it all!
2. The Next Philly Sports Champ?
3. It's official: Philly owns New York

Thanks to everyone who has visited my site in the past year. Here's hoping the next year is even better!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Phillies lock up Ryan Madson for three years

Moving on to some better news from a team who got the job done, the Phillies continue to agree to contracts with key players from their World Championship team. Two days ago, it was Cole Hamels who agreed to a 3-year deal, today it was Ryan Madson who signed on for three more years.

Set-up man Madson and the Phillies agreed to a 3 year deal worth 12 million plus incentives. This was the same deal that Madson reportedly turned down last week, there is no word yet on why he agreed to it now. There was some speculation that Madson was going to try to get out of town and go to a team that would use him as a closer, but by signing this deal, he is locked in to setting up for Brad Lidge for the next few years.

While 4 million a year for a set-up guy may seem like a bit of a steep price, in my opinion the Phillies have made an excellent move. Good teams always have strong bullpens and now the Phils are set in the 8th and 9th innings for the next three years. Madson has been hot and cold throughout his career, but with the way he pitched down the stretch and in the postseason last year, locking him up to a deal was a must for the Phillies.

This leaves the Phillies with five arbitration-eligible players: Joe Blanton, Chad Durbin, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Eagles comeback falls short, Arizona is going to the Super Bowl

The Eagles improbable run has come to a disappointing end. The Cardinals, a team the Eagles were supposed to beat handily on their way to the Super Bowl, proved to be up to the task and out-played Philly in the NFC Championship, winning 32-25.

The game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Cardinals basically did whatever they wanted offensively, marching down the field and racking up points. The Eagles defense had no answer for the Kurt Warner/Larry Fitzgerald combination as they combined for three scores. The Eagles offense also moved the ball well but failed to put the ball in the end zone and settled for only a pair of field goals, leading the Cardinals to a 24-6 halftime lead.

The second half was all Philly. The Eagles dominated the entire third quarter, scoring a pair of touchdowns and completely shutting down the Arizona offense. Philly even took a 25-24 lead in the fourth quarter when Donovan McNabb connected with DeSean Jackson for a 62 yard strike. The Eagles appeared to have all the momentum with a one point lead and the defense playing great.

The Cardinals had an answer, however, as they methodically marched down the field to score what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. The Eagles made one last-ditch effort offensively but they fell short, thanks in part to a clear pass interference that wasn't called on a 4th and 10 play.

Philly's season comes to and end at the hands of a team that wasn't better than them but they played better than them today. The Cardinals will likely get their butt kicked in the Super Bowl by the Steelers or the Ravens, but that will be little consolation for Eagles fans. I'll have more to write about this team in the coming days, but it's hard to feel too down, considering they weren't really suposed to get this far anyway. The disappointment comes in the fact that we know they are a better football team than they showed today, and we know that on their best day they can beat the Cardinals by 30 points, like they did on Thanksgiving.

While we should all be used to losing NFC Championship games by now, this one still hurts. The Eagles played so well to get this far, it's unfortunate that this game will be the lasting memory we have of the 2008 season.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

King Cole will reign over Philly for 3 more years

World Series MVP Cole Hamels was due for a big raise and he got it today. Hamels and the Phillies agreed to a 3 year, 20.5 million dollar contract, a deal that takes him through his remaining arbitration years. There are also several bonuses worked into the deal if Hamels wins a Cy Young, makes the All Star team or is the World Series MVP again.

Kudos to the Phillies, and to Hamels, for getting this deal done. It's a pretty reasonable deal considering the amount of money C.C. Sabathia got so Hamels should be commended for that. King Cole will become a free agent when the deal expires in 2012 so he could leave town at that point, but it's nice to know he will be anchoring the Phillies staff for the next few years.

The Phillies still have a few more contract situations to work out, including some that may prove to be difficult. Ryan Howard is going to expect a fat contract but I don't think the Phillies will give him one. Ryan Madson is another arbitration-eligible player that won't likely come to terms anytime soon and has already turned down a 3 year offer. Besides Hamels, Greg Dobbs, who signed for 2 years, 2.5 million, is the only other Phillie to agree to a contract. Joe Blanton, Chad Durbin, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth are the rest of the Phillies who are arbitration-eligible and will need deals to be worked out.

The next three years of King Cole should be fun to watch. Let's see if he can be the ace of another World Series pitching staff.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tampa is Calling: NFL Championship Round Predictions

I know I've said this before, but, what a long, strange football season it has been. First, everyone's favorite, the Patriots, are basically eliminated in the first week of the season when their quarterback goes down. Then, teams like the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins come from nowhere and make the playoffs. On top of that, the favorites who battle all season to earn home field advantage, the Giants and Titans, are eliminated by teams that just squeaked into the playoffs. This all sets up an intriguing set of Championship games between teams that were certainly not on anyone's radar as potential Super Bowl contenders, except for the Steelers.

Here are my predictions for who will make it to Tampa Bay. As always, picks don't take the spread into consideration.

Last Week: 2-2, .500
Playoff Overall: 5-3, .625

Sunday Games:

NFC Championship:
Eagles @ Cardinals, 3 pm
Is there any doubt as to who I am going with in this one? I went against the Eagles last week and I couldn't be more happy about being wrong; perhaps I should pick against the Eagles again just so I don't jinx them. I don't believe in jinxes, so I will go ahead and make my pick, it's not like something I pick will affect the outcome of a game. The Eagles will win this game because they are the better team. Despite the way they have been shutting down some of the top running backs in the league, the Cardinals defense is nowhere near as good as the Eagles defense. The Eagles offense, although not as explosive, is better all-around and has a better quarterback running the show. This game won't be much like the Thanksgiving Day massacre, but the Eagles should have a comfortable lead throughout. Their defense is going to carry them right into the Super Bowl, the Cardinals offense doesn't have enough weapons to really be a threat against Jim Johnson and his blitzing schemes. The Eagles will dare the Cardinals to try to run the ball in the early downs and then blitz the heck out of Kurt Warner on 3rd down. Offensively, the Eagles will once again show a commitment to the run early in the game to keep the Cardinals honest and then open things up later in the game and shred the Arizona secondary. The Cardinals had a great run but it ends this week as they lose by 10 points to the better birds, the Eagles. My pick: Eagles

AFC Championship:
Ravens @ Steelers, 6:30 pm
Hopefully you get your fix of offense in the NFC Championship Game because there won't be any in this one. This will be old fashioned football at its finest, with every play a battle and every yard a struggle. These are the best two defenses in the NFL and I don't think there is a close third. The biggest difference in this game has to be on the offensive side of the ball where the Steelers have an advantage. Who would you rather have as your quarterback in this game, a rookie who has never been there before or Ben Roethlisberger, who has won a Super Bowl? Which running back would you rather have, Willie Parker or whichever runner the Ravens go with between Willis McGahee or Le'Ron McClain? Which receiving core scares you more, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward or Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton? The Steelers offensive line is still pretty porous, which is a dangerous thing considering the Ravens will look to exploit it on every play, but as long as Big Ben is still standing at the end, the Steelers will be going to the Super Bowl. My pick: Steelers

Of course, if those picks do prove to be correct, that will set up an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl. What a game that will be!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Boldin will play in the NFC Championship Game

As if there was ever really a doubt, Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who missed the NFC Divisional Round as with an injured hamstring, announced today that he will play in the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles. Boldin was nearly healthy enough to suit up against the Panthers so it was a given that he would be ready to face Philly. With Boldin back in the line-up, Arizona's aerial attack is just that much more dangerous.

Boldin's return shouldn't change the Eagles game plan too much. The Eagles would have put most of their focus on stopping the Cardinals passing game even if Boldin didn't suit up. Philly will likely try to blitz Kurt Warner like crazy and dare the Cardinals to beat them with their ground game. Edgerrin James has come on of late but there is little chance he can carry a team to the Super Bowl.

It wasn't long ago we were hoping that Anquan Boldin would join the Eagles, now we are hoping that the Eagles do everything they can to shut him down. Who knows, maybe Boldin will demand another trade out of town after the Eagles beat the Cardinals.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Briere is the minors

Danny Briere, who has been out since early December with a groin injury, will make his return to the ice, only it won't be with the Flyers. Instead, the Flyers have assigned Briere to the Phantoms for a two game conditioning assignment. Briere will play on Wednesday and Friday for the Phantoms as he tries to get back to full strength.

The real reason Briere is playing for the Phantoms is the Flyers want to buy themselves some time as they figure out how to clear cap space for the return of the most expensive player on the team. The Flyers will have to clear a few million in order to make room for Briere, and that will likely take a couple of moves to get done. The Flyers could make a trade to shed salary, with guys like Joffrey Lupul or Mike Knuble being the likely candidates to go, or they will have to send several players back to the minors, like Andreas Nodl and Lasse Kukkonen.

One other move that seems destined to happen is Luca Sbisa will be sent back to his junior team. The 18 year old defenseman has had a solid season with the Flyers, but, since the return of Randy Jones, Sbisa has been caught up in a numbers game and hasn't played consistently. The best thing for the development of the young defenseman is to get as much ice time as possible and if he isn't playing for the Flyers, he needs to go somewhere else. He has more than earned his spot with the Flyers but, unfortunately, there's just no room for him right now.

With the way the Flyers are playing right now, it's too bad they have to shake up the roster at all. Luckily, any time you add a guy like Briere to the mix, you are making your team a whole lot better.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's official: Philly owns New York

Philadelphia may no longer have to suffer in the shadow of New York, at least when it comes to sports.

In case you haven't noticed by now, the Philly sports scene is completely dominating the New York sports scene. The Eagles victory over the Giants seals the fact that every Philadelphia team in the 4 major sports is better than every New York team, even in the sports in which New York has two teams. It's been quite the reversal of fortune for two cities who had gotten used to their roles as underdogs in Philly and as heavy favorites in the Big Apple.

The Phillies, of course, are on top of the baseball world having just won the World Series. The Phillies success is directly related to their New York rival which has made a habit of collapsing at the end of the season. In each of the last two seasons, the Phillies have overtaken the Mets in the final month of the season for the NL East crown. The Phillies have also made the playoffs last season, something the Yankees failed to do.

The Eagles are fresh off their victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants. While the Giants took the NFC East in the regular season, the Eagles were the better team when it mattered, in the playoffs. The Birds finished with a 2-1 record against the Giants this year and won both times they played in the Meadowlands. The other New York team, the Jets, didn't play the Eagles this season but they didn't even make the playoffs, finishing with a 9-7 record, a half game worse than the Eagles record of 9-6-1 (gotta love that tie!).

The Flyers made the Eastern Conference Final last season, something neither New York NHL team has done since 1997 when the Rangers lost to the, you guessed it, Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers also recently took over first place in the Atlantic Division from the Rangers who had been in first since the beginning of the season. The Flyers currently sit just one point above the Rangers but they have played two fewer games. As for the other New York team, the Islanders, they are the worst team in hockey and I can't even remember the last time they were relevant.

The Sixers are the last Philadelphia team who is currently more successful than their New York counterpart, but they have the least to brag about. The Sixers are currently an unimpressive 3 games under .500 and are the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference while the Knicks are slightly worse at 13-22 and are the 12th seed in the East. Sixers fans don't have much to gloat about but at least Philly made the playoffs last year, something the Knicks haven't done since 2004.

As you can see, it's good to be a Philadelphia sports fan. Not only are we on top of the baseball world and one game away from the biggest stage of them all, the Super Bowl, but every Philadelphia sports team is better than our biggest rivals in New York. You could even take it a step further and say that every Philly sports team is better than every team in New Jersey as well, except for the Nets. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh still has the Penguins and Steelers so no such claims can be made about our rival on the other side of the state.

I am not sure how times could get much better for the Philly sports fan. I suppose a Super Bowl victory and a Stanley Cup would put us over the top. What a difference a year makes, before we would have been happy for just one title now we want as many as we can get. It's even sweeter to know that New York won't be winning a championship in the near future.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

They're going to Arizona: Eagles knock off Giants

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Do you believe in miracles, Philly fans?? The Eagles are one game away from the Super Bowl!!

I described the Eagles win against the Vikings in the First Round as "not pretty", which would make the Birds victory over the Giants in the NFC Divisional Round positively ugly. Once again, though, a win is a win, and the Eagles will take it because they are now in the NFC Championship Game.

The Eagles downed the Giants 23-11 in a brutal defensive struggle. Neither offense could move the ball effectively as they not only had to battle the opposing defense but also the frigid cold and swirling winds of the Meadowlands. In other words, it was a typical NFC East game.

The Eagles defense proved once again that defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was right when he said this is the best Eagles defense he has ever coached. The defense kept the Giants out of the end zone all day, allowing only 3 field goals despite New York having good field position several times throughout the game.

Asante Samuel made the big play early in the game, intercepting an Eli Manning pass that Samuel brought back all the way to the 2 yard lineto set up an Eagles touchdown. Defensively, the Birds focused on shutting down the Giants running game and basically challenged Manning to beat them through the air, a challenge that Eli failed miserably. The Giants completed only 15 of 29 passes for 169 yards and had two costly interceptions. Manning struggled not only with the pressure the Eagles continually put on him but also with the wind that continually made his passes look like lame ducks.

The Giants were able to gain signifigant yards on the ground, totalling 138 yards, but the Eagles made the big stops when it mattered. The Giants went for two 4th and shorts late in the game and the Birds defense stiffened just enough to stop Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs and seal the victory.

Offensively, the Eagles did just enough at the right time. Late in the first half, the Eagles had a drive where they actually managed the clock effectively and picked up a big field to give themselves a lead. After a slow start, Donovan McNabb picked up the offense and completed just over 50% of his passes at 22 for 40. The Eagles ran the ball repeatedly in the first half and couldn't get anything going; it wasn't until the Birds basically abandoned the run in the second half that they started to move the ball effectively.

The Eagles run that probably never should have been continues. Now that they have knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions, you have to really start believing that this team could finally get that championship that has eluded them for so long. They are back in the NFC Championship Game for the 5th time in the last 8 seasons. Credit has to be given to Andy Reid who has seemingly re-opened the Eagles championship window that looked like it had slammed shut. This team is resilient and as long as the defense continues to play the way it has, they can play with any team in the league.

At the beginning of the playoffs, who could have possibly predicted the NFC Championship would be a Battle of the Birds between the Eagles and Cardinals? The Cardinals, a team the Eagles beat 48-20 on Thanksgiving, are a very beatable team. Arizona isn't the same team the Eagles faced back then as they no longer completely rely on the passing game to move the ball on offense. Edgerrin James has re-emerged as a viable threat to run the ball, meaning the Eagles can't simply blitz the Cardinals out of the building. Still, even though the game is being played in Arizona, the Eagles have to be the early favorite to win the game.

I have run out of words to describe how improbable this Eagles playoff run is. This team had been left for dead so many times this season but it has really bounced back in a big way. With the Phillies winning the World Series just a few months ago and the Eagles just two wins away from finally winning a Super Bowl, I can't think of a better time to be a Philly fan. Let's see how long this wave of good times continues.

Eagles/Giants inactives

The Big Game is upon us! With the Cardinals winning yesterday, I think it's safe to say that the winner of this game has a strong chance of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. Here are the inactives for today's game:

Eagles: RB Lorenzo Booker, QB A.J. Feeley, WR Greg Lewis, LB Joe Mays, CB Dmitri Patterson, TE Matt Schobel, DE Bryan Smith

Giants: CB Rashad Barksdale, DT Jeremy Clark, DT Leger Douzable, OT Adam Koets, WR Mario Manningham, DE Dave Tollefsom, RB Danny Ware, LB Gerris Wilkinson

All the key players for each team are ready to play. For the Eagles, L.J. Smith will return to the field but he is still expected to back up Brent Celek. Greg Lewis finds his way to the inactive list this week, which is surprising to me considering he always has a knack for making big catches in big games. Fullback Dan Klecko is also unexpectedly active, the Birds thought they would have his services in this one.

Settle in and enjoy what should be a great NFC East battle today. The Birds have a real shot at getting to the Super Bowl, let's see if they take advantage of it. Go Birds!

Friday, January 9, 2009

NFL Divisional Round Predictions

The last great weekend of football is upon us. The Divisional Round is always the best round of the NFL playoffs because it's filled with teams that were good all season as well as teams that are getting hot at the right time. Every game here, with the possible exception of the Panthers/Cardinals game, should be low scoring and close. Arguments can be made for a number of possible scenarios to unfold. Here are my predictions of who will win. All picks are made without taking the spread into account.

Record Last Week: 3-1, .750

Saturday Games:

Ravens @ Titans
I keep going back and forth on this one. On the one hand, the Ravens have an incredibly deep and talented defense. On the other, they have a rookie quarterback who is bound to make some mistakes against the strong Titans defense. The Titans are well-rested and ready to go but the Ravens are red-hot and ready to pounce. One thing I can say for sure about this game is that it will be low-scoring and whoever turns it over less will win. I'm going to go with the Ravens simply because of the dominating defense. I might be underrating the Titans, who were so good for so long this season, but nothing about them gives me any confidence that they can win this one. My pick: Ravens

Cardinals @ Panthers
This is the easiest pick of the bunch. The Panthers are my pick to get to the Super Bowl out of the NFC so obviously I see them rolling against the Cardinals. Arizona simply has too many factors going against them here. They are terrible against the run, something the Panthers do better than almost anyone. The Cards are also going to the East Coast where they have been terrible this season. Anquan Boldin also looks unlikely to play. All of that adds up to a Panthers win. My pick: Panthers

Sunday Games:

Eagles @ Giants
I've been going back and forth on this one all week, too. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs and they were so dominant this season that it's hard to pick against them. The Eagles are getting hot at just the right time and it's hard to pick against them. Unfortunately, with the way the Eagles only squeaked out a win against the Vikings last week, it's hard for me to have much confidence in them. We do know that it will be a good, hard-hitting contest between two NFC East rivals and the Eagles defense should be able to contain the Giants running game as much as anyone possibly can. Part of me sees the Eagles marching down the field late in the game for a game-winning David Akers field goal while another part of me sees the Giants controlling the ball for most of the game and the Eagles trying to play catch-up and never quite getting there. The fan in me really, really, really wants to pick the Eagles but the realist in me has to go with the Giants. I hope I'm wrong! My pick: Giants

Chargers @ Steelers
The Chargers really surprised me in the way they played against the Colts. L.T. is pretty much out of the picture at this point but Darren Sproles more than proved that he is a capable backup. Unfortunately, I don't see Sproles doing much of anything against the Steelers defense. It's one thing to rip the Colts up for big gains and quite another to get past the Steel Curtain in the mucky grass at Heinz Field. The Steelers offense doesn't impress me much but they will do just enough to edge out the Chargers, setting up a Steelers/Ravens AFC Championship that will probably end with a score of 6-3. My pick: Steelers

Those are my picks, any thoughts or opinions?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jeff Carter named only Flyers All Star

The Flyers roster is loaded with star players who are having excellent seasons this year. It all starts with Mike Richards, the team leader who is 13th in the league in points. Of course, there is also Jeff Carter, who is tied for the league lead in goals. Simon Gagne is also scoring goals at a high rate and is 11th in the league in goals scored. Defensively, Kimmo Timonen is 14th in the league in points for defensemen and is also excellent on the other end of the ice.

With all of these stars playing well for the first place Flyers, you would think most if not all of them would make the All Star team. Apparently the NHL and its fans think differently. No Flyer was voted to be a starter, instead 4 Canadiens were voted in because the Montreal fans, who are hosting the All Star game, stuffed the ballot box. The Flyers could've still had several reserves added to the roster but the NHL named the Eastern Conference reserves today and only one Flyer was on the list: Jeff Carter.

Carter is certainly deserving for the excellent numbers he is putting up but I have a hard time with Richards not being on the team. He is the best player on the Flyers team and plays both ends of the ice with intensity and passion. How can you have an All Star game when you are missing such a big star?

The main reason Richards, Gagne and Timonen were left off was due to the ballot-stuffing Canadiens fans. Montreal is a good team but there is no way they should have that many representatives. The most ridiculous Canadien voted in was goaltender Carey Price. You remember Price from last years playoffs, he was the kid the Flyers completely rattled and exposed him as a terrible goalie under pressure.

Several Flyers were robbed of All Star spots they deserved but I'm sure the players won't mind too much. Instead of going to Montreal and playing an extra game they can stay home and heal up for the stretch run. I'd rather have a healthy group of players that will lead the Flyers deep into the playoffs anyway.

Click here for a complete list of the NHL All Star rosters.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Eagles make some minor moves as they prepare for the Giants

The Eagles continue to ready themselves for the big showdown this coming weekend. It should be a great game between two NFC East rivals. The Giants have the homefield advantage but that likely won't mean much between these two evenly matched teams.

As they set their roster for the coming game, the Eagles made a few moves. First, offensive lineman Mike McGlynn, who has only suited up for 3 games this season, was placed on injured reserve with a torn hamstring. He wasn't an option to play this week anyway. The Eagles then used his roster space to sign cornerback Dmitri Patterson. Patterson was an undrafted player out of Tuskegee who has spent time in the Redskins, Vikings and Chiefs organizations. He has played a total of 23 games in the NFL in the last few years and figures to only be insurance should the Eagles secondary started racking up injuries.

One other piece of news from the Eagles today: Shawn Andrews has returned to practice! The Pro Bowl lineman has played only 2 games this season and is dealing with back issues. He won't play this week but could suit up in the NFC Championship game, if the Birds make it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

List of injured Flyers, now nine deep, continues to grow

Okay, now this is just beyond ridiculous. The injury bug that has hit the Flyers this season has gotten completely out of control and has now inflicted over a third of the roster. The fact that the Flyers are even in second place in the Atlantic Division is a testament to just how deep and talented this team really is.

On Monday, GM Paul Holmgren went through the litany of injuries that the Flyers are dealing with, outlining the NINE players that are currently banged up. The latest major injuries are to winger Joffrey Lupul and goaltender Antero Niittymaki. Lupul is dealing with an abdominal pull and Niitty has a pulled groin and both players have been placed on Injured Reserve. Both figure to be out for about two weeks.

Adding to those latest injuries is news that Claude Giroux, Arron Asham, Josh Gratton, Darroll Powe and Jonathon Kalinski are all out with injuries. Giroux has a concussion and is day to day. Asham is dealing with a knee sprain but figures to return soon. Out with an abdominal injury is Gratton while Powe is dealing with a hip injury. Finally, Kalinski will be out the longest of this group as he was in the hospital getting blood drained from his left thigh. Look for him to be back in a week or so.

On top of all of these injuries, star players Simon Gagne and Danny Briere are still dealing with their own health issues. Gagne figures to try to play through the pain of his left shoulder but Briere will remain out for at least another week as he continues to recover from his groin injury.

All of these injuries leave the Flyers seriously thin at forward. With 7(!!) forwards likely out for the next game, several defensemen will continue to be forced to play offense. While the Flyers have called up Andreas Nodl to fill one of the forward spots and Simon Gagne will attempt to suit up, that still leaves three vacated forward spots. Luca Sbisa and Lasse Kukkonen are two likely candidates to move to the forward positions but the club is still one forward short. Goaltender Scott Munroe was called up from the Phantoms to replace Niittymaki in net so perhaps he could try his hand on the wings.

I have never before seen a hockey team have this many injuries. Luckily for the Flyers, key players like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Mike Knuble are still healthy along with their entire defensive unit. There is enough talent in this group to keep the team afloat for the next few weeks but it will be difficult for them to remain atop the Atlantic Division.

The best thing for the Flyers right now will be to finish up this road trip and head home and start healing up. None of these players are expected to be out for the entire season so the team should be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let's hope that light isn't a train that will run into the rest of the players and knock them all out with injuries.

Monday, January 5, 2009

MLB suspends J.C. Romero 50 games for "negligence"

The Phillies will now be without two key pieces of their roster for the start of the 2009 season. The one we already knew about was Chase Utley, who had offseason hip surgery and will miss at least the first month of the regular season. Now it looks like the Phillies will also have to do without their lefty bullpen ace for the first two months. Talk about a rocky start for the defending champs.

Major League Baseball will announce tomorrow that J.C. Romero has been suspended for 50 games for "negligence". Apparently Romero bought supplements that the league originally approved of but has now decided are banned substances. He will also lose 1.25 million dollars of salary.

The weird thing about the situation is that Romero isn't being accused of taking an illegal substance. Instead, he is being punished for buying a product that MLB was never clear was actually a banned substance. It all sounds pretty fishy to me, and J.C. feels wrongly accused and has plenty of strong words on the situation that you can read if you click here.

This is certainly a tough situation for Romero to be dealing with. Apparently he could have made a deal to reduce his suspension to 25 games but he refused it because he didn't feel he did anything wrong.

For the Phillies, this means they will be without a key bullpen piece for nearly a third of the season. In his absence, the Phillies probably won't go and make any drastic moves. Scott Eyre will likely be the main lefty option out of the pen and the Phils could easily use someone like J.A. Happ as the second lefty.

Losing Romero hurts the Phillies but you have to look bigger picture in this situation. MLB might be doing something seriously wrong, and illegal, by suspending a player who really did nothing that was against the rules. Let's hope Romero is so fired up from this suspension that he dominates the league after he sits out for 50 games.

Pat Burrell signs with the Rays

We knew this day was coming ever since Raul Ibanez signed with the Phillies. Pat Burrell, who spent 9 years in a Phillies uniform, signed a 2 year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, the team the Phils vanquished in the World Series. Burrell signed for a relatively cheap 16 million dollars over the two years and will be the Rays designated hitter. That's a great deal for someone who will give you 30 homers and 90 RBIs a season.

Burrell's Philadelphia career is now officially over and it ended on the highest note possible. He went from longtime goat to World Series hero this season and will always be remembered for helping the city break its long championship drought. It's sad to see Burrell go even though we knew this day was coming. I personally am surprised at how little money he settled for, I would have thought the Phillies would have easily matched that amount. Burrell's replacement, Ibanez, signed for 10 million a year and he's four years older than Burrell.

So long, Pat the Bat, you went out a winner. Expect a huge standing ovation for Burrell when the Rays visit the Phillies on April 3rd and 4th for the final Spring Training games at Citizen's Bank.

NFL Second Round Playoff Schedule: Eagles vs. Giants on Sunday

The Eagles are marching onward. Here is the schedule for the second round of playoff games:

Ravens @ Titans, 4:30 pm (CBS)
Cardinals @ Panthers, 8:15 pm (FOX)

Eagles @ Giants, 1:00 pm (FOX)
Chargers @ Steelers, 4:45 pm (CBS)

The second round usually features great match-ups. The Eagles/Giants game looks to be the best of the bunch, although Ravens/Titans should be interesting. Check back later in the week for my predictions for these games!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Eagles Edge Vikings, Bring on the Giants!

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win.

The Eagles failed to score an offensive touchdown until late in the game but still managed to squeak by the Minnesota Vikings 26-14 in an NFC Wild Card game. For the most part, the game was a defensive struggle as each team came up with big defensive stops and turnovers to set up the offenses. Save for one big play for each team, both offenses struggled to put points on the board.

The Vikings defense bottled up Brian Westbrook for most of the game, keeping the Eagles biggest weapon grounded until a big play in the 4th quarter. With nearly 7 minutes left in the game and the Eagles up 16-14, Westbrook caught a Donovan McNabb screen pass and took it 71 yards and sealed the Eagles victory. Westbrook continues to prove that, when he's healthy, he is still a threat to to score every time he touches the ball. The screen pass he scored on didn't look like it was much of a play until Westbrook turned on the jets and broke a tackle or two.

The Birds played about as well as they could have defensively, allowing Adrian Peterson one big touchdown run but swallowing up nearly everything else the Vikings tried to do. The Eagles were able to slow down the Vikings and force them into obvious passing situations, allowing them to blitz from every angle and confuse Tarvaris Jackson and force turnovers. The defense was also responsible for a touchdown when Asante Samuel picked off Jackson and took it to the house in the second quarter.

With the win, the Eagles now head to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants in the second round. The Giants and Eagles each beat the other team on the road this season, with the Eagles beating the Giants most recently in Week 14. It should be a close contest between two teams with similar defensive styles and completely opposite offensive strategies. The Giants will look to run the ball down the Eagles throats and the Birds will try to stop them just like they did in Week 14 when the Giants managed only 88 yards on the ground. In Week 10, the first time the two teams played, the Giants plowed over the Eagles and racked up 218 yards on the ground. Needless to say, stopping the run will be the key for the Eagles.

The Eagles improbable season continues. While the Eagles didn't look incredibly impressive today, they did just enough to get past the Vikings. Their defense carried the day for them and if they can put together a similar defensive effort against the Giants, the Eagles should do well. It's the offense for the Eagles that needs to step it up. The Eagles can't continue to settle for field goals, they need to start punching the ball into the end zone.

It took a miracle for the Eagles to get into the playoffs and now the Eagles have taken advantage of their good fortune and look poised to make a deep run in these playoffs. Rumors of the demise of the Eagles were greatly exaggerated.

Eagles/Vikings Inactives

Here we go! The Eagles improbable season continues today. Which Birds team shows up, the one that tied the Bengals or the one that destroyed the Cowboys?

Here are the inactive players for today's game:

Eagles: DE Victor Abiamiri, OL Shawn Andrews, RB Lorenzo Booker, QB A.J. Feeley, LB Joe Mays, OL Chris Patrick, DE Bryan Smith, TE L.J. Smith

Vikings: QB John David Booty, DE Ray Edwards, DT Letroy Guion, OT Marcus Johnson, TE Garrett Mills, WR Darius Reynaud, LB Dontarrious Thomas, DT Pat Williams

The Eagles inactive players are the same as last week. Losing L.J. Smith and his drops isn't going to hurt the offense.

For the Vikings, losing one half of the Williams Wall will certainly limit their ability to stop the run. The Eagles likely won't look to run the ball much, anyway, so it might not matter.

Kickoff is just minutes away, let's hope the right Birds team shows up this week!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

NFL Wild Card Weekend Predictions

What a long, strange season it's been. Who would have thought at the start of the season that neither the Cowboys nor the Patriots would be in the playoffs? Who could have predicted the Dolphins would win the AFC East? And, most improbably, who would have thought the Eagles would make the playoffs despite tying the Bengals?

I will continue to make my picks through the playoffs. Remember, all picks are made without taking the spread into consideration.

Record Last Week: 11-5, .688
Final Regular Season Record: 163-93, .637

Saturday Games:

Falcons (11-5) @ Cardinals (9-7)
Everyone is discounting the Cardinals but I'm not so sure they should be. Yes, the Cardinals limped into the playoffs and, yes, they play in the worst division in football. However, this game is in Arizona and the Cards still have all those offensive weapons. You also have to take into account the Falcons have a rookie quarterback and have very few veterans on the team with a lot of playoff experience. Atlanta's defense is also pretty weak, so I'm going with Arizona. My pick: Cardinals

Colts (12-4) @ Chargers (8-8)
The Chargers two best offensive weapons, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, are nursing injuries so they will be less than 100% if they play. Even if both were at full strength I would still pick the Colts. The Colts are on a roll offensively and their defense isn't great but they make just enough plays to give Peyton and the offense a chance to win. The Colts are my pick from the AFC to get to the Super Bowl. My pick: Colts

Sunday Games:

Ravens (11-5) @ Dolphins (11-5)
This is the game I have the least interest but it will probably be the best game. I expect a low-scoring affair between two solid defenses and plodding offenses. The most intriguing part of the game will be watching Chad Pennington and the nearly mistake-free Dolphins offense against the Ravens turnover-creating defensive machine. If the Ravens have their way defensively, which I think they will, it will be a long day for the Fins. Oh, and the Wildcat isn't going to work against Baltimore. My pick: Ravens

Eagles (9-6-1) @ Vikings (10-6)
The Eagles have really ridden a roller coaster the last few weeks. They have gone from the low of tying the Bengals to the high of beating the Giants to the low of the Redskins game to the high of destroying the Cowboys and making the playoffs. Despite all of those ups and downs, nearly everyone is picking the Eagles to beat the Vikings and it's easy to see why. The Vikings two biggest strengths are running the ball and stopping the run. The Eagles defense has been one of the best at stopping the run recently so you have to feel confident that they will at least slow down Adrian Peterson. Offensively, the Eagles don't run the ball anyway so that neutralizes the Vikings advantage there. Andy Reid will be looking to pick apart the mediocre Minnesota secondary on nearly every play whether Eagles fans like it or not. This game might be fairly low-scoring but I think the Eagles will be in control from start to finish. My pick: Eagles

Friday, January 2, 2009

All Things Philly Sports' Holiday Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Jason Kirkpatrick, the winner of ATPS Holiday Giveaway Contest! Jason has won a "101 Reasons to Love the Phillies" book! Jason's entry was the first I received the day after the contest started, and his was easily the most comprehensive.

Here are Jason's wishes for three of the four Philly sports teams:

1. Phillies - Honestly after the ride they gave me in the playoffs this year, I just want to see some good baseball out of them. I hope we see the second half Brett Myers the full season this year, and I hope the second half Ryan Howard can get off to a bit of an earlier start to help fill the hitting gap we'll have without Chase at the start of the season. Speaking of Chase, I wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can come back at least as good of a player as he was last season. I am hoping Moyer has another good season as the man just deserves it in my eyes. I think my wish for them is to make the playoffs, and to feel that playoff magic again.

2. Flyers - My wish for the Flyers is to have them gel at the right time and make a deep playoff run again. In order to do this, another of my wishes is to have either Biron or Niity step up and be a true #1 goalie that we've needed for so long in this city. From the playoffs last season, it seemed Biron would be that man, but he's been inconsistent this season. I wish for Jeff Carter to continue his hot streak, and finally be noticed as one of the best centers in the NHL. I also wish for Gagne to stay healthy and avoid any further concussions for the rest of his career. The guy deserves that, and I'd hate for another great Flyer to go down to concussions.

3. Eagles - Had to save the Eagles for last... My hope for the Eagles is that they figure out what is plaguing this team. Whether it be McNabb (which I don't think it is), or Reid, something has got to give. I feel bad for wishing that someone loses a job (well, in McNabb's case, he'll just have a job somewhere else), but I think a change will be best for this team. And I believe that change needs to come from a player personnel standpoint more than a player standpoint. I'm not saying the Eagles have all the right pieces, but I think we need a better person in charge of putting those pieces together. One wish I have (and this is REALLY a wish) is for Pat Gillick to be the new GM of the Eagles. He made all the right moves with the Phils, football can't be that much different can it? haha. Anyways, I think Reid needs to either be let go as coach, or get final say in personnel decisions taken away. I don't think he can do both anymore. I also wish that if McNabb does move on, that he finds success wherever he goes. I wish for Westbrook to enjoy a healthy season. I wish for Dawkins to get a 1-2 year contract and retire an Eagle. I can think of no other person that personifies the Eagles more than him. I wish for the Eagles to come together as a team, and especially after watching that "game" yesterday, always be up for every game, and prepared to play.

Great work, Jason. It's especially interesting to read Jason's thoughts on the Birds, considering he wrote them before we knew they were going to be in the playoffs. I don't think anyone could have predicted that. Anyway, thanks to all who entered, better luck next time! And, thanks to everyone who reads the site, it's nice to know there are a few people that come and check out the things I have to say about the teams we love to follow. Happy 2009 to everyone!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year, Philly Fans!

Happy 2009! May the New Year be as great as 2008!!