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.

Eagles/Redskins Inactives: Redskins missing stars

The Eagles and Redskins have announced their inactive players for today's NFC East matchup:

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

Redskins: QB Richard Bartel, TE Chris Cooley, OL Paul Fanaika, CB Deangelo Hall, DT Albert Haynesworth, LB Robert Henson, RB Clinton Portis, DE Renaldo Wynn

The Eagles inactives aren't surprising as Westbrook, Curtis and Jordan are still dealing with injuries. There was some worry about Asante Samuel not being able to play but clearly his neck injury isn't going to keep him off the field.

For the Redskins, their inactive list is a basically a list of all of their best players. Their big man in the middle, Albert Haynesworth, will be out which should allow the Eagles to actually run the ball at will. With both Portis out and Betts on IR, Rock Cartwright is the starting running back. Other notable stars out for the Skins are Cooley and Hall, both former Pro Bowlers.

There are no excuses for the Eagles today. The Redskins are missing most of their key players so the Birds should be able to roll right over them. Of course, we know how the Eagles like to make things interesting! GO BIRDS!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sixers considering Iverson? No thanks

When I heard that Allen Iverson was retiring from the NBA, part of me was sad because I always though AI would return to Philly to close out his career. It would have been nice to see him in a Sixer uniform one last time just for the rush of memories and the sense of nostalgia. Well, now that word has come out that the Sixers are considering bringing Iverson back, you would think I would be happy about it, right? Wrong. The Sixers should want no part of bringing Iverson back to Philadelphia.

The Sixers are a 5-11 team right now and have lost 5 games in a row. Simply put, they are a bad basketball team. What would be the point of bringing Allen Iverson in? An aging AI wouldn't thrust the Sixers into one of the better teams in the East so it has nothing to do with being a contender and everything to do with money. As the Sixers sag in the standings, attendance will continue to plummet as the team fades out of the collective consciousness of the city. Bringing in AI would make the Sixers relevant again and would bring the money in as everyone would want to see him play one last time.

So, from a financial aspect, bringing AI back makes a lot of sense. From a basketball aspect, however, everything is wrong about this move. If you have a team that isn't going to contend for a title, what should you be doing with that team? Developing it for the future. How do you develop a team for the future? Play the guys that will be there in the future, or at least play the guys so you can see what kind of future they are going to have. Signing Allen Iverson would take 30 minutes away from guys that are trying to learn the game and giving it to someone who is going to shoot 20 times a game. As we all have heard, Iverson needs to start in the NBA or he won't play, so you really want to take a raw rookie like Jrue Holiday and slice his minutes in half? And what happens when Lou Williams returns in a few months and Holiday finds himself glued to the bench? Who are you developing then?

The other part of this move that doesn't make any sense is the Sixers would end up winning a few more games and earning themselves a worse draft pick. Now, I'm not one who believes in tanking in the NBA to get a better pick, but if the Sixers are a bad team they deserve to have a high draft pick. Signing Iverson will hinder the Sixers chances of drafting a true difference maker in the 2010 draft.

There is really no point in the Sixers signing Allen Iverson. Sure, it will be fun for a few games and the Sixers will make some cash but in the long run it is will do more harm than it will help. While I hope that Iverson's career isn't over, I hope the Sixers are smart enough to stay away. AI deserves to have one last shot at winning a title, anyway, and that's not something he's going to be able to do in Philly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NFL Week 12 Predictions

It's time for some Thanksgiving football! Seriously, is there anything better than stuffing your face and then sitting on the couch and watching football? I guess it would be better this year if the Thanksgiving games were actually intriguing matchups.

Here are my picks for Week 12 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: 112-48, .700

Thursday Games:

Packers (6-4) @ Lions (2-8)
The first Thanksgiving game figures to be a blowout by halftime so you should have plenty of time to get eating. While the Packers are banged up on defense, the Lions will be without Matthew Stafford and possibly Calvin Johnson, a recipe for disaster. All the Pack needs is a little blocking and they will rack up 30 points in no time. My pick: Packers

Raiders (3-7) @ Cowboys (7-3)
How much is Jerry Jones paying the NFL to schedule a creampuff game like this at a time when everyone in the country is watching? It's like the high school homecoming game where the weak opponent is brought in to get slaughtered by the home team. My pick: Cowboys

Giants (6-4) @ Broncos (6-4)
How bad are the Broncos? Normally, a 6-4 team is one of the better ones in the league but not after Denver has dropped 4 in a row. The Giants aren't much better, though Eli Manning did fare better last week as he hopes to stave off his late season swoon for another week or two. My pick: Giants

Sunday Day Games:

Bucs (1-9) @ Falcons (5-5)
Atlanta is hoping to sneak into the playoff picture and this winnable game should be the first step. Still, with Matt Ryan looking very shaky and Michael Turner likely out, this game will be closer than you would expect. My pick: Falcons

Dolphins (5-5) @ Bills (3-7)
The Dolphins might be the best team that won't make the playoffs. With probable losses against the Patriots and Steelers yet to come on their schedule, Miami will have to win all of the rest to even be close to a playoff spot. They will start with a win this week against a Bills team just playing out the string. My pick: Dolphins

Browns (1-9) @ Bengals (7-3)
This one looks as certain for the Bengals as last week against the Raiders looked. That said, the Browns are actually even worse than the Raiders so Cincy should have no trouble here. Don't be fooled by all those points the Browns put up last week against the Lions, Brady Quinn is still an awful, awful quarterback. My pick: Bengals

Seahawks (3-7) @ Rams (1-9)
I was actually going back and forth on this game thinking that the Rams could pull out their second win. Then, I noticed that Kyle Boller is starting for the Rams and that Steven Jackson sat out of practice on Wednesday. That made my choice easy. My pick: Seahawks

Panthers (4-6) @ Jets (4-6)
Oh, how the Jets have fallen. What once looked like a team that could challenge the Patriots in the AFC East has turned into a mess. What was once the next great rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez is starting to look more like Matt Leinart. There is no way the Jets slow down the Panthers two headed running attack. My pick: Panthers

Redskins (3-7) @ Eagles (6-4)
On paper, this game looks like a blowout. In reality, as we all know too well, these NFC East matchups tend to be low scoring and close. If the Eagles want to have any shot at making the playoffs they must win this game. With games against playoff contenders like the Falcons, Giants and Cowboys down the stretch, the Eagles have to get themselves in the best position possible. The Redskins defense is better than advertised, just ask the Cowboys, but I still think the Eagles find a way to edge Washington out in this one. My pick: Eagles

Colts (10-0) @ Texans (5-5)
Every year, the Texans are the breakout team in the NFL and every year they crap the bed in a game they should win. The Colts have always been their daddy and I see no reason for that not to continue. My pick: Colts

Chiefs (3-7) @ Chargers (7-3)
Nice win by the Chiefs over the Steelers last week. That game might have told us more about the Steelers not really being that good than how improved the Chiefs actually are. The Chargers should have no problem moving the ball in this one. My pick: Chargers

Jaguars (6-4) @ Niners (4-6)
The Jaguars are a playoff team? Really? I guess Jack Del Rio isn't as bad of a coach as everyone thinks. The Niners are another team just playing out the string at this point, their once promising start just a distant memory in their rearview mirror. My pick: Jaguars

Cardinals (7-3) @ Titans (4-6)
This game comes down to the status of Kurt Warner. If Warner plays, I like the Cardinals to damper the spirits of the streaking Titans. If Warner sits, Matt Leinart will ruin this game for Arizona. Right now, all indications are that Warner will play. You didn't actually think the Titans would win 10 games in a row, did you? My pick: Cardinals

Bears (4-6) @ Vikings (9-1)
We can all now assume that Brett Favre is coming back in 2010, right? There is no way he hangs them up with the way he is playing this year. The Vikings offense is so good right now that Adrian Peterson is almost an afterthought. It's actually brilliant how they are not wearing him down and he is being saved up for the playoffs when he can really run roughshod over the league. My pick: Vikings

Sunday Night Game:

Steelers (6-4) @ Ravens (5-5)
There is always one certainty when these two teams play: pain. Even though these defenses aren't quite as good as they used to be, expect a ton of big hits. I like the Steelers to take out their frustration for losing to the lowly Chiefs in this one. My pick: Steelers

Monday Night Game:

Patriots (7-3) @ Saints (10-0)
Is this really the "game of the year" like everyone is hyping it up to be? Last time I checked, the Patriots had 3 losses. If this game was Colts vs. Saints, now we're talking about a classic matchup. Expect this game to be high scoring as both teams pass the ball all over the field. The difference will be in the secondary as the the Saints can make some plays to turn the ball over. My pick: Saints

Those are my picks for Week 12 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!

Thanks for the memories: Allen Iverson to retire

After his release from the Memphis Grizzlies, many Sixers fans hoped that Allen Iverson would make one last return to Philadelphia to play out the rest of his career. Unfortunately, it looks like Iverson won't be returning to the NBA ever again.

According to Stephen A. Smith on ESPN 950, Iverson is retiring from the NBA. Iverson is calling it quits after a little over 14 seasons of basketball, most of which he played for our hometown Sixers. His greatest season was easily in 2001 when he lead the Sixers to the NBA Finals and toppled the Lakers in Game 1. While the end of his career with the Pistons, Nuggets and Grizzlies may leave a sour taste in the mouths of many NBA fans, we in Philly remember the heart and passion that AI gave every single night.

Allen Iverson was truly the best little man in the league. At barely 5 foot 10, Iverson played with the drive of a man twice his size. He was always willing to take it to any player and never backed down from a challenge. While he never did win that NBA Title he so badly wanted, AI is still a Hall of Famer simply for everything he managed to accomplish in his small frame.

So long, AI. Thanks for all the great memories. Perhaps the Sixers will sign him to a one day contract and let him retire in the city that will always love him?

Lou Williams will miss 2-4 weeks with broken jaw

When was the last time we got any good news about the Sixers? First, Marreese Speights went down with an injury. Then, the Sixers lost 5 of 6. Now, their leading scorer in their last three games will be out 2-4 weeks.

According to CSN Philly, Lou Williams, who has emerged as a big-time scoring threat recently, will be out 2-4 weeks with a broken jaw. Williams suffered the broken jaw in the Wizards game last night, a game were he scored 26 points and had 5 assists and 4 boards.

Williams only figures to miss a handful of games so this isn't a huge blow. In fact, it could be a good thing for the Sixers because rookie Jrue Holiday figures to get a bump in minutes for the next few weeks. Holiday hasn't gotten much burn this season, averaging 7.6 minutes a game. He has gotten several DNP's this season which is ridiculous for a rookie that needs playing time to develop.

I would really like my next post about the Sixers to have some good news. Let's get a winning streak going!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Phillies set to sign IF Juan Castro

The Phillies are set to sign their first free agent of the offseason: utility infielder Juan Castro! Wait, that doesn't get you excited? What's not to like about a 15 year MLB veteran who has a career .230 batting average?

Word has come out today that the Phillies and Castro have agreed to a one year contract pending a physical. Castro, who will turn 38 next June, will take over the Eric Bruntlett role on the team and fill in at second base and short stop whenever needed. While how much of an upgrade over Bruntlett he is is debatable as Castro does have plenty of experience as a utility player in his long career bouncing between the Dodgers, Reds, Twins and Orioles organizations but has rarely been a starting infielder. Castro did most recently spent 2009 with the Dodgers and hit pretty well, batting .277 with 1 homer in only 112 at bats but those numbers are higher than should be expected.

It's hard to drum up much excitement over this signing by the Phillies. Castro can't swing the stick and has no real speed. Really, he is nothing more than a marginal major league player at this point in his career, one who will basically be a minor upgrade over Eric Bruntlett. It will be the same story with Castro as it was with Bruntlett: the less we see of him the better off the Phillies will be.

Eagles sign Pope, release Ikegwuonu

The Eagles announced a minor move today as they signed CB Geoffrey Pope off of the Bengals practice squad and added him to their 53 man roster. To make room for Pope, the Birds released former 4th round pick CB Jack Ikegwuonu.

Pope has played 12 career games in his 3 NFL seasons since being signed as a rookie free agent by the Miami Dolphins in 2007. He has mostly played on special teams in the NFL and has also spent some time with the Giants in his pro career.

It's unclear how much of an upgrade Pope is over Ikegwuonu but at least Pope has game experience. Ikegwuonu was drafted in 2008 by the Birds but spent the entire season on the injured list. He has been healthy in 2009 but spent most of the season on the practice squad before finally suiting up for his first game against the Bears. Clearly, the Eagles weren't liking what they saw in Ikegwuonu in practice and felt they needed to bring someone in who could actually contribute.

There is always the chance that he could jump back to the practice squad but it appears that the Eagles wasted their 4th round pick when they selected Jack Ikegwuonu. He will unfortunately be remembered more for what he did off the field than what he did on the field.

Eagles extend Winston Justice through 2013

Offensive tackle Winston Justice has come a long way since getting worked by Osi Umenyiora of the Giants back in 2007. He's improved so much, in fact, that the Eagles have signed him to a four year contract extension through 2013.

Justice was set to be a free agent after this season so the Birds were smart to lock him down. While he isn't an elite level right tackle, Justice has proven himself to be solid in 10 starts this season. With all the chaos happening around him on the line from the Andrews brothers drama to the injuries to Todd Herremans, Justice has been an anchor of consistency. He should be a good, but not great, player for the duration of his contract.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eagles edge Bears with rare 4th quarter comeback

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
The Eagles always have to make it interesting, don't they? After looking like they were going to cruise past the Bears after they took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, the Eagles offense fell asleep for two quarters and allowed Chicago to get back into it. Luckily, Donovan McNabb and Co. woke up just in time and led the Birds to a 24-20 win over the Bears.

McNabb played spectacular in stretches, methodically marching the Eagles down the field on four separate drives that led to a field goal and three TD's. For the rest of the game, however, the offense failed to get much going before McNabb threw an interception or someone fumbled. While we shouldn't just overlook the lull in the middle of the game, McNabb did play a solid game overall. Taking a team on a game winning drive in the 4th quarter for the first time in recent memory is enough in my book.

It's no coincidence that the Eagles offense really started moving the chains in the 3rd and 4th quarter when they started getting the ball to DeSean Jackson. Jackson was his usual electric self, catching 8 passes for 107 yards, including a 48 yard touchdown grab. The Birds went away from Action Jackson for most of the first half and that coincided with the time when the offense wasn't getting anything done. The lesson? Get the ball to DeSean!

What kept the Eagles in the game when the offense was sputtering was the defense. The Birds employed a "bend but don't break" attitude on the night, allowing the Bears to move the ball at times but nearly always stiffening as Chicago got near the red zone. After the bad turnovers by the offense, the Eagles were fortunate to hold the Bears to four field goals before they finally broke through for a touchdown. Of course, the Eagles were helped by Jay Cutler and his erratic passes. Cutler overthrew his receivers on at least three occasions where a nicely thrown ball would have led to 6 points. Oh well, sometimes it pays to be lucky.

With the win, the Eagles keep themselves tied for 2nd place in the NFC East and for a Wild Card spot. With a (supposedly) easy game against the Redskins next week, the Eagles should be set up nicely for a return trip to the playoffs if they can find a way to navigate through the difficult stretch of games at the end of the season. With games against the Falcons, Giants, Broncos and Cowboys in 4 of the last 5 weeks, the Eagles need every win they can get.

Nice win, Eagles. For once they made a 4th quarter comeback a reality. For a week, we won't have to hear about Andy Reid's playcalling, poor time management and McNabb's inaccuracy. We get to celebrate the W and look forward to crushing the Skins next week. What a refreshing change, even if it only lasts one week.

Eagles/Bears Week 11 Inactives: Brown will play

The Eagles and Bears have announced their inactive players for their Sunday Night showdown:

Eagles: G Stacy Andrews, WR Kevin Curtis, DB Quintin Demps, RB P.J. Hill, LB Akeem Jordan, QB Kevin Kolb, OL Mike McGlynn, RB Brian Westbrook

Bears: TE Desmond Clark, DT Jarron Gilbert, WR Juaquin Iglesias, OL Lance Louis, CB D.J. Moore, S Kevin Payne, LB Pisa Tinosiamoa, DT Matt Toeaina

Sheldon Brown will start for the Eagles despite struggling with an injured hamstring all week. Jason Peters also returns to the field for the Birds after sitting out last week. The only player who is a surprise inactive is Stacy Andrews, who started last week at right guard but has struggled this season to pick up the offense. Andrews isn't injured so the Eagles must feel he brings nothing to the table.

The Eagles players have called tonight's game a "must-win" and "their Superbowl", so let's hope they play with some heart tonight and wipe out a very beatable Bears team. GO BIRDS!

Flyers lose Betts and Powe to injury

Just when you thought everything was looking up for the Flyers, they lose a pair of games and a pair of players in subsequent days. Philly had won 7 of their last 8 heading into Friday night's game with the Sharks, which they lost 6-3, then they headed to Phoenix on Saturday where they lost 3-1 to the Coyotes. A pair of losses on the road isn't necessarily a terrible thing but the team unfortunately also suffered a pair of significant injuries.

Blair Betts has been an unsung player for the Flyers, killing penalties and winning faceoffs in his checking line role. While Betts doesn't fill up a box score, he does all the little things that help hockey teams win. Unfortunately for the Flyers, however, Betts re-injured his right shoulder on Saturday night against the Coyotes, an injury that, according to Tim Panaccio, is expected to keep him out about a month. This will be the second time this season Betts has injured his right shoulder so concern has to be setting in about whether he will hold up at all this season.

The Flyers also will be without Darroll Powe, another forward who does the little things but has also had a scoring touch this season, for an undisclosed amount of time. Powe injured his left shoulder against the Sharks on Friday night and the Flyers believe that he will be out for several games.

It will be interesting to see who the Flyers call up and how they go about replacing Betts and Powe in the lineup. Youngster David Laliberte will likely remain with the team for a while but I am curious as to who else will step in and get some extra minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if Jared Ross is brought up for the first time this season.

No one the Flyers call up is likely to have the same positive impact that Betts has on the club, however.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NFL Week 11 Predictions

Week 11 is here! With all of the byes out of the way we can finally get a clearer picture of how the playoffs might look. It's already very obvious which teams have eliminated themselves and which have set themselves up for a top seed.

Here are my picks for Week 11 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: 9-6, .600
Overall Record: 100-44, .694

Thursday Night Game:

Dolphins (4-5) @ Panthers (4-5)
No Ronnie Brown for the rest of the season should slow the Dolphins Wildcat attack but I would have gone with the Panthers either way in this one. Don't be surprised when Carolina pushes their way into the NFC playoff picture. My pick: Panthers

Sunday Day Games:

Browns (1-8) @ Lions (1-8) Wow, what a game! I can't wait to watch this one. The Lions are bad but the Browns are terrible. My pick: Lions

Niners (4-5) @ Packers (5-4) The Packers really surprised me with how well they played against the Cowboys, Aaron Rodgers was given just enough time to make a few plays when he needed to and the defense played over their heads. Green Bay isn't out of playoff contention just yet. My pick: Packers

Steelers (6-3) @ Chiefs (2-7) No Dwayne Bowe means whatever slim chance the Chiefs had at pulling out an upset is gone. My pick: Steelers

Redskins (3-6) @ Cowboys (6-3) Great win by the Redskins last week, I don't think anyone saw them knocking off the Broncos. That may say more about how far Denver has fallen than the fact that Washington is improving. My pick: Cowboys

Falcons (5-4) @ Giants (5-4) When we last saw the Giants, the were doing their usual December slide a little early. With Michael Turner on the mend, look for the Giants to bounce back. My pick: Giants

Saints (9-0) @ Bucs (1-8) Good luck, Tampa Bay. Actually, this one might follow the trend of the Saints recent games and be closer than you might think. My pick: Saints

Bills (3-6) @ Jaguars (5-4) Look out, here come the Jaguars with a playoff push. After they win this one, they will be the most mediocre 6-4 team in recent memory. My pick: Jaguars

Colts (9-0) @ Ravens (5-4) I'm tempted to go with the Ravens in an upset but I haven't seen anything in the Baltimore offense that shows me they can exploit the Colts weak secondary and actually put up enough points to compete in this game. My pick: Colts

Seahawks (3-6) @ Vikings (8-1) Thanks for playing in 2009, Seattle! Good luck next year. My pick: Vikings

Cardinals (6-3) @ Rams (1-8) The Rams are due to knock someone off, especially a team that can't contain Steven Jackson. Just not this week. My pick: Cardinals

Chargers (6-3) @ Broncos (6-3) Now this is a good game. I have to go with the trend of the last few years, the Chargers always overtake the Broncos at some point in the season. That time is now. My pick: Chargers

Bengals (7-2) @ Raiders (2-7) Cedric Benson or no Cedric Benson, the Bengals roll in this one. Poor Raiders and their poor quarterbacking problems. My pick: Bengals

Jets (4-5) @ Patriots (6-3) Feel bad for the Jets, feel very, very bad. The Patriots are out for revenge after their loss to the Colts and they already want to get back at the Jets for losing earlier in the year. The Pats win this one BIG. My pick: Patriots

Sunday Night Game:

Eagles (5-4) @ Bears (4-5) Quintin Mikell said that this game is the Eagles Super Bowl. Um, I guess they don't plan on getting to the real one? Even the most optimistic Eagles fan has to realize that the Super Bowl is a longshot at best. As for this Bears game I actually think the Eagles will win it by a wide margin. Even though the Eagles always play poorly in Sunday Night games, I just don't see Jay Cutler completing enough passes to his own teammates to beat Philly. My pick: Eagles

Monday Night Game:

Titans (3-6) @ Texans (5-4) The temptation is to go with the Titans to continue their rebound but if the Texans have any playoff aspirations they need to win games like this. My pick: Texans

Those are my picks for Week 11 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!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Your very early 2010 Phillies roster

Pitchers and catchers don't report for another 90 days or so but the Hot Stove is just starting to heat up for the defending National League Champions (doesn't have the same ring, does it?). The Phillies don't figure to make a ton of moves this offseason, though after the recent announcements of the removal of Eric Bruntlett and the declining of Pedro Feliz's 2010 option, there are a few holes that need to be filled through free agency and trades for the upcoming season.

With free agency set to begin in a few days, here is my early look at the Phillies 2010 roster, including places where the team needs to bring in new players:

Infielders (6): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, FA 3rd baseman, Greg Dobbs, FA Utility player

The Phils obviously need a new starting third baseman and will look to sign someone through free agency. Names like Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre have been bandied about but don't be surprised if the Phillies settle for someone like Mark DeRosa or Placido Polanco. The departure of Bruntlett means the team must also look for a new backup utility player that can fill in at second and short. I also wouldn't be opposed to the Phillies finding a way to rid themselves of Greg Dobbs and picking up a better lefty pinch hitter.

Outfielders (5): Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry

Four spots are set in stone and the 5th is up for grabs amongst several guys in the system. My guess is that Mayberry did enough last year to get the 5th outfielder gig, though the Phils could easily sign a lefty free agent bench bat that can play in the outfield.

Catchers (2):
Carlos Ruiz, FA Backup catcher

With the Phillies likely letting Paul Bako go and already showing Paul Hoover the door, they will need to find a new backup catcher in the open market. With the trade of Lou Marson, they don't have anyone in the system that is capable of playing in the majors at this time.

Starting Rotation (5): Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, ???

Four spots are set, who gets the 5th starter role? Putting aside the rumors about Roy Halladay, the Phillies do have a few in-house solutions for the rotation: Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Drabek. I think Drabek can be ruled out because he likely won't be ready and I don't think the Phils can go with four lefties so Moyer is probably out. That leaves our old friend Kyle Kendrick as the 5th starter. Let's hope they bring someone else in!

Bullpen (7): Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey, FA Lefty, FA Righty

Those two free agent spots could easily go to Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre if the Phillies find a way to bring both back. I'm not convinced that the Phillies bring back Clay Condrey, so that could be a spot where they make a change in the bullpen.

Free agency starts on November 20th. At the very least, we should see the Phillies signing a third baseman and a bench player by the end of this month. They may wait a while after that to fill the remaining roles with slightly cheaper talent.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Phillies news: five new free agents and the ROTY

Those guys over at Fire Eric Bruntlett will be happy about this one: the Phillies have non-tendered former World Series hero Eric Bruntlett, officially making him a free agent. Bruntlett, who can't hit a lick, will have to take his position versatility elsewhere if he hopes to continue his major league career. Bruntlett will forever be remembered for scoring a few big runs in the 2008 World Series and his unassisted triple play this season. For a guy who was basically useless, Bruntlett actually had quite the highlight reel. He was kinda like Forrest Gump in that he was always in the right place at the right time.

The Phillies also granted free agency to four other players: pitchers Tyler Walker and John Ennis, catcher Paul Hoover and infielder Andy Tracy. Walker had the biggest contribution of this group in 2009 but is just an expendable bullpen piece. Hoover's lone claim to fame with the Phillies was his walk-off hit in the final regular season game of the season.

In other news, the National League Rookie of the Year award was given today to Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan. Coghlan narrowly beat out Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ for the award, winning by a score of 105-94. Happ was a solid contender and likely would have taken home the award had he not been shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen at various parts of the season.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Too little, too late: Eagles fall short in San Diego

(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
You want to know what makes the Eagles such a frustrating team to follow? They start off the game playing terrible, falling way behind, and just when you think they are going to get completely blown out in a game, they wake up and mount a furious comeback to get themselves back in the game and get our hopes up. Then, like clockwork, the Eagles fall just short at the end with the game on the line.

Such was the story today as the Eagles fell to the Chargers, 31-23. The Birds ineptitude in the red zone was on display early in this game as they failed three times inside the 20 and had to settle for David Akers field goals rather than TD's. The Eagles rallied late with a pair of touchdowns in the 4th quarter but ended up falling short when the defense couldn't stop the Chargers on a pair of third down plays late in the game.

Donovan McNabb racked up the individual stats in the game, passing for 450 yards as the Eagles completely abandoned the run after they fell behind. Also having a career day was Jason Avant, who was the one Eagle who showed up all day with 8 catches for 156 yards.

The defense deserves a large share of the blame in this one as they failed to slow down San Diego on the ground or through the air. LaDanian Tomlinson, who has looked washed up in every other game this season, ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles made him look like his old self. Philip Rivers had no problems throwing on the Birds depleted secondary, either, as he completed 20 of 25 passes.

The Eagles did get more bad news late in the game. Brian Westbrook, who returned to the field this week after suffering from post-concussion symptoms, suffered a second concussion today and had to sit out the entire 4th quarter. Two concussions just a few weeks apart isn't only going to keep Westbrook out for the rest of this season, it might end the career of one of the Eagles biggest offensive weapons.

The Eagles lost today for all of the usual reasons. They racked up a ton of penalties, couldn't convert on short yardage plays and failed to capitalize on their red zone opportunities. About the only good news that comes out of Sunday's action is the fact that the Cowboys lost, too, meaning the Eagles still remain just one game out of the NFC East. Of course, the fact that a team that has looked as bad as the Eagles in the last two weeks is still in contention for a division title might tell you a lot more about how weak the NFC East is than how good the Birds are.

And the frustration continues to build, Eagles fans. We know what this team is capable of when they are firing on all cylinders, hopefully it's only a matter of time before they put together a complete football game like they did against the Giants a few weeks back. The schedule doesn't get any easier from here on out but we know you can never count out the Eagles until the final whistle. And that's why we keep watching, no matter how frustrating it gets.

Eagles/Chargers Inactives: Westbrook in, Peters, Demps out

The Eagles and Chargers have announced their inactive players for their big Week 10 clash:

Eagles: WR Kevin Curtis, DB Quintin Demps, RB P.J. Hill, DB Jack Ikegwuonu, LB Akeem Jordan, QB Kevin Kolb, OL Mike McGlynn, LT Jason Peters

Chargers: WR Buster Davis, LB Tim Dobbins, G Tyrone Green, C Nick Hardwick, CB Dante Hughes, DL Vaughn Martin, LB Jyles Tucker, QB Charlie Whitehurst

With Jason Peters sitting out today, the Eagles will start Todd Herremans at left tackle, Nick Cole at left guard and Stacy Andrews at right guard. With the way Andrews has played this year, I would expect the Chargers to be licking their chops. Demps is out after suffering an injury against the Cowboys, leaving the secondary pretty thin. Jordan and Curtis are also out with injuries, as expected. There is some good news for the Eagles as Brian Westbrook will return to the field, although he is expected to be limited.

It's all hands on deck for the Chargers as they have no significant injuries.

With all of the injuries and having to travel across the country, the Eagles have a lot to overcome this week. Let's hope they can get it done in sunny San Diego. GO BIRDS!

From bad to worse: Sixers lose Speights for 6-8 weeks

It's no secret that the Sixers haven't started off the 09/10 season the way they had hoped. Their inconsistent play on offense and poor defensive effort have led to a team that is going to struggle to be .500 all year long. Things aren't going to get much better after the news that came out today about one of their lone bright spots.

According to the official Sixers Twitter, second year forward Marreese Speights, the first guy off the bench who is 4th in the team in scoring, will be out for 6-8 weeks after suffering a partial tear of the MCL in his left knee. Speights' development into something more than just a scorer was one of the few interesting things to watch this season with the Sixers but this injury will set him back quite a bit. The better Speights played, the less the Sixers needed to use the maddeningly inconsistent Samuel Dalembert. Now, you can expect a whole lot more of Dalembert, as well as Jason Smith.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NFL Week 10 Predictions

What a slate of games we have on tap for this weekend! Not only do we have some huge divisional showdowns, we also have our first Thursday Night game of the season! Things are starting to heat up in the NFL as we enter the stretch run and the games start getting a little better.

Here are my picks for Week 10 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: 9-4, .692
Overall Record: 91-39, .700

Byes: Giants, Texans

Thursday Night Game:

Bears (4-4) @ Niners (3-5) The loser of this game is basically out of the playoff hunt. Sorry Niners, the jig is up. My pick: Bears

Sunday Day Games:

Saints (8-0) @ Rams (1-7) Does it get any easier for the Saints than this matchup against the Rams followed by a "showdown" with the Bucs next week? The Patriots loom after that but 16-0 seems like a real possibility for New Orleans. My pick: Saints

Bucs (1-7) @ Dolphins (3-5) I'm still shocked that the Bucs knocked off the Packers last week, I thought the Pack would roll them. Any given Sunday, I guess. Not this Sunday, though. My pick: Dolphins

Lions (1-7) @ Vikings (7-1) If Detroit goes 1-15 this season, is it fair to call is a success? And, if the Vikings don't win this game by 20, is it fair to call it a success? My pick: Vikings

Jaguars (4-4) @ Jets (4-4) This "battle" of 4-4 teams is more interesting on paper than it is in reality. The Jets should be a little better than this and the Jags should be a little worse. My pick: Jets

Bills (3-5) @ Titans (2-6) The march to 10-6 will continue this week for the Titans. Don't worry, I don't really think they will win out, but they certainly are a better team now that Vince Young has taken over. Who'd have thought that? My pick: Titans

Bengals (6-2) @ Steelers (6-2) Order will be restored in the AFC North after the defending champs knock down the upstart Bengals this week. The Bengals are the real deal and they will be a playoff team but I don't think they are quite ready to take on the big boys in the AFC. My pick: Steelers

Broncos (6-2) @ Redskins (2-6) The Broncos are ripe for a fall but they won't fall as far as the Redskins already are. My pick: Broncos

Falcons (5-3) @ Panthers (3-5) Carolina has been playing better in recent weeks as they have gotten the running game going but Atlanta needs this game more as they look to solidify themselves in the playoff picture. My pick: Falcons

Chiefs (1-7) @ Raiders (2-6) With so many other good games this week is there anyone that is actually going to watch this game? Seriously, even the most die-hard Chiefs and Raiders fans have to be able to find something better to do with their lives, right? My pick: Chiefs

Eagles (5-3) @ Chargers (5-3) ARGH. How frustrating is this Eagles team? The same issues come up year after year and nothing is done to solve them. I pegged this one as a loss before the season began and I see nothing in the past few weeks from the Birds to change my mind. I hope I'm wrong. My pick: Chargers

Seahawks (3-5) @ Cardinals (5-3) The Niners will be rooting for the Seahawks to pull the Cardinals back towards the pack in the NFC West. The Cards are maddeningly inconsistent but I think they find a way to win this one at home. My pick: Cardinals

Cowboys (6-2) @ Packers (4-4) If the Eagles offensive line couldn't slow down the Cowboys pass rush, what hope do the Packers have? If Aaron Rodgers survives this season he deserves a medal for bravery. My pick: Cowboys

Sunday Night Game:

Patriots (6-2) @ Colts (8-0) No matter what team you root for, this game is always a must-watch. The entire balance of power in the AFC could shift with this contest as the Patriots play with nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Colts are banged up in the secondary, which is a scary thing against the Patriots, but I think Peyton finds a way. My pick: Colts

Monday Night Game:

Ravens (4-4) @ Browns (1-7) Sucks to be ESPN for having to televise this one. My pick: Ravens

Those are my picks for Week 10 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, November 11, 2009

Rollins, Victorino repeat as Gold Glove winners

MLB award season has begun and several Phillies expect to be up for some of the big awards. Among the Phillies in contention for an award include Ryan Howard (MVP), Charlie Manuel (Manager of the Year) and J.A. Happ (Rookie of the Year). Those awards are coming in the next few days but first a few Phillies have been honored with Gold Glove awards.

Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino were both honored by Rawlings today with a Gold Glove for their respective positions. For Rollins, it's his third straight Gold Glove and he has begun to win them solely on his reputation as a slick fielder. For Victorino, it's his second straight Gold Glove.

The one Phillie who was not given a Gold Glove who probably deserved one was Chase Utley. Utley is a fine defensive second baseman but he was beaten out by Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers. Perhaps Utley's bad throws in the playoffs did him in?

The complete NL Gold Glove list:
P Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)
C Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
1B Adrian Gonzalez (Padres)
2B Orlando Hudson (Dodgers)
3B Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals)
SS Jimmy Rollins (Phillies)
OF Michael Bourn (Astros), Matt Kemp (Dodgers) and Shane Victorino (Philadelphia).

Rough day for the Birds: Hobbs out for the season, Hanson out for a month and Jackson signs with Rosenhaus

Veterans Day is turning into a day of horrors for the Eagles. News has come fast and furious today about several key Eagles players going down with injuries, one player being suspended and a star player who has made a questionable decision.

First, let's deal with the injuries. Cornerback and primary kick returner Ellis Hobbs was placed on IR today with a spine injury, a move that ends his season. Hobbs had been an effective kick returner as well as a contributor in nickel and dime packages on defense, so this is definitely a blow to the Eagles. To replace Hobbs, the Eagles signed free agent CB Ramzee Robinson, who had played in 19 games in two seasons with the Lions in his career.

Later, more news came out about another pair of Eagles who are injured. RB Brian Westbrook and LB Akeem Jordan both sat out of practice as they each dealt with injuries. Westbrook is being held out due to his ankle injury but the Eagles still think he will be able to play against the Chargers on Sunday. Jordan, on the other hand, appears very likely to miss this weeks game, a move that further weakens a questionable linebacker group.

The Eagles also learned today that they will be without nickel corner Joselio Hanson for a month due to an unspecified reason. The early speculation is that Hanson did something to violate the NFL substance-abuse policy, a move that would force him out of 4 games. To replace Hanson, the Eagles called up CB Jack Ikegwuonu from their practice squad.

Finally, and possibly the worst news of all, Eagles WR DeSean Jackson has ditched his current agent and signed on with Drew Rosenhaus. Yep, that's the same Drew Rosenhaus who helped drive T.O. out of town a few years back. A move like this means that Jackson is going to want a payday sooner rather than later, and we all know how the Eagles feel about renegotiating contracts. This could get ugly.

It's definitely been a rough day for the Eagles so far. You get the feeling that this season may be beginning to crumble away as the injuries mount and the team continues to lose players. It's especially disheartening that all of these injuries are piling up on defense, the biggest strength of the Birds. If they lose too many more defensive players, that strength will quickly turn into a weakness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Here we go again: the Phillies are pursuing Roy Halladay

You knew it was only a matter of time before this rumor started up again: according to Jim Salisbury of the Inquirer, the Phillies are interested in acquiring Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. Yep, that's the same Roy Halladay the Phils pursued at the trade deadline last year before they balked at Toronto's high asking price and instead went with Cliff Lee at a discounted rate, a move that certainly worked out well.

If you recall, in July, the Blue Jays were asking for J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek, Domonic Brown and Anthony Gose from the Phillies in exchange for Halladay. The Phillies didn't have to give up any of those pieces to get Cliff Lee, so it only makes sense that talks could start back up again if the Phillies wanted more starting pitching. With the price likely to fall this winter, the Phillies wouldn't have to give up such an extravagant package to get Halladay this time around.

Of course, one has to wonder if starting pitching should be the Phillies top priority this offseason. While a starting rotation of Lee, Halladay, Hamels and Blanton would be awesome, the team clearly needs a new third baseman and some help in the bullpen. I wouldn't put too much stock in this rumor but it sure is fun to dream. That's what the hot stove is all about, anyway.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Eagles let NFC East lead slip away to Dallas

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
A matter of inches decided tonight's game between the Eagles and Cowboys. With the game tied and the Eagles facing a 4th and 1 while entering Cowboys territory, Donovan McNabb took the snap and lunged at the line, seemingly falling forward for the few inches the Eagles needed to convert. One bad spot, an Andy Reid challenge and a non-reversal by the referees later and the Eagles were robbed of a first down they nearly certainly had.

Just a few plays later, Tony Romo found Miles Austin for a 49 yard touchdown that clinched the victory for the Cowboys, who ended up winning 20-16. The win gives Dallas sole possession of first place in the NFC East and makes them a truly legit contender in the NFC.

The Eagles had plenty of chances all night but seemed to come up just short every time. Donovan McNabb had his usual maddeningly inconsistent game, throwing nearly as many passes into the ground as he did to his receivers. McNabb wasn't helped by the Eagles offensive line in this one, either, as he was sacked four times and flushed out of the pocket on numerous occasions.

Still, the Eagles had a shot to at least send the game into overtime as they drove down the field trailing by a touchdown with about 5 minutes left. Then, facing a 4th and 11 in Dallas territory, Andy Reid made one of his more curious decisions, electing to kick a 52 yard field goal to cut the Dallas lead to 4 rather than go for the touchdown the Eagles would need eventually, anyway. So, with no timeouts left, the Eagles gave the ball back to the Cowboys with 4 minutes left and all Reid could do was watch as Dallas salted the game away.

In all, this was one of the more maddening Eagles games to watch. The game was right there for the taking by the Birds and they just couldn't get it done. While the refs do deserve some blame in this one, there is still plenty of blame to go around on the Eagles sideline, from the coach to the quarterback to the defense that couldn't stop Dallas on 3rd downs. While I still have faith that the Eagles will be right there in the NFC East title race at the end of the season, they simply must fix some of the glaring problems they seemingly have had for years, like their timeout usage and their short yardage failures. It's not going to get any easier when they travel to San Diego next week, either, so let's hope they find that magic solution sooner rather than later.

Eagles/Cowboys Inactives: Westbrook officially out

The Eagles and Cowboys have announced their inactive players for their Sunday Night clash:

Eagles: DE Victor Abiamiri, WR Kevin Curtis, LB Chris Gocong, RB P.J. Hill, G Max Jean-Gilles, OL Mike McGlynn, CB Dimitri Patterson, RB Brian Westbrook

Cowboys: S Michael Hamlin, G Montrae Holland, QB Stephen McGee, OL Pat McQuistan, LB Steve Octavien, C Duke Preston, CB Allen Rossum, LB Jason Williams

As was reported earlier today, Brian Westbrook is being held out due to precautionary reasons. He is apparently still dealing with post-concussion issues so the Birds want him to rest up for another week. None of the other players for the Eagles are surprises, Gocong hadn't practiced all week so he wasn't expected to play.

As for the Cowboys, there aren't any surprises. In fact, Allen Rossum is the only player of that bunch that I've ever heard of.

Here we go, first place in the NFC East will be on the line tonight! GO BIRDS! BEAT DALLAS!

Who's on third? Phillies decline 2010 option on Pedro Feliz

The 2010 Phillies will likely have a new third baseman. According to Todd Zolecki on Twitter, the Phillies have declined their 2010 option on Pedro Feliz for 5 million dollars, choosing instead to buy him out for .5 million, making Feliz a free agent.

Feliz was never much at the plate for the Phillies, hitting in the .260 range and belting a dozen homers or so. Feliz made up for it in the field, however, as he was one of the best fielding third basemen in the game. I would have liked to see him come back to the Phillies but not for that 5 million dollar price tag.

So, what now for the Phillies at third base? While it is still possible that the Phils bring Feliz back at a lower price, you have to believe they are going to pursue an upgrade. The top two names you will hear are free agents Adrian Beltre and Chone Figgins, both of whom are a little more solid at the plate and are slick fielders in their own right.

So long, Pedro Feliz. Thanks for your two years of service in Philly, and thanks for your contribution to 2008!

ESPN: Westbrook out for Sunday Night

I wish I could say I was surprised. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Brian Westbrook, who has been dealing with concussion issues since he was knocked out against the Redskins two weeks ago, will not be playing in tonight's game against the Cowboys. Schefter reports that the Eagles want to give Westbrook another week to rest and be completely free of symptoms.

This is odd news considering the Eagles have been saying all week that Westbrook was going to play. Westbrook even practiced a few days this week, a sure sign he was going to suit up. Perhaps he suffered a setback, perhaps the Eagles were just trying to bluff the Cowboys, but either way, it looks like LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver are going to have to handle the rock this week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Brett Myers is no longer a Phillie

We are only two days removed from the end of the World Series and the Phillies have already begun making moves for 2010. The first move the Phillies did was obvious as they picked up their option on Cliff Lee for next season. Their second move is a little more interesting as it means the loss of a longtime Phillie.

Brett Myers, who has been in the Phillies organization since he was drafted in 1999, has informed the media that the Phillies have told him he won't be back with the club. Myers is a free agent this offseason so the Phillies have decided that he isn't worth bringing back.

Myers' career with the Phillies was a tumultuous one to say the least. Myers had his fair share of off field drama and bounced around from the rotation to the bullpen but he was always loyal to the team. Despite his domestic issues, it was hard not to like the guy for everything he did for the organization. The Phillies won't bring him back because they feel they can use their money more wisely, not because Myers isn't a good clubhouse guy.

I'm looking forward to seeing Myers return to Philly next season wearing another uniform. He should get a nice reception at the Bank.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NFL Week 9 Predictions

We are already past the halfway point of the NFL season! With the World Series occupying too much of my time, I'm keeping things short this week with just one line about each game. Don't worry, things will return to normal next week.

Here are my picks for Week 9 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: 8-5, .615
Overall Record: 82-34, .707

Byes: Bills, Browns, Jets, Raiders, Rams, Vikings

Sunday Day Games:

Redskins (2-5) @ Falcons (4-3) The Falcons looked pretty impressive against the Saints so they should have no problems here. My pick: Falcons

Cardinals (4-3) @ Bears (4-3) This is one of the tougher games of the week with both teams playing pretty bad football. Yes, I know the Bears beat the Browns last week but you can play terrible and still beat them. My pick: Cardinals

Ravens (4-3) @ Bengals (5-2) The Ravens look poised to fight their way back into playoff contention and the Bengals look poised to fall back to the pack. My pick: Ravens

Texans (5-3) @ Colts (7-0) The Colts always beat the Texans. My pick: Colts

Dolphins (3-4) @ Patriots (5-2) Wildcat tomfoolery won't work against the Patriots who appear to have found their groove on offense again. My pick: Patriots

Packers (4-3) @ Bucs (0-7) Somebody help out Aaron Rodgers! The Packers aren't doing anything in the playoffs if they can't find someone who can block. Won't matter against the Bucs, though. My pick: Packers

Chiefs (1-6) @ Jaguars (3-4) How amazing was Maurice Jones-Drew last week? 22 yards per carry!? Why the Jags only gave him 8 carries is mystifying. My pick: Jaguars

Lions (1-6) @ Seahawks (2-5) The Lions continue to play teams that are just as bad as them but I don't like their chances on the road in this one. My pick: Seahawks

Panthers (3-4) @ Saints (7-0) A quick scan of the Saints schedule and I can't find one game where I will be picking against them. My pick: Saints

Chargers (4-3) @ Giants (5-3) I'm soooo tempted to pick the Chargers but the Giants have to bounce back this week. They can't lose 4 in a row and expect to make the playoffs. My pick: Giants

Titans (1-6) @ Niners (3-4) Chris Johnson thinks the Titans can "run the table" and get into the playoffs? Um, you'll win this week, but you aren't winning 10 in a row. My pick: Titans

Sunday Night Game:

Cowboys (5-2) @ Eagles (5-2) With the NFC East division lead on the line, you can bet the Eagles will be coming out fired up for this one. With Brian Westbrook back to add to the weaponry and the defense playing like gangbusters, I like the Birds to win this one by 10. My pick: Eagles

Monday Night Game:

Steelers (5-2) @ Broncos (6-1) The Broncos slow fade back to normalcy continues this week. Look, Denver is still going to make the playoffs, but they aren't THAT good. My pick: Steelers

Those are my picks for Week 9 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, November 4, 2009

We'll always have 2008, Phillies fans

I know you feel raw right now, Phillies fans. I know you are downtrodden that our team didn't win another World Series. Before you get too upset, however, you need to keep a little perspective. We still have 2008 and all the memories that went into winning that title. We still have Cole Hamels' mastery, Brad Lidge's perfection, Carlos Ruiz's big hits and Ryan Howard's homers. They still won it all in Harry Kalas' last year. We still have that banner waving in Citizens Bank Park and nothing will take that away.

Not winning this year doesn't erase 2008. No, the Phillies weren't the best team in baseball this year, they were the second best. No, they didn't have enough pitching to slow down the Yankees. And, no, none of the left-handed bats showed up in the World Series except Chase Utley. But, they still deserve credit for getting back to the World Series and giving it everything they had to defend their title. They still gave us plenty of memorable comebacks and brilliant pitching performances, they just didn't quite have enough to get it done against a good Yankees team.

It's okay to be disappointed that the 2009 Phillies didn't get it done, just don't ever forget that the Phillies were the 2008 World F'n Champions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Utley's bombs send Phillies back to New York

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
This is why you can't give up hope, Phillies fans. Facing elimination, the Phillies came out and played inspired baseball to get past the Yankees in Game 5 by a score of 8-6 and push the series back to New York.

The hero of the game for the Phillies was Chase Utley, who hit two homers on the night, a three-run shot in the 1st inning and a solo homer in the 7th. Utley set the tone for the Phillies right away with his 1st inning homer, helping erase the Yankees early 1-0 lead and putting the Phils up for good. Utley's homers have now become historic as he has tied Reggie Jackson's World Series record for homers with 5. With Game 6 coming on Wednesday, Utley has a great chance at making the record all his own.

Phillies starter Cliff Lee did what everyone expected of him, pitching 7 solid innings before running into a few bumps in the 8th inning. In all, Lee's numbers weren't spectacular as he gave up 7 hits and 5 runs, but he ate innings and kept the team ahead throughout. Lee's confidence alone has to give the team a boost. Although things got dicey near the end of the game as the Yankees made the game close, the Phillies bullpen proved to be just good enough to back Lee up.

Now the series shifts back to New York with the Yankees still needing one win to close it out. The Phillies will send Pedro Martinez to the mound for Game 6 while the Yankees will counter with Andy Pettitte, who will pitch on three days rest. Given the fact that Pedro is fresh, you have to give the Phillies the edge in that pitching matchup, meaning there is a great chance this series could be pushed to a 7th game. What the Phillies would do for a pitcher in that case is anybody's guess since Cole Hamels has shown he wants no part of pitching again this year.

Keep the faith, Phillies fans. This team has done what seemed impossible before, there is no reason not to hope they can do it again. Winning two more in New York won't be easy but the Yankees will start feeling the pressure the moment they fall behind in a game. Go Phillies, we believe!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gagne to have surgery, miss 6-8 weeks

Less than a week after placing him on Injured Reserve, the Flyers got a timetable as to when they can expect Simon Gagne back in the lineup: 6-8 weeks. Gagne, who hasn't played since October 25th, will undergo surgery to repair two hernias in the coming days. This current injury is not believed to be related to the groin issues Gagne has had throughout his career.

While losing Gagne for an extended period of time will set the Flyer offense back a bit, if there is one thing the Flyers have plenty of it is forward depth. With the emergence of youngsters Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, losing Gagne's scoring won't hurt the team too much.

There is no word right now on Danny Briere, the other oft-injured Flyer, who has been dealing with groin issues.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Failure. Lidge implodes, Yankees take commanding 3-1 series lead

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
It's been a rough year for Brad Lidge and tonight was the icing on that crap-filled cake. Lidge failed for possibly his last time this season as the Phillies lost Game 4 to the Yankees, 7-4, and now face a 3-1 series deficit.

With the game tied at 4-4 going into the top of the 9th inning, the Phillies closer took the mound looking to keep the Yankees off the scoreboard. Lidge got two quick outs, then appeared to have the inning sewn up after he got two strikes on Johnny Damon. A single, two stolen bases, a hit-by-pitch, a double and another single later, the Yankees plated 3 runs and completely silenced Citizens Bank Park. After the Phillies failed to do any damage in the bottom of the 9th, the crushing loss was complete.

This loss was particularly hard to take as the Phillies were in the game the whole time. The Yanks scored 4 runs off starter Joe Blanton but the Phillies nipped away at the lead throughout the night, getting solo homers from Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz in the 7th and 8th innings to bring them back into the game. It was all for naught, however, as Lidge failed just like he had all season long.

Now the Phillies find themselves on the brink, one loss away from ending their 2009 season. With Cliff Lee taking the mound in Game 5, the Phillies certainly have a great chance of extending the series back to New York but it's quite an uphill climb to pull off three straight wins against a good team like the Yankees. One thing this team has proven is that they are never out of any game, and although they have not been down in a series like this in the last few years, you have to believe they have some fight left in them. All it takes is one win to get the momentum back in the series and hopefully Cliff Lee will provide that win.

That was a tough loss to stomach, Phillies fans, but don't give up hope just yet. Until they lose that 4th game, this Phillies team is going to fight with everything they have. They are the World F'n Champs, after all.

Eagles crush Giants, move to top of the NFC East

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
If only this Eagles team showed up every week! After two straight weeks of playing down to their opponents, the Eagles got up for the Giants and then some, crushing their rivals 40-17 in a game that was never in question. The win helped move the Eagles past the Giants and into a first place tie with the Cowboys in the NFC East.

This one was all Eagles from the start as the Birds took only 3 plays to score on their opening drive when Leonard Weaver ran it in from 41 yards out. Just a few plays later, the Eagles struck again after they picked off Eli Manning when Brent Celek caught a touchdown pass. Just like that, 4 minutes into the game, the Eagles were up 13-0 and they never looked back.

Offensively for the Eagles, it was the typical "spread the ball around" passing attack Andy Reid likes to employ, as 8 different receivers caught passes, including Donovan McNabb himself, who caught one of his own passes that was deflected back to him. DeSean Jackson, coming off his huge Monday Night performance, had another big play in him today, this time catching a 54 yard touchdown pass. Not to be outdone, Jeremy Maclin also had a TD.

The Eagles also ran the ball better than they had in recent weeks as both Leonard Weaver and LeSean McCoy finished with over 70 yards of rushing and a touchdown. Not having Brian Westbrook made little difference to the Eagles rushing attack; the "thunder and lightning" of Weaver and McCoy was quite effective, finishing with 8.3 yards per carry.

The defense for the Eagles also played one of their best games of the season, forcing Eli Manning to make bad throws all game long. The Birds finished with 2 sacks, forced a fumble and had two interceptions. We all know what happens to Eli when the calendar turns to November and the weather starts to get a little colder and the Eagles took advantage of his poor play all game long.

Suddenly, the Eagles Week 9 match-up against the Cowboys is for first place in the NFC East. Dallas rolled all over the Seahawks this week as they continued their hot play but the Eagles know that if they play the way they did against the Giants, they should easily handle the Cowboys. With the Eagles, it's never a question about talent, they have plenty as they displayed today. It's a question of motivation, and they are always motivated for these big games against their division rivals. When they get up for a game, there are few teams better in the league. When they simply show up expecting to win, things can get ugly.

In all, a great win for the Eagles over the Giants. Let's hope that trend continues tonight as the Phillies look to beat a different New York team.

Eagles/Giants Week 8 Inactives: Westbrook out

The Eagles and Giants announced their inactives for their Week 8 clash:

Eagles: DE Victor Abiamiri, WR Kevin Curtis, OL Max Jean-Gilles, FS Macho Harris, QB Kevin Kolb, G Mike McGlynn, DB Dmitri Patterson, RB Brian Westbrook

Giants: WR Ramses Barden, LB Michael Boley, DL Chris Canty, C Adam Koets, RB Gartrell Johnson, WR Mario Manningham, CB Aaron Ross, T Guy Whimper

The Eagles will be without Brian Westbrook, who is still recovering from his concussion on Monday Night. Starting in his place will be LeSean McCoy, who isn't much of a drop-off. Newly signed P.J. Hill will suit up for the Eagles and be the 3rd RB. The other notable inactive for the Eagles is Macho Harris, who will be replaced by Sean Jones in the starting line-up. Jones got beat out by Harris in the preseason for the starting free safety spot but now he has his opportunity to re-claim the spot. Kevin Curtis is also out again, as expected.

The most notable Giant that will be out is Mario Manningham. The Giants receiving corps are deep so it shouldn't slow down the passing attack much.

It's a big day for Philly sports today, let's see if the Eagles can set the tone for a better day than yesterday. GO BIRDS!

Hamels falters again as Yankees take 2-1 World Series lead

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
For a few innings, the Cole Hamels from 2008 was back. Unfortunately, one bad call in the 4th inning and the ugly 2009 version of Hamels reared its ugly head. The Yankees capitalized on Hamels' turn as they downed the Phillies 8-5 and took a 2-1 World Series lead.

Hamels was brilliant through 3 innings, not giving up a single hit while mixing up his fastball and change-up. Then, in the 4th inning, while facing Mark Teixeira, Hamels threw a 3-2 pitch that was in the strike zone but was inexplicably called ball 4. Hamels was rattled from that point forward, giving up a "home run" (more on this later) to the very next batter, Alex Rodriguez, then 3 more runs in the 5th inning as he played around with his curveball. What started out so promising for Hamels went south in a hurry as he was yanked from the game after allowing 5 runs in 4 and a third innings.

Of course, there was some controversy in that "home run" by A-Rod. Rodriguez hit a shot to right field that hit a camera that was positioned just over the fence and in the field of play. The hit was originally called a double but after going to the replay, the umpires decided it was a home run. It's difficult to really tell if the ball would have cleared the fence if the camera wasn't there, so I'm not quite sure how the umps had conclusive evidence that it was a home run.

As for the Phillies offense, it was pretty well neutralized by Andy Pettitte on the night. Pettitte gave up 3 early runs but then settled in and allowed only one run after that. He was particularly effective against the Phillie lefties like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, who went a combined 0 for 12 on the night with 7 strikeouts against Pettitte and the Yankee relievers. The one hitter who was on tonight was Jayson Werth, who continued his hot playoff hitting by bashing two solo home runs.

The Phillies now find themselves in a position they haven't been in for a few years: behind in a series. They have a tough challenge tomorrow as they face Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia in a must-win game, but there is plenty of reason to still have faith. Sabathia isn't unbeatable, as the Phillies have beaten him twice in the last two years in the playoffs, and he is going on only three days rest. The Phillies will be using Joe Blanton, who won Game 4 of the World Series last year, so hopefully he can repeat that performance on Sunday.

Game 3 was a tough loss for a Phillies team that isn't used to trailing in a series. It proved once and for all that the 2008 Cole Hamels is dead and won't be resurrected for 2009. Winning Game 4 now becomes critical as the Phillies will now look to extend the series back to New York. Don't worry, Phillies fans, there is still plenty of fight left in this team.