Friday, December 31, 2010

Playoff time: NFL Week 17 predictions

With playoff spots and playoff positioning still on the line, here are my picks for Week 17. At the end of the picks, I will break down what the playoff match-ups will look like if everything goes as I predict. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game.

Record Last Week: 10-6, .625
Overall Record: 125-115, .521

Sunday Day Games:

Panthers (2-13) @ Falcons (12-3, -14.5)
The Falcons still need this game to get the top seed in the NFC. The Panthers are just looking to end their season and have nothing to play for since their coach has basically already been canned. My pick: Falcons

Steelers (11-4) @ Browns (5-10, +6.5)
The Steelers need this one to get their first round bye. The Browns have been on a downward slide and I expect that to continue. My pick: Steelers

Vikings (6-9) @ Lions (5-10, -3.5)
Joe Webb looks like he might have a future in Minnesota; hopefully Brett Favre doesn't crash this game just so he can have one last start. My pick: Vikings

Raiders (7-8) @ Chiefs (10-5, -3.5)
The Chiefs are in either way but they want that 3rd seed so they should play to win. I like the game to be close but for the Chiefs to win. My pick: Raiders

Dolphins (7-8) @ Patriots (13-2, -3.5)
The Patriots don't really take games off so expect them to roll over the Dolphins. There really is no reason for the Pats to not play their starters for at least a half since they have a bye next week. My pick: Patriots

Bengals (4-11) @ Ravens (11-4, -9.5)
Since the Steelers play at the same time as the Ravens, Baltimore will have to play their hardest to win this game. My pick: Ravens

Bucs (9-6) @ Saints (11-4, -7.5)
Should the Packers and Giants both lose, the Bucs would get in. The Saints still have an outside shot at the top seed in the NFC so they will be playing to win. I like this one to be a close game. My pick: Bucs

Bills (4-11) @ Jets (10-5, -2.5)
The Jets are pretty much locked into the 6th seed in the AFC so I would expect them to take it easy this week. Still, the Jets backups should be able to beat the Bills. My pick: Jets

Bears (11-4) @ Packers (9-6, -10.5)
The line for this game is huge considering how even these teams are and the fact that both could have something to play for. The Bears could be locked into the 2nd seed before the game starts which would mean they would rest their starters early. My pick: Bears

Titans (6-9) @ Colts (9-6, -9.5)
The Colts could still be bounced from a playoff spot with a loss but they are almost a lock to roll over the Titans. My pick: Colts

Giants (9-6) @ Redskins (6-9, +3.5)
Expect the Giants to bounce back with a nice win to finish out their season. Too bad it will be too little, too late. My pick: Giants

Jaguars (8-7) @ Texans (5-10, -0.5)
The Jaguars still have a shot to make the playoffs if the Colts lose. With no MJD and no David Garrard, however, they have no shot. My pick: Texans

Cowboys (5-10) @ Eagles (10-5, -7.5)
With the Eagles resting their stars, the Cowboys should at least be able to make this a close game. Don't be surprised if Kevin Kolb has a huge game and that sets the Birds up for a good offseason trade. My pick: Cowboys

Cardinals (5-10) @ Niners (5-10, -6.5)
With Singletary out of the picture and nothing to play for, don't be surprised if the Niners have a great game. My pick: Niners

Chargers (8-7) @ Broncos (4-11, +3.5)
Look for the Chargers to finish the season strong and beat the Broncos by a wide margin. My pick: Chargers

Sunday Night Game:

Rams (7-8) @ Seahawks (6-9, +2.5)
For the sake of the NFL, the Rams had better win this game. Seattle has zero chance of beating the Saints next week while the Rams could at least keep it close. My pick: Rams

NFC Playoffs:
Byes: (1) Falcons, (2) Bears
First Round Match-ups: (6) Packers @ (3) Eagles, (5) Saints @ (4) Rams

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

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Michael Leighton is back in goal for the Flyers

He's baaaack. For the first time since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last season, Michael Leighton will be in between the pipes for the Flyers tonight as he makes the start against the Kings. With the way the Flyers goaltending situation has played out, should Leighton play well tonight, it's safe to assume he will get a few more starts in the coming weeks. There is no word as of now who the backup will be, though I would guess it will be Brian Boucher.

With the Flyers still keeping three goaltenders on the roster, things are going to get very interesting in the coming month. While their cap situation allows them to keep three goalies for now, the Flyers will likely have to move one at some point in the near future. While the easiest, and most depressing, choice would be to send Sergei Bobrovsky to the minors, the Flyers might try to trade Leighton or Boucher, with Leighton likely to be the better trade chip. So, while fans might be upset that the Flyers are giving Leighton the start tonight, it makes sense for them to see what Leighton can do and let the rest of the league see that he is healthy and ready to contribute.

Despite how great Bobrovksy and Boucher have looked this season, we can't forget what Leighton did in the playoffs last season. The Flyers legitimately have three goaltenders that could be their starter come playoff time, a fact that sounds good on paper but could be detrimental in the long run. The sooner the Flyers figure out their goaltending situation and let the two remaining guys settle into their roles and get some confidence, the better. Unfortunately, as Flyers fans, we are all too familiar with the problem of not having a number one goaltender.

Kevin Kolb gets the start in Week 17

Multiple sources are confirming what we all expected: Kevin Kolb will be the starting quarterback for the Eagles in Week 17. With the game being completely meaningless and with Michael Vick banged up from being repeatedly hit by the Vikings, this is a move the Eagles had to make.

Another smart reason to give Kolb a start is so he can be showcased for a possible offseason trade. Should the Eagles sign Vick to an extension, as expected, there will be plenty of teams desperate for a quarterback who will inquire about the availability of Kolb. If he fares well against the Cowboys this week, as he should, it can only help to drive up his return price.

Since the Eagles didn't actually earn a bye, it makes sense for them to treat Week 17 like a bye since the outcome of the game means nothing in regards to their playoff seeding. I would expect more players to be announced as out in the coming days and I wouldn't count on seeing the big offensive stars like LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson for much more than a quarter.

Eagles axe Derrick Burgess, bring in Bobby McCray

As one familiar face enters (Jeremy Clark), another leaves: the Eagles have released DE Derrick Burgess and announced the signing of DE Bobby McCray. Burgess spent just over two weeks with the Eagles, getting just a handful of snaps last week against the Vikings. Clearly, the Eagles have deemed that he doesn't bring enough to the table to be a contributor.

As for McCray, he is a former 7th round pick by the Jaguars who also played two seasons with the Saints before being cut at the beginning of the season. He has a ton of experience, having played in 93 games, and even had one 10 sack season back in 2006. I would expect him to get plenty of work in the Eagles defensive line rotation if they choose to sit their starters in the game against Dallas. McCray was one of the top pass-rushers for the Saints during their Super Bowl run last season.

Eagles bring back a familiar face to replace Jeff Owens

To replace rookie Jeff Owens, who ruptured his patellar tendon in his first action of the season and was placed on injured reserve, the Eagles have signed a familiar face: DT Jeremy Clark. Clark, who spent one year on the Eagles practice squad back in 2007 after being signed as a rookie free agent, has been a journeyman in his short NFL career, spending time with the Giants, Falcons, Cardinals, Cowboys and Redskins. He has played a total of 6 games and could see some action on Sunday when the Eagles play a meaningless game against the Cowboys.

Owens is the 10th Eagle to be placed on Injured Reserve this season. You have to feel for the kid, who spent the entire season on the practice squad before finally seeing some action in Week 16 only to subsequently have a major injury. Depending on how he recovers from his injury, Owens should have a future with the Birds.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eagles locked into 3rd seed after pathetic loss to Vikings

Well, we can all forget about those crazy playoff scenarios that could have seen the Eagles get a first round bye or even the number one seed in the NFC. After the effort they showed in a 24-14 loss to a terrible Vikings team, the Eagles are probably happy that they were even able to secure the 3rd seed.

While the Eagles offense certainly didn't have the big plays and huge fireworks we've grown accustomed to over the last few weeks, the defense deserves the majority of the blame for the loss. That a mediocre quarterback like Joe Webb, who was making his first NFL start, was able to step up in the 4th quarter and win the game for his team tells you that the Eagles defense was just not ready to play. Simply put, when a big play needed to be made, the Eagles couldn't stop a quarterback that had no NFL experience.

After he repeatedly got hit in the first quarter, it was no surprise that Michael Vick didn't have enough left in the tank to lead the Eagles on another comeback win. The Eagles had better start figuring out better schemes to protect Vick or they are going to be in some serious trouble should he get knocked out of a playoff game.

With the 3rd seed locked up, look for the Eagles to rest their starters next week against the Cowboys. I would expect every player that even has the slightest injury to be benched and we'll see plenty of Kevin Kolb in the second half of the game. Since they weren't able to earn a bye in the playoffs, the Eagles might as well treat Week 17 like a bye for some of their banged up stars.

It's impossible to call the Eagles loss to the Vikings anything but a disappointment but I wouldn't read too much into this game. Hopefully the loss will be a wakeup call for the Birds; they can't just show up against supposedly inferior teams and blow them out. With their next meaningful game being in two weeks in the playoffs, the Eagles had better shape up or they are going to be facing a long offseason.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Five Eagles named to the 2011 Pro Bowl

Barring a run to the Super Bowl, the Eagles will be well-represented at the Pro Bowl. The NFL released the Pro Bowl rosters today and five Eagles were named to the team: QB Michael Vick, WR DeSean Jackson, LT Jason Peters, CB Asante Samuel and K David Akers. Jackson was the only one of the five not named as a starter. Each of the five have been named to the Pro Bowl in previous years with Akers leading the way with 5 Pro Bowls under his belt.

Notable Eagles that were left off the Pro Bowl rosters were RB LeSean McCoy and DE Trent Cole. Should the Eagles not make the Super Bowl, expect a few more to be added on after injuries and the players from the NFC representative in the Super Bowl are removed.

Click here for full 2011 Pro Bowl Rosters.

Eagles vs. Vikings Week 16 Inactives: Favre out

The Eagles and Vikings have announced their inactive players for their Week 16 game:

Eagles: LB Shawn Bradley, LB Keenan Clayton, T Austin Howard, CB Brandon Hughes, QB Mike Kafka, CB Gerard Lawson, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, G Reggie Wells

Vikings: WR Hank Baskett, QB Rhett Bomar, DT Fred Evans, QB Brett Favre, S Tyrell Johnson, WR Greg Lewis, T Thomas Welch, S Madieu Williams

No surprise inactives for the Eagles this week. With newest Eagle Gerard Lawson inactive, expect Chad Hall to return kicks. Derrick Burgess is active for the first time since the Eagles signed him.

As for the Vikings, Favre failed to pass his concussion tests so they will turn to Joe Webb to start at quarterback. Stud running back Adrian Peterson is playing but will likely be limited.

With the division wrapped up, this isn't a huge game for the Eagles, but they can still get a first round bye if they win out and get some help. GO BIRDS!

Monday, December 27, 2010

J.C. Romero has returned to the Phillies

In a move that was expected ever since the deal with Dennys Reyes fell through, the Phillies have re-signed J.C. Romero. Romero, who became a free agent after the Phillies declined his one year option worth 4.5 million, signed a one year deal worth somewhere around a million bucks to return to Philadelphia.

While the Phillies could probably do better than Romero as a lefty option out of the pen, for the right price, he should slide nicely back into his bullpen role. The Phillies 'pen appears to be just about completed, although there seems to be something holding up the a re-signing of Chad Durbin, the long-reliever that is the last missing piece.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eagles are NFC East Champs!

Thanks to a Packers 45-17 win over the Giants, the Eagles have clinched the NFC East title! It is the first division title for the Eagles since 2006.

While the Eagles are now officially in the playoffs, there are still plenty of scenarios to play out before they know who they will play. The Eagles could still finish anywhere from 1st to 3rd in the NFC and could have a bye or play the Packers or Giants in the first round. While we can't assume anything at this point, if the Eagles beat the Vikings and the Cowboys in the final two weeks, their seeding will depend on who wins the Bears/Packers game. That game will likely determine whether the Eagles get a first round bye or face the Giants in the first round.

Of course, there is still that little matter of playing the postponed game on Tuesday night, a game that may be more difficult now that Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre are getting more time to heal.

Eagles game postponed to Tuesday

Well, so much for that memorable blizzard game. The NFL has announced that the Eagles/Vikings game scheduled for tonight has been moved to Tuesday night at 8:00 pm. Given the questions surrounding the Vikings quarterback situation, this should give Brett Favre plenty of time to get himself ready to play.

Eagles game may be postponed

Due to the oncoming blizzard, the NFL is discussing whether to postpone the Eagles/Vikings game scheduled for tonight at 8:20. While DeSean Jackson on Twitter is pleading to still play the game (It's only snow!!!! Let us play... It must b alot of fun... I'm ready let's get it on!!), the NFL is likely concerned about the fans and whether they will safely be able to get to and from a game when there is 8 to 12 inches of snow on the ground.

Given the amount of money NBC stands to make on a nationally televised snow bowl, I highly doubt they move the game to another day. With Monday night football and bowl games coming in the next few days, there isn't a logical day or time that it could be moved to, so the game will need to be played tonight.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy HoLEEdays from All Things Philly Sports!

ATPS would like to wish you a Happy Holidays! Hopefully you got all the gifts you wanted, though I'm sure we're all satisfied with Cliff Lee!
(Cartoon via NY Post)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Football for the Holidays: NFL Week 16 Predictions

There isn't much that's better than the combination of Christmas and football Sunday on back to back days. Here are my Week 16 picks. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game.

Record Last Week: 8-8, .500
Overall Record: 115-109, .513

Thursday Night Game:

Panthers (2-12) @ Steelers (10-4, -13.5)
Nice win last week by the Panthers but the last thing they want to do is play themselves out of the number one pick. My pick: Steelers

Saturday Night Game:

Cowboys (5-9) @ Cardinals (4-10, +6.5)
What a terrible Christmas Day game. Unless the Cowboys are losing this one, I don't plan on watching for even a minute. My pick: Cowboys

Sunday Day Games:

Patriots (12-2) @ Bills (4-10, +8.5)
The line should be much, much higher. Expect the Patriots to make up for their close win last week with a blowout in Buffalo. My pick: Patriots

Jets (10-4) @ Bears (10-4, -1.5)
My initial hunch is to go with the Bears to win but there is so much more on the line for the Jets, who still need to win to get in the playoffs. My pick: Jets

Ravens (10-4) @ Browns (5-9, +3.5)
The Ravens will know how the Steelers fared on Thursday Night before the game but I expect them to walk all over the Browns no matter what. My pick: Ravens

Niners (5-9) @ Rams (6-8, -2.5)
For sake of all that is good in the world, the Rams had better win this game and eliminate the terrible Niners. I don't think the world is ready for a 7-9 playoff team. My pick: Rams

Lions (4-10) @ Dolphins (7-7, -3.5)
Given how terrible they have been at home, I'm surprised the Dolphins are favored at all. My pick: Lions

Redskins (5-9) @ Jaguars (8-6, -6.5)
Shockingly, Rex Grossman gives the Skins a fighting chance in this one. I like Washington to keep it close but still lose. My pick: Redskins

Titans (8-6) @ Chiefs (9-5, -5.5)
The Chiefs still need one more win to eliminate the Chargers so look for them to take care of business at home. My pick: Chiefs

Colts (8-6) @ Raiders (7-7, +3.5)
As good as the Raiders have suddenly become I don't make it a habit to go against Peyton Manning, especially with so much on the line. My pick: Colts

Texans (5-9) @ Broncos (3-11, +2.5)
The Broncos have packed it in this season and are hoping for the highest draft pick possible. My pick: Texans

Chargers (8-6) @ Bengals (3-11, +7.5)
San Diego still has an outside shot at a playoff spot even if the Chiefs win so expect them to roll over the Bengals, who have lost the will to play. My pick: Chargers

Seahawks (6-8) @ Bucs (8-6, -6.5)
No Seattle quarterback means no chance. My pick: Bucs

Giants (9-5) @ Packers (8-6, -2.5)
I'm guessing that Aaron Rodgers will play but I'm also guessing that the Giants will bounce back in a big way after their embarrassing loss last week. My pick: Giants

Sunday Night Game:

Vikings (5-9) @ Eagles (10-4, -13.5)
As exciting as last week was, let's all hope for a really boring 30 point blowout this week. With the Vikings likely turning to Joe Webb, there is no way Minnesota can score enough points to keep up. My pick: Eagles

Monday Night Game:

Saints (10-4) @ Falcons (12-2, -2.5)
I like the Saints to get the NFL's attention and win this one outright. New Orleans is poised to make some noise in the playoffs. My pick: Saints

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

Eagles lose Jorrick Calvin for the season

The Eagles have lost another player for the season: DB/KR Jorrick Calvin has been placed on IR due to a back injury. Calvin, who was acquired back in August from the Cardinals, has had an unremarkable season which has mostly been limited to kickoff return duty. While he has had his moments, Calvin is a mediocre returner at best.

There is no word as of now from the Eagles as to who will replace Calvin on the roster and who will return kicks. It's possible that the Eagles will turn to Chad Hall for returns or they could bring in someone of the street with some experience in the role.

Calvin is the 9th Eagle to be placed on IR this season. He joins Nate Allen, Brandon Graham, Antoine Harris, Ellis Hobbs, Jamaal Jackson, Marlin Jackson, Ricky Sapp and Leonard Weaver on the sidelines.

Eagles Week 16 playoff scenarios

In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Eagles are inching closer and closer to winning the division and possibly getting a first round bye. Here are the things that have to happen for the Eagles to clinch a playoff spot in Week 16:

To clinch the division:
1. The Eagles beat the Vikings
2. The Eagles tie the Vikings and the Giants lose or tie to the Packers
3. The Giants lose to the Packers

To clinch a playoff spot:
1. The Eagles tie with the Vikings
2. The Bucs lose or tie against the Seahawks

There is no scenario in Week 16 for the Eagles to clinch a first round bye. If the Eagles win out and the Bears lose one of their last two games, Philly would get the bye over the Bears.

With the Eagles preparing to face a Minnesota team with Joe Webb at the helm, a playoff spot looks nearly guaranteed for the Birds. As we have seen in the past, though, some crazy things can happen in the last few weeks, so we can't assume anything just yet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eagles lose Nate Allen for the year

There was one downer in an otherwise amazing Sunday of Eagles football: Nate Allen injured his knee and is out for the season. The rookie safety, who was drafted by the Eagles with the pick they acquired from the Redskins for Donovan McNabb, ruptured his patellar tendon and will be placed on injured reserve.

Allen had a great September but has since hit the wall down the stretch. He was still a steady contributor and will be missed, though fellow rookie Kurt Coleman should be able to step in and do an adequate job.

With Brandon Graham and Ellis Hobbs already done for the year and Stewart Bradley still out for a few weeks, the Eagles defense is starting to look pretty banged up. Luckily, they don't have to be great, they just need to be healthy enough to keep games close and let Michael Vick do his thing in the 4th quarter.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Miracle in the Meadowlands: Eagles shock Giants

This was a day to remember, Birds fans. Against all odds, Michael Vick brought a dormant Eagles offense to life just in time to erase a 21 point lead late in the 4th quarter. Then, against all odds, DeSean Jackson pulled off the most improbable finish to a game I have ever seen:

What an incredible, incredible win. Sure, there were plenty of mistakes along the way, especially by Andy Reid, but its not an exaggeration to call that one of the best Eagles wins of all time. After all, how often do you see a team score 28 points in the final 7 minutes to pull of a comeback win with their division basically on the line?

With the win, the Eagles have moved one step closer to clinching the NFC East, now needing just one more win or a Giants loss to secure the division. Given how this team has shown the ability to never be out of a game, I'd say we are in for something special come January.

Eagles vs. Giants Week 15 inactives: Asante is a go

The Eagles and Giants have announced their inactive players for their huge Week 15 showdown:

Eagles: LB Shawn Bradley, DE Derrick Burgess, LB Keenan Clayton, T Austin Howard, CB Brandon Hughes, OT Winston Justice, QB Mike Kafka, TE Garrett Mills

Giants: TE Jake Ballard, DB Michael Coe, DE Alex Hall, DT Linval Joseph, OT Jamon Meredith, G Mitch Petrus, WR Darius Reynaud, WR Devin Thomas

The best news for the Eagles is that Asante Samuel returns to the field. Let's hope his return is enough to turn around the Eagles defense, which has looked pretty bad the last few weeks. DeSean Jackson is also a go this week after some moderate speculation that he would have to sit out. Winston Justice misses another week, meaning King Dunlap will start at RT against the vaunted Giants pass rush.

HUGE game this week with the NFC East basically on the line. GO BIRDS!

Friday, December 17, 2010

No deal: Phillies deal with Dennys Reyes falls through

UPDATE: The Phillies and Dennys Reyes failed to reach an agreement, meaning the team is still in the market for a lefty reliever. Let's hope they will now search for one that actually gets lefties out.
Making their first significant addition of the offseason, the Phillies have signed left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes to a 1 year contract worth 1.1 million with an option for a second year. Reyes, a 14 year veteran who has played for 10 different teams, figures to slide into the primary lefty relief role, which likely means that J.C. Romero will not be brought back.

While Reyes didn't have great numbers for the Cardinals last year (3.55 ERA, 1.45 WHIP), he has been a reliable LOOGY in the past and is capable of pitching 60 or so games a season. He isn't that old (33), but Reyes' best years were certainly a few seasons back. He also was much better at getting righties (.177 AVG) out than lefties (.307) last year, a trend that will need to be reversed in the lefty-starved Phillies bullpen. Of course, given the small salary and one year deal that they signed Reyes to, he doesn't have to be that good to earn his money.

With the signing of Reyes, the Phillies have moved one step closer to completing their 2011 bullpen. They are still expected another arm or two, with Chad Durbin still a possibility.

Chris Pronger to have surgery, miss 4-6 weeks

It was all going so well for the Flyers, who sit atop the NHL with 47 points. They got some bad news today, though, as the team learned the fate of defenseman Chris Pronger, who injured his right foot against the Canadiens on Wednesday: he has a broken foot that will require surgery and cause him to miss 4 to 6 weeks.

Luckily for the Flyers, they have one of the deepest group of defensemen in the league. With Pronger out for at least a month, 7th d-man Oskars Bartulis will step into the lineup. While the Flyers will miss their best defenseman, they can give more minutes to guys like Andrej Mezsaros and Matt Carle and there shouldn't be that much of a drop-off.

While injuries to star players are never a good thing, it's better that Pronger suffers an injury like this now rather than later in the season. With the timetable given, Pronger will return sometime in late January and will still have plenty of time to get up to full strength for the playoffs, which start in April. The Flyers also have a long layoff in late December, so Pronger won't even miss more than 15 games or so. The defense should be able to hold down the fort until the big man returns.

How the mighty have fallen: Donovan McNabb benched for Rex Grossman

The Donovan McNabb trade is looking better and better for the Eagles every week. According to multiple sources on Twitter, the Redskins have decided to bench McNabb and start Rex Grossman in his place in their Week 15 game against the Cowboys. With the way McNabb has played this season, its really not all that surprising that the Redskins would look to bench him, but do they really think Rex Grossman is a better quarterback?

Given how McNabb and Michael Vick have played this season, I don't think any Eagles fan can argue that the Birds traded McNabb at the right time. I for one don't miss the bounce passes he used to throw to the wide receivers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Home stretch: NFL Week 15 Predictions

After following up my best week of the season with my worst (stupid Cowboys and their late cover), let's get right to the Week 15 picks. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game.

Record Last Week: 5-11, .313
Overall Record: 107-101, .514

Thursday Night Game:

Niners (5-8) @ Chargers (7-6, -8.5)
The Chargers annual late surge into the playoffs continues this week. Look for Alex Smith to turn back into a pumpkin after having a good game last week. My pick: Chargers

Sunday Day Games:

Browns (5-8) @ Bengals (2-11, -1.5)
If they can stop Peyton Hillis, the Bengals look poised to finally break their long, embarrassing losing streak. My pick: Bengals

Redskins (5-8) @ Cowboys (4-9, -6.5)
As any Eagles fan will tell you, the Cowboys are actually playing some decent football right now. The Redskins, on the other hand, are thinking about starting Rex Grossman. Enough said. My pick: Cowboys

Texans (5-8) @ Titans (5-8, -1.5)
Who's bright idea is it to have the Titans be favored in any game? My pick: Texans

Jaguars (8-5) @ Colts (7-6, -4.5)
I like the Colts to stake their claim on the division in this game but I don't see them winning by much more than a field goal. My pick: Jaguars

Chiefs (8-5) @ Rams (6-7, -1.5)
If there is no Matt Cassel, there is no way I'm picking the Chiefs to beat any decent team. The Rams are fighting for a playoff spot so they should put together a solid game at home. My pick: Rams

Bills (3-10) @ Dolphins (7-6, -5.5)
The Bills actually haven't been terrible for the last few weeks and I don't see the Dolphins putting up a ton of points. My pick: Bills

Lions (3-10) @ Bucs (8-5, -6.5)
The Lions have also been playing some pretty good football lately, although they have really been struggling to score. I can't see the Bucs winning by more than a field goal. My pick: Lions

Cardinals (4-9) @ Panthers (1-12, -2.5)
I'm not picking the Panthers for the rest of the season. Can anyone figure out why they are favored here? My pick: Cardinals

Saints (10-3) @ Ravens (9-4, -2.5)
The Ravens secondary is not what it once was, as proven by the Texans on Monday Night. Drew Brees is licking his chops. My pick: Saints

Eagles (9-4) @ Giants (9-4, -2.5)
With the NFC East on the line, the Eagles are going to have to go on the road to knock off the Giants. While the Eagles defense has been troubling in recent weeks, all signs point to the return of Asante Samuel, who has a few more Manning interceptions left in him. Expect a close game but I like the Eagles to win outright. My pick: Eagles

Falcons (11-2) @ Seahawks (6-7, +6.5)
Seattle has the best homefield advantage in football but they still aren't a good football team. With the Saints nipping at their heels, the Falcons need every win they can get. My pick: Falcons

Jets (9-4) @ Steelers (10-3, -6.5)
With the way the Jets offense has looked in recent weeks, is there even a chance they put up 10 points against the Steelers? I like Pittsburgh to win a low scoring game by a touchdown. My pick: Steelers

Broncos (3-10) @ Raiders (6-7, -6.5)
I think they've given up in Denver. Who would have thought the Raiders would be this close to .500 at this point in the season? My pick: Raiders

Sunday Night Game:

Packers (8-5) @ Patriots (11-2, -10.5)
This one has blowout written all over it, especially if Aaron Rodgers doesn't play. It sickens me that the Pats are once again the best team in football. My pick: Patriots

Monday Night Game:

Bears (9-4) @ Vikings (5-8, +3.5)
Its looking like the Vikings are going to be forced to start Joe Webb at quarterback. While I normally wouldn't like Jay Cutler's chances in snowy and freezing conditions, even he will find a way to lead the Bears to a commanding victory over a no-name QB. My pick: Bears

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flyers keep the good times rolling with win over Penguins

It's certainly a good last few days for Philly sports fans. First, the Eagles beat the Cowboys on Sunday Night, then the Cliff Lee extravaganza on Monday night, and now, on Tuesday, the Flyers beat the Penguins 3-2 to give them the most points of any team in the NHL. Add a Sixers win on Tuesday to the mix and you have an incredible stretch of Philly sports goodness.

Scoring goals for the Flyers in this one were Claude Giroux, Nikolay Zherdev (who scored a beautiful goal) and Scott Hartnell, who scored the game winner for the Flyers on a deflection.

To make the win even sweeter, the Flyers also snapped the Penguins 12 game winning streak. The Pens hadn't lost a game in regulation since November 10th.

Sure, there have been some negatives for the Flyers this season, like their anemic power play, but you can't ask for them to be in a better position than they are right now, atop the entire NHL. With the number of guys they have that can score goals, the Flyers shouldn't run into those huge lulls in scoring that have plagued them in recent years.

Your move, Eagles. Keep the good times rolling with a win over the Giants this weekend.

Eagles bring back Derrick Burgess

Well, it's not quite the impact the Phillies made yesterday, but the Eagles have brought back a former Philly athlete of their own: LB/DE Derrick Burgess. Burgess, who last played for the Eagles in 2004, has been signed by the Birds to replace Brandon Graham, who has been placed on IR after tearing his ACL.

After being drafted by the Eagles, Burgess put together a few decent seasons before bolting for the Raiders, where he picked up 38.5 sacks in 4 seasons, and then moved on to the Patriots last season. Burgess is still a pass-rushing specialist, so he is a nice replacement for Graham, but don't count on too much playing time or production from the 32 year old veteran whose best days are behind him.

Best rotation ever: Phillies land Cliff Lee

The signing that was too good to be true actually happened: Cliff Lee has signed with the Phillies. Forgoing more years and more money in offers from the Yankees and Rangers, Lee has chosen to return to Philadelphia in a 5 year deal worth more than 100 million dollars. The fact that Lee took less money to play in Philly likely instantly makes him the most beloved player in the city.

With the addition of Lee, the Phillies have the best rotation in baseball and possibly the best rotation of all time. Take the perfection of Roy Halladay, the dominance of Lee, the brilliance of Cole Hamels and the toughness of Roy Oswalt and you have a rotation with four legitimate aces. As an added bonus, the rotation can even be set up to go right, left, right, left to give the opponents fits.

Now that the Phillies have used all of their money on another pitcher, it's unclear what their plans are for the rest of the offseason. Priority number one will be dealing Joe Blanton to free up salary with more possible salary dumps on the way. After that, the Phillies still will likely look for another right handed bat to add to the outfield but don't look for them to do much more than that. After all, when you have a rotation like this, you really don't need that much offense.

It's a testament to the city of Philadelphia and its fans that Cliff Lee has left money on the table to return to play for the Phillies. Lee knew that the fans here were in love with the guy the moment he put on the uniform so he jumped at the first chance to return. With a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt, the next few seasons are going to be incredible.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Believe it: Phillies are in on Cliff Lee

The rumor that just won't die suddenly has new life again: according to multiple sources, the Phillies are one of the finalists in the pursuit of free agent Cliff Lee. While it seems incredibly unlikely and improbable that the Phillies, a team already loaded with starting pitching, would be looking to sign yet another ace pitcher to their rotation, respected sources like Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and Jon Heyman of SI have confirmed that the Phillies, along with the Yankees and Rangers, are on the short list of teams that have a shot of landing Lee. Anyone interested in a rotation of Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt? Yes, please.

While it's hard not to get positively giddy about the possibility of Lee coming back to Philly, all indications are that the Phillies are longshots to sign him. With the Yankees and Rangers both making huge contract offers for a lot of years that the Phillies can't compete with, their best hope of signing Lee will be if he wants to take a pay cut to return to a team he is already comfortable playing with in a city that absolutely loves him. The Phillies would also probably have to move some salary to make room for Lee, with Joe Blanton and (hopefully) Raul Ibanez being the most likely candidates.

Before we get too excited about having the greatest rotation in baseball history, remember that Lee signing in Philly is a remote possibility. After all, when was the last time a professional athlete left money on the table and signed for less than his market value?

Eagles lose Graham for the season, Bradley for a few weeks

The Eagles defense, which has hardly been rock solid this season, got some bad news today: rookie defensive end Brandon Graham will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL against the Cowboys last night. The Eagles believe he will need surgery and he will soon be placed on Injured Reserve. While Graham wasn't a starter, he did see significant snaps and had 3 sacks on the season. Look for Darryl Tapp and possibly Daniel Te'o-Nesheim to get increased playing time.

The Eagles got some better news with another injured defensive player as Stewart Bradley will not need surgery after dislocating his elbow. Expect Bradley to miss a few weeks and possibly the rest of the regular season but he should be good to go when the playoffs roll around. In his absence, don't be surprised if the Eagles go with rookie Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker instead of veteran backup Omar Gaither. Gaither was inactive against the Cowboys while Chaney seemed to hold his own after Bradley went down.

Finally, all signs point to Asante Samuel returning next week. With Graham and Bradley out, the Eagles will definitely need their playmaker back to help slow down the Giants offense.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

DeSean's huge night leads Eagles over Cowboys

The Eagles will put up with DeSean Jackson's post-touchdown celebrations as long as he keeps making big plays. Behind a career night from Jackson, the Eagles edged the Cowboys, 30-27, to remain atop the NFC East.

It was all about the big play for the Eagles, as DeSean Jackson needed just 4 catches to amass 210 yards, the third most in one game in Eagles history. His two biggest plays were the first and the last time Jackson touched the ball, as he caught a 60 yard pass on the first play of the game and had a dynamic 91 yard catch and run touchdown in the 4th quarter that proved to be the game winning score. Sure, Jackson drew a stupid penalty for falling into the end zone backwards on his 91 yard score, but it's something we have all grown to live with (and love) from number 10. Remember when Jackson had trouble doing anything against the Cowboys last year? Yeah, neither do I.

The rest of the Eagles offense did work in this one, too. Despite throwing a pair of interceptions that weren't his fault, Michael Vick put together another solid performance, throwing for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushing for 16 yards and another touchdown. He didn't always make the perfect play and he took a ton of hits but Vick continues to evolve into one of the most reliable QB's in the game. Also having a great game was LeSean McCoy, who ran roughshod over the Cowboys in the 4th quarter to rack up a career high 149 yards on just 16 carries for a ridiculous 9.3 yards per carry average. With the way the Eagles continue to set up the run with their tremendous passing game, expect McCoy to have a lot more games like this in the coming weeks and years.

Without Asante Samuel, the Eagles defense continues to look weak. While the Cowboys do have a respectable offense, there is no excuse for the defense to get shredded by a mediocre quarterback like Jon Kitna. Samuel can't return to the Birds fast enough but I'm not sure his presence will eliminate all of the blown assignments and missed tackles that plagued the Eagles defense.

In other injury news, it sounds like Stewart Bradley will be out for at least a few weeks after a nasty injury caused him to dislocate his elbow. While Bradley hasn't had a stellar season, the Eagles need all the help they can get on that side of the ball and will miss their defensive leader.

The win over the Cowboys keeps the Eagles in the drivers seat in the NFC East with a showdown against the Giants looming next week. While the Eagles are fortunate enough to catch a break with the Giants getting a shorter week because of their game being moved to Monday, the Birds will need to be at the top of their game with the division on the line. While we can be sure the offense will produce their fair share of big plays, let's hope Asante Samuel finds his way back to the field and gives the defense the boost it sorely needs. With another game against a Manning on the schedule, I'm sure Asante has a few more interceptions in him.

Eagles vs. Cowboys: Week 14 Inactives

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

Eagles: LB Omar Gaither, T Austin Howard, CB Brandon Hughes, OT Winston Justice, QB Mike Kafka, TE Garrett Mills, CB Asante Samuel, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Cowboys: RB Marion Barber, LB Victor Butler, OL Phil Costa, LB Kenwin Cummings, DE Clifton Geathers, T Jermy Parnell, QB Tony Romo, T Sam Young

As we knew, the Eagles will be without Samuel and Justice for the game. Joselio Hanson will once against start in Samuel's place and King Dunlap will get the start at right tackle for Justice. The only surprise inactive is Gaither, who hasn't exactly seen the field much this year, anyway.

With the Cowboys suddenly playing better football under Jason Garrett, we should be in for a good game tonight. GO BIRDS!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

No Asante for the Eagles against the Cowboys

Bad news for the Eagles defense: Asante Samuel will once again be on the sidelines. The Eagles have confirmed today that both Samuel and Winston Justice will not be making the trip to Dallas with the team, which means they won't be suiting up on Sunday.

While all the talk during the week was that Samuel didn't need practice to play, clearly his knee just isn't strong enough to let him be effective. Given how terrible the Eagles secondary has looked in recent weeks without Samuel, expect a shootout in Dallas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dominating: NFL Week 14 Predictions

After my best week of the season last week, let's get right to the Week 14 picks. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game.

Record Last Week: 12-4, .750
Overall Record: 102-90, .531

Thursday Night Game:

Colts (6-6) @ Titans (5-7, +2.5)
The Colts can't possibly lose a 4th straight game, can they? With the way Peyton Manning is handing out interceptions, perhaps they can (but they won't). My pick: Colts

Sunday Day Games:

Browns (5-7) @ Bills (2-1, -1.5)
What am I missing here? Why are the Bills favored? Since when have they had any home field advantage? My pick: Browns

Packers (8-4) @ Lions (2-10, +6.5)
The Packers have kicked things into another gear at just the right time. As long as they don't suffer another lull like they did in the beginning of the Niners game, they should roll over Detroit. My pick: Packers

Giants (8-4) @ Vikings (5-7, +2.5)
Does anyone actually think there is even a remote chance Brett Favre doesn't start this game? Whether he starts or not, the Giants should win this one fairy easily. My pick: Giants

Bengals (2-10) @ Steelers (9-3, -9.5)
While the Bengals are a crappy team, I think they will show up in this rivalry game and at least keep it close. When they squared off a few weeks back, Cincinnati "only" lost by 6. My pick: Bengals

Bucs (7-5) @ Redskins (5-7, +2.5)
Just how much has Washington given up at this point? I like Tampa to win by at least a field goal against the Deadskins. My pick: Bucs

Falcons (10-2) @ Panthers (1-11, +7.5)
Hmm, think there is a mismatch here? Possibly the best team in the league vs. definitely the worst team in the league. I know anything can happen in football but the Falcons have to win this one by more than 10. My pick: Falcons

Raiders (6-6) @ Jaguars (7-5, -4.5)
That's a pretty big spread for a Raiders team that dominated against the Chargers last week. My pick: Raiders

Seahawks (6-6) @ Niners (4-8, -4.5)
Really, Niners, you are going to turn back to Alex Smith now? This is the move that is going to save your job, Mike Singletary? My pick: Seahawks

Rams (6-6) @ Saints (9-3, -8.5)
With the way the Rams have been playing up to their competition, it wouldn't shock me if they won this one outright, so of course I will take the points. My pick: Rams

Patriots (10-2) @ Bears (9-3, +3.5)
The Bears winning streak finally comes to an end this week. My pick: Patriots

Dolphins (6-6) @ Jets (9-3, -6.5)
After how they looked on Monday Night, it's very tempting to pick against the Jets this week. I just can't trust the Dolphins, though, so I think the Jets have a nice bounce-back game this week. My pick: Jets

Broncos (3-9) @ Cardinals (3-9, +3.5)
Congratulations, new Denver coach, you get to win your first game! My pick: Broncos

Chiefs (8-4) @ Chargers (6-6, -6.5)
While the spread is awfully high, I think the Chargers have one last gasp in them before they relinquish the division title. I like them to win this high-scoring game by at least a touchdown. My pick: Chargers

Sunday Night Game:

Eagles (8-4) @ Cowboys (4-8, +3.5)
While the Cowboys may not be quite as crappy as we thought they were, they still have a terrible secondary and no clue how to stop Michael Vick. I think the Eagles exorcise their Cowboys demons in a big way in this one. My pick: Eagles

Monday Night Game:

Ravens (8-4) @ Texans (5-7, +3.5)
Even Joe Flacco should be able to dice up the Texans secondary. My pick: Ravens

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crazy but true: Phillies considering Greinke trade

File this under a crazy rumor that has very little chance of coming true. According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, the Phillies have had some discussions with the Royals about the possiblity of acquiring the 2009 Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke. Whether those are serious discussions or simply an inquiry about what it would take to get Greinke is unknown.

While the move doesn't make sense for a number of reasons, like the fact that the Phillies already have three stud starters and can't afford to add another 10+ million to the salary, it's still fun to dream about what could be. Sure, Greinke is coming off a down year by his standards, but if there is even a remote chance that you can acquire someone of his talent, you can't fault the Phillies for at least trying. Given the number of prospects the Royals will likely seek and the way the Phillies farm system has been gutted in the last few years, though, it's doesn't seem like there is a match for a trade.

Despite its remote possibility, it doesn't hurt to dream. A rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Greinke would be so ridiculously good, the Phillies wouldn't ever have to worry about scoring runs or even having a decent bullpen. As a rational fan, however, you really shouldn't get your hopes up because, over the next few days, the Phillies will probably only be adding a bullpen piece and an outfielder. I know we've grown accustomed to the Phillies adding some of the best pitchers in the game but this one isn't happening, folks.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Former Phillies GM Pat Gillick elected to Hall of Fame

One of the key architects of the 2008 Phillies team has been given the highest honor in baseball: Former Phillies GM Pat Gillick has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

While Gillick is best known in Philadelphia for helping construct a Champion in 2008, he also won two other titles when he was the GM for the Blue Jays and built a Mariners team that won 116 games in 2001. Bottom line, in his 30 year career as general manager of the Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies, Gillick built winners. Gillick still currently works for the Phillies as an advisor.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

So long, Beard: Jayson Werth signs with the Nationals

At least we will still be seeing plenty of the beard. As reported by multiple sources on Twitter, Jayson Werth has signed a 7 year, 126 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals. Yes, you read that right, Werth has chosen to go to DC to play for the lowly Nationals.

Despite how they tried to spin it, signing Werth was never a viable option for the Phillies. By signing with the Nationals, Werth shows that all he ever wanted was the money and he wasn't concerned about playing on a winning team. The Phillies could never match the kind of long-term contract offers that Werth was getting on the open market and would only have signed him if he agreed to a hometown discount.

With the Werth saga out of the way, look for the Phillies to focus all of their efforts on signing a right-handed bat to platoon in right field with Domonic Brown. While some of the names out there aren't that exciting (Jeff Francoeur??), the Phillies have a definite need for a righty power bat now that their best one has left for DC.

Thanks for everything, Jayson Werth, and enjoy losing 90 games a year with the Nationals!

How they were built: Sixers

This chart will be updated from time to time and will always be found at the link on the right side of the ATPS homepage. Included are the salaries for every player on the 2010/2011 Sixers roster.

Sixers acquired via:
Draft: 6
Free Agency: 2
Trade: 6

Salaries taken from

The Sixers are mostly built through trades and the draft and have not dipped much into free agency except for the huge Elton Brand signing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How they were built: Flyers

Since I haven't been able to find this information all in one place before, I whipped up this chart showing the Flyers current roster, their contracts and how they were acquired by the team. I will update it from time to time as the Flyers make moves and create a direct link to it on the right side of the ATPS homepage.

The chart contains every Flyer who is under an NHL contract for the upcoming season.

Players with a NMC listed after their contract end date have a no-movement clause, which means the player can't be traded, waived or sent to the minors without consent. Players with a NTC listed after their contract end date have a no-trade clause, which means the player can't be traded without consent. Mike Richards will have a NTC kick in after the 2011/12 season.

Flyers acquired via:
Draft: 7
Free Agency: 9
Trade: 9
Waivers: 1

All salaries are dollars against the cap, and are found at CapGeek.

It is interesting that the Flyers have acquired their forwards mostly through the draft and free agency, their defense mostly through trades and their goalies mostly through free agency. It really shows you how they utilize all possible ways of building a team, and it also shows their failings in developing NHL-ready defensemen and goalies in their farm system. Seriously, how many ex-Lightning defenseman do the Flyers need?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Offense carries Eagles past Texans

With an offense like this, who needs defense? Apparently, that's been the motto for the Eagles the last two weeks as their defense has put up little resistance and has been forced to rely on the offense to keep them in the game. Fortunately, the Eagles offense is pretty damn good and it was on full display on Thursday night in a 34-24 win over the Texans.

We'll start with the good things in the game for the Eagles, which begins and ends with the offense. Despite throwing his second interception of the season, Michael Vick was his usual explosive self, throwing for 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushing for 48 yards and another touchdown. While Vick wasn't perfect, his decision-making was mostly solid as he carved up the weak Texans secondary.

As for the rest of the offense, all of the weapons were in full force, led by LeSean McCoy, who had 130 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. McCoy seems to be getting better and better this season and has forced defenses to respect the run which just opens things up even further for the passing game. The weapons in the passing game all contributed as well with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin combining for 152 yards receiving and even Brent Celek getting in on the act with several big catches. The Eagles embarrassment of riches even trickled down to Owen Schmitt, who had a touchdown reception, and Jerome Harrison, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry on three carries.

The Eagles defense was an entirely different story. While they did force two big turnovers, the defense looked a lot like they did last week against the Bears when they gave up huge chunks of yards on seemingly every play. I'm not sure what magic wand Asante Samuel waves when he's on the field, but the Eagles D looks completely lost without him. While it's understandable that the secondary, which has several rookies still learning their roles, is giving up big plays, it's hard to figure out why the loss of Samuel causes the Eagles to not be able to stop the run or make tackles. You'd think that not having their worst tackler would actually help them wrap guys up.

While we rightly should be disappointed by the defense, the Eagles are still exactly where they want to be coming down the home stretch of the season. At 8-4 and in first place in the NFC East and facing a 10 day layoff until their game against the Cowboys, the Eagles are positioned to close in on a playoff spot and a possible first round bye. While the defense is worrisome, at least Asante Samuel should be back after the long break and hopefully that is the magic fix for all that ails the Birds. With the offense looking unstoppable, it would be a shame if the defense couldn't hold up their end of the bargain.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Eagles vs. Texans Week 13 Inactives: Samuel, Parker still out

The Eagles and Texans have announced their inactives for their Thursday Night game:

Eagles: WR Riley Cooper, T Austin Howard, CB Brandon Hughes, QB Mike Kafka, TE Garrett Mills, DE Juqua Parker, CB Asante Samuel, G Reggie Wells

Texans: LB Xavier Adibi, TE Owen Daniels, WR Dorin Dickerson, TE Anthony Hill, QB Matt Leinart, DE Jesse Nading, OG Shelley Smith, OG Kasey Studdard

The inactives for the Eagles are all the same as last week with the exception of Chad Hall replacing the injured Riley Cooper. Just like last week, Joselio Hanson will start in place of Asante Samuel and Brandon Graham will start in place of Juqua Parker. Hopefully the Eagles secondary can step up this week after getting repeatedly torched against the Bears.

With the injuries to the defense, this figures to be a high scoring Thursday night showdown. You have to like the Eagles chances against a terrible Texans defense. GO BIRDS!

Beatdown: NFL week 13 Predictions

Let's get right to the Week 13 picks. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game.

Record Last Week: 9-7, .563
Overall Record: 90-86, .511

Thursday Night Game:

Texans (5-6) @ Eagles (7-4, -8.5)
This line continues to climb up as people realize that one of the top passing offenses in the league is going against the terrible Texans secondary. It's a short week but the Eagles should take care of this one at home. My pick: Eagles

Sunday Day Games:

Saints (8-3) @ Bengals (2-9, +6.5)
Both teams have been off since Thanksgiving, so there is no advantage there; the Saints are simply the much better team. My pick: Saints

Bears (8-3) @ Lions (2-9, +3.5)
As they showed last week against the Eagles, the Bears are for real. The Lions, on the other hand, are starting Drew Stanton this week. My pick: Bears

Niners (4-7) @ Packers (7-4, -9.5)
Any hope the Niners had of keeping this one close went out the window when Frank Gore got injured. My pick: Packers

Jaguars (6-5) @ Titans (5-6, -3.5)
Given their quarterback situation, I'm not sure why the Titans are favored against anyone, let alone a Jaguars team that has been surprisingly resilient. My pick: Jaguars

Broncos (3-8) @ Chiefs (7-4, -8.5)
The Chiefs are ready to get their revenge after they got whipped by the Broncos in Week 10. My pick: Chiefs

Browns (4-7) @ Dolphins (6-5, -4.5)
Peyton Hillis is just a beast. The Dolphins have been nothing but mediocre this season and have the look of an 8-8 team. My pick: Browns

Bills (2-9) @ Vikings (4-7, -6.5)
With or without Adrian Peterson, I like the Vikings to continue to ride a more conservative offense to a big win over the Bills. My pick: Vikings

Redskins (5-6) @ Giants (7-4, -7.5)
You can stick a fork in the Redskins, they are done for the year. My pick: Giants

Raiders (5-6) @ Chargers (6-5, -12.5)
These are two teams going in completely opposite directions. Sure, that spread is a little high for a team that has just one more win than their opponent, but the Chargers are playing like an elite team right now. My pick: Chargers

Falcons (9-2) @ Bucs (7-4, +3.5)
Remember when the Bucs thought they were the best team in the NFC? Have fun getting whipped by the real best team in the NFC, Tampa. My pick: Falcons

Panthers (1-10) @ Seahawks (5-6, -5.5)
Who is watching this game? I guess the Seahawks are still in contention in the putrid NFC West but you couldn't pay me to watch this one. My pick: Seahawks

Rams (5-6) @ Cardinals (3-8, +3.5)
Anyone who watched the Cardinals on Monday Night knows to never pick them again this year. My pick: Rams

Cowboys (3-8) @ Colts (6-5, -5.5)
Peyton Manning does not lose two in a row. Oh, wait, he already did? Ok, then Peyton Manning does not lose three in a row. My pick: Colts

Sunday Night Game:

Steelers (8-3) @ Ravens (8-3, -3.5)
The first of two primetime AFC showdowns, this one promises to be a physical game. Normally, I would side with the home team in this matchup but I think the Steelers are going to keep this one close or win outright. My pick: Steelers

Monday Night Game:

Jets (9-2) @ Patriots (9-2, -3.5)
Only a team like the Patriots could trade a stud like Randy Moss and not miss a beat on offense. My pick: Patriots

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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guess who's (almost) back! Yep, Michael Leighton

Just when you thought the Flyers goaltending situation was all settled, with Sergei Bobrovksy settling in as the starter and Brian Boucher the backup, a former playoff hero is almost ready to return to the mix. Michael Leighton, who backstopped the Flyers into the Stanley Cup Finals, has recovered from back surgery and is going to play 6 games for the Phantoms in a rehab stint.

What happens to the goaltender situation when Leighton returns to the NHL is anybody's guess. The Flyers have said that they would be willing to carry three goaltenders but the salary cap likely doesn't allow them to do that. Instead, the most likely scenario is for the Flyers to either trade Boucher or dump him into the minors and let Leighton and Bobrovksy battle it out for the starting job. Look for the Flyers to ride the hot hand until one of the two distinguishes themselves as the starter.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Eagles defense fails to show up in loss to Bears

Apparently not having Asante Samuel on the field turns the Eagles defense into one of the worst in the league. Despite a late rally by Mike Vick and the offense, the defense put the Birds in too big of a hole as they fell, 31-26, to the Bears. It was a tough loss for the Eagles as it drops them back into a first place tie with the Giants.

The lack of defense was the story of the game for the Eagles as the Bears consistently shredded them for big plays all game long. From huge gains on the ground by Matt Forte to Jay Cutler slicing up the secondary to Devin Hester and Danieal Manning returning kicks for big yardage, the Eagles simply had no clue how to stop Chicago. They couldn't tackle, couldn't keep up and, somehow, couldn't get Jay Cutler, the biggest turnover machine in the league, to turn the ball over. Despite the 4 sacks they racked up, it was a day to forget for the Eagles defense.

The Eagles offense played well but didn't exactly light up the scoreboard. With Michael Vick constantly feeling pressure from the Bears four man rush, he struggled to find anyone open and held on the ball for longer than he has in recent weeks. Vick even threw his first interception of the season, which happened at the worst possible time as the Eagles were closing in on the endzone and looking to take the lead in the second quarter. It took the Eagles until the 4th quarter to realize that the Bears were basically playing prevent defense for the entire game and they finally started going underneath on shorter routes. Unfortunately, it was all too little, too late for a comeback after the Eagles failed to recover an onside kick in the final minutes.

With a quick turnaround to Thursday's game against the Texans, things aren't going to get any easier for the Eagles. While the Eagles certainly aren't in must-win mode yet, if they lose another game and drop to 7-5, they are going to have a hard time earning a playoff spot in the crowded NFC. Of course, if they continue to play defense like they did today, you can forget about the playoffs.

Doom and gloom aside, though, the Eagles are still a good team that is capable of beating anyone in the league. Expect the defense to come out looking for redemption against a Texans team that will probably be without their best offensive player.
(AP Photo)

FIGHT! Look for Andre Johnson to be suspended for Eagles game next week

The Eagles haven't even kicked off yet against the Bears but they may soon be getting some good news about their game next week. Due to the epic fight you see below, there is a good chance that Texans wideout Andre Johnson will be suspended for his next game, which just so happens to be against the Eagles next week. With the Eagles secondary dealing with their share of injuries, not having to deal with a beast like Johnson would be a huge break for the Birds.

Eagles vs. Bears: Week 12 inactives

The Eagles and Bears have announced their inactive players for their Week 12 matchup:

Eagles: WR Chad Hall, T Austin Howard, CB Brandon Hughes, QB Mike Kafka, TE Garrett Mills, DE Juqua Parker, CB Asante Samuel, G Reggie Wells

Bears: RB Kahlil Bell, TE Desmond Clark, QB Caleb Hanie, CB Joshua Moore, S Craig Steltz, DE Barry Turner, OL Edwin Williams, DE Corey Wootton

As we found out yesterday, Asante Samuel is out and Joselio Hanson will start in his place at cornerback. With DE Juqua Parker also out, rookie Brandon Graham will get another start. Antonio Dixon was another question mark heading into this game but he is healthy enough to start at defensive tackle.

With the Bears solid defense, expect a tough, low-scoring game in Chicago. If the Bears watched any film from the Giants game, they will be putting pressure on Michael Vick early and often so we will have to see what adjustments Vick will make. That said, I like the Eagles to win this one by a touchdown. GO BIRDS!

Ellis Hobbs may retire

Not only have we probably seen the last of Ellis Hobbs in an Eagles uniform, we've likely seen him play his last game of football. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Hobbs may be leaning towards retiring after he has his second neck surgery in the last year. Hobbs is only 27 but clearly doesn't want to risk any further injuries that could cripple him for life.

While Hobbs was slowly being phased out of the Eagles plans in the secondary, it's always a shame when an athlete has to call it quits at such a young age. Hobbs was going to be a free agent at the end of the year and wasn't likely to come back to the Eagles, so his retirement doesn't affect the teams plans for next season.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

No Asante for the Eagles this week

After not practicing all week, it was clear that Asante Samuel wasn't going to play against the Bears on Sunday. The Eagles made it official today, announcing that Samuel won't even make the trip to Chicago after suffering a knee injury against the Giants last week.

Starting in Samuel's place is Joselio Hanson, with Trevard Lindley stepping into a nickel role. With Samuel out for this week and Ellis Hobbs out for the season, the Eagles are getting pretty thin at cornerback. Against a Bears team that has some pretty speedy wideouts, the Eagles front 7 is going to have to create a ton of pressure so the secondary doesn't get burned.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Day is here: NFL Week 12 Predictions

It's time for some Thanksgiving football! It would be nice if the games were a little better but there is nothing like stuffing your face and then watching some football. Here are my Week 12 picks. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game. I'm coming off my best week of the season so let's see if I can build on that momentum!

Record Last Week: 10-6, .625
Overall Record: 81-79, .506

Thanksgiving Games:

Patriots (8-2) @ Lions (2-8, +6.5)
This is the first of three likely Thanksgiving blowouts. I like the Patriots to win by at least two touchdowns. At what point can we take away the Thanksgiving Game from the Lions, anyway? My pick: Patriots

Saints (7-3) @ Cowboys (3-7, +3.5)
Sure, the Cowboys have looked better since Wade Phillips was fired, but their schedule in the coming weeks is going to make it very difficult to continue their upward swing. Somehow, the Saints have gone from Super Bowl winner to under the radar contender. My pick: Saints

Bengals (2-8) @ Jets (8-2, +9.5)
Given that the Jets never beat anyone by more than 7, this is the one Turkey Day game that I think will be within a touchdown. Of course, I doubt anyone will be watching this one after a full day of football and food. My pick: Bengals

Sunday Day Games:

Packers (7-3) @ Falcons (8-2, -2.5)
This game and the Sunday Night game are the two best games of the week. With these two teams and the Eagles battling to be the best in the NFC, expect a close game with a lot of points. I expect this game to go to whoever gets the ball last. My pick: Packers

Steelers (7-3) @ Bills (2-8, +6.5)
As impressed as I've been with the Bills in recent weeks, there is no way they hang with the Steelers. My pick: Steelers

Panthers (1-9) @ Browns (3-7, -10.5)
How bad has the Panthers season gotten that even the Browns are more than 10 point favorites against them? Despite how terrible they have looked, I like the Panthers to lose by just a touchdown. My pick: Panthers

Jaguars (6-4) @ Giants (6-4, -7.5)
As long as Eli Manning finds a way to not be a turnover machine, expect a nice bounceback game for the Giants. Still, even though I am no believer in the Jaguars, a 7.5 spread is a bit high. My pick: Jaguars

Vikings (3-7) @ Redskins (5-5, -2.5)
Can a new coach give the Vikings the same bump that the Cowboys got? Maybe, though I don't think anyone can make Brett Favre look 10 years younger. I have so little faith in the Redskins, though, that I have to go with Minnesota. My pick: Vikings

Titans (5-5) @ Texans (4-6, -6.5)
At first glance, I was going with the Titans because the Texans are just terrible right now. Then, I remembered that Rusty Smith is starting at quarterback. Even the Texans crappy defense can figure out a way to keep the Titans team off the board. My pick: Texans

Chiefs (6-4) @ Seahawks (5-5, +1.5)
If the Chiefs intend to hold off the Chargers and get themselves a playoff spot, they need to beat teams like the Seahawks. My pick: Chiefs

Dolphins (5-5) @ Raiders (5-5, -3.5)
The Dolphins schedule has been brutal and they don't catch any breaks as they go into Oakland and play a decent Raiders team. Then again, with how bad their offense has looked, it doesn't really matter who the Dolphins play. My pick: Raiders

Eagles (7-3) @ Bears (7-3, +3.5)
This will be a tough one for the Eagles, who have to go on the road and face a solid Bears defense. If the Bears watched even a second of footage of the Giants against the Eagles, expect Mike Vick to see plenty of blitzes. Still, I don't see the Bears doing anything on offense, so I like the Eagles to win a low-scoring game by a touchdown. My pick: Eagles

Bucs (7-3) @ Ravens (7-3, -7.5)
The reason the Bucs have 7 wins has been their easy schedule. Sure, they can beat teams like the Panthers, Bengals and Rams, but when it comes to playing good teams like the Steelers, Saints and Falcons, they just haven't been able to keep up. The Ravens area a good team so I expect the Bucs to lost but not by more than a touchdown. My pick: Bucs

Rams (4-6) @ Broncos (3-7, -3.5)
The Broncos defense is just brutal. Expect Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson to go off and for the Rams to pull off the win on the road. My pick: Rams

Sunday Night Game:

Chargers (5-5) @ Colts (6-4, -3.5)
The Colts certainly have had a tough schedule this year and things don't get any easier this week. With how things are shaping up in the AFC this year, it's looking like one of these two teams won't make the playoffs, so this is a huge game. I like the Chargers to at least keep it close. My pick: Chargers

Monday Night Game:

Niners (3-7) @ Cardinals (3-7, +1.5)
Oh, man, what an awful Monday Night Game. Who's going to watch this? My pick: Niners

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!