The time to shakeup the Sixers is now. The only thing falling faster than the Sixers are in the standings are their ticket sales, which has the team hemorrhaging money left and right. The return of Allen Iverson, as expected, only made the Sixers a temporary novelty in Philadelphia and now they are simply an afterthought in a city counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report.
With the team realizing that this season is a wash, rumors have begun to swirl that every veteran Sixer has been placed on the trading block. While the Sixers would love to find someone willing to take Elton Brand off their hands, basically the only valuable commodity the team has is swingman Andre Iguodala. Iggy is "the man" in Philly but would be a great third option on a team with championship aspirations.
Enter the Cavaliers. Apparently the Cavaliers are dangling a package that would include former All Star Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a young player (J.J Hickson?) for Iguodala. Iggy would be a perfect fit for the Cavs as he is a solid defender and he could play a complimentary offensive role to LeBron James.
From the Cavs perspective, this deal makes a ton of sense. Ilgauskas has an expiring contract and, with Shaq, is part of the Cavs two-headed monster at center. While the Cavs would hate to part with Ilgauskas, they hold out the hope that whatever team they trade him to buys his contract out so the Cavs can simply sign him up again in 30 days.
So, does this deal make sense for the Sixers? The trade wouldn't be about getting Ilgauskas, they have no use for him on a team that has no hope for the playoffs. The deal is all about unloading Iguodala and getting some cap space that could be used down the road. On paper, the trade favors the Cavs by a landslide but the Sixers still might consider it if they feel that Iggy isn't going to be part of their next rebuilding project. Personally, I would hope the Sixers could get some kind of usable talent or draft pick in the deal but they almost have to take the best deal they can find if they throw Iggy out on the market.
Expect a ton of Andre Iguodala rumors to bubble up over the next few weeks. The rest of the NBA smells the blood in the water in Philly and they are hoping to swoop in and get some talent on the cheap. It will be up to the Sixers to try to get as many draft picks, cap space and young talent as they can for whatever pieces they ship out of town. Sixers GM Ed Stefanski has one last chance to save his legacy in Philadelphia, let's see if he can fix some of his mistakes with a few smart moves.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
The time to shakeup the Sixers is now. The only thing falling faster than the Sixers are in the standings are their ticket sales, which has the team hemorrhaging money left and right. The return of Allen Iverson, as expected, only made the Sixers a temporary novelty in Philadelphia and now they are simply an afterthought in a city counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
The Flyers may have finally found that NHL-caliber depth defenseman they were looking for. After injuries to Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret, the Flyers were left with a third defensive pairing of the slumping Oskars Bartulis and the ineffective Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. Clearly knowing that the pair wasn't good enough on a team with playoff aspirations, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren had desperately been searching for defensive help via a trade. Finding the asking price too high in a market where everyone is looking for a d-man, Holmgren went a different route and has signed recently waived former Ligthning defenseman Lukas Krajicek for the remainder of the season.
Krajicek, who was a former first round pick back in 2001, passed through waivers and was released by the Lightning and now figures to be a solid 6th or 7th defenseman with the Flyers. At 6 foot 3 and 205 pounds, he's not a big d-man but he will stay at home and protect the net. With only 70 career points in 301 NHL games with the Panthers, Canucks and Lightning, Krajicek isn't going to be an offensive threat. While he hasn't proven to be worth the first round pick the Panthers used on him 9 years ago, Krajicek is only 26 and can still be a solid contributor in the back end.
To make room for Krajicek, the Flyers sent forward Mika Pyorala to the minors. Pyorala will get the ice time he wasn't getting in the NHL with Adirondack.
The bottom line with this deal was the Flyers found a slight upgrade on defense for a cheap price. Since Krajicek was released by Tampa Bay, it's likely the Flyers signed him to something close to the league minimum, giving the Flyers a limited cap hit for some defensive depth. Given how Bartulis and Tollefsen have played recently, Krajicek has an opportunity to work his way into some decent ice time. What happens if/when Parent and Syvret come back is another story, but Krajicek certainly has a chance to stick as the 7th d-man come playoff time. If the Flyers make the playoffs.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Well, you had to see this one coming. DeSean Jackson, coming off one of the greatest seasons ever for an Eagles receiver, wants a new contract. Jackson, who has two years left on his rookie deal, wants to get paid like a top receiver, so, according to Derrick Gunn of CSN Philly, DeSean and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will ask the Eagles for a new contract.
Given that Jackson has Rosenhaus as an agent, this certainly isn't a shocker. Considering Jackson will make less than 2 million dollars over the next two seasons, he's definitely underpaid. Whether the Eagles will go against their usual policy and pay the man is another story; it's not in the Eagles character to renegotiate deals before they are up but they do make the occasional exceptions for their top players (Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook).
Personally, I'm all for giving Jackson a contract that at least doubles what he is getting for the next few years while locking him up for the good part of the next decade. Of course, chances are Jackson will want to renegotiate the renegotiated deal after a couple of years, so the Eagles may end up hurting themselves in the long run if they just give Jackson want they want.
The NFL will announce their All-Decade Team for the 2000's, as voted on by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee, this weekend at the Pro Bowl, and we already know that two players who spent most of the decade with the Eagles that will be on the team: David Akers and Brian Dawkins. Akers and Dawkins, along with 9 other players, learned that they will be on the All-Decade Team when the NFL informed all of the All-Decade players that are playing in the Pro Bowl this season that they would receive the honor. The rest of the team will be made up of players not at the Pro Bowl this season.
Akers and Dawkins are certainly deserving of the honor. Akers spent the entire decade with the Eagles and was one of the top kickers in the game year in and year out. Dawkins was also at the top of his game for the entire decade as a leader of the Eagles defense.
Other Eagles could be added to the All-Decade team although I doubt any others would be in consideration. Donovan McNabb would have already been announced as the QB but there was no way he was going to beat out Peyton Manning for that honor.
Here is the list of players already announced as members of the NFL All-Decade Team:
Antonio Gates TE, Alan Faneca G, Steve Hutchinson G, Kevin Mawae C, Julius Peppers DE, Ray Lewis LB, Champ Bailey CB, Dawkins S, Shane Lechler P, Akers K, Josh Cribbs KR
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Things have changed quite a bit with the Phillies since the last time I took a look at their 2010 roster. In fact, except for two spots, the Phillies roster appears set. Ruben Amaro has gone a long way this offseason to plug up all the holes on the roster and give the team depth at every position.
Here's a look at the Phillies roster as it currently stands:
Infielders (7): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Greg Dobbs, Juan Castro, Ross Gload
The signing of Polanco completed the Phillies starting infield. Signing Castro also gave Jimmy Rollins a backup at short. Gload is listed as a first baseman but I would expect he sees more time in the outfield. Only one question remains in my mind: who backs up Chase Utley? Castro? Or does Polanco move over to second and Dobbs starts at third?
Outfielders (4): Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Ben Francisco
With Gload in the mix, John Mayberry appears to be on the outside looking in. He will likely be the first call-up should a position player be injured.
Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schneider
Signing Schneider was a great move, he's a veteran leader who can step in and start in a pinch.
Starting Rotation (5): Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, 5th starter
Halladay in, Lee out, and the rotation looks incredibly solid, regardless of who the 5th starter ends up being. The likely candidates are Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick and Jose Contreras. I would bet that Moyer gets the job initially just to see if he has anything left in the tank.
Bullpen (7): Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Danys Baez, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Jose Contreras, Lefty
The bullpen looks solid except for that missing second lefty. Look for the Phillies to give the job to someone in the system, like Antonio Bastardo, instead of signing another free agent. Bringing Baez in as closer insurance was a great move.
Nice work Amaro, the roster looks as good as any in the National League. Should everyone stay healthy, the Phillies should be right in the mix for a third straight trip to the World Series.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The Eagles will be well represented in Miami. After the Saints made the Super Bowl, several spots opened up on the NFC Pro Bowl roster, and two Eagles have stepped into the void: Donovan McNabb and Quintin Mikell. McNabb, who is replacing Drew Brees, will be going to his 6th Pro Bowl. Mikell, who is replacing Darren Sharper, will be going to his 1st Pro Bowl.
Neither player is incredibly deserving of a Pro Bowl nod this year but, under the new system, there are more players making it and thus everything is a bit watered down. McNabb was the first alternate in the NFC and knew he was going to be invited as soon as the NFC Championship Game was over. Mikell is a bit of a surprising addition given that he was much more deserving last season.
There will now be 9 Eagles in the Pro Bowl: McNabb, Mikell, Jon Dorenbos, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Leonard Weaver, Asante Samuel, Trent Cole and David Akers. That's a lot of players from a team that got trounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
So much for arbitration. Just days after Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino signed 3 year deals to avoid arbitration, Carlos Ruiz, the final Phillie facing arbitration this offseason, also signed a 3 year extension to stay with the Phils.
According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Ruiz has agreed to stay with the Phillies through 2012 for roughly 9 million. Given how valuable Ruiz is as a handler of the pitchers and as a clutch hitter, I'd say the Phillies got a great deal to keep him at 3 million per year.
Your Phillies are now basically set for the next few years. The entire offense, with the exception of Jayson Werth, is under contract for the next two seasons. The top 4 in the rotation (Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and Happ) are also locked in, so the Phillies clearly plan to keep the championship window open by retaining the current roster for as long as possible. It would be nice if the Phillies could also find a way to sign Werth to a long-term deal but they might have a hard time finding enough money in the budget for him.
I, for one, can't wait to see three more years of Choochtober!
The NFL Playoffs have hardly lived up to the hype this season, with only one truly good game out of the eight. The championship weekend looks to be a little more promising as we have a pair of teams that have conflicting strengths in each game. With a little luck, we should be in store for a great Sunday.
Here are my picks for who will be going to Miami. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.
Last Week: 2-2, .500
Playoff Overall: 3-5, .375
Jets @ Colts, 3 pm There is always one team that everyone picks against in every round that finds a way to sneak into the final four. The Jets are that Cinderella team this year though it seems like we should have seen them coming. After all, they do have the best defense in football and they can run the ball very effectively, two things that are trademarks of good playoff teams. That's why, despite how much of an underdog they look to be on paper, you can't discount them making things interesting against the Colts. When you break everything down, though, the Colts already proved they can beat a team just like the Jets when they beat the Ravens last week. Sure, the Ravens D isn't quite up to the level of the Jets D, but can anyone really slow down Peyton Manning and this offense? Besides, who do you trust at the end of this one if it's close, Manning or rookie Mark Sanchez? Sanchez hasn't had to do anything and the Jets have still advanced; I guarantee the Colts force Sanchez to make some plays and I guarantee the rookie will make some mistakes. This one will be close as the Jets hold the Colts under 30 points, but I have to go with the favorite. My pick: Colts
Vikings @ Saints, 6:40 pm What an offensive battle we have here. We've got two elite quarterbacks playing the best football of their career surrounded by offensive talent at every position. We have the best running back in football on one side and a suddenly resurgent former college star on the other. So, obviously, this game is going to come down to the defenses. Really, since neither defense is going to stop these potent attacks, it's going to come down to which defense is going to force the most turnovers. As we know, the Saints D, led by Darren Sharper, has been the most opportunistic in football. While two number one seeds haven't played each other in the Super Bowl in quite some time, the Saints, with their home field advantage and seemingly endless supply of offensive talent, will march into the big game for the first time ever. My pick: Saints
Those are my picks for this round of the NFL Playoffs. Check back every round for my playoff predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comments section!
Friday, January 22, 2010
The Phillies have just signed 2010's version of Chan Ho Park. Park, as you may recall, was signed to a one year deal prior to last season with the promise that he would compete for a spot in the rotation but with the idea that he would really be a bullpen piece. Jose Contreras, signed by the Phillies to a one year deal today, will join the team under the same premise.
Contreras, who turned 38 in September, has been around the block in the majors, playing for the Yankees, White Sox and Rockies in his 7 year career. He has mostly been a starting pitcher, starting 175 of the 191 games he has pitched in his career. Contreras even started 21 games last season for the White Sox, where he went 5-13, and didn't move to the bullpen until he joined the Rockies late in the season.
While Contreras will be competing with Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick for the 5th starter spot but he will more likely begin the season in the exact role that Chan Ho Park vacated. While the signing is hardly exciting, the Phillies aren't taking a huge risk by signing Contreras to a one year deal. Worst case scenario, Contreras has nothing left in the tank and the Phillies cut him. Best case scenario, Contreras is a cheaper version of Park who can give the team quality long relief innings and can start in a pinch.
First, Dan Carcillo crushed Marian Gaborik:
Then, Scott Hartnell beat down Sean Avery:
The Carcillo/Gaborik fight caused plenty of whining from Rangers fans, players, coaches and media as they blamed Carcillo for attacking Gaborik, a known non-fighter in the NHL. Watching the clip, however, it's obvious that Gaborik was the aggressor and dropped the gloves first, and once you drop the gloves, the fight is on and if you get beat up, that's too bad. The Rangers have gone as far to say they want revenge on Carcillo next time the two teams meet up. I'm sure Carcillo and the Flyers will be ready.
As for the game itself, the most notable thing that happened was Ray Emery looking sharp for the first time since returning from injury. Emery notched his second shutout of the season and looks like he is ready to completely take over the number one goalie spot from Michael Leighton. Having Emery returning to form would really help the Flyers as they continue to inch towards a playoff spot.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
If this doesn't give the NBA a reason to change how they select starters for the All-Star Game, nothing will. Allen Iverson, who couldn't find a team that wanted him for half the season, has been voted by the fans to start for the Eastern Conference in the NBA. Yep, Iverson, who is averaging 14.4 points and 4.4 assists in the 19 games he has played this season, will start alongside Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard for the Eastern Conference at the NBA All-Star Game in February.
For Iverson, it will be his 11th and least deserving All-Star appearance. Look, I'm all for fans voting for who they want to see in the All-Star Game but voting in someone who isn't even the best player on a team that is 15 games under .500 is beyond ridiculous. While there is something to be said for Iverson playing in one last All-Star Game if this is indeed his final season, the guy still needs to do something more to earn his way on. At this point in his career, he's just taking a spot away from a younger, more deserving player.
Whether David Stern will do anything to stop something like this happening again is unlikely; the league likes allowing the fans to pick who they want to see in the game. The NBA is likely happy that Tracy McGrady, who has played a mere 6 games this season for the Rockets, didn't get voted in by the huge Chinese contingent that votes in Yao Ming every year. Now that would have been a complete embarrassment; at least Iverson isn't being completely shunned by his current team.
Ruben Amaro doesn't mess around with arbitration. After signing Joe Blanton to a 3 year contract earlier today, Amaro went ahead and gave another 3 year contract to another Phillie facing arbitration: Shane Victorino.
According to Todd Zolecki on MLB.com, the Phillies have signed Victorino to a deal that will pay him 22 million to stay with the team through 2012. The signing buys out Victorino's remaining arbitration years and ensures that the core of the Phillies team, with the exception of Jayson Werth, will stay in tact for at least two more years.
The contract makes sense for both player and team. For Victorino, this deal is a reward for his stellar play the last few seasons that has seen him rise to the level of an All Star. For the Phillies, they keep one of their key World Series pieces around without breaking the bank. Whether they will be able to lock up Jayson Werth now, whose contract runs out after 2010, is another story.
That leaves just Carlos Ruiz left for the Phillies to deal with in arbitration. With the way Amaro works, expect Chooch to be extended through 2012 by tomorrow.
Cross another one off the arbitration list. According to Todd Zolecki on Twitter, Joe Blanton, who was asking for 10 million in arbitration, agreed to a 3 year, 24 million dollar contract with the Phillies. The deal will keep Blanton with the Phillies through 2012, meaning the Phillies top 4 starters (Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Blanton, J.A. Happ) will be together for a few more years.
Another solid move for the Phillies. Getting Blanton, a steady number 3 starter, signed for 8 million dollars a year, isn't a steal but it is a fair deal for both sides. Blanton has been an incredibly consistent anchor in the middle of the Phillies rotation and has made 30 plus starts in each of his 5 full seasons in the MLB. While he hasn't been spectacular by any means, at least, with Blanton, you know what you are going to get: about a dozen wins and no injury issues.
The Phillies still have two more players to deal with in arbitration: Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz. There is talk that both are going to get locked up in multi-year deals very soon.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The magic man is going to the Pro Bowl: Jon Dorenbos, the Eagles long snapper, was added to the NFC Pro Bowl team. Dorenbos, who may be best known for being a magician off the field, will play in his first Pro Bowl after he was added because the NFC didn't have a long snapper on the roster. While it's hard to say that Dorenbos had a great season as a snapper, I certainly can't remember him making any terrible snaps or glaring mistakes, a true sign of a solid long snapper.
Curiously, that's the third Eagles special teamer to make the Pro Bowl team. Considering the Eagles were largely terrible on special teams and even fired ST coordinator Ted Daisher, it's amazing that kicker David Akers and returner DeSean Jackson will join Dorenbos at the Pro Bowl.
Dorenbos is the 7th Eagle to make the Pro Bowl this season. Donovan McNabb will be the 8th when he is added after the NFC Championship Game.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Now that is an impressive goal. If Carter could only sprinkle in just a few more one goal games into the mix and eliminate the games he just sleepwalks through he would go from being merely a good player to a great player. While we've been asking for consistency from Carter for years now, he is still only 25 years old so there is hope that he can grow into a better hockey player.
The game against the Blue Jackets was also Ray Emery's first win for the Flyers since November 16th. While he didn't look good on the three goals he let up, getting Emery back healthy and in good playing shape will be a big step for the Flyers as they make their playoff push.
The likelihood that Brian Westbrook has played his last game for the Eagles continues to increase. The Eagles, making a move to add more running back depth, signed Martell Mallett, the winner of CFL's 2009 Most Outstanding Rookie award when he suited up for the BC Lions.
Mallett, who played for Arkansas-Pine Bluff in college, seems to be a perfect fit for the Eagles offense as he is a big receiving threat out of the backfield. While he has no NFL experience, he figures to compete with Eldra Buckley for the backup running back spot next year behind LeSean McCoy, assuming Westbrook either retires or is cut. There is no guarantee that Mallett even makes the team, but looking at his numbers in the CFL (1622 total yards, 8 TD's), he seems talented enough to at least be the third running back in the system.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Ruben Amaro has been busy this offseason but he still has some work left to do. The Phillies still have 4 unsigned players who are facing arbitration, which is fewer than the 7 they had last season, and none expect to be too difficult to sign. In fact, Amaro has already taken care of one of the four.
According to Todd Zolecki on Twitter, Chad Durbin and the Phillies have agreed to a one year, 2.125 million dollar contract. This is a small raise for Durbin, who earned 1.65 million on his one year deal last year. Durbin has been a solid bullpen piece for the Phillies as he can pitch a solid 7th inning in a close game or go multiple innings if necessary. With the likely departure of Chan Ho Park, Durbin became just a little more valuable to the Phillies.
Signing Durbin leaves the Phillies with 3 players facing arbitration: Joe Blanton, Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino. With arbitration figures being exchanged by players and clubs tomorrow, I would expect all three to be signed in the coming days.
With Brian Westbrook set to make over 7 million dollars next year, there has been speculation that the Eagles would be cutting ties with their longtime running back this offseason. Given the emergence of LeSean McCoy and his deteriorating production, the Eagles would be foolish to bring back Westbrook at that high of a price tag. It would be a tough decision, much like the way the Eagles let Brian Dawkins walk, but the Eagles would have to cut Westbrook.
According to Howard Eskin on WIP, though, Brian Westbrook might be forced to make the decision for them: due to his injured knee, Westbrook is contemplating retirement. Apparently Westbrook's left knee, which has really been beaten up over the years, may be in such bad shape that he won't be able to play football again. Westbrook will likely be going to multiple doctors in the coming weeks to figure out if he should take the field again.
It's always sad when a player can't go out on his own terms and is forced into retirement. Given his health issues, it looks like no team in the league would take a chance on Westbrook, except maybe the Eagles, who would want him to take a severe pay cut. It's interesting that it's the knee issues that may force him to retire and no mention has been made of the concussions that Westbrook suffered last season, those could be just yet another reason for Westbrook to walk away.
The writing is on the wall for Brian Westbrook. He's likely in a situation where if he keeps playing football, he could have trouble walking for the rest of his life. While us Eagles fans would be sad to see him go, Westbrook needs to do what is best for his health and livelihood.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Yeah, yeah, the Capitals beat the Flyers for the third time this season on Sunday, 5-3. While the Flyers played well, the Capitals are simply the better all-around team right now. They took advantage of a shaky return to the ice by goaltender Ray Emery and wore down the Flyers.
We can still hold our heads up high, though, Flyers fans, because we know none of our fans would do anything as ridiculous as this:
Just, wow, how horrific is that? It's so bad, it's good, it's like a car wreck that you can look away from. The best part about it is about 2 minutes in when the fake Alex Ovechkin starts rapping about eating Penguins.
In fact, that's one thing we can all agree on: the Penguins are nature's crybabies.
**Credit for the heads up on the video goes to @Mtrible on Twitter.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Ever since John Harbaugh left, the Eagles have underachieved on special teams. The Birds ST constantly commits penalties and never seem to get any good field position on kickoff returns. In an effort to shore things up, the Eagles announced today that they have fired Special Teams Coordinator Ted Daisher and replaced him with former Bills ST coach Bobby April.
Daisher seemed to be a misfit in Philly and never meshed with Andy Reid. It's pretty telling that he was fired despite having two special teams players (DeSean Jackson, David Akers) make the Pro Bowl this year.
April, on the other hand, is well-respected throughout the league. He was recently fired after the Bills cleaned house but was being pursued by several teams before the Eagles "swooped" in and signed him. April also had previously worked as ST coordinator for the Steelers, Saints and Rams. Hopefully this means the Eagles special teams will rise back to prominence.
Most football experts point to the Divisional Round as the best weekend of football of the year. It's the best of the best as you have eight top teams all battling for their shot at getting to the Super Bowl.
Of course, last weekend was supposed to be filled with good football but only the epic Cardinals/Packers game saved it from being a complete dud. I can't remember the last time we saw three teams completely dominate their opponents in the playoffs the way the Cowboys, Ravens and Jets did last week. The dangerous thing for those looking to place their Super Bowl bets on one of those three would be to think they are just going to roll over the top seeds like they rolled over their weak first round opponents. Momentum does have a lot to do with who wins in the NFL Playoffs but momentum can be given or taken away on the first play of the next game. The cream will rise to the crop in the playoffs this year just like it does every year.
Despite my poor record in the first round and the fact that the Eagles have been eliminated, I will continue to make my weekly NFL picks throughout the playoffs. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.
Record Last Week: 1-3, .250
Cardinals @ Saints After what happened between the Cardinals and Packers last week, even if you don't think you know who is going to win this one, everyone should be calling up their favorite bookie and putting as much money as they can on the over, no matter how high it is. The Saints offense is even better than the Packers so 50 points for them seems like a given. Of course, we also know the Saints defense is also better than the Packers, so they should be able to keep Kurt Warner from finding wide open receivers all over the field. Seriously, what kind of defense were the Packers playing? Why was there no one within 10 yards of any Cardinals wideout? While it's a bit dangerous to assume the Saints offense will run on all cylinders after the week off and the way they limped into the playoffs, you have to believe that offensive mastermind Sean Payton will get them prepared. My pick: Saints
Ravens @ Colts Count me as someone who didn't see the Ravens buzzsaw coming. Even though my preseason picks called for the Patriots to win it all, I was more than happy to see them basically lose the game in the first three minutes against Baltimore. While it's tempting to pick the Ravens to roll their way past the dormant Colts, who haven't shown us anything in a month, Peyton Manning isn't going to let his team lay down in this one. Even if the Ravens do manage to score two early touchdowns, who doesn't think Manning will calmly exploit the over-aggressive Ravens and guide his team right back into the game. Joe Flacco also didn't convince anyone that he can actually throw his way to victory so the Colts will be stacking the line all day and just daring Flacco to try and beat them. Seriously, when it comes down to it, you would have to be out of your mind to take Flacco over Manning. My pick: Colts
Cowboys @ Vikings You aren't going to like this, Eagles fans: the Cowboys are going to make a run to the Super Bowl. After watching Dallas rip through a solid Eagles team like it was nothing, I'm convinced that the Cowboys are going to beat the Vikings and the Saints and be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. That doesn't mean I'm not going to root against them every step of the way, but the Cowboys are simply playing the best football of anyone right now. The Vikings do represent a tougher matchup for the Cowboys than the Eagles did as they will actually run the ball but Dallas is just playing too good on both sides of the ball. Their swarming defense is going to hound Brett Favre all day as he won't be able to elude the rush at all like Donovan McNabb did. I expect this one to be fairly low scoring but the Cowboys will win it by a touchdown, prompting the Brett Favre retirement questions to start up again. Ugh. My pick: Cowboys
Jets @ Chargers Unless I'm completely missing something here, this one should be a cakewalk for the Chargers. Sure, the Jets will be able to slow down the passing attack but San Diego simply has too many weapons to be completely neutralized. And, sure, the Chargers defense isn't great but it's good enough to beat up on the worst quarterback still playing, Mark Sanchez. If I made a "lock of the week", this would be it. My pick: Chargers
Those are my picks for the second round of the NFL Playoffs. Check back every round for my playoff predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comments section!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Basketball has to be one of the furthest things from the mind of Sixer and native Haitian Samuel Dalembert. After a massive earthquake in his home country has taken the lives of tens of thousands, one wouldn't blame Dalembert if he took a few games off to deal with the devastation and contact family members still in the country. Instead, Dalembert played some of his most inspired basketball of the season, pulling down 21 boards and scoring 12 points on Wednesday night as the Sixers fell, 93-92, to the Knicks.
This one game isn't a fluke for Dalembert, who has been wildly inconsistent in his career but has been playing better of late. Dalembert has seen an uptick in his numbers recently, posting 15 rebounds per game and nearly 13 points per game in his last 5. Wednesday night was also the second 20 rebound performance in 5 games for Dalembert, who credits his resurgence to the return of Allen Iverson. Apparently, Iverson has inspired Dalembert to play with effort night in and night out, something he hasn't done for most of his career.
While the Sixers narrowly missed winning their 3rd straight game when they failed to d-up in the final seconds, they seem to be playing better basketball in their recent games. While they certainly won't be making the playoffs, a pathetic notion considering how weak the Eastern Conference is, the Sixers also don't look anything like the team that lost 12 straight games just a month ago.
Sam Dalembert deserves a ton of credit for putting forth maximum effort despite a heavy heart. Let's hope things get better not only for his family but for everyone dealing with tragedy in Haiti.
One of the nicer surprises for the Flyers this season has been defenseman Danny Syvret. With all the tumult and inconsistent play going on around him, Syvret has emerged as a solid top 6 d-man for the Flyers. No, he doesn't put up big numbers (4 points in 21 games) but he rarely is out of position and consistently makes the right play. He has made quite a jump from the 7th or 8th defenseman to someone the Flyers are counting on every night.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, the strides Syvret has made will be put on hold. Syvret suffered a separated shoulder in the Flyers win over the Stars on Monday night and he will be out for a month. Steve Ott of the Stars is the one to blame for the injury as he boarded Syvret, a hit that could arguably have drawn a suspension but didn't.
In Syvret's place, the Flyers have activated Ole-Kristian Tollefsen from the IR. Tollefsen has been out since December 14th with knee problems and there is some speculation as to whether he is actually healthy enough to return or whether the Flyers are forcing him back because they are desperate for a 6th d-man. Having only played 10 games this season, Tollefsen hasn't exactly been "healthy" this year. The cynic in me wonders if he'll make it through the week without getting hurt again.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Flyers got scoring from all positions in this one as 6 different players scored goals and 14 of the 18 Flyers skaters had points in the game. One of the biggest strengths of this Flyers team is their amazing depth; when they are on, this team is capable of rolling four lines that play hard and can put the puck in the net.
Michael Leighton was once again in net for the Flyers and he looked solid, stopping 27 of 30 shots on his way to his 4th straight win. His numbers would have been even better had he not let up two inconsequential goals late in the third period when the game was already decided. Leighton is going to make it extremely difficult for the returning Ray Emery to get back on the ice and even harder for Brian Boucher to keep a spot on the roster.
The only negative on the night was a pair of injuries to Danny Syvret and Scott Hartnell. Syvret got hit hard early in the game and didn't return as he dealt with an upper-body injury while Hartnell was in and out of the lineup as he dealt with a few scrapes and bruises. Injuries are the last thing this team needs as it begins to find its stride once again.
Suddenly, the Flyers find themselves as one of the hotter teams in the NHL with an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games. Their recent run also pushes them from deep in the Eastern Conference up to the 7th seed and looking to move up from there. We can hold our heads up high once again, Flyers fans, this finally looks like a team that's capable of making some noise.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Eagles coach Andy Reid gave his season ending press conference today and gave his usual mixture of coughs and non-answers. Just about the only notable thing that came from the presser was Reid's assertion that Donovan McNabb would be the starting quarterback for the Birds in 2010.
Of course, what else would you expect Reid to say? He never reveals his true intentions about anything in his press conferences, so it's not like Reid would just come out and say that the Eagles were going to trade McNabb. Reid would never publicly throw his players under the bus, either, so it's not like he's going to discuss McNabb's shortcomings or failures to win the big game. One thing Reid did make clear was that it was his call whether McNabb would be the starter, not the front office.
Reid also said in his presser that he thought Kevin Kolb could be a starter, so that could have been an attempt to pump up Kolb for a trade or just something to make the young QB feel better. Like McNabb, Kolb has just one year left on his contract and could easily be moved this offseason.
The take home message from Andy Reid's press conference? McNabb is the quarterback of the Eagles. At least for now.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
As if we needed another reason to hate the Pittsburgh Penguins, apparently their TV broadcast crew are cheaters. As you recall, back on Thursday night, a shot on net by Simon Gagne was reviewed by the NHL back in Toronto but disallowed when there apparently wasn't a good view of the puck crossing the line. Even though subsequent replays showed that the puck did cross the line, the NHL had already ruled it "no goal" based on the replay footage they saw.
The reason the NHL never saw the footage of the puck crossing the line? According to what an NHL executive told Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer, FSN Pittsburgh, which was broadcasting the game, didn't send that particular video to the NHL until after it was ruled as "no goal".
Here is footage of the goal if you haven't already seen it:
Hmm, so was it an honest mistake by the Penguins telecast or was there some foul play involved here? And, if the Penguins did withhold evidence of a goal, will the NHL penalize them in some way? I'm sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one. All I can say is that I'm glad the non-goal didn't make a difference in the outcome of the game.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
For the first time in the Andy Reid era, an Eagles season was ended in their first playoff game of the postseason. In a repeat of the Week 17 blowout, the Cowboys had their way with the Eagles, dominating them from start to finish in a 34-14 win.
As much as it pains me to admit, the Cowboys are simply better than the Eagles. Their defense hounded Donovan McNabb all game long, forcing him to scramble out of the pocket and rush his throws. The Cowboy offense also seemed one step ahead of the Birds D, calling screen plays when the Eagles blitzed and moving the ball at will. Really, the only thing that kept the Cowboys from putting up more points were untimely penalties that kept them off the board in the first quarter.
As for the Eagles, we will spend another offseason wondering what to make of the team. Are the Eagles a great team that simply ran into a team that had their number? Or, are the Eagles simply a good team that doesn't quite have enough talent to keep up with the best in the league?
Of course, you know that no offseason will be complete without the obligatory Donovan McNabb drama. As far as I'm concerned, McNabb did everything he could with what little protection he got against the swarming Cowboys defensive line. McNabb was forced out of the pocket on nearly every passing play and had to improvise most of the game. Despite this loss not being his fault, many fans in Philadelphia are going to call for him to be shipped out of town. Those that want him out, I ask you to please tell me who the Eagles should turn to at quarterback that will be better. Michael Vick is not an acceptable answer. Kevin Kolb is not a proven commodity. Hopefully the Eagles front office understands that this team needs to improve a lot more in other areas than they do at QB.
So another season ends in disappointment for the Eagles, this time without a deep run into the playoffs. It was a typical Eagles season, filled with big wins and bad losses and the belief that, if the team plays to their potential, they could beat anyone. As Eagles fans, we keep rooting because we know, at some point, they will put it all together and win the Super Bowl. We only hope that it will happen in our lifetime.
The playoffs are here! The Eagles and Cowboys have announced their inactive players for their Wild Card showdown:
Eagles: WR Kevin Curtis, DB Quintin Demps, QB Kevin Kolb, OL King Dunlap, DT Trevor Laws, DB Geoffrey Pope, OL Dallas Reynolds, TE Martin Rucker
Cowboys: CB Cletis Gordon, G Montrae Holland, LB Curtis Johnson, QB Stephen McGee, T Pat McQuistan, OL Duke Preston, S Pat Watkins, LB Jason Williams
The only change for the Eagles from last week is that Michael Vick returns as the backup quarterback and Kevin Kolb has been pushed to the 3rd string. Expect Vick to be used often as the Eagles try to throw a different wrinkle at the Cowboys. Quintin Demps will be out again this week meaning Jeremy Maclin will return kicks.
The Cowboys will get lineman Marc Colombo back but otherwise have all the same inactive players. Colombo is a solid lineman so Tony Romo should get even more protection tonight.
Let's hope for a completely different game this week from the Eagles. Hopefully the Birds have scrapped whatever gameplan they used last week and they will come out this week with tons of energy and passion as their season is on the line. GO BIRDS!
Friday, January 8, 2010
Former Phillie and current Astros GM Ed Wade sure loves former Phillies players. Entering this offseason, Wade already had Michael Bourn and Jason Michaels on the roster of and he had since added Pedro Feliz. So, when the Phillies decided to part ways with Brett Myers, it became clear that Houston would be his next logical destination.
Pending a physical, the Astros have agreed to sign Brett Myers to a one year, 5 million dollar contract. Houston will likely give Myers a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation but could also use his help in the bullpen should he falter. Myers is only 29, so he should have some solid seasons ahead of him, but I don't think anyone will miss him too much here in Philadelphia.
Like Scott Eyre yesterday, Myers deserves thanks for all he did in '08. He was with the organization since 1999 so he was here for the good and the bad and always gave everything he could on the field. While we could have done without some of his off the field stupidity, Myers should get a nice round of applause if/when he pitches for the Astros in Philadelphia this season.
Forget Christmas, this is the most wonderful time of the year...the NFL Playoffs are here! It's been another interesting season in the NFL, filled with surprise teams, like the Bengals, who helped keep the defending champion Steelers out of the postseason. There is plenty of good football left, especially in the NFC, where any of the 6 remaining teams could make a run to the Super Bowl.
I will continue to make my weekly NFL picks throughout the playoffs. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.
Record Last Week: 11-5, .688
Final Regular Season Record: 176-80, .688
Jets (9-7) @ Bengals (10-6) This game is the first of three Week 17 rematches and it will be the one rematch that looks most like the previous game. With the way they got drubbed last week, it's hard to really make a case for the Bengals in this game, even though they did basically lay down in the second half. The Jets are simply better in every facet of the game, except maybe in the passing game. Unfortunately for the Bengals, their passing game will likely be shut down with Darrelle Revis likely glued on Chad Ochocinco all game long. I don't expect it to be 37-0 like it was last week but the Jets shouldn't have any trouble in this one. My pick: Jets
Eagles (11-5) @ Cowboys (11-5) Call me a homer, and I'm sure you will if you are a Cowboys fan reading this site, but the Eagles will win this game. While last week was truly an ugly game, when it comes to big games in the playoffs, these two teams are complete opposites. The Eagles are the team that has the adjustments to make, from blitzing the crap out of Tony Romo to get him off balance to mixing in more running plays, while the Cowboys will come into the game thinking they can just play the way they did last week and they will crush the Eagles. If there is one thing we've learned in the last decade, though, it's that Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb don't lose in the first round. Reid will have the team playing their best with the season on the line and McNabb will show the poise he is known for in the early rounds of the playoffs. The bottom line here is, if the Eagles play their best football, they can beat anyone in the NFL. My pick: Eagles
Ravens (9-7) @ Patriots (10-6) The injury to Wes Welker makes the Ravens a tempting pick. The Patriots really haven't shut anyone down this year so you have to think Ray Rice will be able to run all day long. The key in this game is whether the Ravens can slow down Randy Moss since Tom Brady will likely be looking his way early and often. Another red flag for the Ravens in this one is Joe Flacco. Sure, he's a decent quarterback, but how much do you really trust that he can lead his team to an upset over one of the best franchises in the last decade? If the Ravens get down by two touchdowns, and Flacco has to get them back into it with his arm, this one is over. My pick: Patriots
Packers (11-5) @ Cardinals (10-6) In my playoff picks last year, I'm pretty sure I went against the Cardinals in every round. I'll start by doing the same this year. Outside of San Diego, the Packers are the hottest team in football and they were my preseason pick to make the Super Bowl. I really like how they let their starters play in Week 17, keeping their momentum going into the postseason. This game figures to be high-scoring as both teams have potent passing attacks, so it will come down to which defense can come up with more turnovers. The Packers defense is filled with big-play guys, so expect them to pick off Kurt Warner a couple of times and force a fumble. Whether they will be able to get past Minnesota or New Orleans next week is another story, but I don't see Green Bay struggling too much against Arizona. My pick: Packers
Those are my picks for the first round of the NFL Playoffs. Check back every round for my playoff predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comments section!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Scott Eyre recently said that he would only continue playing baseball if it was for the Phillies. With the Phils apparently looking into other options for a lefty bullpen arm, Eyre has kept his word. As he told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Eyre is retiring from baseball.
Eyre, who spent 2 seasons with the Phillies and 13 total in the majors, goes out on top, being a contributing member of two World Series teams with the Phils. Eyre, 37, finishes he career with 649 innings pitched for 5 different teams (White Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, Cubs and Phillies).
So long, Eyre, and thanks for everything you did to help the Phillies win in '08. Enjoy your retirement, you deserve it.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Ray Emery is back! Emery, who hasn't played since December 5th after he had abdominal surgery, is ready to take the ice again for the Flyers. His return comes ahead of schedule as he was expected to be out until later this month but Emery feels well enough to play and will likely be back in net on Saturday when the Flyers take on the Lightning.
Hopefully Emery's return (with a cool new mask) will be a spark for the Flyers, who, despite playing better recently, still find themselves on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. The other hope with Emery is that he isn't rushing back so quickly that he is risking further injury. Emery is likely pushing himself to get back because he will be a free agent after this season and he wants to play as many games as possible so he can boost his value on the market.
The other story surrounding the return of Ray Emery is who the Flyers backup goalie will be. Brian Boucher was the backup to Emery earlier in the season but recent waiver addition Michael Leighton has played surprisingly well in net recently when Boucher missed time due to injury. Now that Boucher is healthy, the Flyers find themselves with three goaltenders for two spots. It's an interesting situation because, while Boucher is the better goaltender, he is also more expensive. Leighton has played well recently and carries a paltry salary but can the Flyers trust him as the full-time starter if Emery goes down again?
The likely short-term solution for the Flyers would be to keep three goalies until Emery proves that he is capable of handling a full load. At some point, however, I would expect the Flyers to waive Leighton and return to the Emery/Boucher tandem. The recent run of Michael Leighton has been solid but flukey. The Flyers have to go with the best two goalies they have.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Ray Emery isn't quite ready to suit up for the Flyers just yet, but when he does, he will be sporting a sweet new mask. As you know, his old mask featured boxers with ties to Philadelphia, but his new mask pays homage to the great Flyers goaltenders from the past, specifically Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall. All of these images are from @CSNFlyer on Twitter.The back of Emery's new mask will also feature boxing gloves, the Liberty bell and the famous Broad and Pattison street signs. It's safe to say this is the best mask ever.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
The Eagles won't have to wait long to get their revenge on Dallas. Here is the schedule for the first round of playoff action:
(5) Jets @ (4) Bengals, 4:30 pm (NBC)
(6) Eagles @ (3) Cowboys, 8:00 pm (NBC)
(6) Ravens @ (3) Patriots, 1:00 pm (CBS)
(5) Packers @ (4) Cardinals, 4:40 pm (FOX)
With three re-matches from games this week, it should be a great Wild Card weekend. Hopefully the Birds can wake up and actually play this time.
Trying to analyze what happened in the game today would simply be maddening. Basically, the Cowboys were better in every facet of the game. Offensively, Dallas dominated the Eagles by running the ball when they wanted to (6.3 yards per carry) and met little resistance in the passing game, meaning the Cowboys could do whatever they wanted on offense and controlled the clock for most of the game (over 40 minutes of possession). Defensively, Dallas pressured Donovan McNabb all day (4 sacks, 2 fumbles), completely shut down the Eagles rushing game (37 yards on 10 carries) and didn't allow the Eagles receivers to get open down the field.
So, rather than getting a week to rest up before making their playoff run, the Eagles will have just this week to regroup and try once again to solve Dallas, this time with their season on the line. The Cowboys have now beaten the Eagles twice this season so hopefully the Birds saved their master gameplan on how to knock off Dallas for next week in the playoffs. At least we know they can't possibly play any worse than they did this week.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, we were all basking in the joy of the Eagles destroying the Cowboys to get themselves into the playoffs. This year, we have been given a taste of what it feels like on the other side, although we can be comforted with the fact that the Eagles will still be in the playoffs. The frustrating thing about this Eagles team is that we know how good they can be when they are on their game, we just never know when they are going to show up. They better plan to show up next week.
The Eagles and Cowboys announced their inactive players for their huge Week 17 clash:
Eagles: WR Kevin Curtis, DB Quintin Demps, OL King Dunlap, DT Trevor Laws, DB Geoffrey Pope, OL Dallas Reynolds, TE Martin Rucker, QB Michael Vick
Cowboys: OT Marc Colombo, CB Cletis Gordon, G Montrae Holland, LB Curtis Johnson, QB Stephen McGee, OL Duke Preston, S Pat Watkins, LB Jason Williams
The Eagles will once again be without Quintin Demps, meaning Macho Harris will be the primary kick returner. Hold on to the ball, Macho! Kevin Curtis is also out again as he still isn't 100%. Michael Vick was also expected to be back this week but his injury appears to still be bothering him. That means no trick plays with Vick and Kevin Kolb is the backup.
The only Cowboy that I have heard of that is inactive is Marc Colombo. He has been out since Week 10 with an injured leg.
Does it get any bigger than this? As if an Eagles and Cowboys game needed anything more on the line, the Birds have a playoff bye in their grasps. The Eagles should be fighting hard to get their rest next week. GO BIRDS!
Friday, January 1, 2010
Following the Winter Classic, USA Hockey announced the players that will represent the United States in the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver. Unfortunately, no Flyers were selected to play for Team USA. After their hot starts this season, both James van Riemsdyk and Matt Carle were believed to be in the running for a spot but both came up short. Goaltender Brian Boucher is the only other American on the Flyers roster and his injuries this season likely eliminated whatever slim chance he had of making the team.
There have been five Flyers selected by their respective countries to play in the Olympics in February, four of them defensemen:
Oskars Bartulis, D (Latvia)
Chris Pronger, D (Canada)
Mike Richards, C (Canada)
Kimmo Timonen, D (Finland)
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, D (Norway)
Jeff Carter was also chosen as an alternate for Canada.
Despite the loss, Michael Leighton continues to be a revelation in net for the Flyers. Leighton nearly picked up his second straight shutout after turning aside 23 of 25 shots by the Bruins, letting up a goal in the final minutes of the game. If Leighton, who is now 4-0-1 as a Flyer with a 1.75 goals against average, continues to play this well, I see no reason why he can't take over as the Flyers starter. Yeah, he isn't likely to lead the Flyers to a Stanley Cup, but I don't know how you can't keep playing the hot hand in net.
The lone goal for the Flyers was scored by defenseman Danny Syvret, his first career goal in 44 games in the NHL. The Flyers had several chances, especially in the second period on a few odd-man rushes, but always seemed to make one pass too many as they tried to set up the pretty goal rather than trying to just put the puck on net.