Thursday, September 30, 2010

Homecoming: NFL Week 4 Predictions

Even if this wasn't a Philly Sports blog, it would be hard not to lead off any column about football this week without talking about the return of Donovan McNabb to Philadelphia. The fact that Michael Vick is the starting quarterback and not Kevin Kolb, McNabb's supposed heir, makes the game even more intriguing. Expect McNabb to get plenty of cheers early on that will eventually give way to some boos after he makes a few nice plays. As an Eagles fan, it will be nice to be on the opposite end of a few throws in the dirt for once.

Here are my picks for Week 4. 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. Maybe this will finally be the week I get over .500?

Record Last Week: 8-8, .500
Overall Record: 23-25, .479

Byes:
Bucs, Chiefs, Cowboys, Vikings

Sunday Day Games:

Niners (0-3) @ Falcons (2-1, -6.5)
Things are not going well in San Francisco and they are only going to be worse after this game. The Falcons look like a legitimate contender in the NFC. My pick: Falcons

Jets (2-1) @ Bills (0-3, +5.5)
While this could be a letdown game for the Jets after two weeks of playing the big boys of the AFC East, the Jets defense will probably outscore the Bills offense by itself. This one might be closer than expected but the Jets should win by a touchdown. My pick: Jets

Bengals (2-1) @ Browns (0-3, +3.5)
For years, the Bengals had a great quarterback in Carson Palmer and not much else. Now, they have a great defense, some decent weapons on offense and it's Palmer that isn't carrying the weight. The Browns haven't been terrible so they are due for a win. My pick: Browns

Lions (0-3) @ Packers (2-1, -14.5)
As tempting as it is to go with the Packers to destroy the Lions, 14.5 points is an awfully big spread. Look for the Pack to get out to a big lead and for the Lions to pull out a late cover like they did against the Eagles. My pick: Lions

Broncos (1-2) @ Titans (2-1, -6.5)
I don't have a great feel for either of these teams yet. The Broncos passing game looks legit but the running game looks like a mess. As for the Titans, they have the look of a playoff team but they haven't beaten a good team yet. I like Tennessee to win but by only a field goal. My pick: Broncos

Seahawks (2-1) @ Rams (1-2, +0.5)
It's simple, really. If Steven Jackson plays, the Rams win. If not, they've got nothing to fall back on offensively and they lose. At this point in the week, it doesn't sound like Jackson is going to play. My pick: Seahawks

Panthers (0-3) @ Saints (2-1, -13.5)
This has all the makings of a trap game for the Saints. Coming off three tough, close games, the Saints appear to have a gimme against the terrible Panthers. Fortunately for the Saints, things look so hopeless in Carolina that I don't think they can make this one a game. Besides, the Saints offense is due for a breakout. My pick: Saints

Ravens (2-1) @ Steelers (3-0, -1.5)
The Steelers have to lose one of these games without Ben Roethlisberger, right? If the Joe Flacco from Week 3 shows up and Ray Rice plays, the Ravens win this one outright. It's ridiculous that the Steelers have basically been without a QB and they are going to be at least 3-1 against some pretty good competition. My pick: Ravens

Colts (2-1) @ Jaguars (1-2, +8.5)
After watching Jacksonville get hammered by the Eagles last week, you could double this line and I'd still be picking the Colts. It's time for David Garrard to be put out to pasture. My pick: Colts

Texans (2-1) @ Raiders (1-2, +3.5)
This game will be fairly close but I expect the Texans to have a nice bounce back week. If they don't, then everything Houston did in the first two weeks will be a waste and they will once again be all flash and no substance. My pick: Texans

Cardinals (2-1) @ Chargers (1-2, -8.5)
The Cardinals have been fortunate to have an easy early schedule that has helped them post a winning record. With games against San Diego and New Orleans the next two weeks, that winning record will soon be a distant memory. My pick: Chargers

Redskins (1-2) @ Eagles (2-1, -6.5)
If the Redskins can't even beat the Rams, how are they going to take down the Eagles? While McNabb will give the team a lift, look for the Mike Vick show to continue for at least another week. My pick: Eagles

Sunday Night:

Bears (3-0) @ Giants (1-2, -3.5)
These have been the two most surprising teams for opposite reasons. Seriously, Eli, what's with the lefty throw? While they aren't always winning pretty, the Bears are getting the job done, which is why I'm surprised the Giants are favored by anything more than 1. My pick: Bears

Monday Night:


Patriots (2-1) @ Dolphins (2-1, +0.5)
With a spread of 0.5, this game is essentially a pick 'em. After watching the Dolphins offense fail in the closing moments on Sunday Night, I don't think Miami will be able to keep up with the Patriots on the scoreboard. Sure, they'll put up points because the Pats defense is atrocious, but it won't be enough. My pick: Patriots

Those are my picks for Week 4 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, September 28, 2010

Projecting the Phillies 2010 postseason roster

Now that the Phillies have finally clinched the postseason, it's time for me to take my stab at who will be on the postseason roster. With a team as loaded as the Phillies, all of the debate surrounding who makes the postseason roster centers on the final bench bats and who they want in the bullpen.

Starting Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton
As the top seed in the NL, the Phillies will have the luxury of going with just the "Big Three" in the first round, leaving Joe Blanton in a long relief role. Count on Blanton being used in the second round at some point.

Bullpen: Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez
The first 5 are obvious choices but things get a little dicey from there. Because the rotation is so good, the Phillies can afford to go with just 11 pitchers and have an extra bench player, so that leaves two bullpen spots up for grabs. I think, despite only pitching 15 innings in the majors this year, Bastardo will get one of the spots simply because he's a lefty. That leaves the Phils picking between Danys Baez, Kyle Kendrick and David Herndon for the final spot. Since Herndon has no experience and Kendrick wouldn't have a role since Blanton will be in a long relief role, Baez is given a spot by default. Luckily, I can't see any conceivable situation where Baez would actually be used in a playoff game.

Starting Bats: Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth
As long as J-Roll is healthy, this is a complete no-brainer.

Bench Bats: Ben Francisco, Wilson Valdez, Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, Mike Sweeney, Domonic Brown
With an extra spot, the Phillies can afford to keep a rookie like Brown around just for the experience. Hopefully they keep the kid around and don't choose to go with Greg Dobbs, who is completely useless at this point. While there has been some talk of Mike Sweeney not making the roster, it would be crushing not to let him play given that he finally made the postseason after a decade of losing with the Royals. Besides, he's a positive veteran influence in the clubhouse and would be good for a pinch hit or two.

That is my projected roster for the Phillies as they begin their quest for another title. Feel free to disagree in the comments section!

Flyers lose Leighton, Laperriere to injury

It must be hockey season because the Flyers have problems in net! In a conference call today, Paul Holmgren announced that Flyers starting goaltender Michael Leighton will miss about a month of the season with a bulging disc in his back. In his absence, the Flyers will likely go with Brian Boucher as the starter and either Johan Backlund or preseason sensation Sergei Bobrovsky as the backup.

In even worse news, the Flyers also announced that Ian Laperriere will be out indefinitely due to post-concussion issues that are still bothering him from the playoffs last season. There was no announced timetable for a return for Lappy, but given that he's still hurting from an injury from last season, expect him to be placed on the long-term injured reserve and miss a significant chunk of the season. With Lappy out, a roster spot is all but guaranteed for training camp invite Bill Guerin. While Guerin won't replace Lappy's toughness, he will certainly provide more offensive punch.

With the season just over a week away, this wasn't exactly the news we all were hoping to hear. Then again, it wouldn't be Flyers hockey without a goalie issue.

Monday, September 27, 2010

4 straight! The Phillies are NL East Champs!

You'd think this would get old but those of us that remember the lean years know not to take it for granted. While it had been inevitable ever since they swept the Braves, the Phillies, behind a gem from Roy Halladay, defeated the Nationals, 8-0, and officially clinched the NL East title for a fourth straight season. On top of that, the win also clinched the best record in the National League, meaning they will have the homefield advantage throughout their entire playoff run.

For a team that went through all the injuries and the huge dry spells at the plate, the Phillies deserve credit for always battling and proving that they are still the team to beat in the National League. What happens next is anyone's guess, but, behind their amazing trio of starters, another World Series appearance isn't out of the question.

Congratulations to the Phillies, your 2010 NL EAST CHAMPIONS!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vick dominates as Eagles crush Jaguars

At least for this week, Andy Reid looks like a genius. His call of making Michael Vick the starting quarterback of the Eagles payed off in Week 3 as the Birds crushed the Jaguars, 28-3, in their most impressive performance of the season.

Vick came up huge against the terrible Jaguars secondary, completing 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns and also added 30 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. While Vick wasn't incredibly accurate, completing 55% of his passes, he didn't throw any interceptions for the third week in a row. Vick also repeatedly came up with big plays when he needed to and averaged 9.4 yards per pass attempt.

While we can't say how well Kevin Kolb would have done against the porous Jacksonville secondary, I don't think we could have asked for anything more than what Vick did. He made plays with his feet, led the team on a successful 2 minute drive at the end of the first half, made every trip in the red zone count and showed off his strong arm on a few deep throws. Sure, he got lucky at times (like his floating lob pass to DeSean Jackson), but Vick did everything he could to prove he deserves to be the Eagles starting quarterback.

The Eagles defense also had their best effort of the season as they contained Maurice Jones-Drew and forced David Garrard to try to beat them. Garrard couldn't handle the pressure the Eagles put on him, however, and was sacked 6 times and threw an interception while completing only 13 of 30 passes for 105 yards. The entire defensive line for the Eagles deserves credit for their performance today, from Darryl Tapp proving he should be given more playing time to Trent Cole picking up a pair of sacks to Juqua Parker notching up his 4th sack of the season.

With the win, the Eagles are now in first place and are the only team in the NFC East above .500. For all the doom and gloom people predicted for the Eagles after what happened in Week 1, the Birds are sitting atop an NFC East that doesn't look nearly as strong as everyone thought it would be. As if the game next week needs any more hype, the Eagles can make a strong statement to the rest of the division if they can beat Donovan McNabb and the Redskins next week. If the Eagles defense can repeat their performance from this week, expect it to be a long, long day for McNabb. Of course, if Michael Vick continues to play like this, it won't matter what the defense does.
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Sixers discussing Iguodala for Carmelo trade?

In a story that is likely too good to be true, Philly.com is reporting that the Sixers and Nuggets are in discussions regarding a trade that would send Andre Iguodala to Denver in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The trade would of course include other parts, likely another quality piece or two being shipped out of Philly and something from Denver to get the salaries to match. Before the deal would be agreed upon by the Sixers, they would also have to negotiate a long-term deal with Anthony, something that would be tricky considering he has never shown any interest in coming to Philadelphia.

Call this deal a longshot at best. From the Sixers perspective, the deal is a slam dunk as long as they get to hold on to Evan Turner. Anthony is an elite player and would immediately take them from a fringe playoff team in the East to a contender for a top 4 seed. Considering Anthony has a say in where he goes and he wants to go to New York, New Jersey or Chicago, even if the Sixers put together a good package of players, that doesn't mean a deal will go through.

I suppose we can all still dream, however. How does a starting five of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Carmelo Anthony, Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand sound to you?

Eagles vs. Jaguars: Week 3 inactives: Gaither out

The Eagles and Jaguars have announced their inactive players for their Week 3 contest:

Eagles: DE Antwan Barnes, LB Keenan Clayton, LB Omar Gaither, TE Clay Harbor, OL Austin Howard, QB Mike Kafka, CB Trevard Lindley, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Jaguars: FB Brock Bolen, DT Landon Cohen, LB Justin Durant, OL KEvin Haslam, RB Deji Karim, DE Austen Lane, TE Zach Potter, S Anthony Smith

Gaither being inactive is the biggest surprise for the Eagles. Given how poorly he played last week, though, he deserves to be benched. Offseason acquisition Darryl Tapp finally gets to play this week while Antwan Barnes gets scratched. I'm also still surprised that the Eagles aren't playing Clay Harbor. I'd rather have him in the lineup than all the extra offensive linemen or even the 4 running backs they have suited up.

Expect a close game this week. Go Birds!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Phillies are now the best team in baseball

Another day, another Phillies win. For their 11th straight win, the Phils dispatched the Mets, 3-2, after Brad Lidge had to get the last batter out twice because the Mets supposedly called time in the middle of one of his pitches. That win, coupled with a loss by the Braves to the Nationals, lowers the Phillies magic number down to 2, meaning they could clinch as early as tomorrow if they win again and the Braves lose again.

On top of that, since both the Yankees and the Twins lost on Friday night, the Phillies also are the first team to 93 wins and own the best record in baseball. While having the best record in all of baseball means nothing in the playoffs because the NL team will get 4 home games in the World Series due to winning the All-Star game, it's still an impressive feat given all that the Phillies have had to overcome this year.

With the Phillies likely to clinch by the end of the weekend and the Yankees and Rays fighting for the AL East crown, it's doubtful the Phils will have the best record when the season wraps up. The Phillies will certainly settle for having the best record in the National League, something that is also just a few wins away.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Surprising Starts: NFL Week 3 Predictions

With two weeks in the books, we already have some surprises in this NFL season. Who would have thought that the Chiefs, Bucs and even the Bears would be 2-0? And, on the other side of the coin, who would have thought the Cowboys and Vikings would be 0-2? Perhaps even more surprising are the huge number of quarterback changes throughout the league as starting QB's have even shorter leashes than ever.

Here are my picks for Week 3. 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 did a little better in Week 2 but I'm hoping to be above .500 this week.

Record Last Week: 8-8, .500
Overall Record: 15-17, .438

Sunday Day Games:

Niners (0-2) @ Chiefs (2-0, +2.5)
I would never have guessed, even two weeks into the season, that the Chiefs would be undefeated and the Niners would be without a win. Given how close they came against the Saints, I think this is the week the Niners get their first W, winning by at least a field goal. My pick: Niners

Browns (0-2) @ Ravens (1-1, -10.5)
With questions about which of their mediocre quarterbacks will face off against the vaunted Ravens defense, there is no way the Browns win this game. After being held back for the last two weeks, I think Joe Flacco and Ray Rice break out and lead the Ravens to a win by two touchdowns. My pick: Ravens

Cowboys (0-2) @ Texans (2-0, -2.5)
Things look pretty rough for the Cowboys right now, what with a tough game against the Texans this week followed by a bye, then games against the Titans and Vikings. If they lose this game and fall to 0-3, Wade Phillips might want to spend some time updating his resume during the bye week. I like the Texans to get the job done at home. My pick: Texans

Lions (0-2) @ Vikings (0-2, -10.5)
If you've spent any time watching Brett Favre this season, you know that this line is way too high. Unless Favre magically starts playing like he did last year, the Vikings offense is going to be pretty one-dimensional. I like Minnesota to win, but only by a touchdown. My pick: Lions

Bills (0-2) @ Patriots (1-1, -13.5)
You should have pity for the Bills this week. After getting stifled by the Jets last week, look for the Patriots to put up 40+ on Buffalo. My pick: Patriots

Falcons (1-1) @ Saints (2-0, -4.5)
If this game was in Atlanta, I might be picking the Falcons to win outright. As it is, given how average the Saints offense has looked so far this season, I definitely think the Falcons make this a close game. While Reggie Bush isn't the game-changing player we thought he would be after he left USC, the Saints offense is going to miss his versatility. My pick: Falcons

Titans (1-1) @ Giants (1-1, -3.5)
This is one of the tougher matchups of the week to pick. Despite how good they looked in Week 1, the Giants might actually suck. Chris Johnson is probably pissed about not getting 100 yards last week so expect him to bust a long run this week. My pick: Titans

Steelers (2-0) @ Bucs (2-0, +2.5)
The Steelers got this far without Big Ben, what makes you think they are going to lose now? The Bucs might have played the two worst teams in the NFL in the Browns and Panthers so I wouldn't read much into their 2-0 record. My pick: Steelers

Bengals (1-1) @ Panthers (0-2, +3.5)
The Panthers have been brutally awful in the first two weeks. And they're starting a rookie quarterback. My pick: Bengals

Eagles (1-1) @ Jaguars (1-1, +2.5)
Despite all the questions surrounding the decision, it's hard to deny that playing Michael Vick in this game gives the Eagles a better chance to win. Really, though, it's going to be up to the Eagles defense to prove they can stop Maurice Jones-Drew if the Birds want to knock off the Jaguars. Luckily, the Jags don't have much else on offense, so the Eagles can put a ton of guys in the box and dare David Garrard to beat them. My pick: Eagles

Redskins (1-1) @ Rams (0-2, +3.5)
As an Eagles fan, I was happy to see Donovan McNabb put up some big numbers but even happier to see the Redskins blow the game against the Texans. Not even being able to beat the Raiders means the Rams are in for a long season. My pick: Redskins

Colts (1-1) @ Broncos (1-1, +6.5)
Don't the Colts always blow out the Broncos? While Denver will likely have a bit of an emotional boost as they play for Kenny McKinley, they just don't have the talent to keep up with the Colts. My pick: Colts

Raiders (1-1) @ Cardinals (1-1, -4.5)
Why is it that every Raiders game seems like the worst game of the week? With the Jason Campbell era already over in Oakland, I actually like their chances better. My pick: Raiders

Chargers (1-1) @ Seahawks (1-1, +5.5)
Each of these teams looked both really good and really bad in the first two weeks, so it's hard to get a gauge on either one. What we can say is that they both should be competitive in terrible divisions. My pick: Chargers

Sunday Night Game:

Jets (1-1) @ Dolphins (2-0, -1.5)
The Jets really made a statement last week against the Patriots, can they make another statement this week and hand the Dolphins their first loss? With their defense, as long as Mark Sanchez plays like he did in Week 2, they should win this game. Or at least cover. My pick: Jets

Monday Night Game:

Packers (2-0) @ Bears (2-0, +3.5)
This should be quite an early battle for first place in the NFC North. While the Bears are putting up some great numbers, how long will it be until Jay Cutler starts turning the ball over? I like the Packers two win by at least a touchdown. My pick: Packers

Those are my picks for Week 3 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!

Sixers finally unload Willie Green

The Sixers (remember them?) made a deal today, shipping Willie Green and Jason Smith to the Hornets for forwards Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins. While this isn't a major move, it is nice to see the Sixers finally get Green off the roster.

What the Sixers got in this deal could be useful. Brackins is the key to the deal, a 6 foot 10 rookie picked 21st overall in the draft this year who can play either forward position and has some range on his shot. I would expect him to be in the mix to get some minutes behind Andre Iguodala and Andres Nocioni at small forward. As for Songaila, he's a 7 year veteran who has played for four different teams in his career and averaged 7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. At best, Songaila will be a decent backup down low for Elton Brand, although I have some doubts as to whether he will even make the team, though he does have an expiring contract that the Sixers could unload.

The most important thing about this trade is that the Sixers were able to unload Willie Green. With the addition of Evan Turner, Green was going to be phased out of the guard rotation, so the Sixers were happy to find another team to take his contract off their hands. I still can't believe Green started 200+ games for the Sixers.

Here's the Sixers roster as it currently stands. Quite a logjam of forwards:

Guards:
Jrue Holiday
Evan Turner
Lou Williams
Jodie Meeks

Forwards:
Andre Iguodala
Thaddeus Young
Elton Brand
Andres Nocioni
Marreese Speights
Jason Kapono
Darius Songaila
Craig Brackins

Center:
Spencer Hawes
Tony Battie

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How sweep it is: Phillies take control of NL East

That will just about do it for the National League East.

Everything worked exactly as the Phillies planned when they set up their rotation so that Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt would face the Braves in a pivotal 3 game series this week. After Hamels and Halladay won their starts, it was up to Oswalt to complete the sweep, and he more than rose to the occasion, giving up just one hit in 7 innings while striking out 8 batters. Since the Phillies didn't score until Raul Ibanez doubled in Jayson Werth in the 8th inning, Oswalt didn't get credit for a win but he certainly gets credit for pitching a gem.

The win over the Braves pushes the Phillies division lead to 6 games with just 9 games left to play. While there is another series with the Braves looming at the end of the season, it's safe to say that the division is basically wrapped up at this point. Given that the Phillies have won 10 straight games and are playing better baseball than anyone else in the league, it should only be a matter of days before they clinch their 4th straight NL East title.

Philadelphia Daily News Proclaims Vick is "Top Dog"

Just when it seemed like Michael Vick had gotten past all that dog fighting stuff, the Daily News has to go and pull this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Halladay wins his 20th as Phillies take 5 game lead

I think we can all agree that wins are an overrated stat for pitchers. That said, you still have to be a damn good pitcher to win 20 games, which Roy Halladay did on Tuesday night against the Braves. More importantly for the team, with the 5-3 win, the Phillies have taken a solid 5 game lead in the National League East and lowered their magic number to 6.

Halladay becomes the first pitcher since Steve Carlton (23 wins in 1982) to win 20 games for the Phillies. It's also the third time in his career that Halladay has won 20 games. While there is much more to pitching than just wins, it's pretty safe to say that Halladay will be the favorite to win the NL Cy Young award.

With two wins in the books, everything has gone right for the Phillies in their series against the Braves. They made an effort to line up their three aces in the series and both Cole Hamels and Halladay haven't disappointed. While it isn't a must-win, I would expect the third ace, Roy Oswalt, to have a strong showing tomorrow as the Phillies look to sweep the Braves out of town and out of the division race.

Questioning the Michael Vick decision

As you've heard by now, Michael Vick is the new Eagles starting quarterback. The move is a definite head-scratcher and a complete departure from the Andy Reid philosophy of sticking with "his guy". While the initial shock of the decision has worn off, I'm still left with a few lingering questions about the move:

- So the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb with the idea that Kolb would take over at quarterback, give Kolb 10 pass attempts against the Packers and then anoint Vick the new starter? Developing Kolb into a quality quarterback is going to take time, so what's the purpose in sending him back to the bench and potentially ruining any chance he ever has to grow? What changed between the offseason, when Kolb was clearly "the guy", to now, when Vick can steal the job from him after a few above average weeks of play? Reid made it clear that the concussion was not the reason for the change, so is there something else about Kolb's inability to pick up the offense that we don't know about?

- Do the Eagles really consider themselves Super Bowl contenders? If the reason to switch to Vick is because he gives the team a better chance to win, does Andy Reid really think that the Birds can make a serious run at a championship? Given how poor the defense looked against the lowly Lions, the Eagles barely look like a playoff team. If they aren't a Super Bowl contender, there is no reason not to play Kolb and let him develop.

- Does this change have more to do with the poor play of the offensive line than anything else? Given how terrible they have looked and how Vick is mobile enough to elude the pass rush, perhaps Reid is protecting Kolb from getting knocked around because he is less mobile.

- How long of a leash will Vick have? Given that the Eagles have a relatively easy schedule in the coming weeks as they face the Jaguars, Redskins and Niners, I would expect Vick to put up some pretty good numbers. No, he won't magically become an accurate quarterback but he should be able to make enough plays to be effective.

- Has there ever been a more expensive backup quarterback? Remember that Kolb was given that 12 million dollar extension in the offseason.

That's all I've got for now. What do you guys think? Was it the right decision to bench Kolb and go with the "hot hand" of Michael Vick? While I'm not a big fan of the switch, if the Eagles win a few games, you won't hear me complaining. I just hope the Eagles aren't flushing Kolb's development down the toilet for a few extra wins.

Michael Vick named the starting quarterback

Looks like Andy Reid has pulled a complete 180. After saying all weekend that Kevin Kolb was the starting quarterback, Reid has announced that Michael Vick will be starting this weekend against the Jaguars.

What isn't known right now is whether Vick is the starter for the rest of the season or if Kolb will be the starter again at some point. From the sound of it, Vick is the starting going forward. More to come later...

Eagles sign RB Joique Bell, release Baskett

The Eagles made a small move today, signing running back Joique Bell off the Bills practice squad. Bell, an undrafted rookie out of Wayne State, had a solid preseason but was stuck behind Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo. A tremendous player in college, Bell rushed for over 2000 yards and 29 touchdowns and was the Division 2 player of the year last year. As a big back (5 foot 11, 220), Bell could be another short-yardage option for the Eagles.

Since Eldra Buckley is more of a special teams player, I would look for Bell to unofficially be the third running back. Of course, it's doubtful that the Eagles will actually dress 4 running backs on gameday.

To make room for Bell, the Eagles released Hank Baskett. Baskett made no impact at wide receiver this season, catching zero balls, but he did play on special teams. His release leaves the Eagles with just four wideouts, so don't be surprised to see them pursue another wideout in the coming weeks, or even re-sign Baskett at some point.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hamels pitches Phillies to 4 game division lead

The second place Braves are in town. There is a bit of a chill in the air. The rally towels are out. Yep, we're getting close to another Phillies October.

Before the Phillies get to the postseason, however, there is the little matter of winning the division to take care of first. With a 3 game lead entering Monday and 6 games left to play against the Braves, it's still a bit early to be printing postseason tickets. After Cole Hamels' dominating, 8 inning, 6 strikeout, 1 earned run performance on Monday, though, the Phillies took yet another step closer.

For Hamels, it was just another solid outing, his 5th straight win and his 6th straight start of giving up 2 or fewer earned runs. On a team with three ace pitchers, Hamels has been the best down the stretch, picking up his game when it matters most, allowing only 2 runs in his last 36 and 2/3rds innings.

The win, their 8th straight, pushes the Phillies to 4 games up in the division. With Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt taking the mound the next two nights, it's hard to see the Phillies not at least holding that 4 game lead after the Braves leave town on Thursday. With 90 wins, a dominating pitching staff and a commanding lead over everyone else in the National League, everything seems pointed in the right direction for the Phillies. Can't wait for October!

Michael Leighton unveils new "Broad Street Bullies" goalie mask

New goalie mask alert! Flyers playoff hero, Michael Leighton, has unveiled his new, Broad Street Bullies-themed goalie mask. The two pictures featured here are from the official Flyers Twitter.

Definitely a nice looking mask. Love the toothless, grinning Bobby Clarke on the left side.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Werth hits walkoff homer, signs with Boras

Few athletes in Philadelphia are more polarizing to fans than Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. Take Sunday, for example. First, Werth hit a huge 2-run homer to beat the Nationals in the bottom of the 9th. Later, word came out that Werth, an impending free agent, has signed on with baseball super-agent Scott Boras. You know, the guy that regularly asks for and gets mega-million dollar contracts for his clients. If Werth wasn't leaving after this season before, signing with Boras certainly seals his fate.

Let's start with the homer, however. Werth's game winner capped a 4-run 9th inning comeback to help the Phillies steal a game they had no business winning. What makes the homer even more important is that it kept the Phillies three games up on the Braves, who they will now face in a three game series that starts Monday. With the win, the Phillies have less pressure and can get by with just winning one game in the series and still have a two game margin in the division.

As for signing with Boras, it just confirms what most Phillies fans already knew: Werth is going for the big money this offseason. Going with Boras means that all hopes of Werth taking a hometown discount are gone and he will be playing for the Yankees or Red Sox or whoever bids the most for his services. Since this is likely his one chance to get a big contract, you can hardly blame Werth for hiring the biggest gun in the business to help him cash in.

Let's hope Werth can make a few more memories with the Phillies before he leaves at the end of the season. I, for one, will enjoy watching Domonic Brown take over in right field at the beginning of the 2011 season.
(AP PHOTO)

Vick, McCoy help Eagles edge Lions

A win is a win, even when it has an ugly finish. In a game that shouldn't have been close, the Eagles were guided by strong efforts by Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy as they just barely edged the Lions, 35-32. The final score is a bit misleading in this one, however, as the Eagles were leading 35-17 before they went into cruise control mode just a bit too early.

The story of the game and for the next week will be whether Michael Vick did enough to earn the starting quarterback job for the Eagles. Vick certainly played well, evading pass-rushers left and right to complete 21 of 34 passes for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns and also added 37 yards rushing. Given how poorly the Eagles offensive line blocked, Vick had to do a lot of dancing in the pocket but still couldn't avoid getting sacked five times. If the Eagles line doesn't start blocking better, the Eagles may be forced to start Vick due to his scrambling ability.

Of course, in my opinion, there isn't a quarterback controversy for the Eagles until Kevin Kolb plays at least a full game of football. Given that he was cleared to practice for the week, barring a setback, Kolb will be the starting quarterback next week against the Jaguars. I'm sure there will be plenty of fans calling for Vick to start but Kolb has to be given a chance to prove himself.

Vick wasn't the only standout Eagle, though: LeSean McCoy also had a great game, rushing for a career-high 120 yards and 3 touchdowns on 16 carries. While it was hard to tell if he was that good or the Lions are just awful against the run, McCoy looked like he was running on another level as he averaged 7.5 yards per carry. No, McCoy is never going to get 20+ carries a game and be a chain-moving running back but his big-play ability makes him a tremendous weapon for the Eagles.

Defensively, the Eagles had some major issues with the ground game against the Lions, especially on a first quarter touchdown drive where the Lions ran for 76 yards on 6 carries. While Lions rookie Jahvid Best has some serious speed, the Eagles looked completely inept without Stewart Bradley manning the middle of the defense. Luckily, Bradley will be back next week against the Jaguars strong running game but it would be nice if someone else stepped up should he miss more time down the road.

The early issues stopping the Lions ground game gave way to 4th quarter issues with stopping the Lions passing game. I know the Eagles went into prevent mode after they got a big lead but there is no excuse for letting backup quarterback Shaun Hill pass for 335 yards. It's hard to say who deserves the blame for letting up all the yards; it's likely a combination of not getting enough pressure on the quarterback and a few blown assignments in the secondary.

Expect all the talk for the next week to be about who should start at quarterback for the Eagles. Last time I checked, though, neither Vick nor Kolb played defense, so I'm not sure either of them will help with the Eagles biggest problem right now. The offense has proven it can score points; it's on the defense to prove they can make plays, too.

Kolb, Bradley cleared to practice, should play next week

Michael Vick shouldn't get too comfortable with the idea of being the Eagles starting quarterback. According to multiple sources, Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley have passed concussion tests from an independent doctor, meaning both are going to return to practice next week.

Andy Reid has made it clear that, when healthy, Kolb is the starting quarterback. Regardless of what Vick does today against the Lions, expect Kolb to be under center for the Eagles in Jacksonville.

Eagles vs. Lions Week Two Inactives: Battle of the Backup QB's

The Eagles and Lions have announced their inactive players for Week 2 and, as expected, we have a pair of backup quarterbacks taking over:

Eagles: LB Stewart Bradley, CB Jorrick Calvin, LB Keenan Clayton, TE Clay Harbor, OL Austin Howard, QB Kevin Kolb, DE Darryl Tapp, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

Lions: DE Cliff Avril, T Jason Fox, LB DeAndre Levy, G Manny Ramirez, RB Kevin Smith, QB Matthew Stafford, WR Derrick Williams, DE Willie Young

The Eagles are without Bradley and Kolb for at least this week as they deal with concussion issues. The injury of Kolb means that rookie Mike Kafka gets to suit up and be the backup quarterback. Let's hope Michael Vick doesn't get hurt. I'm a little surprised to see Clay Harbor benched in favor of Garrett Mills but the Eagles must like that Mills can also line up at fullback.

With Stafford out, the Lions will be starting Shaun Hill at quarterback. He will make plenty of mistakes if the Eagles defense puts enough pressure on him. The Lions defense will also be turning to a new starting linebacker and defensive end with Levy and Avril out.

While a game in Week 2 is never a "must-win", the Eagles really need to get the job done against the Lions and avoid falling to 0-2. Hopefully Vick makes the most of his chance to start and guides the Eagles to what should be an easy win. GO BIRDS!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flyers reveal "new" road jerseys

The Flyers have officially revealed their road jerseys for the upcoming season. As expected, the team will be using the Winter Classic jersey, as pictured above, just without the Winter Classic patch. While some don't like the black nameplate look on the back, it's hard to argue that going with the classic look isn't an upgrade.

In a picture via the Flyers on Twitter, here's Mike Richards checking out the new jersey.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Michael Vick to start at QB for Eagles in Week 2

According to various sources, the Eagles are going to go with Michael Vick as their starting quarterback in Week 2 against the Lions. This move comes as no surprise considering Kevin Kolb hasn't been cleared to even practice at this point due to concussion symptoms.

Going with Vick, who has been taking all the first team snaps in practice and prepping to take on the Lions all week, is a no-brainer. With Kolb only just now being allowed to sit in on meetings, he won't be able to get up to speed fast enough to be effective in Week 2.

No matter how well Vick does in Week 2 (and I think he'll do very well), you can count on Kolb being the starting quarterback for Week 3 and beyond as long as he is cleared to play. Andy Reid has been very clear that Kolb is the starting quarterback for the Eagles and nothing Vick does is going to change that. The Eagles have too much invested in Kolb to just cast him aside at this point. Besides, he can't be judged based on just one half of football.

New season, new trends: NFL Week 2 Predictions

Can you really learn anything in the first week of the NFL season? Right now, 16 fan bases are thinking their team is going all the way while another 16 fan bases are wondering how they got fooled into thinking their team was any good. While it's important to get off to a good start, plenty of Super Bowl winners have lost in Week 1. Hopefully nobody jumped off a bridge over-reacting to a bad loss in the first week of the season. Don't worry, Arian Foster isn't running for 3600 yards and your team (probably) won't suck every week.

Here are my picks for Week 2. 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. Hopefully I do better this week after a terrible Week 1.

Record Last Week: 7-9, .438
Overall Record: 7-9, .438

Sunday Day Games:

Cardinals (1-0) @ Falcons (0-1, -6.5)
Atlanta played the Steelers tough but I don't think they'll be able to cover the spread against the Cardinals. Matt Ryan has all the weapons but he just hasn't made the next step yet. My pick: Cardinals

Ravens (1-0) @ Bengals (0-1, +1.5)
The Bengals looked terrible against the Patriots, only getting the offense going after the Pats went into prevent mode. Look for the Ravens offense to explode and take out all of their frustrations on the Bengals D after they did very little against the Jets. My pick: Ravens

Chiefs (1-0) @ Browns (0-1, -1.5)
I'm still surprised the Chiefs were able to knock off the Chargers, especially given how poorly Matt Cassel played. The Browns look like they are in for another pathetic season. I feel for you, Cleveland. My pick: Chiefs

Bears (1-0) @ Cowboys (0-1, -8.5)
The Bears look like they are going to put up some points this year so I like this game to be a little closer than you would think. As long as Dallas doesn't make any more boneheaded plays this week, they should still hold on and win by a touchdown. My pick: Bears

Eagles (0-1) @ Lions (0-1, +3.5)
No matter who starts at quarterback for the Eagles, I like them to roll over Detroit by at least a touchdown. With all signs pointing to Mike Vick being the guy, look for him to rack up near 100 rushing yards and a couple of passing touchdowns, making him a real nice fantasy play this week. The Eagles defense, which was actually pretty good against the Packers, should also be up for whatever challenge the Lions throw at them. My pick: Eagles

Bills (0-1) @ Packers (1-0, -13.5)
Let's see, the worst team in the NFL is playing against potentially the best team in the NFL? Hmm, I wonder who to go with... My pick: Packers

Steelers (1-0) @ Titans (1-0, -5.5)
The Steelers proved against the Falcons that they aren't going to just roll over as they wait for the return of Ben Roethlisberger. With two solid defenses in this game, I like someone to win by a field goal, probably the Titans. My pick: Steelers

Dolphins (1-0) @ Vikings (0-1, -5.5)
It already feels like the Saints/Vikings season opener was several weeks ago. While the Vikings didn't look that impressive against New Orleans, I like them to right the ship at home. As for the Dolphins, I still can't believe they only put up 15 on the Bills. My pick: Vikings

Bucs (1-0) @ Panthers (0-1, -2.5)
The Bucs better enjoy that win against the Browns because with Carolina, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and New Orleans in the next few weeks, they aren't going to get their second win for quite a while. The Panthers are going to have to figure out their QB situation if they want to make the playoffs this year. My pick: Panthers

Seahawks (1-0) @ Broncos (0-1, -3.5)
It's hard to get a good read on either of these teams. Are the Seahawks really good or are the Niners terrible? What are we supposed to make of the Broncos after losing to the Jaguars? I'll give the benefit of the doubt to the home team but they won't win by anything more than 7. My pick: Broncos

Rams (0-1) @ Raiders (0-1, -4.5)
Oh boy, what a game! Unless you have Steven Jackson in your fantasy league, do yourself a favor and watch something else. The Rams didn't look awful in Week 1 so I'll go with them to cover. My pick: Rams

Patriots (1-0) @ Jets (0-1, +1.5)
With all the bluster and all the bravado the Jets have displayed all preseason long, it's going to be pretty funny to see them lose again in Week 2 and have their record drop to 0-2. Sure, they'll be able to slow down Tom Brady a bit, but who exactly is going to produce for the Jets on offense? An ancient LaDainian Tomlinson? An incompetent Mark Sanchez? My pick: Patriots

Jaguars (1-0) @ Chargers (0-1, -7.5)
While I fully expect the Chargers to win this game, I just don't see them winning by anything more than a touchdown. If San Diego wants to win the division this year, they are going to have to do better against the run and in return coverage. My pick: Jaguars

Texans (1-0) @ Redskins (1-0, +2.5)
After his explosion on Sunday, how obnoxious was the guy that drafted Arian Foster in the middle rounds of your fantasy league? Don't count on anything close to 200+ yards from Foster this week; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he was held to under 100 yards rushing. As for the Redskins, they are going to need some more of that luck that they had against Dallas to win against Houston. My pick: Texans

Sunday Night Game:

Giants (1-0) @ Colts (0-1, -5.5)
Ah, another Manning Bowl. I wonder if this is the first time that Eli's team has had a better record than Peyton's heading into a matchup? All will be right after this game as the Colts take care of business even without Bob Sanders. My pick: Colts

Monday Night Game:

Saints (1-0) @ Niners (0-1, +4.5)
If they got crushed by the Seahawks, how in the world will they keep up with the Saints? Given the Saints less than stellar offensive attack in Week 1, expect them to put up at least 30 in this one. My pick: Saints

Those are my picks for Week 2 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!

Phillies sweep Fish, take commanding 3 game lead in the NL East

It's been a long, long time since the Phillies had a comfortable lead in the NL East. While they still shouldn't get too comfortable, they certainly took another step towards a playoff berth today as they completed a sweep against the Marlins on Wednesday night in a 10-5 win. With the Braves continuing to scuffle, losing another game to the Nationals, the Phillies added another game to their lead in the NL East to give them a nice three game cushion. Not only that, the Phillies also jumped up to 2.5 games above the Reds in the race for home field advantage throughout the playoffs, something the best National League team will have since the NL finally won the All-Star game this year.

Roy Halladay did the work on the mound on Wednesday, going 6 innings and giving up 10 hits and 3 runs, a mediocre outing by his standards. Luckily the Phillies offense did plenty of damage against the Marlins, who turned this one into a bullpen game as they used 6 different pitchers with none lasting more than two and one thirds innings. While Halladay probably isn't happy with how many hits he gave up, he did pick up his 19th win of the season, the most by any pitcher in the NL and tied with C.C. Sabathia for the most in MLB.

Despite the nice three game lead, the Phillies in no way can let their foot off the gas. With the Nationals, who played the Braves tough over the last few days, coming up next and six games with Atlanta on the horizon, an offensive lull or a few bad pitching outings could make for a very stressful final few weeks of the season. With the way Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt continue to take care of business, however, the postseason seems to be more of a certainty every day. With those three the only Phillies pitchers that will take the mound against Atlanta for the rest of the season, one can't help but start looking ahead to October.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Phillies release 2011 schedule

There's plenty more to look forward to with the rest of the 2010 season but we can already start looking ahead as the Phillies have released their 2011 schedule. You can click here to go to Phillies.com and see the entire schedule but here are some of the highlights:

-The Phillies open the season on April 1st at home against the Astros

-The first road game is on April 8th in Atlanta

-For interleague play next year, the Phillies travel to Seattle and Toronto while the A's, Red Sox and Rangers come to Philly. The Phillies will have one less interleague series next year.

-The All-Star break will be from July 11th to July 14th

-The Phillies 2011 season ends in Atlanta on September 28th

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bill Guerin accepts tryout offer with Flyers

The longer he worked out with the Flyers, the more likely this became: Bill Guerin has accepted a tryout offer with the Flyers. Guerin, who has been working out with Flyers veterans for the last two weeks, was angling to sign a contract somewhere but seemed to change his mind as he approached Paul Holmgren and asked for a tryout.

Guerin isn't guaranteed to make the Flyers roster but you can bet he will give Dan Carcillo a run for his spot on the wing. Given Guerin's veteran leadership and ability to contribute, he could be an asset to the Flyers at the right price. Even if he doesn't make the team, there is no harm in bringing him in and pushing the fringe roster players to play harder.

With a good showing in camp, the Flyers may have just found a new third line winger. He'll just happen to bring with him a pair of Stanley Cups and 856 career points.

Injury replacements: Eagles sign FB Schmitt, promote TE Mills

With Leonard Weaver and Jamaal Jackson placed on IR due to season ending injuries, the Eagles made a pair of moves today to fill their roster spots.

To replace Weaver, the Eagles signed former Seahawks fullback Owen Schmitt. Schmitt, a former 5th round pick, played in 30 games for Seattle and only had 21 yards rushing and 12 catches for 50 yards. Schmitt was cut by the Seahawks this preseason when they decided to not even have a fullback on the roster. He is probably best known for smashing a helmet against his head and busting it open:


The Eagles also promoted tight end Garrett Mills from the practice squad to the active roster. Mills will be the third tight end and even has some experience playing fullback in his career. His replacement on the practice squad will be offensive lineman Fenuki Tupou, who the Eagles cut at the end of preseason.

Eagles officially lose Weaver and Jackson for the season

With the entire team healthy heading into their first game of the season, you knew the Eagles were due for a few injuries. Not even the most jaded fan could have predicted the carnage that followed in the game against the Packers, however, as key players from both sides of the ball went down with potentially serious injuries.

Two Eagles have been confirmed to be out for the season: fullback Leonard Weaver (torn ACL) and center Jamaal Jackson (torn tricep). Given that the Eagles already had a contingency plan (Mike McGlynn or Nick Cole) in place should Jackson not be healthy, the loss of Weaver is the bigger blow. Having traded away Charles Scott in the preseason, the Eagles are now left without a fullback on the roster. There will be a tremendous drop in talent from a Pro Bowler like Weaver to whatever fullback the Eagles pick up off the scrap heap, like former practice squad player Jason Davis, who is reportedly now working out with the Birds.

It could be a long season, Eagles fans.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eagles lose injury-filled season opener

How does one even begin to describe the Eagles first game of the season? The first half was brutal, probably the worst possible way they could have started the season. The second half, though, was filled with enough bright spots that the Eagles look like they might have something they can build on. The fact that they only lost the game 27-20 to one of the best teams in the NFC gives you some hope that the Birds be competitive this season.

The game couldn't have started off any uglier, though. From a mountain of injuries to an ineffective offense in the first half to a bunch of stupid penalties, just about everything went wrong for the Eagles as they fell behind by 10 points. The offense was brutal, finishing with under 50 yards in the first half. From Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin being the top two rushers to Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson being held catchless, absolutely nothing went right. The first half defense, on the other hand, looked good as they made a habit of getting after the quarterback and forced Aaron Rodgers to rush a number of his throws.

Of course, the inept first half offense was overshadowed by a ridiculous number of injuries. Both Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley suffered concussions but inexplicably stayed in the game for the rest of the half. Kolb and Bradley then were removed from the game at halftime, meaning Michael Vick took over at QB and Omar Gaither was back in the middle. Center Jamaal Jackson was also injured, missing the rest of the game with an arm injury. The early word from the Eagles on Jackson is that he tore his bicep and could be lost for the season. And, perhaps worst of all, Leonard Weaver's knee was destroyed early in the second quarter and all indications are that the Pro Bowl fullback will be done for the year. No matter how you look at it, losing both Jackson and Weaver will hinder the Birds offense. The drop-off to whoever the Eagles get to start in their place will make things difficult for the Birds to protect the quarterback.

Things went very differently for the Eagles in the second half after Michael Vick took over. While there isn't expected to be any quarterback controversy in Philly (Andy Reid has already said that Kolb will remain the quarterback if healthy), Vick put together quite a game, completing 16 of 24 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 103 yards. Much of the yards Vick compiled were against a Packers defense that was in prevent mode, so don't expect that kind of accuracy from him should he be playing full time. Frankly, the Packers didn't have any kind of gameplan to stop him, not even bothering to shadow Vick when he escaped the pocket. While some will call for Vick to be the new starting quarterback, Kevin Kolb has to be given more of a chance than one half of a football game. If Kolb is going to be the long term answer at QB in Philly he needs to be given more than just 30 minutes to prove it.

The defense also continued to play well in the second half. While they did give up a pair of touchdowns, they showed a ton of heart in the 4th quarter as they shut down the Packers offense and kept the Birds in the game. Much like the offense, it was difficult to get too good of a read on the defense because the Packers closed up the playbook after they got a big lead. Regardless, Nate Allen deserves mention for an interception in his first game with the Eagles.

Expect a week filled with a ton of Eagles news, from whether Bradley and Kolb will be able to play next week to how long Jackson and Weaver will be out. The Eagles will also need to look into signing another fullback to replace Weaver and get Mike McGlynn ready to start at center. While the Lions appear to be a weak opponent next week, when you have as many injuries as the Eagles do, no game is an easy win.

After just one game, it's clear this is going to be one crazy season, Eagles fans. Strap yourselves in, things are bound to get bumpy.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Eagles lose Kolb, Bradley due to concussions

It's getting ugly at Lincoln Financial Field. After losing Leonard Weaver, the Eagles came out with more bad news at the start of the second half: both Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley were out for the rest of the game due to concussions. Both Kolb and Bradley suffered concussions late in the second quarter but did return to the game. Apparently tests were run at halftime and the Eagles didn't feel comfortable putting either player back in the game.

Losing to the Packers was probably expected but no one expected all of the injuries. I can't imagine a worse start to the Eagles season.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Leonard Weaver's season could be done after nasty knee injury

The Eagles entered the first game of the season completely healthy but they won't be leaving that way. On a carry early in the second quarter, fullback Leonard Weaver suffered a gruesome injury when his knee was bent the wrong way by a Packers defender. Weaver was helped off the field and you could see tears in his eyes. He was later carted off to the locker room.

The initial word from the Eagles is that Weaver suffered a sprained knee and will not return to the game. He will have an MRI and the injury will likely be much more serious than that. We may not be seeing Weaver again for quite a while.

Eagles vs. Packers: Week One inactives

Eagles football is back! Here are the Week One inactives as announced by the teams:

Eagles: LB Jamar Chaney, LB Keenan Clayton, OL Austin Howard, OL Max Jean-Gilles, QB Mike Kafka, DE Darryl Tapp, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, G Reggie Wells

Packers: FB Quinn Johnson, OL T.J. Lang, G Nick McDonald, DE Mike Neal, OL Marshall Newhouse, TE Andrew Quarless, CB Brandon Underwood, DE C.J. Wilson

With no injuries for the Eagles, there really aren't any surprising inactives for them this week. My guess is that Wells just doesn't have a strong enough knowledge of the offense to be an effective backup just yet. Tapp hasn't been that impressive in the preseason so count on him being inactive most weeks. I'm somewhat shocked that the Eagles are dressing all six of their cornerbacks, including Jorrick Calvin. I would expect to see him returning kicks.

For the Packers, all of their key players are healthy and playing.

While I picked against the Eagles this week, you can bet I'll be rooting hard for them to take down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. It's going to take a tremendous defensive effort and some explosive offensive plays but I think the Eagles should at least make it a close game. GO BIRDS!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Phillies place Mathieson on DL, DFA Robertson, add Carrillo

As the Phillies continue to search for the final playoff bullpen pieces, they made a series of pitching moves on Thursday that could have a minor impact on who makes that 25 man playoff roster.

First, Scott Mathieson, who could be a nice bullpen piece at some point down the road, was placed on the disabled list with a muscle strain in his back. If Mathieson's season is over, it ends with an ugly stat line of 1.2 innings pitched and an ERA of 10.80.

Another player with an ugly pitching line was moved off the roster as Nate Robertson was designated for assignment by the Phillies. While there was a remote possibility that the veteran pitcher could have turned his career around and been a contributor for the Phillies, it was clear he didn't have what it takes after giving up 6 runs in one inning against the Marlins. Given how bad his season was this year, Robertson's career might be over.

Finally, the Phillies also added a pitcher today, claiming righty Cesar Carrillo off waivers from the Padres. Carrillo is a 26 year old who pitched in 3 games for the Padres last season. Seeing as how he had an ERA of 13.06 in those three games, Carrillo is likely a longterm project who has little chance of having an impact in the majors. He was a solid prospect at one point in his career, so the Phillies probably look at him as a low-risk late season pickup.

Here we go: NFL Week One Predictions

Football season is finally here! With the Saints and Vikings set to kick things off on Thursday, it's time for me to weigh in with my weekly predictions! Once again, each week this season, I'm going to make my picks for every NFL game. Last season, my overall record was 176-80, a .688 winning percentage. Since I did so well last season simply picking who would win each game, I decided that, for a little more challenge, I am going to be picking games against the spread this year. I fully expect my winning percentage to plummet, so I wouldn't use my picks for gambling purposes.

Before I get into my choices for Week One, I will quickly run through my picks for the entire season, from division winners to the eventual Super Bowl Champion:

NFC Division winners: Cowboys, Packers, Saints, Niners
NFC Wild Cards: Giants, Vikings

Not too many surprise picks in the NFC. The toughest division to pick is probably the West, where the Niners are the pick by default over a Cardinals team without an identity right now. Sorry, Eagles fans, I think the Birds just miss out on the last Wild Card spot.

Just like last year, I'm picking the Packers to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. They might be everyone's trendy pick but they look so incredibly dominant on offense that I don't see how anyone in the NFC will be able to slow them down.

AFC Division winners: Jets, Ravens, Colts, Chargers
AFC Wild Cards: Patriots, Texans

The AFC looks pretty loaded once again this year, with good teams like the Dolphins and Steelers being left out in my picks. I think this is finally the year the Texans get over the hump and get into the playoffs.

I'll go with the Ravens to make the Super Bowl out of the AFC. Joe Flacco suddenly has a ton of weapons and that defense is always good.

Super Bowl: Packers over Ravens. How much fun would this Super Bowl be? The Packers offensive juggernaut against the Ravens stout defense should be a great matchup. Give me Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers on the game winning drive at the end of the game.

With my picks for the season in mind, let's get to my picks for Week One of the NFL season:

Picks this year are made against the spread I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game.

Thursday Night Game:

Vikings @ Saints (-6.5)
The defending Super Bowl Champs always seem to win their opening game and I like the Saints to win by at least a touchdown. My pick: Saints

Sunday Day Games:

Dolphins @ Bills (+3.5)
I'm surprised the Dolphins aren't favored by more here. What exactly did the Bills do to improve themselves this offseason? C.J. Spiller can't do it all by himself. My pick: Dolphins

Lions @ Bears (-6.5)
Clearly, the oddsmakers have more faith in the Bears than I do. Don't they know that Mr. Interception, Jay Cutler, is now leading a Mike Martz turnover machine offense? The Bears might win, but not by much. My pick: Lions

Raiders @ Titans (-6.5)
There is a temptation to go out on a limb and think the Raiders will be better this year with Jason Campbell at the helm but the Titans should win by at least a touchdown at home. My pick: Titans

Bengals @ Patriots (-5.5)
The Bengals seem to be a sleeper pick for a lot of "experts" but I just don't see it. You're telling me an aging T.O. is going to put them over the top? You're telling me Carson Palmer is still good? Sorry, I'm not buying it. My pick: Patriots

Panthers @ Giants (-7.5)
I like the Giants to win this game but they aren't going to win by more than 7 points. Expect a low-scoring game with the victor winning by a field goal. My pick: Panthers

Falcons @ Steelers (+2.5)
Not having Big Ben shouldn't make that much of a difference to the Steelers, who need to be much better on defense this year if they want to compete, anyway. I don't think the Falcons are that good but I like them to eek out a close win on the road. My pick: Falcons

Browns @ Bucs (-2.5)
It's only Week 1 and we already have a stinker of a game on the schedule. Seriously, who outside of Ohio and Florida is going to watch this game? The Browns are the lesser of two evils in this one, so I'll take them to win the game. My pick: Browns

Broncos @ Jaguars (-2.5)
I don't think either of these teams are that good, either. With Maurice Jones-Drew possibly banged up, I have to go with the Broncos, unless they decide to trade away another of their best players before the game starts. My pick: Broncos

Colts @ Texans (+3.5)
I'm shocked the spread in this game is so close; don't the Colts beat the Texans every time? I guess someone thinks this will finally be the Texans year. I'll stick with Mr. Dependable, Peyton Manning. My pick: Colts

Niners @ Seahawks (+2.5)
With the Seahawks in such flux, I have no idea why the spread is so low. If the Niners have any plans of winning the division, they need to come out and make a statement and win by at least a touchdown on the road against a mediocre at best Seattle team. My pick: Niners

Packers @ Eagles (+1.5)
Sorry, Eagles fans, this might be the easiest game of all to pick. With the way the Packers have looked this preseason, I'm shocked this line isn't much higher. While I'll be rooting hard for an Eagles win, the Pack just look too dangerous on offense and I don't think Kevin Kolb will be able to keep up. My pick: Packers

Cardinals @ Rams (+3.5)
This is probably the second ugliest game of the week. If the Rams had anything on offense besides Steven Jackson, I'd be tempted to pick them to beat the Leinert-less Cardinals. Speaking of Leinert, you know your career is over when crappy Derek Anderson is a much better option than you. My pick: Cardinals

Sunday Night Game:

Cowboys @ Redskins (+3.5)
How much has really changed in Washington? They still look old (Joey Galloway?) and overpaid and are filled with ridiculous drama. The Cowboys are probably the best all-around team in the NFC. Man, that's painful to say. My pick: Cowboys

Monday Night Games:

Ravens @ Jets (-3.5)
The Jets are beyond overhyped at this point, mostly because of Hard Knocks. We'll find out quickly if they are all talk. I think the Ravens win this one outright. My pick: Ravens

Chargers @ Chiefs (+5.5)
Why are both West divisions so terrible? Seriously, 8-8 will probably win both. The Chargers aren't nearly what they used to be but they are still a few steps ahead of the lowly Chiefs. My pick: Chargers

Those are my picks for Week 1 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, September 8, 2010

Your 2010 Eagles Season Breakdown

A new era of Eagles football is upon us. Having jettisoned nearly all of the cast of players that led them to multiple NFC Championships, the Eagles are in a rebuilding phase, turning to young players at every position with the hopes of building a Super Bowl contender. Of course, labeling the Eagles a rebuilding team isn't quite accurate, not when you have a number of stars already in place and ready to win right now. Instead, the Eagles will try to re-tool on the fly, hoping to stay in contention while the youth gets some experience under their belts.

On the offensive side of the ball, everything is new. With Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, the two focal points of the offense for the last few years, put out to pasture, the Eagles are handing over the reigns to Kevin Kolb and a set of dynamic playmakers. With DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, Kolb has burners all around him that can strike for a big play at any moment. Add in dependable contributors like Leonard Weaver, Brent Celek and Jason Avant, and Kolb might arguably have a better supporting cast than McNabb ever had. Whether that puts pressure on Kolb or makes him more comfortable, only time will tell. If Kolb can stay upright behind a shaky offensive line and distribute the ball efficiently, there's no reason why the Eagles offense can't put up solid numbers all year long.

The defense is also undergoing a youth movement, though they seem to be about a year behind the development of the offense. With rookies Brandon Graham and Nate Allen stepping into starting roles, expect the defense to have their share of big plays but also to make a few mistakes along the way. Of course, don't underestimate the impact that the return of Stewart Bradley can have on the defense; his leadership in the middle should help smooth out any bumps in the road.

So, while a slight downturn should be expected, this isn't going to be a lost season for the Eagles. Sure, they will have their growing pains, but there is still enough talent to keep them competitive. While winning the division is probably not in the cards, I could easily see the Eagles earning a Wild Card.

Here is my week by week projection of how I think the Eagles season will play out:

Week 1: Packers L (0-1)
This one doesn't look promising. The Packers, who many are predicting to win the Super Bowl, look like they are going to score 35 points every week. While I think the Eagles offense will be good, I don't see them keeping up in this one.

Week 2: @ Lions W (1-1)
On paper, this looks like an easy win. Put a little pressure on Matthew Stafford, bottle up rookie running back Jahvid Best and the Eagles should win this one handily. Of course, there is a reason they play the games. I like Kolb to have a big day here.

Week 3: @ Jaguars W (2-1)
If the Eagles slow down Maurice Jones-Drew, this should be another easy win. Besides MJD, who on the Jaguars scares you? And who on their defense can make a stop?

Week 4: Redskins W (3-1)
This one should be fun. Expect the Eagles to be fired up and the crowd to really be into the McNabb homecoming, leading to a close win. With any luck, the Redskins will be down by 6 and have the ball with about 2 minutes left and McNabb can show everyone that the Eagles were right to ship him out of town. Of course, knowing our luck, McNabb will be incredibly efficient and lead the Redskins to victory.

Week 5: @ Niners L (3-2)
This one has all the makings of a chokejob against a West Coast team that really isn't that good, much like the Raiders game last year. While I do expect the Niners to win the NFC West, that doesn't make them very good.

Week 6: Falcons W (4-2)
It's hard to get a good read on the Falcons, who really didn't do anything to improve their roster in the offseason. Perhaps they are just hoping that healthy seasons from Matt Ryan and Michael Turner will get them into the playoffs? I like the Eagles to bounce back with a close win in this one.

Week 7: @ Titans L (4-3)
The Eagles better hope they can stop the run this season or Chris Johnson will go off. I can really go either way in this one but I'll give the win to the home team.

Week 8: BYE

Week 9: Colts L (4-4)
The Eagles always win after the bye week but they've never had to play a team like the Colts in this situation. This might be the most important game on the schedule; if the Eagles win, they gain a ton of confidence and could ride that into a playoff berth; if they lose, they could slide right out of contention. I'm betting on Peyton Manning, unfortunately.

Week 10: @ Redskins L (4-5)
They always seem to split with the Skins, so McNabb gets some revenge here, if he's healthy.

Week 11: Giants W (5-5)
Things have been very quiet on the Giants front this season which probably means they are in for a big season. While I'm not impressed with any of the moves they made this offseason, I'm still betting they will right in the mix for the division. While the Eagles won both games last year, I think they split this season, with each team winning their home game.

Week 12: @ Bears W (6-5)
Despite their supposedly new and improved offense, I don't think the Bears are very good. Expect Jay Cutler to get hit early and often in this one.

Week 13: Texans W (7-5)
Barring the Texans actually becoming the team they've been hyped up to be for the last few years, I like the Eagles to win a close one here. Frankly, the Birds better win this one because the next four weeks are going to be rough.

Week 14: @ Cowboys L (7-6)
The Eagles really don't see the Cowboys until Week 14?? So much could be different at this point of the season but I do think the Cowboys will win the East this year. As much as I hate them, there is no denying that Dallas was way better than the Eagles last year and they didn't get any worse in the offseason.

Week 15: @ Giants L (7-7)
As I said earlier, the Eagles will split the season with the Giants.

Week 16: Vikings W (8-7)
I just can't see the Eagles losing three in a row, so I like them to pull off the upset at home against the Vikings. If Brett Favre is even upright at this point of the season, I expect the Birds defense to give him fits. If they can find a way to slow down Adrian Peterson, I like the Eagles to win here.

Week 17: Cowboys W (9-7)
The Eagles always win the season finale with the Cowboys, right? Well, except for last year...

So, there you have it. Your Eagles will finish 9-7 and end up tied for second place in the NFC East with the Giants and just ahead of the Redskins. They will be in the mix for the last playoff spot but I think they will miss out on the Wild Card due to a tiebreaker. Of course, picking each game before the season starts when you really don't know how good each team rarely ends up being right.

Those are my picks for the Eagles this season. If you agree or disagree or have picks of your own, feel free to leave comments! Enjoy the first weekend of football!