Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cowboys and Redskins losses, McNabb benching highlight Eagles bye week

The Eagles didn't play in Week 8 but they have to be pretty happy with everything that happened to their divisional rivals in the week. Not only did the Cowboys and Redskins lose, they both lost in embarrassing fashion, with the Cowboys getting worked by a very average Jaguars team and the Redskins collapsing in the 4th quarter against the Lions. Oh, and of course, there is the little matter of the Redskins benching Donovan McNabb.

With the Redskins still within a touchdown late in the game, head coach Mike Shanahan chose to bench McNabb, turning the offense over to Rex Grossman. Yep, Shanahan thought the team had a better chance of winning with Rex Freakin' Grossman than they did with McNabb. While Shanahan said after the game that McNabb was still the starting quarterback, you can bet the sensitive McNabb will sulk in practice and won't soon forget getting benched. The Redskins can probably forget about signing McNabb to a long term deal.

As for the Cowboys, while their season was pronounced over once Tony Romo went down, starting the season 1-6 is still a nightmare scenario for "America's Team". The disappointment on the face of Jerry Jones is enough to bring a smile to any Eagles fan.

Of course, with a game against the Colts looming in Week 9, the Eagles don't have much time to enjoy the suffering of their biggest rivals. With the way the rest of the NFC is playing, the door is still wide open for a darkhorse contender like the Eagles to get hot and make a Super Bowl run.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Broken record: Flyers crush Islanders

Ahh, the Islanders. No matter what changes they make to their roster, they remain the Flyers whipping boy. On Saturday night, for the 15th time in their last 16 meetings, the Flyers beat the Islanders, 6-1. There are few things you can count on in life, but death, taxes and the Flyers beating the Islanders are constants.

The Flyers played easily their best all-around game on Saturday night, embarrassing the Isles by getting points from 11 different players, including a pair of two-goal scorers in Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger. For the first time all season, the Flyers also got a goal from a defensemen, with Kimmo Timonen scoring the first goal of the game in the first period before Pronger netted a pair in the second period.

With the Flyers up big heading into the third period, things turned ugly as both teams took shots at one another. While there was only one fight, between Dan Carcillo and Zenon Konopka, there were a number of scrums that led to 81 total penalty minutes in the third period alone. From Trevor Gillies earning a rare triple minor to Rick DiPietro wanting to drop the gloves with Carcillo, we appear to have some serious blood brewing between these two teams.

Sergei Bobrovsky also looked strong in net for the Flyers, with the only goal against him coming on a penalty shot. After a few inconsistent outings, Bob appears to have turned a corner with the Flyers, using good position and fast reflexes to turn aside shot after shot. While I had my doubts, Bobrovksy might yet stick around with the Flyers all season long.

With three straight convincing wins in a row, the Flyers are suddenly playing some great hockey. With contributions coming from every forward line and a great back line, we are finally seeing this team play up to its potential. Of course, we shouldn't get too excited about Saturday night, it was just the Islanders after all.
(AP PHOTO)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Flyers continue to own CONSOL Energy Center

Talk about a home away from home.

The Flyers are making themselves feel right at home at the Penguins new building, winning for the second time this season at the CONSOL Energy Center on Friday night. While both wins ended with the same 3-2 score, the season opening game and the game tonight started off on completely different notes.

From the drop of the puck, this one was ugly as the two rivals went after each other right away, with Mike Richards and Matt Cooke fighting just 6 seconds into the game. Things only escalated from there, as Jody Shelley and Deryk Engelland also dropped the gloves 17 seconds later and the two teams met for another scrum just a minute and a half into the game. All told, there were 9 penalties for 30 minutes in the first 2:35 of the game.

Things settled down from there as there were just a few scattered penalties by each team from that point forward. With all the penalties early on, the Penguins had several long stretches of power play time, but the Flyers shut them down, finishing the game a perfect 6 for 6 on the penalty kill.

The player of the game for the Flyers was Claude Giroux, who continued his breakout season by scoring two goals, one of them a shorthanded tally, his third of the season. With 6 goals in 10 games this season, the 22 year old Giroux is making himself quite a highlight reel and is on pace for nearly 50 goals this season.

The other Flyers goal was scored on a deflection by Dan Carcillo, who played in place of Nikolay Zherdev, who was a surprise scratch. Zherdev had recently been demoted to the 4th line in practice for his poor defensive play and Peter Laviolette seems to be sending a message to the young, enigmatic winger. Let's hope Zherdev responds and doesn't go into a funk like he did with the Blue Jackets a few years back.

While they are still trying to find a consistent mix, the win over the Penguins was the Flyers second straight and it did push them to the top of the Atlantic Division standings. The game against the very beatable Islanders tomorrow should tell us a lot about whether this team has turned a corner or whether they are going to be complacent once again against a team they should be able to handle.
(AP PHOTO)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bye Bye Birdies: NFL Week 8 Predictions

Just because the Eagles aren't playing this week, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of interesting games around the NFL. We are getting to the midway point of the season where streaks turn into trends and the good separate themselves from the bad. There is still plenty to be determined, including who the best team is in the NFC. Right now, it appears that the Giants are leading the way with the Falcons a few steps behind.

Here are my Week 8 picks. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game. Still hoping to get above .500!

Record Last Week: 7-7, .500
Overall Record: 49-55, .471

Byes:
Bears, Browns, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Ravens

Sunday Day Games:

Dolphins (3-3) @ Bengals (2-4, -2.5)
Every home team is a favorite this week, even the Bengals, for some reason. My pick: Dolphins

Jaguars (3-4) @ Cowboys (1-5, -6.5)
With Tony Romo out it's very tempting to pick the Jaguars to win outright, but, can Jon Kitna really be much worse than Romo has been this season? I think Dallas still wins at home but the Jags will make it interesting. My pick: Jaguars

Redskins (4-3) @ Lions (1-5, -2.5)
I get that the home team is always given a few points but whose idea was it to make the 1-win Lions the favorite in this game? Sure, the Redskins aren't that impressive, but they can beat the Lions. My pick: Redskins

Bills (0-6) @ Chiefs (4-2, -7.5)
Give the Bills a ton of credit, I didn't think they'd even come close to covering against the Ravens and they almost beat them. They don't stand a chance in K.C. My pick: Chiefs

Panthers (1-5) @ Rams (3-4, -3.5)
Congratulations to the Panthers for their first win of the season last week and for ruining their chances at the number one overall pick. The Rams are much better than the Niners, so don't get too excited. My pick: Rams

Packers (4-3) @ Jets (5-1, -6.5)
After the Sunday Night game, this is the second best game of the week. The Packers are ravaged with injuries but you have to be impressed with the strides the offense took on Sunday Night. The defense still has a long way to go, which means the Jets will put up some points, but I like Aaron Rodgers to at least keep it close. My pick: Packers

Broncos (2-5) @ Niners (1-6, -0.5)
I love how the NFL ships out one of the worst games of the season to London every year. Why the Niners, who are starting Troy Smith at quarterback, are favored when they aren't even really the home team is beyond me. My pick: Broncos

Titans (5-2) @ Chargers (2-5, -3.5)
For some reason, I keep thinking the Chargers are going to beat some of these good teams. I guess I just never learn. My pick: Chargers

Bucs (4-2) @ Cardinals (3-3, -3.5)
No, you aren't the best team in the NFC just yet, Bucs, but you will still beat up on the Cardinals. It's not really that impressive to call yourselves the best team in the NFC, anyway, given how terrible the conference looks this year. My pick: Bucs

Vikings (2-4) @ Patriots (5-1, -5.5)
Prior to the season, this one was probably viewed as a battle between two of the best teams in the league. Now, it looks like a blowout, though I expect Randy Moss to get some statistical revenge. My pick: Patriots

Seahawks (4-2) @ Raiders (3-4, -2.5)
The Raiders have officially moved from a terrible team to a mediocre one. My pick: Raiders

Sunday Night Game:

Steelers (5-1) @ Saints (4-3, -0.5)
The Saints are suffering from a major Super Bowl hangover and the Steelers look like the best team in the league. Good defense also always beats good offense. My pick: Steelers

Monday Night Game:

Texans (4-2) @ Colts (4-2, -5.5)
Things are going to be very different in this matchup than they were in Week 1. While the Colts aren't playing nearly as well as they want to be, the Texans aren't the team that started off the season looking like a Super Bowl contender. Expect a lot of points in this one. My pick: Colts

Those are my picks for Week 8 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, October 26, 2010

Flyers use balanced attack to scorch Sabres

Some things never seem to change with the Flyers. They are built on toughness, they never have good enough goaltending and they can be maddeningly inconsistent. Just 9 games into the current NHL season and the Flyers seem to have already run the gamut of highs and lows, from beating the Penguins to losing three straight games to a 5-2 beatdown of the Maple Leafs to looking inept against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night, when they lost 2-1.

Of course, after such a maddening loss, the Flyers did just what you would expect an inconsistent team would do as they rocked the Sabres on Tuesday night, 6-3. It was a total team effort for the Flyers, as 6 players had goals, including the red-hot Danny Briere, and 11 players had at least one point. Essentially everyone got in on the scoring act, even checkers Darroll Powe and Andreas Nodl, who scored his second career goal when he potted an empty netter late in the third period. Even more impressive for the Flyers was that this goal outburst came against U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller, who gave up 5 goals in 33 shots.

To prove just how on the Flyers where, even the power play, which has been a real sore spot this season, got into the act, as the Flyers scored three times with the man advantage to double their season total of power play goals. Just about the only thing that wasn't on for the Flyers in the game was their penalty kill, which allowed the Sabres to score on 2 of their 3 power play chances.

That's the effort we all expected from this Flyers team that is loaded with scoring threats on every line. While it's not realistic to expect them to score 6 goals a night, it would be nice if they played with this kind of intensity and not skate around aimlessly like they did against Columbus on Monday night. With a game against Pittsburgh up next, now is the perfect time for this team to find their identity and string together a nice, long winning streak.
(AP PHOTO)

Phillies decline 4.5 million dollar option on Romero

The Phillies season just ended a few days ago and we already have our first offseason move: the team has declined their 4.5 million dollar club option on relief pitcher J.C. Romero, making him a free agent. Given his fading numbers over the last few seasons, it was a no-brainer move for the Phillies to not bring back Romero at that price tag, though there is still the possibility that he re-signs with the club at a smaller dollar amount.

Romero, who spent the last 4 years with the Phillies, was a key part of the bullpen in the 2008 World Series run. Over the last two seasons, he has dealt with injury problems and issues with his command, making him far less reliable. If they don't bring him back, the Phillies are likely counting on Antonio Bastardo or Sergio Escalona to take Romero's role out the bullpen.

This should be a relatively quiet offseason for the Phillies, who don't have a lot of money to spend or holes to fill. With Jayson Werth likely gone, the team will try to find a cheaper right handed outfielder, but beyond always needing more bullpen help, the Phillies don't have any glaring needs. Of course, there are those ever-present Cliff Lee rumors....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eagles collapse in 4th quarter, lose ugly to Titans

That one sure turned ugly in a hurry. Through three quarters, despite some errant throws by Kevin Kolb, the Eagles seemed headed for a win, leading the Titans 16-10 as they controlled both sides of the ball. Things quickly changed in the 4th quarter, however, as the Eagles somehow forgot to cover Kenny Britt and the Titans exploded for 27 points, winning the game 37-19.

The Eagles seemed to have the right game plan for the first three quarters as they slowed Chris Johnson down and forced Kerry Collins to try to beat them. Collins didn't seem up to the task as the Eagles put a ton of pressure on him and forced him into three turnovers. Something changed along the way, though, as the Eagles suddenly weren't getting any pressure on Collins in the second half and he was given time to find the open receivers. The receiver he found most often was Britt, who went off to the tune of 7 catches for 225 yards, an impressive total considering he didn't get any snaps in the first half. While Britt isn't an elite wideout, he made Ellis Hobbs look ridiculous play after play, burning him for huge chunks of yards at a time.

Kevin Kolb made Andy Reid's decision about who the starting quarterback should be easier by putting together a miserable performance, completing 26 of 48 passes for 231 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Kolb didn't look comfortable all game long, overthrowing receivers and making a number of poor decisions. While the offensive line didn't do him any favors, Kolb simply looked like a shell of the quarterback that dominated the Falcons last week.

Following the game, Reid announced that Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback for the Eagles after they return from the bye. Given that the game is against the Colts, Reid is certainly going to have to get right to work trying to prepare this team to bounce back from an ugly loss. Hopefully this loss motivates them for the next two weeks and gets them looking much more like the team that dominated Atlanta just one week ago.

It was a rough weekend for Philly sports fans, what with the Phillies losing on Saturday and the Eagles 4th quarter collapse. I certainly feel like I just took two punches to the gut and it's going to take a while to recover. With no Eagles for two weeks and the Phillies done until March, hopefully the Flyers and the start of the Sixers season will be enough to distract us from the lingering pain. Such is the life of a sports fan, where only one fanbase is truly happy at the end of every season. Keep the faith, Philly fans.

Eagles vs. Titans: Week 7 inactives: Vick 3rd QB

The Eagles and Titans have announced their inactives for this week:

Eagles: DT Brodrick Bunkley, LB Keenan Clayton, TE Clay Harbor, RB Jerome Harrison, WR DeSean Jackson, CB Trevard Lindley, LT Jason Peters, QB Michael Vick

Titans: DT Tony Brown, LB Rennie Curran, OL Ryan Durand, WR Justin Gage, S Robert Johnson, OL Tony Kropog, CB Jason McCourty, QB Rusty Smith

No real surprises for the Eagles, as Jackson, Bunkley and Peters were all announced as out earlier in the week. There was debate over whether Michael Vick would be the backup or third string quarterback; apparently he's still not quite healthy enough to contribute even in his old part time role. Harrison is once again inactive for the Eagles as he continues to learn the offense.

Kerry Collins will be the starting quarterback for the Titans, Vince Young will be the backup.

After a rough loss by the Phillies yesterday, I think we all need an Eagles win today. GO BIRDS!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Phillies bounced as bats fall silent

Somehow, this one hurts a little more than the loss to the Yankees last year. In a dramatic, gut-wrenchingly close game, the Phillies lost Game 6 to the Giants, 3-2, and have been eliminated. From start to finish in this game, as in seemingly every game in the series, the Phillies and the Giants went back and forth, trading big strikeouts and tough outs from their relief pitchers until Ryan Howard was struck out looking on a pitch he had no business not swinging at.

Say what you will about the Giants but they were the perfect foil for the Phillies, with their tremendous bullpen and their ability to come up with clutch hit after clutch hit. While on paper, their offense seems like nothing, they had a knack for having a nameless player step up with a huge hit, like Juan Uribe in Game 6. Of course, while the Giants deserve plenty of crediting for beating the Phillies, that doesn't mean I'm going to root for them in the World Series. Go Rangers!

So ends another Phillies season in disappointing fashion. While it hurts right now, it's important to look at the big picture and remember that this team is set up nicely for next year, as everyone besides Jayson Werth is coming back. At any rate, we'll always have 2008.
(AP PHOTO)

Scott Hartnell gets a haircut

Looks like a completely different person, doesn't he? Perhaps in an effort to change his luck this season (1 goal, 1 assist, -2 through 6 games), Scott Hartnell chopped off his flowing orange mane. It can only help his speed on the ice, right? Photo via @NHLFlyers on Twitter.

Friday, October 22, 2010

All Business: NFL Week 7 Predictions

Since I'm concentrating on the Phillies right now, I've got no fancy intro this week, so let's get right to the Week 7 picks. Remember, picks this year are made against the spread and I'll be using the spread values that ESPN uses in their Pigskin Pick'em game. One of these days my overall record will get above .500.

Record Last Week: 6-8, .429
Overall Record: 42-48, .467

Byes:
Colts, Jets, Lions, Texans

Sunday Day Games:

Bengals (2-3) @ Falcons (4-2, -3.5)
One of the biggest surprises last week was how bad the Falcons looked against the Eagles. Look for them to bounce back nicely against a weak Bengals team. My pick: Falcons

Redskins (3-3) @ Bears (4-2, -2.5)
It's time for the Bears record to start reflecting how badly they've played this season. I'm not crazy about the Redskins either, but consider them the lesser of two evils in this game. My pick: Redskins

Eagles (4-2) @ Titans (4-2, -3.5)
After not being impressed with the Titans on Monday night, I like the Eagles chances in this one. While they may not pull out the win, Kevin Kolb and the Birds should keep it close. Remember, every time the Eagles starting quarterback finishes the game, they win. My pick: Eagles

Jaguars (3-3) @ Chiefs (3-2, -5.5)
After how horrible the Jaguars looked on Monday Night, there is no way I'm going to pick them. How did they beat the Colts again? My pick: Chiefs

Steelers (4-1) @ Dolphins (3-2, +3.5)
While the Steelers will probably win, expect a low-scoring, hard-fought game. Or, you know, the exact opposite. My pick: Dolphins

Browns (1-5) @ Saints (4-2, -13.5)
That's a big line but I like what I saw from the Saints offense last week. The Browns really have nothing going for them, though they did make things a little interesting, spread wise, against the Steelers. My pick: Saints

Rams (3-3) @ Bucs (3-2, -2.5)
These are the two most surprising teams in the NFC, mostly surprising because they aren't as terrible as we thought they would be. I like the Bucs to win by a field goal. My pick: Bucs

Niners (1-5) @ Panthers (0-5, +3.5)
The reason people keep saying the Niners still have a chance to win the division is their schedule. Not only do they get to play their weak divisional opponents, but they have games like this one against the crappy Panthers. My pick: Niners

Bills (0-5) @ Ravens (4-2, -13.5)
The Bills suck. My pick: Ravens

Cardinals (3-2) @ Seahawks (3-2, -5.5)
Whoo boy, what a showdown between the beasts of the NFC West! Given how incredibly mediocre both teams are, I really could go either way on this one, so I'll just go with the home team. My pick: Seahawks

Patriots (4-1) @ Chargers (3-2, -2.5)
This one is easily the best game of the week. While it's nearly impossible to predict which Chargers team will show up, I think they get up for this home game and pull out a close win. My pick: Chargers

Raiders (2-4) @ Broncos (2-4, -6.5)
Who's going to start at quarterback for the Raiders? Does it matter? Boy, even a 4th rounder was too much to give up for Jason Campbell. My pick: Broncos

Sunday Night Game:

Vikings (2-3) @ Packers (3-3, -2.5)
Some of the luster has come off this game but it's still Brett Favre returning to Lambeau, so it should be fun. While the Packers have hardly been impressive this year, they are starting to show signs of turning around the offense. Hopefully Randy Moss doesn't moon the crowd. My pick: Packers

Monday Night Game:

Giants (4-2) @ Cowboys (1-4, -3.5)
The Cowboys try to stave off irrelevance by beating a Giants team that might be the best in the NFC right now. I like the Cowboys to win but only be a field goal in this tough NFC East matchup. You don't have to say goodbye to the playoffs just yet, Dallas. My pick: Giants

Those are my picks for Week 7 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!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still alive: Phillies escape San Francisco with win

We're coming back to Philly! After a tight Game 5 that saw the Phillies edge the Giants, 4-2, to stave off elimination, it appears that we have a series again. Apparently there is a reason we call them the Fightin' Phils.

Roy Halladay didn't have his best stuff but he still put forth a good effort, giving the Phillies 6 innings while allowing just 2 runs. While he uncharacteristically worked himself into several 3 ball counts and even walked two batters, Halladay never backed down, battling through a few tough jams to stave off any big Giant rallies. Even more impressive in the game was the Phillies bullpen, as Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge pitched the final 3 innings and gave up only 1 hit, walked none and struck out 5. Madson gave the Phillies the best inning of the night in the 8th, when he struck out the three most dangerous Giants hitters in Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross.

Offensively, the Phillies were opportunistic in the third inning when they used a single, a hit by pitch, a strange looking sacrifice bunt, an error and another single to plate three runs against Tim Lincecum. Jayson Werth also added an opposite field homer in the top of the 9th for insurance.

With the series now shifting back to Philadelphia for Games 6 and 7, things are about to get real interesting. As we've said all along, the Phillies rotation is set up perfectly with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels ready to take the mound. While there might be some concern over Oswalt after he was used in Game 4, he's a gamer and he'll get his arm where it needs to be. This series is far from over, Phillies fans.
(AP PHOTO)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Phillies pushed to the brink after Game 4 loss

These pesky Giants just won't let up. Entering the NLCS, all of the talk about the Giants centered around how they sure can pitch but they really can't hit. Well, 4 games into the NLCS, the Giants have proven they have some great pitching and they sure have a knack for getting clutch hits.

With the Phillies now facing elimination after losing Game 4 in the bottom of the 9th, it's hard to muster up too many positive things to say about them. With the bats really not doing much, the only hope left to hang our hats on is the fact that the Phillies have Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels pitching in Game 5, 6 and 7. While the Giants will be countering with some strong pitchers of their own, you can't ask for a better trio of starting pitchers than what the Phillies are putting out there.

Of course, it doesn't matter who the Phillies have on the mound if the offense isn't producing, so hopefully the spark of offense we saw in Game 4 will carry over. Things may seem grim, Phillies fans, but this series isn't over, as anyone who followed the Flyers last season know. Keep the faith!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Phillies offense flops as Giants take 2-1 series lead

Baseball is a simple game: no matter how good your pitching is, you can't win if you don't score runs. Such was the case for the Phillies today, who got a quality start from Cole Hamels but failed to do anything with the bats in a 3-0 Game 3 loss to the Giants.

For the first time since the 1983 World Series, the Phillies were shutout in the playoffs. Matt Cain was dominant for the Giants, allowing just 2 hits and walking 3 across 7 innings of work. The Phillies had their chances, like in the 2nd and 7th innings when they had two runners on base, but they just couldn't come up with the key hit. Really, save for a Jimmy Rollins single in the 9th inning, the Phillies just didn't make good contact at all.

Hamels actually put together a decent start, giving up 3 runs in 6 innings while striking out 8 batters. He had good stuff throughout the game but he got burned by a few grounders that found holes and a bad defensive play by Chase Utley. Phillie-killer Cody Ross of course made his presence felt again, singling in the first run of the game in the 4th.

The Giants now lead the series, 2-1, but it's hardly time to panic. While we haven't seen him in a while, Joe Blanton is a competent pitcher and the Phillies should be able to get some runs off of rookie Madison Bumgarner. Should the Phillies find get a win in Game 4, I like their chances with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hamels taking the mound for Games 5, 6 and 7. Of course, entering the series, I would have never guessed that the Phillies would have lost Games 1 and 3 with Halladay and Hamels on the mound, but there is reason to expect them to be better the second time they face the Giants.

Sure, the Phillies are in the unfamiliar position of trailing in a series after 3 games. Sure, their offense looked terrible today. From what we have seen this team do the last few years, however, you have to keep faith that they will turn things around. Despite what you have seen the last 3 games, the Phillies are still the better team in this series. I still believe!
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Flyers' Walker to have surgery, miss 10 to 12 weeks

This won't make the people that hated the Simon Gagne trade any happier. The Flyers announced that Matt Walker, who was acquired in the offseason from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Gagne, will be out 10 to 12 weeks after he has hip surgery on Wednesday. Walker, who has yet to play a game for the Flyers this season, suffered the injury in a preseason game.

If the Flyers were going to lose a player for two months, it might as well be their 7th defenseman. Given the depth at the defense position, where the Flyers have six steady contributors and Oskars Bartulis as an extra, they probably won't miss Walker much, if at all. The fact that Walker makes 1.7 million and was the "key" piece in the Gagne deal is somewhat depressing but the Flyers should be just fine without him.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kevin Kolb likely to start in Week 7

And the Eagles quarterback carousel continues to turn. After his performance on Sunday, you knew that all of the talk this week would be about whether Kevin Kolb should be the starting quarterback for the Eagles. Well, according to Andy Reid, it appears Kolb will get the nod for next week.

In his day after press conference, Reid said that there is a "pretty good chance" that Kolb will be the starter again this week, speculating that Michael Vick wasn't going to be healthy enough to be effective. Given that the Eagles have a bye after their Week 7 game against the Titans, it makes sense for them to let Vick rest for two more weeks before they throw him back out there. Besides, Kolb proved he was more than capable of leading the offense.

With the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday, Reid also addressed the notion that the team might trade one of their quarterbacks, saying that he wouldn't entertain any trade offers at this time. While we know not to believe everything Reid says, it sounds like he's content with having two good quarterbacks despite the fact that Vick's trade value would never be higher than it is right now.

In other injury news, Reid said that DeSean Jackson would likely be out this week. Given the bye coming in Week 8, it makes sense for Jackson to rest up and hope he can come back for Week 9.
(AP PHOTO)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oswalt dominates as Phillies even series

That's more like it. Behind a strong pitching performance by Roy Oswalt, the Phillies cruised past the Giants in Game 2, winning 6-1 and evening up the NLCS at one game apiece. While it wasn't a must-win game, the win certainly put the Phillies right back on track after dropping Game 1.

Oswalt was on point all game long, going 8 innings, striking out 9 while allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks with his only blemish coming when Cody Ross inexplicably hit his third homer of the series. While he did hit a few rough patches here and there, Oswalt stuck to throwing strikes (71 of his 111 pitches) and letting the defense do the work when he wasn't getting swings and misses. Oswalt didn't just contribute on the mound, though, as he had a key single and hustled home to score an insurance run in the 7th inning. This Roy certainly proved that the Phillies have the best trio of starting pitchers in baseball.

Despite being stymied by Jonathan Sanchez for most of the night, the Phillies offense awoke just in time to widen the lead in a 7th inning rally where they picked up 4 runs. The big hit for the night came off the bat of Jimmy Rollins, who broke out of his postseason funk with a bases loaded double that plated 3 runs. While the Phillies are still struggling to string together hits against the tough Giants pitching, it was nice to see them finally break through with some key hits when they needed insurance runs in the late innings.

With the series now shifting to San Francisco, the Phillies have washed away the bad feelings left from the Game 1 loss. With the dominant Cole Hamels set to take the mound in Game 3, the Phillies are in an excellent position to jump out to a lead in the series. While the Giants are a tough team to piece together runs against, a few more dominating pitching performances like tonight and the Phils will be preparing for their third straight World Series appearance. 7 more wins to go!
(Photo by Matt Slocum/Pool/Getty Images)

Report: DeSean Jackson had severe concussion, memory loss

The initial report is almost as ugly as the hit looked. According to FOX reporter Jay Glazer (via ProFootballTalk), DeSean Jackson suffered a "severe concussion" and also had some memory loss when he was knocked out by Dunta Robinson. Given how long Jackson laid motionless on the field, he's fortunate to not be in a worse condition.

Don't count on seeing DeSean Jackson back with the Eagles any time soon. Just to begin running again, Jackson will need to be cleared by an independent doctor. While it's too early to speculate exactly how many weeks he will be out, I wouldn't be surprised if Jackson misses a month.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Kolb shines as Eagles rip Falcons

Okay, who saw this one coming? Entering Week 6, the Falcons were considered by many to be the best team in the NFC. The Eagles, on the other hand, nearly blew a game against a winless team in Week 5. So, as I'm sure everyone expected, the Eagles dominated the entire game as they whipped the Falcons 31-17.

The Eagles started quick against the Falcons, stuffing them on their first three plays before needing just two plays of their own to score the first touchdown just two minutes into the game. DeSean Jackson was the star early on, taking an end around 31 yards for the first touchdown and then scoring a 34 yard touchdown receiving on the Eagles very next drive. Things turned bad quickly for Jackson, however, after he was on the receiving end of an ugly helmet to helmet hit by Dunta Robinson. It was a scary few moments as both Jackson and Robinson lay motionless on the field, though both were able to walk off with some assistance. Jackson clearly got knocked out and I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles were without him for a week or two.

Even with Jackson out of the game, the Eagles offense didn't miss a beat. Kevin Kolb played the best game of his career, completing 23 of 29 passes for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kolb really showed another dimension in the game, taking some shots down the field when he had time and showing off his strong, accurate arm. In possibly the best play of the game, Kolb connected on a beautiful deep pass to Jeremy Maclin that turned into an 83 yard touchdown. With Michael Vick likely healthy enough to return next week and Kolb playing this well, we may have another quarterback controversy on our hands. At the very least, Kolb played well enough to throw his name into the discussion for who should be the starting quarterback.

As for the Eagles defense, they met every challenge that Atlanta presented. The Falcons running game, one of the best in the league, struggled to get anything going, amassing just 65 yards on 19 carries. The Falcons also have Tony Gonzalez and we all know how the Eagles struggle against tight ends, but Gonzalez was bottled up for most of the game, although he did do some damage in the red zone. Even the Falcons top receiving threat, Roddy White, was neutralized for most of the game, only picking up big yardage when the game was over.

In all, an impressive win for the Eagles against a very good Falcons team. A few missed David Akers field goals aside, the Eagles played nearly a perfect football game, executing their solid gameplan and beating up on the Falcons on both sides of the ball. While it's hard to get a gauge on this Eagles team, if they play like this every week, few teams in the NFL can beat them. At 4-2 after 6 weeks and the bye week coming after a tough Week 7 matchup in Tennesse, the Eagles are in a strong position to contend for a playoff spot. With a brutal schedule coming after the bye, there is still plenty of time for this season to go sour, but for now, the Eagles are showing they have plenty to play for this season.

Eagles vs. Falcons: Week 6 inactives: Vick 3rd QB

The Eagles and Falcons announced their inactive players for Week 6:

Eagles: DT Brodrick Bunkley, LB Keenan Clayton, WR Riley Cooper, TE Clay Harbor, RB Jerome Harrison, CB Trevard Lindley, LT Jason Peters, QB Michael Vick

Falcons: CB Dominique Franks, RB Gartrell Johnson, G Mike Johnson, DT Trey Lewis, T Garrett Reynolds, DE Lawrence Sidbury, LB Sean Weatherspoon, QB John Parker Wilson

There are a few surprises on the Eagles inactive list, including Lindley getting benched and Cooper not suiting up despite practicing this week. With Cooper out, Chad Hall gets to be the 4th wide receiver once again. As expected, Michael Vick won't be playing this week as he will be the emergency third quarterback. If Kevin Kolb has any hope of taking over the starting gig, he's going to have to be brilliant today. Both Bunkley and Peters are likely out for the next few weeks. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim will get his first playing time with the Eagles and will likely see some time at defensive tackle with Bunkley out. The Eagles must feel that the recently acquired Harrison will need more time to learn the offense so they will use Eldra Buckley at backup running back this week.

Another big Philly Sports Sunday. Go Birds and Phillies!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lincecum outduels Halladay as Giants win Game 1

As Phillies fans, we're used to seeing the Phillies, who had won 7 straight Game 1's heading into the series, taking an early lead in every playoff series. It didn't happen in Game 1 of the NLCS this year, however, as the Giants edged the Phillies, 4-3.

The game was hyped as a showdown between the two best pitchers in the game but it didn't quite live up to that billing. While both Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay went deep into the game, each pitching 7 innings, neither was particularly sharp, with Lincecum finding himself in several early jams and Halladay uncharacteristically giving up a pair of homers to a very average player. In the end, Lincecum was just slightly more effective than Halladay, as he gave up fewer hits (6 to 8), struck out more batters (8 to 7) and ultimately gave up fewer runs.

Halladay started the game right where he left off in the first round, mowing down the first 7 Giants batters he faced. He quickly lost his no-hitter and even his shutout from there, however, as Cody Ross drilled a ball over the left field wall. Halladay did manage to settle down nicely, at least until Ross shockingly took him deep again in the 5th inning. How a journeyman like Ross, a former Marlin castoff, managed to hit two blasts off of Halladay is perplexing to say the least.

The Phillies offense all came from the longball tonight as Carlos Ruiz hit a solo homer in the 3rd and Jayson Werth hit a 2-run shot in the 6th. As they have been for more of the postseason, the Phillies bats were mostly quiet, as Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez all went a combined 0 for 12 with 6 strikeouts. I wondered if we should be worried about the Phillies offense after their anemic showing the first round and nothing that happened tonight makes me feel more confident about how the team is swinging the bats.

While it's an unfamiliar position for the Phillies to trail in a series after Game 1, it's important to remember that it's just one game. Sure, Lincecum didn't pitch like an ace, but when he gets any kind of run support at all he doesn't lose. The Phillies are postseason veterans who will regroup and will put this loss behind them. They know that a win in Game 2 against Jonathan Sanchez erases the sour taste from Game 1.

Still 8 more wins to go for the Phillies and I still believe.
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Phillies vs. Giants: NLCS breakdown

With the NLCS finally set to start tomorrow, it's time to take a closer look at how the Giants stack up against the Phillies. We all know about the Giants pitching but do they have enough bats to keep up with the Phillies? Here is my breakdown of the two teams, position-by-position:

Starting Pitching:
Phillies: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton
Giants: Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner

The strength of both teams lie in their starting rotations. Against any other team in the league, each of these teams would have a huge advantage over the opposition but when compared to one another, it's pretty much a wash. Right off the bat, the first game figures to be an epic showdown that features the 2009 NL Cy Young winner against the presumptive 2010 Cy Young winner. Trying to discern who is better between Halladay and Lincecum is a pointless exercise; they are both ridiculously good and will be mowing everyone down in Game 1. As for Game 2, a case can be made that Sanchez, a lefty who has stymied the Phillies in the past, is actually better than Oswalt, who struggled against the Giants this year. With the way Hamels has been pitching lately, I don't think many can ague that he's better than Cain, though the gap isn't really that wide. That leaves things even heading into Game 4, where Blanton and Bumgarner are the starters for now, although that could change depending on where the series stands at that point. While Bumgarner will probably be the better pitcher in the long run, right now, it's hard to say he's better than Blanton, who has come up big in the postseason in the past. It's almost impossible to definitively say one team has better starting pitching than the other. Edge: Even

Bullpen:
Phillies: Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin
Giants: Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez

The Phillies bullpen basically got to nap through the first round but you can bet they will be put to the test in this longer series. This is still the Phillies biggest weakness, given that there are still plenty of questions as to whether Lidge will be able to hold things down in the 9th. Just about the only bullpen piece that no one questions is Madson, who is dependable night in and night out. As for the Giants, they have an incredibly deep pen that did struggle at times against the Braves in the NLDS but they came through in the series clincher. Although Wilson doesn't exactly scare anyone, the Giants do have plenty of hard throwers and lefty options like Lopez and Jeremy Affedlt that should give Ryan Howard and the Phillies lefty bats fits. Edge: Giants

Catcher:
Phillies: Carlos Ruiz
Giants: Buster Posey

Posey is quickly establishing himself as one of the best hitting catchers in the league while Ruiz continues to be the best number 8 hitter I can think of and is still very reliable behind the plate. While Posey is certainly the more talented player, Ruiz makes things even with his defense and his penchant for coming up with big hits in the playoffs. Edge: Even

Infield:
Phillies: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco
Giants: Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Pablo Sandoval

As a whole, both infields are solid defensively but when you start looking at the bats, the Phillies clearly have the edge. At first base, Howard didn't have his best year this year but he's still a more dangerous hitter than Huff, who may be the Giants best hitter. At second base, there is no one better than Utley when he is healthy and Sanchez is no exception. If Sanchez still produced like he did back in 2006 and 2007 when he was with the Pirates, there would be more of an argument to be made. As for the shortstops, while Uribe does have some pop in his bat, even in his best year he's still not much better than a hobbled Rollins, who jumps way ahead of him when you take into account his defense. Finally, at third, the Giants will probably use both Sandoval and Mike Fontenot, which tells you a lot about how far the Kung Fu Panda has fallen after his breakthrough season last year. Polanco is much better with the bat than either option. The Phillies big advantage over the Giants in the infield could be their key to winning the series. Edge: Phillies

Outfield:
Phillies: Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth
Giants: Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Cody Ross

None of the names in the Giants outfield scare anyone, from cast-offs like Burrell and Ross to Torres, who had a great season but isn't exactly someone you are afraid of when he steps to the plate. At best, Burrell is just about as good as Ibanez and Torres and Victorino are a wash, but no matter how you look at the right field situation, the Phillies come out way ahead with Werth. Factor in defense, where Burrell and Ross don't cover much ground in the corners, and the Phillies have another pretty solid advantage. Edge: Phillies

Bench:

Phillies: Ross Gload, Ben Francisco, Wilson Valdez
Giants: Mike Fontenot, Edgar Renteria, Aaron Rowand, Travis Ishikawa

Neither team has much to brag about on the bench, though the Giants will actually start some of these guys in a game or two. While some Phillies fans might be excited to see our old friend Aaron Rowand in the series, keep in mind he's just a shell of his former self and he won't be running into walls any time soon. Don't expect anything more than a few pinch hit at-bats from the Phillies bench. Edge: Giants

Manager:
Phillies: Charlie Manuel
Giants: Bruce Bochy

Bochy has done a fine job to get a very one-dimensional team this far into the playoffs but he might not have enough weapons at his disposal to manage his way past the Phillies. As for Manuel, he seems to step his game up in the playoffs and has yet to make a bad decision, though he really hasn't had to do much yet. As always, the edge has to go to the guy with the ring. Edge: Phillies

My prediction:

On paper, the Phillies have the advantage in this series at the plate, where they have a lineup that goes eight deep and can put up runs against any pitcher. While the Giants may have a slight advantage in the pitching department, when you look at their lineup, it's hard to fathom how they are going to get any run production against the Phillies three aces. Since 3 runs might be all you need to win a game in this series, I have to go with the Phillies in 6, since their offense is capable of exploding at any time. As for how the series plays out, I like the Phillies to win Game 1, lose Game 2, win Game 3, lose Game 4 and then win Game 5 before wrapping up the series at home in Game 6.

We are just four wins away from a third straight trip to the World Series for the Phillies. In the modern era, it's extremely difficult for a team to get to the World Series in two straight years, so the fact that the Phillies have put themselves in a position for a third trip speaks to the dynasty that they might be building. It's safe to say that there has never been a better time to be a Phillies fan.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Flyers pay tribute to Simon Gagne

To pay tribute to Simon Gagne, who made his return to Philadelphia as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flyers showed an awesome video:

The video debuted during the first period and received a huge standing ovation from the entire crowd. And I thought Philly fans were all supposed to be jerks?

No one's perfect: NFL Week 6 Predictions

We are only 6 weeks into the NFL season and, with the Chiefs losing to the Colts, there are no undefeated teams left. The '72 Dolphins may be celebrating but it's really a clear indication that parity is alive and well. Any team can beat any other team, which means you don't have to explain why the Cardinals can beat the defending Super Bowl Champs while playing a quarterback that no one has ever heard of. It's parity, and it fuels the gambling industry and is the reason why fans from every team tune in because they know their team has a chance to win every week. The people that run the NFL aren't dummies.

Here are my picks for Week 6. 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. One of these days my overall record will get above .500.

Record Last Week: 5-9, .357
Overall Record: 36-40, .474

Byes:
Bengals, Bills, Cardinals, Panthers

Sunday Day Games:

Seahawks (2-2) @ Bears (4-1, -6.5)

With Jay Cutler back and Todd Collins (thankfully) relegated to a third string role, the Bears offense should come back alive this week. Are the Seahawks really good enough to be trading away wide receivers? My pick: Bears

Ravens (4-1) @ Patriots (3-1, -2.5)
I like the Ravens to win this one outright against a Patriots team that, from the Randy Moss trade, has signified that this isn't going to be their year. If the Ravens want to take that next step to be a Super Bowl contender, this game is a must-win. My pick: Ravens

Lions (1-4) @ Giants (3-2, -10.5)

The Giants seem to be better than they showed against the Colts back in Week 2, but, 10.5 point favorites? Really? Shockingly, I believe in Shaun Hill and the Lions offense and their ability to keep this one close. My pick: Lions

Falcons (4-1) @ Eagles (3-2, -1.5)
I threw out this nugget on Twitter this week: the Eagles haven't lost a game this season when their starting quarterback has played the entire game. Given that King Dunlap will be the Eagles starting left tackle this week for an injured Jason Peters, the chances of Kevin Kolb surviving this game have greatly diminished. The only way the Eagles cover in this game is if the grumblings about Michael Vick playing against his former team are true. My pick: Falcons

Browns (1-4) @ Steelers (3-1, -13.5)
Are we really sure that Ben Roethlisberger is going to just pick up where he left off? The Browns might be the best team to make a comeback against but I still think the Steelers aren't just going to blow Cleveland away. My pick: Browns

Dolphins (2-2) @ Packers (3-2, -1.5)

Who I pick in this game entirely hinges on whether Aaron Rodgers plays. At this point in the week, since all indications are that Matt Flynn will be starting in Green Bay, I have to go with Miami. My pick: Dolphins

Chargers (2-3) @ Rams (2-3, +8.5)

I wish I could say I was surprised that the Chargers lost to the Raiders, but given how inconsistent San Diego is from week to week and season to season, nothing surprises me about this team. I see the roller coaster going back up this week for the Chargers. My pick: Chargers

Saints (3-2) @ Bucs (3-1, +5.5)

With the strong start the Bucs have put together, this is suddenly a very interesting divisional game. The Saints have to get the offense rolling again at some point, right? My pick: Saints

Chiefs (3-1) @ Texans (3-2, -4.5)
Now that they have taken their first loss of the season, the joyride is over for the Chiefs. Like the Chargers, you never know which Texans team will show up from week to week. As long as Andre Johnson turns the corner and starts getting his legs back, the Texans will remain in the playoff mix. My pick: Texans

Raiders (2-3) @ Niners (0-5, -6.5)
The Battle of the Bay sees the roles reversed as the Niners are the team desperate for a win while the Raiders are looking to become contenders in their division. I like the Niners to win but that line is ridiculously high. My pick: Raiders

Jets (4-1) @ Broncos (2-3, +3.5)
This should be an interesting game as the Jets defense tries to slow down the Denver passing attack. Expect the Sanchise to do some serious ball control and the defense to get all over Kyle Orton and keep the Broncos from getting into a rhythm. My pick: Jets

Cowboys (1-3) @ Vikings (1-3, -1.5)
Is it too soon to say that the loser is out of the NFC playoff picture? Given how weak the top of the NFC looks this year, probably not, but starting off 1-4 is going to make things very difficult for one of these teams. I don't trust either quarterback in this game but I do trust Adrian Peterson. My pick: Vikings

Sunday Night Game:

Colts (3-2) @ Redskins (3-2, +3.5)
Peyton Manning had a bad week last week. That won't happen again. The Redskins have playing over their heads and it's time for reality to set in. My pick: Colts

Monday Night Game:

Titans (3-2) @ Jaguars (3-2, +3.5)
It's pretty amazing that the entire AFC South division is 3-2, mostly because no one though the Jaguars would ever be above .500. This one should be low-scoring but I like Chris Johnson to break a few long runs. My pick: Titans

Those are my picks for Week 6 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!
(AP PHOTO)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eagles acquire Jerome Harrison for Mike Bell

Not satisified with their running back depth, the Eagles have made a strong move to upgrade the position, dealing RB Mike Bell to the Browns for RB Jerome Harrison. While the deal basically boils down to a swap of backup running backs, the Birds clearly got the better back in the deal.

Harrison, a 5 year veteran, is a former 5th round pick out of Washington State. He had his best year last year, where he racked up 862 yards on 4.4 yards per carry as the Browns primary back. He has struggled a bit this season, picking up only 91 yards on 2.9 yards per carry, and has lost playing time to Peyton Hillis. Given an opportunity, Harrison figures to be a good fit for the Eagles backfield as he has good hands and has some big play ability.

As for Bell, he has been nothing but a disappointment for the Eagles this season, averaging only 1.9 yards per carry on just a few touches a game. Bell was signed in the offseason with the intention that he would be a short yardage back, only he never proved capable of getting the tough yards.

Given how poor he has looked running the ball this year, I'm surprised the Eagles got anything in return for Bell, let alone a running back with some actual upside like Harrison. While I wouldn't expect Harrison to get anything more than a few touches a game, he will certainly do more with those touches than Bell could have ever done. A great deal for the Eagles and a definite admission that they made a mistake when they signed Bell to be the backup.

Eagles injury update: Vick likely out, Bunkley's season may not be over

The theme for this Eagles season is injuries, so why wouldn't there be another huge injury update this week? Andy Reid held a press conference today that mostly covered the laundry list of injured players.

Michael Vick doesn't sound likely to play this week against the Falcons, given that he is still feeling sore from his rib injury and he has yet to resume throwing. Reid still refers to Vick as day to day but if he isn't even throwing yet, I don't see how he'll be ready to play this weekend. Expect another start from Kevin Kolb.

In other offensive player news, left tackle Jason Peters will also be out this week as he has surgery on a meniscus tear. This isn't a major operation so he won't be sidelined for a long stretch of time, but I wouldn't count on him back on the field for a week or two. In his place, King Dunlap gets the start at left tackle. While I'm not a huge fan of Peters and his multiple penalties per game, Dunlap still represents a big downgrade at LT.

Also recovering from injuries for the Eagles are LeSean McCoy and Todd Herremans, who are sore but will likely practice tomorrow. The Eagles offense can't afford to be without McCoy, it's MVP. Riley Cooper and Asante Samuel have been cleared to practice and should play this week.

As for other good news, it appears that Brodrick Bunkley won't miss the season as he will attempt to rehab his elbow injury rather than have surgery. That means that practice squad rookie Jeff Owens will have to remain on the practice squad despite rumors circulating that he was going to be added to the roster.

That's a whole lot of injuries. Remind me why the NFL wants to expand to an 18 game season again?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Phillies vs. Giants: NLCS Schedule

The schedule is set for the Phillies third straight NLCS appearance. The pitchers for each game have also yet to be announced, but it's a safe bet that we'll see Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Halladay in an epic Game 1.

Game 1: Saturday, October 16th: Giants (Lincecum) @ Phillies (Halladay), 7:57 pm

Game 2: Sunday, October 17th: Giants @ Phillies, 8:19 pm

Game 3: Tuesday, October 19th: Phillies @ Giants, 4:19 pm

Game 4: Wednesday, October 20th: Phillies @ Giants, 7:57 pm

Game 5: Thursday, October 21st: Phillies @ Giants, 7:57 pm

Game 6: Saturday, October 23rd: Giants @ Phillies, 3:57 pm

Game 7: Sunday, October 24th: Giants @ Phillies, 7:57 pm

Bring on the Giants! The Phillies have their NLCS opponent

With their defeat of the Braves on Monday night, the Giants have moved on to the NLCS and will now take on the Phillies. Given their penchant for strong starting pitching, expect a few low-scoring games. Also, expect Pat Burrell to get booed this time around.

The series starts on Saturday with Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum the likely starters. I'll have a series preview up in a few days.

Eagles likely lose Brodrick Bunkley for the season

Add another player to the growing list of injured Eagles: according to Andy Reid, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley is likely out for the year. Bunkley, who suffered an elbow injury last night against the Niners, is going to have surgery on his elbow that should keep him sidelined for the rest of this year but will not end his career.

In Bunkley's absence, Antonio Dixon will likely step into a starting defensive tackle spot opposite of Mike Patterson. Dixon has been good in small doses so we will see if he can handle an expanded role. Look for the other backup DT, Trevor Laws, to also get some extra snaps with Bunkley out.

As for good Eagles injury news, Reid said that he expected concussion victims Asante Samuel and Riley Cooper to be ready to play next week against the Falcons. With the way the Eagles secondary looked against the Niners, Samuel is going to be needed if the Eagles want to contain Roddy White of Atlanta.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sweep! Hamels dominates as Phillies move on to NLCS

Another game, another dominating performance by a Phillies pitcher. Another year, another NLCS appearance for the Phillies.

Cole Hamels, doing his best Roy Halladay impersonation, dominated the Reds, going the distance in a 5-hit complete game shutout as the Phillies defeated the Reds, 2-0, and completed their first postseason sweep in team history. Hamels was brilliant all night, striking out 9 Reds on 119 pitches and walking none. It was about as smooth a performance as you can ask for as Hamels never had to work his way out of any tricky jams, although he did force the NL MVP Joey Votto to ground into a double play in the 9th inning.

As for the Phillies offense, there wasn't much to speak of. They got their first run in the first inning when Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera made an errant throw to first base that allowed Placido Polanco to score and the second run came on a Chase Utley solo shot. The Phils did manage 8 hits on the night, though, and they also had a lot of hard hit balls that just didn't fall in, so there shouldn't be a sense of panic about the hitters.

The Phillies now move on to their third straight NLCS appearance and will face either the Giants or the Braves, with the Giants currently holding a 2-1 series lead. While neither team is particularly scary, the Giants do have a formidable pitching staff that could shut down the Phillies bats. Of course, the Phillies also have some pretty darn good pitchers themselves, with the big three aces ready to take the mound for Games 1, 2 and 3 in the NLCS. With the way they are pitching, it's hard to imagine anyone stopping the Phillies this postseason. 8 more wins to go!
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Eagles edge Niners in sloppy Sunday night game

It wasn't pretty, but I'm pretty sure the Eagles will take a win any way they can get it. In a sloppy Sunday Night game, the Eagles barely edged the Niners, 27-24, in a game filled with turnovers and mental mistakes.

Kevin Kolb had a strong first half for the Eagles, completing nearly all of his passes as he led the Eagles on three scoring drives. In the second half, things didn't quite go as smoothly, as Kolb was erratic and the Eagles offense failed to score a touchdown. While he didn't have any interceptions, Kolb did force a few passes into coverage and was still reluctant to look more than a few yards downfield even when he had time to make a throw. It's safe to say, while he did have his moments, Kolb didn't do enough to earn back the starting job from Michael Vick.

Of course, the glue that's holding the Eagles offense together right now is LeSean McCoy, who, broken ribs and all, rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown and added 46 yards receiving. For most of the night, McCoy was the best player on the field, darting through whatever small holes the line created and often picking up an extra yard or two after contact. While he did make a mental error late in the game, falling down before picking up a critical 1st down, McCoy gets a pass because of how dynamic he was throughout the night.

As for the Eagles defense, they did an excellent job shutting down Frank Gore, who managed only 52 yards on 18 carries, but they gave up way too many yards in the passing game and made Niners quarterback Alex Smith actually look competent. Clearly the Birds were missing Asante Samuel because whenever Smith had time to throw, he picked the Eagles secondary apart. Although the Eagles did manage to pick him off twice, if Smith was anything better than just a below-average quarterback, the Eagles would have been in serious trouble.

The win puts the Eagles at 3-2 as they head back home to take on a good Atlanta team. If they want to beat the Falcons, they are going to have to play much better than they did on Sunday night. With the schedule that gets incredibly difficult after their Week 7 bye, the Eagles are going to have to be better on both sides of the ball if they want to stay competitive.
(AP PHOTO)

Eagles vs. Niners Week 5 inactives

The Eagles and Niners announced their inactives for their Sunday Night contest:

Eagles: RB Joique Bell, LB Keenan Clayton, WR Riley Cooper, TE Clay Harbor, OT Austin Howard, CB Asante Samuel, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, QB Michael Vick

Niners: T Alex Boone, CB Tramaine Brock, C Eric Heitmann, WR Jason Hill, T Barry Sims, QB Troy Smith, TE Delanie Walker, WR Kyle Williams

As expected, Vick, Cooper and Samuel are all out due to injuries. Cooper and Samuel are both dealing with concussions while Vick is still recovering from his rib injury. With Vick sitting out, Mike Kafka is the backup quarterback. In positive injury news, starting running back LeSean McCoy will attempt to play through his broken ribs. Newly promoted Chad Hall is also active and playing in his first game.

It's a busy night in Philly Sports tonight, GO BIRDS and PHILLIES!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Eagles promote Hall, release Barnes

With Riley Cooper ruled out for Week 5 against the Niners, the Eagles needed to make a move to add another wide receiver to the roster. Enter practice squad WR Chad Hall, who has been promoted by the Eagles to their active roster and will suit up on Sunday Night as the 4th wideout. The preseason sensation could also play a role in the return game or as a running back should LeSean McCoy not be healthy enough to carry the load.

To make room for Hall, the Birds released defensive end Antwan Barnes. Barnes was acquired from the Ravens for a 7th round pick right before the season started and played in the first two games before being inactive in Weeks 3 and 4. Since they liked him enough to trade for him just a few weeks ago, don't be surprised if the Eagles try to bring him back after the game on Sunday.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Phillies take advantage of Reds blunders, take 2-0 series lead

In a game they really had no business winning, the Phillies took advantage of four Reds errors to overcome a 4-0 deficit in the later innings, winning 7-4 to give them a 2-0 NLDS series lead. While it wasn't a pretty win for the Phillies, in the playoffs, getting the win is all that matters.

Game 2 starting pitcher Roy Oswalt failed to pick up where Roy Halladay left off, giving up a leadoff home run to Brandon Phillips and going on to pitch 5 shaky innings. Oswalt simply didn't have his best stuff tonight as the Reds tagged him for 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk. Poor fielding by the Phillies early on didn't help, either, as Chase Utley had a pair of errors in the second inning that directly led to the Reds scoring a run.

After being shut down by Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo for the first 4 innings, the Phillies finally got to him in the 5th, picking up a pair of runs on an Utley single. After adding another run in the 6th, things really got interesting as the Reds trotted out flame-throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman, the man who was supposedly going to shut down the Phillies lefty bats. Things didn't quite work out for Chapman, despite his 100 mile an hour fastball, as a phantom hit-by-pitch, a missed call, two singles and a couple of errors led to the Phillies tacking on 3 unearned runs. Once they took the lead, the Phillies bullpen held on and they never looked back.

While ace pitcher Roy Oswalt wasn't quite as good as advertised this time around, the Phillies still found a way to win and have now put the Reds on the ropes. With their third ace, Cole Hamels, set to take the mound in Game 3 in Cincinnati and Halladay ready to go in Game 4 should it be needed, it's tough to see any scenario where the Reds get back into the series.

You have to wonder which loss was more demoralizing for the Reds, the no-hitter by Halladay or this one that they gave away. Oh well, the Phillies will take them both. 9 more wins to go!
(AP PHOTO)

Leighton to have surgery, miss 6-8 weeks

Get ready for a whole lot more Sergei Bobrvosky in net, Flyers fans. Michael Leighton, who was previously thought to miss "about a month", will have surgery on his back in the coming days and will miss 6-8 weeks of the season. While he is out, expect the Flyers to stick with Bobrovsky as the starter with Brian Boucher also getting a few starts in net.

Back injuries are tricky things, so it would be a stretch to expect Leighton to come back in December and be the starting goaltender right away. By that time in the season, it's hard to say what the Flyers goaltending situation will look like, as Bobrovksy might established himself as the starting goaltender in Philly or he might fizzle out and need to go the minors. Given the injury situation and the way he looked last night, it's not to difficult to assume that Bob is going to be the man this season.

AFC Domination: NFL Week 5 Predictions

We are only 4 weeks into the NFL season, but it's already clear that the best teams in the league reside in the AFC. Besides the fact that the AFC is a combined 11-6 against the NFC, when ranking the 10 best teams in the NFL, only three (Packers, Falcons, Saints) are from the NFC. From housing the only undefeated team in the league (not for long) to having 6 legitimate Super Bowl contenders, it's clear that the balance of power is heavily tilted towards the AFC.

Here are my picks for Week 5. 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: 31-33, .484

Byes:
Dolphins, Patriots, Seahawks, Steelers

Sunday Day Games:


Jaguars (2-2) @ Bills (0-4, +1.5)
The fact that the Jaguars could look so terrible against the Eagles and yet still find a way to beat the Colts puts plenty of weight behind the "any given Sunday" motto for the NFL. Yep, the Bills are the worst team in the league. My pick: Jaguars

Bucs (2-1) @ Bengals (2-2, -6.5)
The Bucs have had two weeks to prepare for the Bengals, who are coming off a pretty bad loss to the Browns. Despite the big numbers that T.O. put up last week, Carson Palmer just isn't getting it done any more. My pick: Bucs

Falcons (3-1) @ Browns (1-3, +3.5)
Really, the Falcons are only favored by 3.5 points? I know that line has probably gone up over the course of the week, but I'd pretty much take the Falcons to win by 7 or less. Sure, they're on the road, but it's the Browns! My pick: Falcons

Rams (2-2) @ Lions (0-4, -3.5)
Don't look now but the Rams are going to be in a nice position to win the NFC West. With the Niners playing terrible and the Seahawks and Cardinals looking lost, rookie quarterback Sam Bradford has the Rams playing mediocre football, which is good enough to take this crappy division. I expect a lot of points in this one and for the Rams to win it outright. My pick: Rams

Chiefs (3-0) @ Colts (2-2, -8.5)
How much money could you have made if you bet that the Chiefs would be the only undefeated team after 4 weeks? It all ends this week for K.C. as Peyton Manning will have the offense flying after they were robbed by Jacksonville last week. My pick: Colts

Packers (3-1) @ Redskins (2-2, +2.5)
Count on a letdown this week for the Redskins, who played a terrible second half against the Eagles. With tough games against the Dolphins, Vikings and Jets in the coming weeks, the Packers need this one. My pick: Packers

Bears (3-1) @ Panthers (0-4, +2.5)
The Bears have been exposed after starting the season 3-0. Their quarterback is hurt, their offensive line is a sieve and they don't have weapons that are capable of sustaining the kind of offensive output that Mike Martz is looking for. The Panthers are a bad football team but their season is washed away if they don't win this one. My pick: Panthers

Broncos (2-2) @ Ravens (3-1, -7.5)
The Broncos offense has been too one-dimensional this season but they really have been racking up the passing yards. While I expect the Ravens defense to get to Kyle Orton and slow Denver down, I don't think they win by anything more than a touchdown. My pick: Broncos

Giants (2-2) @ Texans (3-1, -3.5)
Sure, the Giants did knock off the undefeated Bears last week, but can anyone explain how they are only a 3.5 point underdog on the road against the Texans? Have people forgotten how badly two other AFC South teams, the Colts and Titans, kicked their butts? My pick: Texans

Saints (3-1) @ Cardinals (2-2, +7.5)
With an unknown rookie quarterback behind center in Arizona, you can practically double that line and I'll still take the Saints. While the offense still hasn't quite lifted off, the Saints D should get a pick 6 or two. My pick: Saints

Chargers (2-2) @ Raiders (1-3, +6.5)
Darren McFadden, the only offensive weapon the Raiders have, is out, so a game that could have potentially been close looks like a blowout waiting to happen. Of course, the Chargers aren't exactly the most consistent team, but I think they'll show up for this division game. My pick: Chargers

Titans (2-2) @ Cowboys (1-2, -6.5)
Maybe the week off has helped me forget about how bad the Cowboys looked in the first two weeks of the season, but I think Dallas is going to get back on track towards an NFC East title this week. Something is clearly wrong with Chris Johnson this season, he's only averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Perhaps the Titans overused him last year. My pick: Titans

Sunday Night Game:

Eagles (2-2) @ Niners (0-4, -3.5)
This one has all the makings of an Eagles loss, what with Kevin Kolb looking so shaky last week and the Niners beyond due to get into the win column. Still, there is really nothing that scares me about the Niners and, for as bad as Kolb looked, he's still a better quarterback than Alex Smith. If the Eagles defense steps up and puts a bunch of pressure on Smith and force him to make mistakes, they will keep San Francisco winless. My pick: Eagles

Monday Night Game:

Vikings (1-2) @ Jets (3-1, -4.5)
Here we go again, another Randy Moss vs. Darrelle Revis showdown. Something tells me that Brett Favre is going to force-feed Moss, even if Revis is all over him, just to get his new teammate involved in the offense right away. With the way Adrian Peterson is running this year and the extra room he should get now that Moss is around, I like this to at least be a close game. My pick: Vikings

Those are my picks for Week 5 of the NFL Season. Check back every Thursday (or Friday) during the season for the latest predictions. Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comment section!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bobrovsky stymies Penguins as Flyers win season opener

I think Flyers fans will quickly get used to this Sergei Bobrovksy guy in net. In his NHL debut, the 22 year old rookie Bobrovsky turned aside 29 of 31 shots to help the Flyers beat the Penguins, 3-2, in their season opener. Sounds like we could have a new starting goalie in Philadelphia.

Bobrovsky played his best early on in the game, stopping all 15 shots he saw in the first period as the Flyers defense struggled to get control of the puck in their own end. As the game wore on, the Flyers defense clamped down a little more and Bobrovsky looked human, allowing 2 goals on 7 third period shots. In all, it was a quite a debut for Bobrovsky, who flashed his quick reflexes and looked nothing like a rookie playing his first NHL game against a strong offensive team like the Penguins.

As for the offense, after a rough first period, Danny Briere led off the scoring with a power play goal in the second and was followed up by goals from Blair Betts and Claude Giroux, who flashed some nifty stick-work to score a shorthanded goal in the third.

On top of all that, the Flyers also left their mark on the new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, scoring the first goal and notching the first win in the new building. With the win, the Flyers also are on pace to go 82-0 in the season, which sounds just about right!
(AP PHOTO)

Flyers to start Bobrovsky in season opener

Hockey season is here and the Flyers look poised to fight their way back to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year, however, they may need to ride a different goaltender to get that far in the playoffs.

In a surprising move, the Flyers have announced that rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start in net tonight against the Penguins. With Michael Leighton out, Bobrovksy made the team after an impressive preseason showing and was thought to be the backup to Brian Boucher. Apparently, the Flyers liked what they saw enough to stick with the hot preseason hand and give him the start in the first game that mattered.

Given the always tenuous Flyers goaltending situation, if Bobrovsky can get off to a hot start, there is no reason why he can't take over as the permanent starter in net. While I suspect the Flyers are starting him tonight is just a "heat check", meaning they are just rolling with him until he cools off, he can still make the most of his opportunity and force the Flyers to stick with him.

In other Flyers news, Chris Pronger isn't ready to play yet, so he is scratched for the season opener. Oskars Bartulis will take his place in the lineup. Go Flyers!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Halladay makes history with Game 1 no-hitter

Welcome to October, Roy Halladay. Making the most of his first playoff appearance, Roy Halladay thoroughly dominated the Reds, pitching the second no-hitter in postseason history in a 4-0 Phillies Game 1 win. Everything about his outing was a masterpiece, from the fact that he threw first pitch strikes to 25 of 28 batters to how he barely allowed the ball to leave the infield even when the Reds made contact. Halladay's efficiency was also remarkable as he simply cruised all game long, needing only 104 pitches to complete the game as he got 0-2 counts 11 different times and only went to a 3-ball count 3 times. The only blemish all night for Halladay was a walk he surrendered in the 5th inning to Jay Bruce, otherwise it was the best pitching performance I've seen in my lifetime.

As for the Phillies offense, they scored 4 runs in the first two innings and then put the bats away for the rest of the game. Shane Victorino scored the first run of the game when Chase Utley sacrificed him home in the first inning and Halladay even got into the offensive act, singling in Carlos Ruiz and later scoring in the second inning.

As exciting an epic of a performance as Halladay put together in Game 1, it's important to remember that it was just one game and the Phillies only have a 1-0 lead in the series and will still have to win 2 more games to get back to the NLCS. Luckily, we know that this team has been here before and they know not to get too high or too low in the playoffs and they will have their eyes on the bigger picture when they take the field for Game 2.

October 6th, 2010 is now a day that all Phillies fans will remember forever. To think that Halladay was able to do this in his first postseason start is simply remarkable; I wonder what else he has up his sleeve for the World Series.
(AP PHOTO)