Saturday, December 31, 2011

Flyers win entertaining Alumni Game

The Flyers and Rangers Alumni Game wasn't the best hockey game ever played but it was certainly an awesome spectacle for Flyers fans.  With 45,000+ on hand at Citzens Bank Park in an electric atmosphere, the Flyers alumni defeated the Rangers alumni, 3-1.

The scoring started fittingly enough with an Eric Lindros pass to John LeClair for a goal.  Their line, along with Mark Recchi, looked like they were ready to take the ice for the Flyers in the real Winter Classic game and were a treat to watch, especially for a fan like me that grew up loving the Legion of Doom line.  Lindros especially looked like his old dominant self and was more than welcomed home by Flyers fans with a huge ovation before the game.

The other great moment of the game was seeing Bernie Parent in goal for the first few minutes.  While he wasn't pretty in the net, he did make a save and looked great in Flyers orange.  The ovation he got before the game was fittingly second only to the cheers for Lindros.

Now we wait two days for the real Winter Classic game, which has a lot to live up to after the Alumni Game.  While the hockey will certainly be better, the star power and sheer entertainment of the Alumni Game will be impossible to beat.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Flyers and Rangers Winter Classic Alumni Game Rosters

For many, the today's Flyers/Rangers Alumni Game has been more highly anticipated than the Winter Classic Game itself.  Who would have thought that we'd ever see Eric Lindros back in a Flyers uniform and on the same ice as Bobby Clarke?  The Flyers have gone out of their way to bring back fan favorites from the recent past as well as from the Cup days and it should make for a fun nostalgia trip though not the best hockey game ever played.

Here are the Flyers and Rangers rosters for the Winter Classic Alumni game:

Flyers:

Forwards:
Bill Barber
Bob Clarke
Jim Dowd
Al Hill
Bob Kelly
Orest Kindrachuk
Reggie Leach
John LeClair
Eric Lindros
Ken Linseman
Shjon Podein
Dave Poulin
Brian Propp
Mark Recchi
Jeremy Roenick
Rick Tocchet

Defensemen:
Terry Carkner
Eric Desjardins
Larry Goodenough
Derian Hatcher
Mark Howe
Brad Marsh
Kjell Samuelsson
Chris Therien
Joe Watson

Goalies:
Mark LaForest
Neil Little
Bernie Parent

Rangers:

Forwards:
Glenn Anderson
Paul Broten
Ron Duguay
Nick Fotiu
Mike Gartner
Adam Graves
Pat Hickey
Kris King
Nick Kypreos
Darren Langdon
Stephane Matteau
Mark Messier
Brian Mullen
Darren Turcotte

Defensemen:
Ron Greschner
Darius Kasparaitis
Tom Laidlaw
Brian Leetch
Dave Maloney
Dale Purinton
Mathieu Schneider

Goalies:
Dan Blackburn
John Vanbiesbrouck
Mike Richter

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eagles playoff hopes remain alive after downing Jets

Playoffs?  Playoffs??  Apparently the Eagles aren't ready to go away just yet this season, notching a solid win over the Jets, 45-19, to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.  Here are a few thoughts on the surprisingly solid win:

-The defense has turned from embarrassing to dominating in the last few weeks.  While the Jets offense isn't exactly lethal, the Birds defense swarmed Mark Sanchez all game long and created havoc in the form of 4 sacks, 2 fumbles, including one returned for a touchdown, and two interceptions.  Jason Babin led the charge, picking up 3 more sacks (giving him 18 on the year) as he abused Sanchez every chance he got.  While Juan Castillo does deserve some credit for turning things around, this is how this defense should have been playing from Week 1.

-Turnovers were the only reason the Jets even had a chance of making the game close.  The Eagles are still too careless with the ball and still prone to make boneheaded plays, especially on special teams.  Michael Vick was careful with ball, only throwing one interception on a desperation heave at the end of the first half.

-Speaking of Vick, he wasn't slowed by injuries at all this week, dancing around the pocket as he found open receivers all over the field.  While he still isn't sliding when he scrambles, Vick seemed much more mobile and much more like the quarterback that took the league by storm last season.

-Brent Celek has really turned his career around this season and now leads the Eagles in receptions.  He has overcome his case of the dropsies to become a reliable receiver and is no longer a complete afterthought in the Eagles offense.

-Congratulations to LeSean McCoy for setting the club record for touchdowns in a season.  He has proven time and again that he is the Eagles best offensive weapon and good things happen when he is fed the ball.

-Andy Reid won yet another challenge this week.  Say what you will about his coaching job this season, he has been killing it on challenges this season.

-With the Giants losing to the Redskins, the Eagles are still somehow alive for the NFC East division title.  All that has to happen is the Eagles have to win out, the Jets have to beat the Giants in Week 16 and the Giants have to beat the Cowboys in Week 17.  Doesn't seem too far-fetched but doesn't seem all that likely, either.  With the way the Eagles have been playing better the last few weeks, I don't think anyone in the NFC would want to play them in the playoffs.  At the very least, it will make for a fun last few weeks in a season that appeared a total loss.  Bring on the Cowboys next week!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jimmy Rollins returns to the Phillies

As the offseason wore on, this seemed more and more inevitable: according to Jerry Crasnick, the Phillies and Jimmy Rollins have finally agreed on a contract that will keep the shortstop in Philadelphia for the next few years.  The money involved in the contract isn't known at this time but it is believed to be a 3 year deal with an option for a 4th year. UPDATE: Contract is worth 33 million over 3 years.  Not a bad value!

Given that neither the Phillies or Rollins had many other options, it was only a matter of time before a deal was reached.  Rollins should be a near-elite shortstop for the life of the contract so the Phillies did well to keep him in Philly.

Now that the shortstop position has been filled, what's next for the Phillies this offseason?  Will they bring in another outfielder?  Could they add another piece to the bullpen?  The roster seems pretty set at this point but I wouldn't be surprised at one more signing in the coming days.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chris Pronger is done for the season

If the Flyers want to win a Cup this season, they are going to have to do it without Chris Pronger.  The Flyers have announced that their captain, who has been out since November 19th, will miss the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs due to severe concussion symptoms.

This is a huge blow to the Flyers, who lose one of their biggest advantages they have over opponents: their depth on defense.  Since Pronger is on LTIR, the Flyers will have some cap space to acquire someone of significance but he surely won't have the same impact as Pronger has in the back end.

The bigger question could be if Pronger will ever play hockey again.  It's likely too early to tell but if he has already been ruled out for the next 5-6 months, he must be dealing with some very serious issues.  Here's hoping the Flyers get their captain back next season if for no other reason than they are paying him big money for 5 more years.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phillies sign Dontrelle Willis for bullpen

A familiar veteran will be taking on a somewhat unfamiliar role for the Phillies next season: Dontrelle Willis has signed a one year contract with the Phils to pitch out of the bullpen.  The deal is a major league contract and is believed to be worth 1 million dollars.

Willis will be the second lefty out of the bullpen for the Phillies after Antonio Bastardo.  At this point in his career, given his splits, Willis should be exclusively pitching to lefty hitters so hopefully he is used in that manner.  As an added bonus, Willis, who hit .387 last year in 31 at-bats, can also be used as a pinch-hitter on occasion.  He would certainly be a better option at the plate than someone like Michael Martinez.

This is a solid no-risk signing by the Phillies.  Willis is already good friends with a few Phillies, including the (hopefully) soon-to-be-resigned Jimmy Rollins.  If he is used in the right way he could be a useful part in a good bullpen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eagles keep (slim) playoff hopes alive

Where has this Eagles team been the last few weeks?  Needing a win to avoid being completely eliminated from playoff contention, the Eagles showed up against the Dolphins, winning convincingly, 26-10.  Here are just a few of my thoughts on the game:

-This one was all about the defense.  They came up with 9 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception in possibly their best effort of the season.  Sure, the Dolphins were pretty horrible and couldn't hold onto the ball, but the Eagles D repeatedly created havoc and made big plays.  Trent Cole and Jason Babin were especially disruptive, picking up 3 sacks each as they bore down on the Dolphins QB's.

-The Eagles defense was especially strong in short yardage situations, stuffing the Dolphins on several 3rd and 4th and shorts.  Had they done that all season long, Juan Castillo would probably not have to worry about his job.

-Hey, I remember that DeSean Jackson guy!  Nice of him to show up!

-LeSean McCoy didn't put up impressive numbers but the Eagles kept feeding him the ball, giving him 30 touches.  He's still their best weapon even if he doesn't break one.

-The Eagles don't have the luxury of playing teams as bad as the Dolphins every week but they still looked strong.  That has been the most frustrating thing about this season: we know they are capable of dominating.  With games against the Jets, Redskins and Cowboys left, the Birds have a solid chance of at least getting to .500 and salvaging at least some respectability and possibly backing their way into a playoff spot.  They could easily revert back to their terrible ways next week, however, so there is little reason to hold your breath.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NHL approves new four conference system

The NHL standings and playoffs will look very different next season.  After a 26-4 vote, the NHL Board of Governors has approved a new four conference system that will look like this:

Conference A: Ducks, Flames, Avalanche, Oilers, Kings, Coyotes, Sharks, Canucks

Conference B: Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Stars, Red Wings, Wild, Predators, Blues, Jets

Conference C: Bruins, Sabres, Panthers, Canadiens, Senators, Lightning, Maple Leafs

Conference D: Hurricanes, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Capitals

The league will also feature a much more balanced schedule, with teams playing conference opponents 5 or 6 times depending on the size of the conference.  Every team will also play every other team at least twice, once at home and once on the road.  For the playoffs, each conference will be seeded 1-4 and they will play each other to determine a conference winner, who will then move on to the final 4 for the Stanley Cup.

Not all that much changes in terms of the conference for the Flyers, who will have all of their current division opponents plus the Capitals and Canes.  What will be very interesting will be the playoffs, which will only allow four teams within the conference to advance to the playoffs and could potentially leave out a good team, especially in the Flyers deep conference.

The NHLPA still has to approve this realignment but it seems like a big win for the NHL, which is emphasizing rivalries and will once again allow every fan base to see every other team.  Only allowing one team from each conference to make it to the Stanley Cup Semifinals will also make for some amazing early round playoff action between bitter rivals.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Phillies sign OF Laynce Nix

The Phillies have made another free agent signing, inking former Nationals outfielder Laynce Nix to a 2 year deal according to Jim Salisbury of CSN.  Nix is a 9 year veteran who has played for 4 teams in his career.  He hit a career-high 16 home runs with the Nationals last season in 324 at-bats.

The signing of Nix adds a left-handed bat to the outfield mix and figures to be amongst several options for the Phillies in left field.  Nix won't play every day but will be a good platoon option against right-handed pitching and could push Ben Francisco out the door.  His addition won't have much impact on Domonic Brown, who will still hopefully be given a chance to play in left field regularly.

With the Phillies likely set in the outfield, shortstop has to be next.  I would bet that a deal for Jimmy Rollins comes sooner rather than later.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stick a fork in 'em: Eagles embarrassed by Patriots

What started off promising quickly turned ugly as the Eagles blew an early 10-0 lead and got blown out by the Patriots, 38-20.  Here are a few of my thoughts on yet another poorly played game by the Eagles:

-The Patriots have a world-class offense but the Eagles defense was nothing short of terrible today.  From botched coverage to bad play-calls to undisciplined penalties, the defense wasn't even close to slowing down the Patriots attack.  It all starts with Juan Castillo, who somehow forget to come up with a game plan to stop Wes Welker, or any other Pats receiver for that matter.  Castillo is in over his head and completely overmatched by opposing offensive minds and needs to be fired ASAP.  Who would have thought that an offensive line coach wouldn't make a good coordinator?

-On that note, it's beyond clear that Castillo never should have been moved to the defensive coordinator spot.  The man responsible for that hiring has to be held accountable, as well, so it's finally time for Andy Reid to go.  Reid might yet be a great coach again but this team needs a fresh voice in the locker room.  They also need someone who will make a better play call on a 4th and 1 at the goal line.

-DeSean Jackson played yet another terrible game, dropping at least two touchdowns and failing to make big plays in big spots.  Jackson has cost himself millions of dollars with his terrible play and has basically played his way out of town.  He simply doesn't do enough on the field to be worth the headache.

-Vince Young was actually pretty respectable, throwing 400 yards as the Eagles went into catch-up mode in the second half.  He did have a few bad throws and an interception but Young filled in admirably for Michael Vick.  There is definitely no quarterback controversy, however, as this is Vick's team when he is healthy.

-Only 14 touches for LeSean McCoy?  Come on, Andy!

-The season is now over for the Birds.  No miracle Wild Card birth.  No miracle playoff run.  It's time to face reality, this team needs to hit the reset button.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Flyers unveil 2012 Winter Classic Jerseys

The Flyers finally unveiled their jerseys for the Winter Classic.  Pictures via BroadStHockey and DNFlyers.  The pictures don't really show just how orange they are.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No 4th quarter collapse this time: Eagles knock off Giants

The Eagles unpredictable season continues.  Without Michael Vick at the helm, the Eagles went into the Meadowlands and knocked off the Giants, 17-10, and kept their slim playoff hopes alive.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the game:

-Vince Young was pretty much what we thought he would be tonight.  He wasn't terribly accurate, wasn't always in sync with his receivers and showed very little arm strength.  None of that mattered, though, as Young showed quite a bit of poise in the pocket and made the right decisions and the correct throws when it mattered the most.  He looked most impressive on the 18 play, 80 yard game-winning drive as he made several 3rd down conversions look easy.  While there certainly won't be a quarterback controversy when Michael Vick gets healthy, Young showed that 4th quarter poise he has been famous for his entire career.

-The defense finally made a big stop with the game on the line.  After the Eagles took the lead late in the 4th, everything looked set up for a back-breaking Eli Manning-led touchdown drive.  The defense made the big play, however, as Jason Babin strip-sacked Manning and the Eagles sealed their victory.  It's going to take a lot more than one good defensive performance to make me believe in Juan Castillo but allowing the Giants to only score 10 points is quite an accomplishment.

-What are the Eagles going to do with DeSean Jackson?  He went from a huge goat for his taunting to a hero for his big punt return.  The Eagles have quite a decision to make about Jackson when it comes to his contract.  Do you pay him and live with the boneheaded mistakes knowing that you will still get the home run plays?  My answer to this question literally changes from play to play.

-LeSean McCoy got 26 touches but didn't bust out until a 60 yard game-icing run late in the 4th.  He's still the Eagles best offensive weapon and kept the Giants defense honest throughout the game.

-Why can't anyone on the Eagles cover Victor Cruz?  Seriously, come on, Nnamdi.

-The Eagles have almost no chance of making the playoffs (they would basically have to run the table), but at least this win allowed us to keep dreaming about that possibility.  With the Patriots on tap next week, it will at least be fun to see the Eagles play spoiler against teams ahead of them in the standings.  If the defense plays like they did tonight, perhaps they can pull off a miracle...

Phillies trade for bench bat Ty Wiggington

If the Phillies do nothing else this offseason, they at least will have a much improved bench.  According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, the Phillies have acquired Ty Wiggington from the Rockies for cash and a player to be named later.  The trade comes with basically no risk, especially considering that the Rockies will also pay half of Wiggington's 4 million dollar salary.

Wiggington is a career journeyman, having played for 6 different teams in his 10 year career.  He doesn't really have a position on the field, though he did play both corner outfield positions as well as first and third base last season.  What Wiggington will bring to the Phillies is another bench bat with some power, as he has hit at least 11 home runs in the last 6 seasons.  He doesn't hit for much average but he should do well in a reserve role.

The acquisition of Wiggington for basically nothing is a smart move for the Phillies.  His addition solidifies the bench and doesn't keep them from signing another lefty outfield bat or a quality shortstop.  Along with Jim Thome, the Phillies bench figures to be filled with veteran power bats that can give them quality at-bats.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vick, Maclin both ruled out against the Giants

Whatever slim chance the Eagles had of beating the Giants likely just went out the window.  According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, both Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin have been ruled out for the Sunday Night Game.  Vick suffered a rib injury against the Cardinals while Maclin injured his hamstring.

There really wasn't much of a chance that either player could have played on Sunday, what with neither player practicing all week.  Still, the Eagles hadn't ruled them out until today with the hopes that one or both could recover in time.

In Vick's place, Vince Young gets his first start as an Eagle.  Riley Cooper will likely play a much bigger role with Maclin out.  It could be a long night for the Eagles offense.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eagles blow yet another 4th quarter lead

Different week, same story.  The Eagles once again were unable to hold onto a 4th quarter lead against an inferior opponent, this time blowing a 7 point lead to the Cardinals in a brutal 21-17 loss.  Here are just a few thoughts on another terrible effort from the Eagles:

-I'm not usually calling for coaches heads after losses but I've seen enough of Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator.  He has a ton of talent to work with yet guys are constantly out of position and receivers are repeatedly left open.  How about actually hiring a defensive coach to coach the defense?

-As for Andy Reid, if things continue like this for the rest of the season, he needs to go, too.  While he can't be blamed for everything, if you have this much talent to work with yet can't get them to play up to their ability, that has to be a reflection on the coach.  If Reid isn't reaching his players, he isn't an effective coach.  I would give him the rest of the year to spark something with this team or show him the door.

-Michael Vick had a brutal, brutal game.  Sure, he was without DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin for much of the game, but Vick repeatedly made bad decisions with the football and struggled to get anything going through the air and should have been picked off 4 times.  He has definitely come back to earth this season; I wonder if the Eagles regret giving him that big contract.

-We have established that LeSean McCoy is a beast.  Why isn't he getting more carries in the 4th quarter?  That he only had 17 touches in this game is completely the fault of the coaches.

-John Skelton threw for 315 yards against the Eagles "dream" secondary. Yep, that's John Skelton, Kevin Kolb's backup.

This season is definitely over now, Eagles fans.  While they still have the talent to beat nearly every team on their schedule, this team just doesn't have the will to get it done.

Eagles/Cardinals Week 10 Inactives: DeSean benched

The Eagles and Cardinals announced their Week 10 inactive players:

Eagles: S Nate Allen, DE Philip Hunt, T Winston Justice, G Evan Mathis, WR DeSean Jackson, QB Mike Kafka, CB Curtis Marsh

Cardinals: T D'Anthony Batiste, TE Todd Heap, TE Rob Housler, QB Kevin Kolb, LB Joey Porter, S Kerry Rhodes, WR Stephen Williams

DeSean Jackson has been benched by the Eagles for missing a meeting.  Though he apparently just overslept, this sure looks like the beginning of the end for Jackson with the Birds.  He definitely won't be getting that mega-contract now.  Jason Avant will start in his place.  King Dunlap will also start for Evan Mathis at guard.  That should be interesting.

Kevin Kolb will not play for the Cardinals, as expected.  John Skelton gets the start at quarterback.

Even with Jackson out, this is a very winnable game for the Eagles.  With games against the Giants and Patriots coming in the next few weeks, if there is any hope for playoffs at all for the Birds, this is a must-win.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Phillies to sign Jonathan Papelbon

There is a new closer in town, Phillies fans.  After a supposed deal with Ryan Madson fell through the cracks, the Phillies didn't hesitate to scoop up their next closer: Jonathan Papelbon.  According to Jim Salisbury of CSN, the Phillies have agreed to a 4 year, close to 50 million dollar contract with the former Red Sox closer.

Papelbon brings with him 6 years of closing experience and has saved at least 31 games every year since 2006.  While Papelbon has had his moments of shakiness, he strikes out well over a batter every inning and doesn't give up too many free passes.  While the money and the years are a little bit on the high side, if Papelbon shuts the door in the 9th inning, there is nothing to complain about.

We may never know exactly what happened with the deal the Phillies supposedly had with Ryan Madson but Papelbon is certainly much more than a Plan B option.  While I would have loved to see Madson come back and continue to close games for the Phils, as soon as it was clear that he was going to look for better offers elsewhere, Ruben Amaro hurried to make sure his team wouldn't be left without an elite closer.

We knew the Phillies would pay big bucks for a top closer so the question now is what they do next.  Do they have enough money to even flirt with the idea of bringing Jimmy Rollins back?  What will they do about left field?  Can they afford any other bullpen pieces?  With the 9th inning locked up, it's time for Amaro to plug the rest of the holes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Eagles falter once again, slip out of division picture

You can forget about all of that NFC East title talk, Birds fans.  The Eagles flaws all came to the forefront once again at they lost to the Bears, 30-24, and fell three games behind the Giants in the division.  Here are my thoughts on another tough loss for the Eagles:

-This game erased nearly all of the good feelings from the Cowboys win.  Bad turnovers, poor defense, dumb penalties and a ton of head-scratching plays.  The way their final drive ended, with Maclin falling down when he appeared to have a first down in his sights, completely sums up the Eagles season.  Despite all of the talent on the roster, they just aren't good enough to overcome their many, many mistakes.

-ZERO sacks by the Eagles vaunted pass rush?  ZERO?  Jay Cutler had all night to find open receivers thanks to the Eagles inability to put any pressure on him.  It's tough to win games when you can't pressure the quarterback and can't stop the run.

-Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is terrible.  When the Eagles acquired him from the Cardinals, I knew he had flaws but DRC hasn't added anything to the Eagles secondary.  He can't cover anyone, he can't tackle and he never looks like he knows what he's doing.  I'd just assume he take a few weeks off and figure this thing out.  Thank goodness the Eagles also got a second rounder from Arizona for Kevin Kolb.

-Speaking of the Eagles secondary, they sure did a great job making Earl Bennett, who hadn't played since Week 2, look like a Pro Bowler.  Much of the blame goes to DRC but Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha also had their chances and couldn't slow him down.  Bennett is apparently an Eagles killer as he had two TD's against them last season.

-The one positive on the night was the continuing dominance by LeSean McCoy, who continues to make things happen with the ball in his hand.  It's too bad the rest of the Eagles are wasting his talents.

-Besides the worst punt return I've ever seen and one nice catch along the sidelines, DeSean Jackson was completely invisible tonight.   You have to wonder how much money he has left on the table with his mediocre play this season.

-Asante Samuel had a lacerated groin in the first half.  It hurts just typing that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Eagles activate Brandon Graham

As the Eagles continue to right the ship, a former first round pick has finally returned to the team.  According to Geoff Mosher of the Delaware Online, DE Brandon Graham was activated from the PUP list and will likely play on Monday night against the Bears.  With Juqua Parker unlikely to play Monday, activating Graham makes sense if he can contribute to the defensive end rotation.  It will be interesting to see how Graham looks given how much time he has missed recovering from a serious knee injury.

To make room for Graham on the roster, the Eagles cut guard Kyle DeVan.  DeVan was the starting right guard for the Eagles for the first few weeks of the season but has since been replaced by rookie Danny Watkins.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jim Thome is back with the Phillies!

With Ryan Howard likely out for the beginning of the 2012 season, the man that was sent packing when Howard took over at first base has been brought back to Philadelphia: the Phillies have agreed to sign Jim Thome to a one year deal worth 1.25 million, pending a physical.

Besides the awesome nostalgia we will all feel seeing Thome back in a Phillie uniform, the move makes a ton of sense for the Phils.  With Howard out an indefinite amount of time, Thome can possibly step in and be a part of a first base platoon with John Mayberry.  Given that he hasn't played in the field since 2007, Thome can't be expected to play in the field every day but I'm sure he could be used occasionally.  At the very least, Thome, who hit 15 home runs last season with the Indians and Twins, will be a tremendous power asset off the bench.

Given his relationship with Charlie Manuel, Ryan Howard's injury and the Phillies need for a bench bat, this is a no-brainer signing.  I can't wait to see Big Jim crush a few postseason home runs at Citizens Bank.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Eagles embarrass Cowboys on Sunday Night

There is nothing like the Eagles crushing the Cowboys, especially when it is on national television for all the country to see.  The Eagles basically played a perfect game in downing Dallas, 34-7, and are now 3-4 and find themselves right back in the thick of the division.  Here are my thoughts on the game:

-LeSean McCoy was clearly the best player on the field.  McCoy juked, jived and motored all over the Dallas defense, rushing for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.  McCoy seems to be getting better an better every week and is turning the Eagles into a run-first team, quite an accomplishment with Andy Reid at the helm.  I'm not sure there is a better running back in the NFL.  To think, this is just his third year in the league and he could get even better.

-Michael Vick played a nearly flawless game, completing 21 of 28 passes for two touchdowns while rushing for 50 yards.  While he nearly had a fumble in the third quarter, Vick didn't turn the ball over and didn't make a bad pass all game long.  When Vick has plenty of time and makes quick decisions to either throw the ball or tuck it and run, he is at his most dangerous.  This was probably his best game since the Monday Night massacre against the Redskins.

-The Eagles first 6 possessions all ended with a score touchdown or a field goal.  Zero punts until the 4th quarter.  Remarkable.

-Take out the long touchdown by the Cowboys in the 4th quarter and the Eagles defense also played a nearly flawless game.  A lot was made of how the Wide 9 wasn't working but the adjustments Juan Castillo and the defense made all seemed to work perfectly.  While DeMarco Murray did have success on the ground, any time Tony Romo dropped back to pass, Trent Cole and Jason Babin were both bearing down on him.  Combine a potent pass-rush with great coverage and you have an unbeatable combination.

-Dez Bryant and Miles Austin combined for just six catches, with most of them coming in garbage time.  Much of the credit goes to the Eagles pass rush not giving Romo enough time but the All-Star secondary certainly played up to expectations.

-Andy Reid had TWO correct challenges in the game.  Has that ever happened before?

-Speaking of Reid, his perfect record after a bye continues.  With all the negatives against the Reid, give this man time to prepare and he makes the necessary adjustments to get his troops ready.

Your Eagles are now tied for second place in the NFC East with a 3-4 record.  With the Giants facing a brutal November schedule, the division race is far from over.  Bring on the Bears!
(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Eagles vs. Cowboys Week 8 inactives: all hands on deck

The Eagles and Cowboys announced their inactive players for their Week 8 Sunday Night showdown:

Eagles: LB Keenan Clayton, DE Philip Hunt, T Winston Justice, RB Dion Lewis, CB Curtis Marsh, S Jarrad Page, OL Julian Vandervelde

Cowboys: G David Arkin, NT Josh Brent, DE Clifton Geathers, RB Felix Jones, G Kevin Kowalski, G Daniel Loper, QB Stephen McGee

The bye week healed the Eagles, who have every starter healthy and ready to go.  It will be especially nice to see Trent Cole out there creating havoc for Tony Romo.  Dion Lewis is the one surprise inactive, apparently due to a car accident, and that should mean that Ronnie Brown, who will return kicks tonight, will get more touches.  Lewis has looked good any time he has had the ball in his hands this season.

Every Eagles/Cowboys game is big but this one is huge for the Eagles.  If they want to make a run for a playoff spot, this is a must-win game.  Go BIRDS!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flyers lose Schenn for 4-6 weeks

Blink and you might have missed Brayden Schenn in the Flyers lineup so far this season.  The key piece to the Mike Richards deal, who just joined the Flyers 4 games ago, suffered a broken foot against the Canadiens on Wednesday and will miss 4-6 weeks.  The Flyers placed him on LTIR and called up forward Zac Rinaldo and defenseman Erik Gustafsson.

It is the second injury of the season for Schenn, who had to start the season with the Phantoms because he was recovering from an injured shoulder.  He played in only 4 games for the Flyers and didn't register a point and was a -5.  While this is certainly a rocky start to his Flyers career, Schenn is just 20 and there is no reason to expect that he won't develop into a tremendous two-way threat.

The Flyers were awful last night against the Canadiens so a little shake-up of the roster might be in order.  Putting Schenn on LTIR allows the Flyers to keep Matt Walker on the roster for now, though I would expect him to be dumped to the minors the moment Gustafsson shows that he can hang in the NHL.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chris Pronger takes stick to face, will miss at least two weeks

Tonight we got yet another example of why NHL players should all wear visors.  In the Flyers win over the Maple Leafs on Monday, Chris Pronger had a scary incident where Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski's stick nailed him right in the eye as he was following through on a shot.  Pronger hurried off the ice and wasn't heard from again for the rest of the night as Flyers fans feared the worst.

Luckily for Pronger, the initial reports are promising, and while he does have a cut on the outside of his right eye, there likely won't be any serious long-term effects.  The Flyers are saying that Pronger will need to rest for the next few days before he can begin exercising with the hopes that he will be ready to return to the team within two weeks.

Things could certainly have been much worse for Pronger.  Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has already stated that Pronger will wear a visor when he returns to the ice and hopefully he saves his face and continues to wear it for the remainder of his career.
(Getty Images)

Phillies decline 2012 options for Oswalt, Lidge

The Phillies offseason is officially under way with this news: the team has decided to not pick up their 2012 options on pitchers Roy Oswalt or Brad Lidge and both are now free agents.  Both players were bought out and neither move is a surprise.

Oswalt, who was bought out for 2 million, would have made 16 million dollars in 2012 if the Phillies picked up his option.  Lidge, who was bought out for 1.5 million, would have made 12.5 million.  Neither player is worth that much money but the Phillies are expected to at least negotiate with each player and they could bring one or both back at a lower salary.

If I had to guess, I would say we have definitely seen the last of Brad Lidge with the Phillies.  While he would be nice to have at the right price, there will be a team in the league that offers him way too much to be a set-up reliever in their bullpen.  Let someone else take the risk.

Roy Oswalt is more likely to return to the Phillies but it would pretty much be up to him.  Is he comfortable starting again in a new situation or would he rather finish his career in Philadelphia?  Should he leave, Vance Worley steps into the 4th starter role and the Phillies would have to search for a 5th starter if they want an upgrade over Kyle Kendrick.  At the right price, Oswalt is a significant upgrade over Kendrick so hopefully the Phils make him a serious offer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trade voided: Welcome back, Ronnie Brown!

Apparently the Eagles won't be able to get rid of Ronnie Brown after all.  Due to Jerome Harrison not passing his physical with the Eagles, the trade of Harrison and a 7th round pick for Brown has been voided.  That's too bad because Harrison felt like a much better fit for the Eagles offense.

Welcome back, Ronnie Brown!  I have a feeling we will continue to see much more of Dion Lewis from here on out.  Don't count on Brown getting another goal line carry any time soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

RB swap: Eagles deal Ronnie Brown, re-acquire Jerome Harrison

Ronnie Brown won't ever have a chance to redeem himself to Eagles fans for his atrocious pitch at the goal-line against the Niners.  At the NFL trade deadline today, the Eagles dealt Brown to the Lions for Jerome Harrison and a 2013 7th round pick.

Brown exits the team as a player without a role in the Eagles system.  Whether it was due to the emergence of Dion Lewis or because of his goal-line gaffe, Brown was a forgotten man in the Eagles offense the last few weeks.  He will likely take on a big role with the Lions as insurance for the injured Jahvid Best.

As for Harrison, he should fit right back into the Eagles scheme that he thrived in as a backup to LeSean McCoy last year.  Expect Harrison to share duties with Lewis but he should continue to be a nice change of pace back and a recieving threat out of the backfield.  I had hoped the Eagles would bring Harrison back in the offseason so this trade allows them to correct their mistake in letting him go.

The 7th round pick in the deal is simply a bonus.  I'm not sure why the Lions had to throw in the pick since the two backs are pretty even in terms of skills.

New Sixers ownership group includes Will Smith, Ed Stefanski is out

There is so much Sixers news today you'd think basketball was actually happening this year.  The Sixers sale finally went through and the new ownership group, led by billionaire Joshua Harris, was introduced to the media.  Among those owners is Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, so that should be fun.

The new owners also announced that Ed Stefanski is leaving the organization and that Rod Thorn will take over as GM.  Given the many mistakes that Stefanski has made over the years, I'm sure fans won't be too upset over that.  Thorn has a great basketball mind and should be solid in the role.

Adam Aron will be the new CEO of the Sixers.

Among the other announcements, ticket prices will be slashed up to 50% for Sixers games and owners also promised a much better in-game experience.  If only there will be an NBA season this year.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Eagles get back in the win column against the Skins

That was much more of what we expected from the Eagles.  Just like they did against the Niners, the Eagles had a 20-3 lead at halftime and allowed their opponent to crawl back; this time, however, they didn't let their inferior opponent come all the way back as they held on to win, 20-13.  Here are my thoughts on the game:

-That is the defense we thought the Eagles had.  They made strong tackles, forced turnovers, stopped the run, shut down the Redskins wide receivers and put pressure on the Redskins QB's throughout the game.  Sure, they were still unable to cover the tight end but you can't expect them to fix everything in one week.  While the Redskins offense isn't exactly a juggernaut, holding your opponent to just 13 points is an impressive feat in the NFL.

-The Eagles safeties came to play today.  While the safety position has been a revolving door of mediocrity for the Eagles this season, Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen both had big games for the Birds.  Coleman especially had a career day, picking off Rex Grossman three times.  If the Eagles can get play like this from their safeties, their defense will continue to shine.

-I've been calling for it every week and the Eagles finally listened: LeSean McCoy got a boatload of touches (28 carries and 2 catches) and proved once against that he is a beast.  Good things happen when they give Shady the ball so I can never understand why he ever has fewer than 20 touches in a game.  He is the most consistent weapon the Eagles have and the offense needs to be run through him at all times.  Plus, he hilariously popped Andy Reid in the gut near the end of the game.

-Michael Vick played a better game this week, making only one truly terrible pass that was picked off.  Much had been made about how the offensive line was going to struggle to hold up against the Redskins pass rush but Vick has just enough time to make plays with his arm and his feet.  Of course, he did get knocked out of the game briefly with what looked like a possible concussion, but he thankfully turned out okay.

-The Vince Young era started out brutally with a lame duck interception on his first pass.  For the guy that coined the "dream team" moniker, Young looks like a nightmare.  Pray for good health for Mike Vick.

-The bye week comes next for the Eagles, who can rest up, get their offensive line healthy and prepare for three very winnable games against the Cowboys, Bears and Cardinals.  Looking further down the schedule, the Eagles really only play two "good" teams, the Patriots and the Jets.  A playoff run isn't that ridiculous of a notion.  Yeah, I got sucked back in already.

Eagles vs. Redskins Week 6 inactives

The Eagles and Redskins have announced their Week 6 inactive players:

Eagles: LB Keenan Clayton, DE Trent Cole, T King Dunlap, CB Curtis Marsh, S Jarrad Page, T Jason Peters, OL Julian Vandervelde

Redskins: WR Anthony Armstrong, CB Philip Buchanon, WR Leonard Hankerston, DE Darron Scott, FB Mike Sellers, T Willie Smith, LB Markus White

With Dunlap out, the Eagles will start Todd Herremans at left tackle and Winston Justice at right tackle.  This will be Justice's first start of the season and he will be protecting Vick's blind side.  This could go badly.

Obviously, this is a must-win game for the Eagles this week.  Scarily enough, if they do win, they will be right back in the mix for the NFC East division.  I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mike Richards, Kings hand Flyers first loss

Things couldn't have gone better for Mike Richards in his return to Philadelphia.  Fans did mostly boo him after an initial standing ovation but Richards notched the game-winning assist in overtime as the Kings handed the Flyers their first loss of the season, 3-2.  Here are a few thoughts on the game:

-It didn't really set in that Mike Richards wasn't a Flyer until I actually watched him in another uniform play against Philly.  I don't really understand why anyone would boo him since he did give a lot to this organization and it wasn't his call to leave town.  I guess it's just the Philly way.

-Former Flyer Justin Williams had the bigger impact on the outcome, picking up two goals.  Oh, and Simon Gagne also had an assist.  And Terry Murray coached the Kings to victory.  Flyers West indeed.

-It was nice to see Danny Briere pick up his first goal of the season.  Of course, Jaromir Jagr really made the play with a beautiful pass but it was nice to see Briere get on the board.  As for Jagr, he really looks like he turned back the clock about 10 years.

-While they lost, the Flyers did well to send the game into overtime and get a point.  Through their first four games, the Flyers have picked up 7 of a possible 8 points, a solid feat considering the quality of opponents (Bruins, Canucks, Kings) they have played so far.

-Still too many penalties for the Flyers, though the Kings had even more.  Perhaps I should stop blaming the Flyers and start looking at the officials, who have had a quick whistle so far this year.

-No goal by Claude Giroux tonight?  Guess he will have to pick up two next time to stay on pace for 82.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Season over: Sloppy Eagles fail once again

Another week, another disappointing performance by the Eagles.  This time, the Eagles made a tremendous comeback but still had a critical turnover that led to a 31-24 loss to the Bills.  Here are some of my thoughts on the game:

-Juan Castillo has to go.  Now.  The defense was unable to stop the run, put any pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick or make any plays in the secondary.  The defense is loaded with talent and guys that have made plays in the past so there has to be an issue with Castillo and his schemes.  The one thing this group did well in the last few weeks was get to the quarterback and they couldn't even do that this week.

-Jason Avant had one heck of a game statistically, catching 9 passes for 139 yards, but he made two terrible plays that cost the Eagles the game.  When a sure-handed guy like Avant can't hold on to the ball you know things just aren't going your way.

-Michael Vick doesn't deserve much of the blame for this one.  Of his 4 interceptions, only one was a truly terrible pass.  Vick is doing everything he can with what little time he is given and scrambling for his life when there is nothing open downfield.  He can't be blamed for tipped passes becoming interceptions and for the inept line in front of him.  What he can be blamed for is his terrible mismanagement of the clock at the end of the first half.  How does that happen?

-How about giving the ball to LeSean McCoy more often?  Only 15 touches for Shady, who still managed over 100 total yards.

-I'm so glad Juqua Parker was healthy enough to suit up this week so he could make a boneheaded play a the end of the game to seal the loss for the Eagles.

-By my count, Jamar Chaney made the first play by a linebacker all season long when he picked off Fitzpatrick.

At 1-4, this season is effectively over for the Eagles.  Sure, they could rattle off a few wins and find themselves back in the NFC East title picture, but does anyone see any reason to think that this team is going to magically start playing well?  This is clearly a broken team that has talent but can't seem to put all of the pieces together.  All that is left to play for this season is Andy Reid's job.

Eagles vs. Bills: Week 5 inactives

The Eagles and the Bills announced their inactive players for their Week 5 matchup:

Eagles: DE Trent Cole, G Kyle DeVan, S Jaiquawn Jarrett, QB Mike Kafka, CB Curtis Marsh, T Jason Peters, OL Julian Vandervelde

Bills: T Demetrius Bell, G Colin Brown, LB Chris Kelsay, NT Torell Troup, CB Terrence Wheatley, LB Chris White, CB Aaron Williams

Rookie Danny Watkins is active and will make his first NFL start.  Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp are back and will look to pick up the Eagles pass rush with Trent Cole out.  With Jason Peters out, King Dunlap will start at left tackle.  With Mike Kafka benched, Vince Young is the backup quarterback.


This is a must-win game for the Eagles against a decent Bills team.  They can't go 1-4 and expect to make a late charge into the playoffs.  Given what we've seen the last few weeks, its hard to have much faith in the Birds.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ryan Howard has ruptured Achilles, will need surgery

A day later and it still hurts, especially for Ryan Howard.  The Phillies confirmed today that Howard ruptured his left Achilles tendon on the final out of the season and he will need surgery.  He can't have surgery right away because of the swelling and he figures to miss at least 6 months, putting to doubt whether he will be ready to start the 2012 regular season.

It's a good bet that Howard won't be ready at the start of the next season but it is nice to know he will likely suit up for the Phillies at some point next season.  Barring any offseason moves, that could mean John Mayberry gets a chance to play every day at first base.  As good as Mayberry was against lefties last year, let's hope Howard has a speedy recovery, especially considering that his new contract starts next season.

Shutout! Bryzgalov, Flyers blank Devils

It's been a long, long time since the Flyers had a shutout.  85 games to be exact.  It's only fitting, then, that the supposed savior between the pipes ends the drought.  Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 20 shots he faced as the Flyers blanked the Devils, 3-0, to remain unbeaten through two games.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the game:

-Bryzgalov gets credit for the shutout but he didn't have to do much work as he had some long stretches between shots.  That is often more difficult for goaltenders to have sporadic work than to be in the middle of the action for the entire game so Bryz certainly earned his shutout.

-Plenty of credit for the shutout should also go to the penalty killers, who were a perfect 5 for 5.  The Flyers continue to give the kids, Sean Couturier and Matt Read, plenty of penalty kill time and they haven't dissapointed.  Read also notched his first career goal and will be fun to watch develop over the course of the season.

-I said after the last game that Claude Giroux would score 40 goals this season but I might amend that to 50 goals.  With the way he is already clicking with JVR and Jaromir Jagr, 100 total points really doesn't seem to far-fetched for Giroux.

-It's hard not to notice all the things that Wayne Simmonds does well on the ice.  He only got 12:52 of ice time but he made the most of it, picking up a goal, a fight and 4 shots on net.  If Brayden Schenn turns out to be the player everyone thinks he will be, the Flyers won't have any regrets about trading Mike Richards.

Two games in and 82-0 is still in play for the Flyers!  After the disappointment of the ending of the Phillies season, this hard-working Flyers team is the perfect thing to wash away the pain.
(AP PHOTO)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Phillies eliminated as offense fails

That was certainly a disgusting way to end the season.  Once again, Ryan Howard made the final out to end the Phillies season, this time grounding out and injuring himself as he ran up the line.  The offense failed to do anything against Chris Carpenter, picking up just three hits as they looked completely over-matched.  Roy Halladay did everything he could but his one "bad" inning just couldn't be overcome by the Phillies pathetic offense.

I have plenty of other thoughts on the game and this team but I don't have the energy to write them out tonight.  The pitching will still be there for the next few years but something has to be done to shore up the bats.  With several veterans already locked in and Jimmy Rollins possibly leaving via free agency, its hard to see how things get better.  Add in that Ryan Madson is probably gone and its even more depressing.  In Ruben we trust, I suppose.

With the Eagles in disarray the city now turns their hopes to the revamped Flyers.  It's going to be a long offseason, Phillies fans.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New-look Flyers win season opener

After knocking off the defending champs, the Flyers are on their way to a perfect season!  Ok, not really, but the Flyers did look pretty impressive in their season opening 2-1 win over the Bruins.  Here are my thoughts on the win:

-It was exciting to see all the new faces and what their contributions would be to the Flyers.  With more than half a dozen skaters suiting up for the Flyers for the first time, we almost needed a scorecard to keep up with the action.  Of the newcomers, I was most impressed with Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds and, of course, Jaromir Jagr.  Read didn't get a ton of ice time but he did play some on the penalty kill and was aggressive.  Simmonds picked up a few penalties but he will quickly become a Flyers fan favorite.

-Jagr and Claude Giroux are going to be fun to watch this year.  The two playmakers worked together for their first of many goals tonight and had several quality chances throughout the night.  Giroux could easily get 40 goals playing with a motivated Jagr.

-No, it wasn't that elusive shutout the Flyers have been looking for, but Ilya Bryzgalov looked solid in net.  While he only had to face 23 shots, Bryzgalov stayed sharp and buckled down after giving up the first period goal.  It's way too early to tell if he is a significant upgrade in net but that was as good a start as you can ask for.

-Waaaaay too many penalties for the Flyers.  It's an issue that has plagued this club since their inception but the Flyers continue to give their opponents too many power play opportunities.  Maybe they just wanted to test out their PK?

-I'm not a big fan of Zac Rinaldo.  At all.  I like Jody Shelley better and that's really saying something.

At the very least, this should be a very interesting season for the Flyers with all the new players in the lineup.  While I still have some worries about where the offense is going to come from (besides the top line), their defense and goaltending should keep them in most games.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Phillies falter, face must-win Game 5

The other Roy just wasn't good enough to get it done.  Roy Oswalt took the mound for the Phillies in Game 4 but didn't have his best stuff as he gave up 5 runs and the Phillies lost, 5-3, and now must play a do-or-die Game 5.  Here are a few quick thoughts on the game:

-Despite Oswalt not having his best stuff, he was still the right choice to start Game 4.  Vance Worley has been great this year but Oswalt is a veteran who has proven himself time and again in the playoffs.  No reason to second guess the starting pitching choice.

-The Phillies blew an early lead for the second time in this series.  The offense seems on point at the start of these games but has been basically absent in the middle innings.  Edwin Jackson is no great starter but the Phillies just couldn't crack him after the first inning.

-That Shane Victorino stumble and bad toss in the outfield was something else.  Can't say I've ever seen that before.  First Ronnie Brown and now this.  Yikes.

-I'm sure Oswalt, an avid hunter, can figure out a way to get rid of that squirrel.

-Jimmy Rollins has been ridiculously locked in, hitting 9 for 16 with 4 doubles and 6 runs scored.   Think he is gunning for a big contract this offseason?

-Brad Lidge faced his demons and won, getting Albert Pujols out in the 8th inning.  I'm not sure Lidge will ever live down the moon shot he gave up to Pujols a few years back but this was at least a positive step one.

Being forced into an elimination game is never a good thing for a team but the Phillies will send Roy Halladay to the mound and have Cliff Lee available out of the bullpen.  If the Cardinals are able to best the Phillies top two aces, they really are the better team.  In Roy and Cliff we trust!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ben Francisco the unlikely hero in Game 3

To win a World Series you need to get big hits from some unlikely sources.  Ben Francisco was that unlikely source for the Phillies tonight, driving in all 3 of the Phillies runs with one swing of the bat.  Here are my thoughts on the Phils huge Game 3 win:

-Is there any more improbable of a hero than Ben Francisco?  After a pretty terrible regular season, Francisco instantly made himself a Philly legend with his 3-run homer in the 7th inning.  It was just his second hit in his postseason career and his first home run since late May but Francisco now joins the likes of Matt Stairs in the Phillies postseason pinch hit Hall of Fame.

-Although the Cardinals really made him work, Cole Hamels certainly pitched like an ace tonight.  It would have been nice if he could have gone more than 6 innings before having to turn it over to the bullpen but you can't argue with 8 strikeouts and no earned runs.

-The Phillies bullpen is still something to worry about.  When the starting pitchers are forced to throw a lot of pitches early on the bullpen is going to be a factor and Ryan Madson is the only reliever that can be counted on at the moment.  Madson can't pitch multiple innings every night, though, so someone is going to have step up sooner or later.

-Man that double play in the 8th inning was huge.  It also saved Madson from having to throw too many pitches and allowed him to stay fresh for the 9th.

-Jaime Garcia was everything we feared he would be.  The Phillies just can't hit strike-throwing, soft-tossing lefties.  The Phils failed to work deep counts on Garcia as he cruised through the first 6 innings.  We all know what happened in the 7th, of course.  Wonder if Garcia regrets walking Carlos Ruiz to get to Francisco...

-How annoying is Ryan Theriot?  He is just a mediocre journeyman middle infielder but there he is, going 4 for 5 in Game 3 and raising his batting average to .667 in the postseason.  Thank goodness he didn't get a hit in that final at bat.  I would call him the 2011 Cody Ross but Theriot has zero power and his team isn't winning.

With the two Roy's pitching the next two games and Cliff Lee possibly available out of the pen, the Phillies are exactly where they want to be.  All the pressure is on the Cardinals to beat two of the Phllies aces in a row.  Good luck with that.

Eagles sign DT Derek Landri to replace Antonio Dixon

Not only did the Eagles lose in embarrassing fashion to the Niners on Sunday, they also lost one of their defensive tackles for the season.  Antonio Dixon was placed on injured reserve by the Eagles after injuring his tricep.  Dixon is a promising young player but this injury shouldn't affect him long-term.

To replace Dixon on the roster, the Eagles signed Derek Landri, who spent the preseason with the Birds.  He is a high-motor guy who looked impressive but was on the outside looking in when the Eagles set their initial 53 man roster.  Don't expect much of a drop-off when Landri gets on the field.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bloody Sunday: Phillies blow 4 run lead in Game 2

That was a rough day to be a Philly sports fan.  After jumping out to a 4 run lead, the Phillies couldn't put the Cardinals away and lost 5-4.  The Cardinals bullpen deserves a ton of credit for completely shutting the Phillies down for the final 6 innings.  Here are my thoughts on Game 2:

-The Phillies offense looked locked in right off the bat, working the count and getting solid hits off of Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.  Carpenter was fortunate to get out of the first without allowing too much damage when he got Polanco to ground into a double play.  Think the Cards will ever use him on short rest again?

-After the second inning, the Phillies offense went into a coma and never woke up.  Tony La Russa trotted out pitcher after pitcher and the Phillies couldn't muster any kind of offense.  Only Jimmy Rollins managed a hit and he was promptly picked off trying to steal second.

-The Phillies looked especially clueless against Jason Motte.  I hope they don't need a key run against him in an elimination situation.

-That wasn't quite the Cliff Lee we've all come to expect.  Though he gave up a few hits early, he looked good through the first three innings.  The Cardinals starting tagging him after that, though, picking up a string of cheap hits to get themselves back into the game.  He wasn't helped by the wildly inconsistent strike zone but Lee is going to have to pitch better than that next time around.

-The Phillies bullpen was tremendous, allowing just one hit in three innings.  That was one big positive to come out of the game.

-Ryan Howard continued his great postseason with 2 big RBI's in the first inning.  He is putting that nightmare of a 2010 postseason behind him though it would have been nice if he came through in the 8th inning.

-That Jon Jay hit on Carlos Ruiz at the plate was the biggest hit of the day in Philadelphia.  Yeah, I'm looking at you, Eagles.

The Phillies still have another ace to turn to so there is no reason to panic.  What a horrible Sunday to be a Philly fan, though.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Eagles downward slide continues in choke against Niners

We have a disaster on our hands, Eagles fans.  After making a number of mistakes in the first half and still building a 20-3 lead, the Eagles allowed the Niners to score the final 21 points of the game to win, 24-23.  Here are my thoughts on a brutal loss for the Eagles:

-Were do we place the blame for that loss?  On the defense that still can't stop the run?  On Jeremy Maclin for not protecting the football?  On the rookie kicker who can't make a chip shot?  On the defensive coordinator who is clearly overmatched?  How about on the coach who put this mess together?  I've never been a "fire Andy Reid" guy but something has to give after what happened today.  The pieces are all there but this isn't working.

-I don't have a clue how to fix this defense with the current personnel.  You have to be able to stop the run, which they can't do.  You also can't let Alex Smith throw for 291 yards.  How you can have three of the best corners in the game and let the Niners crop of mediocre receivers be open all game long is a complete mystery.

-One guy who is giving his max effort on defense is Jason Babin.  He was disruptive all game long and picked up three sacks.  The d-line continues to consistently create pressure but the rest of the D is letting them down.

-Another guy I can't blame for this loss is Michael Vick.  He had a few bad throws here and there but at least he was busting his butt on every play.  With the offensive line still barely able to block anyone, Vick made the most out of what he was given.  His career high 416 yards passing and 75 yards rushing only added up to 23 points, though, and that just isn't enough.

-How about giving LeSean McCoy more than 9 carries?

-David Akers must be dying of laughter right now.  Alex Henery is a rookie and games like this will happen but he had two chances to put the game away and couldn't do it.  Akers missed one, too, but a million bucks says he doesn't miss that 4th quarter attempt from 33 yards.

-I almost forgot about Ronnie Brown.  What the heck was he thinking?  That could have been the worst play I've seen a professional football player ever make.  Even high school kids don't do that.

Something has to give with this team, something has to be changed.  Someone needs to get fired or this is all going to keep happening.  I'm not looking forward to the game against a good Bills team next week at all.  At least we have the Phillies!

Ronnie Brown is a genius

Your guess is as good as mine as to what Ronnie Brown was thinking on this attempted throw while being tackled at the goalline.  If he wasn't a veteran he would be cut after such a bone-headed play.

Eagles vs. Niners inactives: Maclin to play

The Eagles and the Niners announced their inactive players for their Week 4 matchup:

Eagles: CB Brandon Hughes, T Winston Justice, CB Curtis Marsh, DE Juqua Parker, DE Darryl Tapp, OL Julian Vandervelde, G Danny Watkins

Niners: DT Demarcus Dobbs, WR Braylon Edwards, G Daniel Kilgore, FB Moran Norris, G Mike Person, QB Scott Tolzien, DT Ian Williams

Despite his injured hamsting, Jeremy Maclin is suiting up.  The only change in the inactives from last week is that Jaiquawn Jarrett is suiting up for the first time of the year and Brandon Hughes is benched.  There are two new starters on defense as Brandon Rolle is starting at WILL and Nate Allen is starting at free safety.

For the Niners, Frank Gore is suiting up but shouldn't have much burst due to a bad ankle.  Kendall Hunter will even start at running back ahead of Gore.

Its only Week 4 but this is pretty much a must-win for the Eagles.  If they lose to this weak Niners team and go 1-3 you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Phillies-Cardinals NLDS Game 1 Thoughts

One down, 10 more wins to go.  After a sluggish start for both Roy Halladay and the offense, the Phillies woke up in time to pound the Cardinals, 11-6, and start off the 2011 playoffs with a win.  Here are some of my thoughts on the game:

-Who else had a sinking feeling in their stomach after Halladay gave up the 3-run homer in the first inning and when the Phillies offense looked impatient and inept against Kyle Lohse in the early innings?  You had to figure that Halladay would settle in and he certainly did, retiring 21 straight and looking dominant from the 2nd inning on.  Take out that one swing by Lance Berkman and we'd be talking about another amazing Halladay playoff outing.

-With one swing, Ryan Howard already has more homers and RBI than he did in the entire 2010 playoffs.  We've all seen Howard come up small with runners on in close games before but he stayed patient and waited for Lohse to make a mistake.  If that's the Howard we get for the next few weeks, another title is just a formality.

-The rumors of Raul Ibanez's demise have been greatly exaggerated.  These could be his last few games with the Phillies and Ibanez has already made a huge impact.

-The bullpen still might be something to worry about.  The fact that they had to turn to Ryan Madson just to put the Cardinals away was disheartening.  Although the starters can be expected to go deep in nearly every game, someone besides Madson has to step up and get batters out.

-Albert Pujols is good and all but how about they don't basically intentionally walk him in the first inning?  Berkman and Matt Holliday (when he's healthy enough to start) can really rake so there is no reason to give them extra runners to drive in.

-Hunter Pence looked comfortable in the playoffs, picking up a big hit before Howard's homer as well as the single that put the game out of reach in the 8th inning.  He continues to be exactly what the Phillies needed to add to the lineup.

With Cliff Lee going against Chris Carpenter tomorrow, Game 2 should be a great matchup.  Expect the first team to get to 2 runs to win.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Phillies vs. Cardinals: NLDS Schedule

Updated: now with the latest pitching matchups and game times.

Here is the schedule, with probable pitchers, for the NLDS series between the Phillies and the Cardinals:

Game 1: Sat., 10/1: Cardinals (Lohse) @ Phillies (Halladay), 5:07 pm
Game 2: Sun., 10/2: Cardinals (Carpenter) @ Phillies (Lee), 8:37 pm
Game 3: Tues., 10/4: Phillies (Hamels) @ Cardinals (Garcia), TBD
Game 4: Wed., 10/5: Phillies (Oswalt) @ Cardinals (Jackson), TBD
Game 5: Fri., 10/7: Cardinals @ Phillies, TBD

The starters for the first two games have already been announced and I took my best guess for Games 3 and 4.  The Phillies will be fortunate if they can avoid Garcia, who is a tough lefty, until Game 4.  My prediction is Phillies in 4.  The starting pitching is too good to be denied by a Cardinals team with a lot of flaws.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Phillies to face Cardinals in the first round!

What a night of baseball!  The Phillies completed their season-ending sweep of the Braves, knocking them out of the playoffs and setting up a first round matchup against the Cardinals, who beat the Astros to clinch the Wild Card.  The win was also the Phillies 102nd win on the season, a franchise record.  While the Cardinals will be a tough matchup, the Phillies have to be happy to not have to worry about facing a Braves team that could have been a tricky opponent due to their (usually) solid bullpen.

Check back soon for the NLDS schedule.  The series will start on Saturday but the time is TBA.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Michael Vick didn't break his hand, could play next week

Good news has been few and far between for the Eagles this season, so this was nice to hear: Michael Vick did not break his hand against the Giants yesterday.  According to Andy Reid, a CT scan showed no fracture in Vick's hand and the team is calling the injury a hand contusion.  While there were some reports that Vick could be out 3-4 weeks with a broken hand, Reid implied that Vick could be ready to go against the Niners next week.

As long as the Eagles are telling the truth about the injury, Vick won't be out for very long, if at all.  Now if only Vick could play linebacker.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eagles look broken in loss to Giants

Well, that was embarrassing.  Here are some of my thoughts on the Eagles terrible performance against the Giants:

-The offense wasn't pretty but the defense deserves most of the blame for this loss.  The Giants are not a good offensive team and they were playing with a makeshift wide receiver group and they still managed to put up 29 points. Not all of the blame goes to the linebackers, either, as top players like Nnamdi Asomugha got uncharacteristically burned.  While the defensive line is still creating a lot of pressure, the rest of the D is broken.  Juan Castillo may be in over his head.

-Even before he hurt his hand, Michael Vick did not look right.  It's hard to blame him with the way he was getting hit early and often.  It will be a miracle if he makes it through this season without a serious injury.  He broke his non-throwing hand so I would have to guess he will be able to make the start next week.

-Mike Kafka did not look good this time around, throwing a pair of picks.  Should Vick not be able to go, we could see our first Vince Young start.

-LeSean McCoy is an absolute beast.  Just when the offense looked lost, McCoy took the rock and carried the team on his back and got the Eagles back in the game.  His 128 yards on the ground were the lone bright spot for the Birds.

-Casey Matthews and Kurt Coleman both made terrible plays that led to long Giants touchdowns in the first half.  Coleman was benched for his missed tackle in favor of Nate Allen, who quickly got abused by Ahmad Bradshaw.  Matthews should have also been benched for completely biting on a play fake and letting Brandon Jacobs rumble down the sideline.  Perhaps the Eagles will shake up the linebackers yet again next week or perhaps they will finally sit the rookie down.

-Playcalling is always an issue with Andy Reid but I'm still trying to figure out why Owen Schmitt got a pair of goalline carries.  The Giants couldn't stop McCoy so they give the ball to the fullback twice in a must-score situation?  Doesn't make any sense.

-Steve Smith has to be pissed for how he played against his former team.  That gift interception and only two catches better leave a sour taste in his mouth.

The Eagles really aren't a good football team right now.  They get a weak Niners team next week and if they don't show some life, you can probably already kiss the playoffs goodbye.

Michael Vick breaks right hand, Maclin injures hamstring

Another week, another Michael Vick injury that knocks him out of the game.  This time, Vick has broken his right hand and was removed from the Giants game in the 4th quarter.  Mike Kafka has once again taken over under center.

With the way Vick plays and the way the offensive line has issues protecting him, he is going to continue to get knocked around this season.  At least it wasn't his head this time and at least it wasn't his throwing hand.

In other Eagles injury news, Jeremy Maclin was knocked out of the game against the Giants with a hamstring injury.  This season has been nothing short of a nightmare so far.

Eagles vs. Giants Week 3 Inactives

The Eagles and Giants announced their inactives for their week 3 contest:

Eagles:  S Jaiquawn Jarrett, T Winston Justice, CB Curtis Marsh, DE Juqua Parker, DE Darryl Tapp, OL Julian Vandervelde, G Danny Watkins

Giants:  CB Prince Amukamara, T James Brewer, WR Michael Clayton, WR Mario Manningham, G Mitch Petrus, RB Da'Rel Scott, DE Osi Umenyiora

As expected, Michael Vick is ready to start for the Eagles.  Vince Young is also active for the Eagles and presumably will be the third string quarterback.  Parker and Tapp are both out, as expected, so we should see plenty of Philip Hunt.

For the Giants offense, Manningham is out though Hakeem Nicks will play.  The Giants defense should be ripe for the picking so expect a big day from Vick.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Eagles fall to Falcons on Sunday Night

Tough, tough loss for the Eagles, who went from having the game in hand to losing their lead and their starting quarterback in a 35-31 loss to the Falcons.  Here are a few quick thoughts about the game:

-The game completely turned when Michael Vick left.  Even though backup Mike Kafka played about as well as he possibly could have, the momentum in the game completely shifted when Vick got knocked out.  Let's hope Vick is okay for next week.

-For as good as the Eagles defense looked at times, they gave up 5 touchdowns on 5 Falcons red zone attempts.  That's completely unacceptable.  For all the great pressure they put on the quarterback and all of the shutdown corners they have, they have to come up with the big stops inside the 20.  It's almost the opposite of the "bend but don't break" defense.  Don't bend but break?

-Trent Cole had a hell of a game.  So did Cullen Jenkins.  The defensive line is simply phenomenal and will be a force that other teams are going to have a hard time figuring out how to stop.

-Despite all the names on defense, the Eagles still can't cover a tight end to save their lives.  Oh, that's right, there aren't any "names" playing linebacker.

-Kafka is well on his way to being traded for a second round pick in two years.  The kid played great, throwing only two incompletions that weren't his fault at all.  Even though it's probably just the system, Kafka seems accurate enough to be a solid backup.

-Jeremy Maclin went from hero to goat on one play.  He had 13 catches for 171 yards and yet will only be remembered for dropping that perfect pass by Kafka on 4th down.

-Why the heck did the Falcons punt to DeSean Jackson at the end of the game?  They were lucky he didn't win the game right there just like the Miracle at the Meadowlands.

-Speaking of the Giants, as long as Vick is healthy next week, the Eagles should bounce back and put a beating on the G-men.  Heck, even with Kafka I like the Eagles chances.

Tough loss for the Eagles but there is no shame in losing to a solid Falcons team on the road.  Yes, the game was theirs for the taking but there is no reason to lose faith in a good Eagles team.  With their next two games against the Giants and Niners, this team is in position to bounce back nicely.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Michael Vick forced out of Sunday Night game with a concussion

UPDATE: According to Andy Reid, Vick had a concussion.

Uh oh.  After knocking his head into Todd Herremans in the third quarter, Michael Vick had to leave the Sunday Night game against the Falcons with an apparent neck injury.  There is no word yet if he will return to the game.

Bigger uh oh: with Vince Young out, the Eagles are going to turn to Mike Kafka to maintain their slim lead.  In Shady McCoy we trust!

Eagles and Falcons announce Week 2 inactives

The Eagles and Falcons announced the following players as inactive for their Sunday night game:

Eagles: S Jaiquawn Jarrett, LB Akeem Jordan, CB Curtis Marsh, T Winston Justice, DE Darry Tapp, OL Julian Vandervelde, QB Vince Young

Falcons: LB Spencer Adkins, DT Jonathan Babineaux, G Mike Johnson, DE Cliff Matthews, C Todd McClure, RB Antone Smith, CB Darrin Walls

Jason Peters is active after there was some question as to whether he would play.  Rookie Danny Watkins is active for the first time in his career but won't likely see playing time unless there is an injury.  With Tapp out, Philip Hunt makes his NFL debut and should see a few snaps.

With Michael Vick making his return to Atlanta, this should be a fun one tonight.  A 2-0 start in a pair of road games would be huge for the Eagles.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Phillies are NL East champs for the 5th straight year!

For the 5th year in a row, the Phillies are NL East Champions!  A great start by Roy Oswalt and an offensive explosion in the bottom of the 8th sealed the deal as the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 9-2, and clinched the division faster than they ever have in their history.  It is also the 11th NL East division title, tying them with the Braves for the most titles since the NL East was formed in 1969.

All that is left now for the Phillies is to clinch the best record in the NL and that will give them a homefield advantage in every series because the National League won the All-Star Game.  While their goal will certainly be to have the best record in baseball, and the most wins in team history, expect the regulars to have plenty of rest down the stretch as the Phillies gear up for another postseason.  With the big three pitchers and an offense that has awoken in the second half of the season, everything seems lined up for an exciting October.  What a time to be a Phillies fan!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chris Pronger named Flyers captain

In a move that has been expected ever since the Mike Richards trade, the Flyers have officially named Chris Pronger team captain.  The team also named Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen the alternate captains.

For Pronger, this is the third team he has captained as he previously held the role with the Blues and Ducks.  Hopefully he will be healthy enough to play at the start of the season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Phillies are back in the playoffs!

After (finally) beating the Astros, 1-0, the Phillies became the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff spot.  We've known for months that they would get there but it's still nothing to take lightly.

At this point, the Phillies have only clinched at least the NL Wild Card.  Their magic number for the NL East is down to four.

We truly are in the golden era of Phillies baseball.  Looking forward to another fun October.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Eagles start slow, finish strong to beat Rams

It started ominously, with the Eagles failing on their first offensive drive and the Rams scoring on their first play of the game, but the better team eventually prevailed as the Birds won, 31-13.

The offensive line struggled early, clearly having issues with the volume of the St. Louis crowd as Michael Vick didn't have enough time to find open receivers.  They seemed to settle down after the first series, however, and Vick was able to make plays with his arm as well as his feet.  On the day, Vick had 187 yards passing and two touchdowns as well as 98 yards rushing.  LeSean McCoy also had a strong game on the ground, racking up 122 yards rushing and 15 receiving with two touchdowns.  Most of his damage was done in the 4th quarter when the Eagles had a big lead and were salting the game away.  The weapons were in full force for the Eagles as DeSean Jackson also had 100 yards receiving.  If the offensive line can hold up, the Eagles offense is just going to overwhelm teams.

After allowing Steven Jackson to score on a 47 yard run on the Rams first offensive play, the Eagles defense stiffened and didn't allow another touchdown the entire game.  While they were aided by a few drops by the Rams receivers, the Eagles D looked strong as it pressured Rams QB Sam Bradford, hitting him early and often.  Three members of the Eagles starting D-line, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin, all had sacks, with Babin picking up two.  Juqua Parker also got in on the action, picking up a Bradford fumble and taking it to the house.  The secondary was also solid as a whole, never really getting burned deep though they did have some issues with the underneath routes.

After so many "experts" predicted them to lose to the Rams, it was nice to see the Eagles win pretty convincingly.  While they still have plenty of things to work on, like their offensive line and stopping the run, the Eagles are loaded with talent and should be competitive week in and week out.  Encouraging start for the Eagles, now let's see how they do against a solid Falcons team next week in Atlanta.