Saturday, December 31, 2016

Eagles Look to End Their Season on Strong Note Against Big D

The Eagles' 2016 season will come to a close on Sunday regardless of the outcome of their game against Dallas in what was a thrill ride on a roller coaster that started with some really big highs before cascading downward into the lowest of lows.

A perfect 3-0 run to start this ride raised expectations through the roof and heading into a Week 8 showdown against the Cowboys at 4-2 it all started to unravel. One can only speculate how things might be different if Philly could have somehow managed to win that overtime game against Dallas as opposed to coming up on the wrong end of a crushing 29-23 loss. From there things only got worse with just one more win in the Birds' next seven games and by the time they did manage to upset the New York Giants last Saturday at the Linc the damage had been done.

This Sunday's home game against the Cowboys is completely meaningless for either team as far as the final standings. An Eagles' victory would get them to a more respectable seven wins on the year to match Chip Kelly's record last season in his final year as head coach. Dallas has already locked up the top seed in the NFC so its main goal in this NFC East clash in keeping everyone healthy.

The oddsmakers have Philly listed as a 4.5-point favorite in this game given the fact that its motivation to end the season on a winning note will be much higher than a Cowboys' team that will simply try and get out of the hostile environment at the Linc in one piece. It does not look like first year head coach Doug Pederson's job is on the line, but a strong showing on Sunday would not hurt his job status heading into another long offseason.

There is no doubt that some big changes need to take place over the next several months to get Philadelphia on the same level as the rest of the competition in the NFC East. Even Washington can qualify for the playoffs with a win against New York this week, so it is painfully obvious that the current gap is way too wide.

The Eagles' offense is in desperate need of a few playmakers at the skill positions and there are some big holes up front that need to be filled. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz did a decent job with his unit on that side of the ball, but there were still far too many stupid mistakes, bad penalties and mental breakdowns along the way to successfully compete with the stronger competition Philly faced this year.

All-in-all, to quote the words of former NFL head coach Denny Green, "They are who we thought they were....". The highlights were far and few between, but we still have fond memories of those two dominating wins against Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Carson Wentz struggled through his rookie growing pains, but you would have to believe that, at the very least, he did demonstrate the skills to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. There are some solid pieces in place on both sides of the ball that set the foundation for a turnaround in the coming years, but there is still quite a bit work to be done for team vice president Howie Roseman come free agency and the upcoming draft.

For now, we will have to be content with a two-game run to close out the 2016 season against the top two teams in the division, assuming that Philly gets past Dallas on Sunday. Another loss to the Cowboys would be hard to endure given how us tortured fans were forced to watch our arch rivals turn things around in a big way from just four wins the season before.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Eagles Play the Role of Spoiler in Win Against New York

Eagles' fans have been waiting patiently since early November to see this team end up on the winning side of a final score during its recent five-game skid, but everything finally came together in Thursday's night's 24-19 victory against the rival New York Giants. The offense got off to a hot start and the defense sealed things with a few key turnovers at the end of the game in what was a total team effort. We have gotten too use to the Birds coming up short on both sides of the ball during their recent slide, so it was good to see this team find a way to win with all three phases playing at an elevated level. The best part of Thursday night's victory was that it came against a division rival that needed to win that game to clinch a spot in the playoffs. It is highly likely that the Giants still get in as one of two wild card teams in the NFC, but they might have been exposed as pretenders as opposed to contenders in the race to Super Bowl LI.

Philly has a great shot at ending the season with another division win at home against Dallas next Sunday since the Cowboys have already clinched the top seed in the NFC as far as the postseason. A victory against the Dallas would match a projected win total of seven games. It is hard to take any comfort in that rather dubious achievement after the Eagles jumped out to an encouraging 3-0 start on their way to a 4-2 record through their first six games. Unfortunately things went downhill from there to set up another long offseason for Philly fans that are starved to see our team return to the ranks of being a legitimate playoff team in the NFL. Maybe Thursday night's win was a preview of better things to come in 2017, but I for one am getting pretty tired of looking forward to next the NFL Draft before the current season is even over.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Should Doug Pederson Be on the Hot Seat in Philly?

The only good news for the Eagles heading into a Week 15 matchup on the road against the Baltimore Ravens is that the Philadelphia Flyers are riding a 10-game winning streak into their road game this Saturday against the Dallas Stars to help deflect some attention away from their dismal play over the last four games. Even the lowly 76ers have won more games than the football team in town lately with a 2-2 record in their last four outings.

I have been touting the Birds as a legitimate playoff contender all season long based on what I saw from this team when the leaves were still green and on the trees. Playoff teams win games in November and December while the league's pretenders continue to work their way into a better position for next year's draft. The race to the postseason in the NFC is one of the best in years, unfortunately with an ugly four-game losing streak Philly is now officially on the outside looking in.

Earlier this week I read an article about which NFL head coaches are in jeopardy of losing their jobs in the wake of the Los Angeles Rams' decision to part ways with their embattled head coach Jeff Fisher. Eagles' head coach Doug Pederson was mentioned, but thought to be safe considering that it was just his first year on the job. The simple fact that he was mentioned raises a red flag in my book. On the surface, a 5-8 record for a team that was projected to win just seven games does not appear to be all that bad, but it is the way that this team has collapsed down the stretch that raises my level of concern. Rookie Carson Wentz is headed in the wrong direction after a strong start as the team's new starting quarterback on an offense that is extremely predictable. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had his unit playing at a very high level earlier in the year, but now this defense is not all that much better than the one that finished last season at or near the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories.

I am not jumping ship on the Eagles after still believing in them all the way up to last week's loss against Washington, but something has to be done about all the water this ship has taken in over the past month or so. Pederson needs to show that he can motivate this team to finish strong. Philadelphia can win in Baltimore this Sunday and it also has a chance to get a win at home this upcoming Thursday against the New York Giants. The best opportunity to show team owner Jeff Lurie that he does have what it takes to be a head coach at this level would be to knock off Dallas on New Year's Day if there is anything still on the line for the Cowboys as far as their postseason plans.

If Philly can get to seven wins this season then Pederson should keep his job. However, if this current four-game losing streak reaches seven games by year's end, I think Lurie might want to seriously think about cutting his losses and find a capable head coach that does have what it takes to guide his team.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Playoffs? Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?

I just Googled "Jim Mora Playoffs Rant" and found that there is a whole website dedicated to that oh so famous tyraid way back in 2001. His actual statement when asked if the Colts could still make it into the playoffs that season was:

"What’s that? Ah — Playoffs? Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game."

Turning to 2016 and our beloved Birds, it is painfully obvious that their backs are firmly against the wall when it comes to any dream of playing past New Year’s Day following last week’s dismal performance on the road against a Cincinnati. The really sad part is that the Bengals had only won three games this season prior to that thorough 32-14 pounding Philly endured in that crushing loss. The harsh reality that the Eagles are not all that good is beginning to overshadow the wild notion that they can win out over their last four games to stay alive in the NFC wild card race.

I am still willing to hold out hope until all hope is lost starting with a predicted win at home this Sunday against Washington. From there, the Eagles would have to beat Baltimore on the road before getting past New York and Dallas at home in two final division matchups.

Bleak yes, but impossible no.

Philly has been a much better team at home this season with the exception of that Monday night loss to Green Bay and the fact that they are playing three division foes in their own backyard actually works in their favor. When it comes to getting past the Ravens you cannot ignore the fact that they are playing much better lately, but this is still a beatable team if Joe Flacco has an off day throwing the ball.

If I am not the biggest homer when it comes to this team, then I do not know who is. My memory of those three dominating wins against Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Atlanta are pretty feint by now given just how bad the Eagles have played in their last three games against Seattle, Green Bay and Cincinnati, but until they are dead and buried for the season I will continue to believe that they can return to that winning form.

To be honest, I actually had all of those last three games penciled in as losses before the season began. I also had the Eagles sitting at 5-7 at this point of the season when I went through their first 12 games so trust me, everything is still going according to plan. Just to refresh everyone's memory, my preseason prediction was 9-7 which I believed would be good enough to win the NFC East. Little did I know that both Dallas and New York would still finish higher in the standings. For now, bring on the Redskins, we will worry about those other three wins a bit further down the road.

Bleak yes, but impossible no!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Eagles and Bengals Set to Battle it Out at Paul Brown Stadium

The Eagles' postseason plans are on life support right now with just two wins in their last six games following a promising 3-0 start. They fell prey to Green Bay this past Monday night in a game that they never really had a chance to win. This Sunday they face the Cincinnati Bengals, who are trying to snap a three-game losing streak as part of a very disappointing 3-7-1 record on the year. The good news for the faithful fans of both teams is that someone has to win this game (unless there is another tie). We are all hoping it will be our beloved Birds since one more loss would probably be the final stake in the heart of any possible playoff run.

I have been rather complimentary of the job that first-year head coach Doug Pederson has done so far, but the honeymoon is over following a couple of sketchy performances the past two weeks from a team that did not appear to be ready to play. Even when they lost games earlier in the season the Eagles were always competitive, but they had that 'deer in the headlights' look on their faces in back-to-back losses to Seattle and Green Bay. A lackluster effort this Sunday against the floundering Bengals would surely have to cast a shadow of doubt on Pederson's ability to be a head coach at this level.

There is still enough talent on this team to go toe-to-toe against any other team in the league including Dallas, but slow starts, bad penalties and inconsistent play on both sides of the ball are not traits of a team headed in the right direction. I still remain confident that Philly can make a run at wild card spot in the NFC, but it is pretty obvious that its margin for error is now razor thin. I am going with the Birds to start that run with a win at Cincinnati this week to set up a huge showdown at home against Washington next Sunday in a NFC East division battle that could have major playoff implications if the Redskins cannot get past Arizona on the road this week.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Playoff Hopes On the Line this Monday Night in Philly

Before this NFL season got underway, I had the Green Bay Packers winning the NFC as the best team in the conference and I had the Eagles finishing at 7-9 in Doug Pederson's first season as Philadelphia's head coach. I am obviously dead wrong in my first prediction and I am praying that I am also wrong with my previous prediction for the Birds.

It has not always been a pretty ride this season on the way to an even 5-5 mark through the Eagles' first 10 games, but all-in-all this team has been able to exceed most fans' expectations. Carson Wentz is still going through some major growing pains as a rookie quarterback in the NFL, but I think it is safe to say that he is on the right path to becoming a very good franchise quarterback in this league. Pederson has made some questionable calls that may have cost his team a win or two along the way, but for the most part I do think he has what it takes to be a head coach at this level.

The Packers are in trouble after losing their last four games while giving up 153 points and I do not see them turning things around this Monday night at the Linc. As far as Philly's future this season, a win against Green Bay would put the Eagles just a half game behind Washington for the final wild card spot in the NFC as far as making it into the playoffs. I know I should not be talking about the playoffs with a team that has now lost five of its last seven games, but a favorable schedule over the final six weeks of the season does make a trip to the postseason a distinct possibility.

I will concede the NFC East title to Dallas following this past Thursday's win, but the Redskins and the Giants are not as good as their current record might indicate. Philly has the tie-breaker against Minnesota and I also cannot see Tampa Bay staying in playoff contention all the way to Week 17. A 9-7 mark could be good enough to snag one of those two wild card playoff spots and if the Eagles were to be one of those two teams that would add up to a very successful season in my book.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Can the Eagles Clip The High-Flying Seahawks' Wings?

The Eagles are 5-4 on the year heading into arguably their toughest game of season this Sunday on the road against 6-2-1 Seattle. The Seahawks have all the momentum in the world on their side following last Sunday's stunning 31-24 upset of New England on the road. The general consensus is that they will stay on a roll this Sunday with a relatively easy win at home as touchdown favorites.

I personally believe that the Eagles have Seattle right where they want them. Going back over Philly's first nine games, it has closed as an underdog in five of those contests. Doug Pederson's crew won as underdogs on the road in Week 2 against Chicago before we knew just how bad the Bears really were. They took on the Steelers as underdogs when everyone still thought that Pittsburgh was headed to the Super Bowl this year and went on to hammer their in-state rivals 34-3. When Minnesota came to town on Oct. 23 as a road favorite, the Eagles made short work of the 5-0 Vikings in a 21-10 victory that was the springboard to that team's fall from grace in its current four-game losing streak. Last Sunday as a home underdog against the Atlanta Falcons, they held the NFL's highest scoring team to just 15 points in a much-needed nine-point win. The two losses as underdogs came against Dallas on the road in overtime and to the New York Giants on the road when a furious fourth-quarter rally came up just short.

What this all means for this Sunday's game is the Eagles should be thankful that nobody expects them to win. They tend to play their best football when their backs are up against the wall and given the fact that they are still in last place in the NFC East despite having a winning record makes just about every game they play from here on in a 'must win' affair.

I am not going to try and argue that Seattle is not one of the top teams in the NFC this season, but I still think the Seahawks are overrated given some of their weaker performances this season. Going back just a few weeks ago, the tied 4-4-1 Arizona before losing to New Orleans. Seattle's offense is ranked 30th in the league in rushing yards and it is 21st in the NFL in scoring with 21.4 points a game. The strength of this team still lies in its defense, but this unit did not live up to its lofty rankings two weeks ago at home in a 31-25 win against Buffalo.

I thought I was pretty bold in predicting earlier victories against the Vikings and the Falcons after a very shaky start in my official picks for Philly's first few games. I am probably picking with my heart instead of my head for this Sunday's contest, but I honestly believe that the Eagles will come away with a win at Seattle with the Seahawks getting caught reading all their own press clippings from last week's improbable upset on the road.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Eagle's Second Half Run Starts with a Battle of the Birds

A perfect 3-0 start gave way to a 1-4 run in their next five games so our beloved Birds find themselves at 4-4 on the year and at a crossroads in their season. A loss to Atlanta this Sunday at home will probably signal an end to any plans that involve a trip to the playoffs in Doug Pederson's first season as head coach and Carson Wentz's first campaign as the Eagles new franchise quarterback. However, a victory against another quality NFL team as underdogs at home could spark a run that might land the Birds in the postseason for the first time since Chip Kelly was a first-year head coach back in 2013.

That is just the way things go in the NFL this time of the year. One key victory here and there can quickly define the entire direction a mid-level team like Philly takes over the rest of its season. Like I mentioned last week, the future is so bright I have to wear shades; however another loss on Sunday could put me in the dreaded position of having to root for a team that might be forced to simply ride out the string in a NFC playoff race that should remain fairly wide open all the way to Week 17.

If the Eagles can somehow get past Atlanta this Sunday and go on to win four more games between next week's road matchup against Seattle and Dallas at home on New Year's Day, they would be 9-7 on the year and still in contention for a possible wild card spot in the playoffs. There is still a chance that the over-achieving Cowboys implode over the second half of their season to keep the race for the NFC East wide open. The fact that Philly still has three home games against each division rival on the slate over the final four weeks of the year could set the stage for a dramatic run to a division title.

Hope springs eternal as a die-hard Philly fan and the only reason why I think the Eagles can still make a run to the postseason is the few glimpses of success we have enjoyed over their first eight games. There is a solid argument that they should be 6-2 with added wins against both Detroit and Dallas. There is also some definitive proof that Carson Wentz could be a perennial Pro Bowl caliber quarterback in the very near future. Playing stout defense is once again a top priority and overall I honestly believe that the Eagles are only a few players away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

The last time our Birds' backs were against the wall was against the then-undefeated Minnesota Vikings and I predicted a big win (after going 0-3 with my picks in their previous three games). A high-flying 6-3 Atlanta team is coming to town this Sunday and I am once again making a bold prediction that the only wings getting clipped in this Battle of the Birds will result in a pile of Falcon feathers on the turf at the Linc when the smoke finally clears!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Eagles Aim for a Four-Quarter Effort Against the Giants

The Eagles close out the first half of their 2016 NFL regular season schedule this Sunday with a trip to MetLife Stadium to square off against the division rival New York Giants. They have gone 4-3 in their first seven games and if they knew how to finish games they would be 6-1 at the very least. A late fumble sealed their fate with a loss in Detroit and last Sunday night in Dallas they could not hold onto a 10-point lead heading into the final quarter.

I get the fact that this is a young team under first year head coach Doug Pederson. Philly has a rookie at quarterback and its entire defense has received a complete makeover under the guidance of Jim Schwartz as the new coordinator. We have already seen complete efforts on this side of the ball when this unit rose to the occasion to hold Pittsburgh and Minnesota to a combined 13 points. However, the loss to Washington and last week's late-game collapse tells us that this defense cannot be trusted to carry this team. Unfortunately, that is what Philly needs while Carson Wentz and Co. try and improve an offense that is ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game (208.3) and 28th in total yards (317.7). The defense and special teams have helped to pad a 25.6 point scoring average that is ranked 10th in the league.

The big problem is that the Birds teased us with that 3-0 start followed by the upset over the previously undefeated Vikings. At closer examination, the team's first two wins were against Cleveland and Chicago, who are now a combined 2-14 and Pittsburgh and Minnesota are both highly overrated to take a bit of the luster away from those two wins. On the flip side, the Lions are a much better team than expected and winning division games on the road is always a tall task.

This Sunday's game against New York should go a long way towards pointing which direction Philly takes over the second half of the season. The remaining schedule is not in its favor with Atlanta and Green Bay at home sandwiched around a West Coast trip to Seattle over the next three games. A road game against Cincinnati is no picnic and the Eagles still have to get by Baltimore on the road. The other three games are all against division opponents at home to possibly set the stage for a fantastic finish.

Do not get me wrong, I love the new look of this team under Pederson and Schwartz and the future with Wentz at quarterback has never been brighter. That being said, I am just like all the other Eagles fans out there in my desire to watch a winning team now as opposed to waiting until these young Birds grow some feathers that can really make them fly.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Will Wentz Shine in the Prime Time Spotlight in Big D?

The term 'must-win' is often overused when it comes to describing key NFL games, but I have no choice to put this Sunday night's Eagles' game against Dallas in that category. To be fair, I think of every Cowboys' game as a 'must-win' affair given my complete disdain for this team and its insufferable owner Jerry Jones.

Dallas is back on top right now behind a pair of rookies at quarterback and running back. If the Cowboys could add a young wide receiver to play lights out they would have everyone talking ad nauseam about the second coming of the triplets. You cannot deny that the play of Dak Prescott in place of an injured Tony Romo has been impressive to say the least and I am not one bit surprised that Ezekiel Elliott is tearing things up on the ground behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

I cannot sit here and deny that Dallas is a good team at 5-1 on the year. Before last week's bye, the Cowboys went into Green Bay and came away with an easy 30-16 victory. Before that, they hammered Cincinnati at home 28-14 so they definitely bring some solid momentum into Sunday night's game. That being said, I do not see the Eagles rolling over and dying in Big D. They got some of their own mojo back last week by pushing around previously unbeaten Minnesota as home underdogs after two lack-luster showings against Detroit and Washington on the road as favorites.

As good as Philly's defense looked in that Vikings' game, it is going to take a much better effort from rookie quarterback Carson Wentz to win a game as an underdog on the road. The Eagles did it earlier this season against Chicago, but that win has to be heavily discounted because the Bears flat out stink. A loss to Dallas on Sunday night will not end the Eagles' chances to win the NFL East this season, but it will put a major crimp in the plan given a much tougher schedule in the second half of the season.

I am honestly not all that sure that the Birds can pull off the upset against their bitter rivals this time around, but if Wentz can quickly return to the playing form he demonstrated in the team's first three games, they will have a much better chance to get it done. The bandwagon to Carson City, Wentzilvania has been a bumpy ride the past few weeks, but if the Eagles do get that 'must win' on Sunday night it could be smooth sailing from here on in.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Unbeaten Vikings Look to Feast on a Wounded Bird

The title of this blog post might make readers think that I am a Minnesota fan, but given what we have seen from the Eagles the past few weeks there is a very good chance that the Vikings do keep their perfect record intact with another victory this Sunday afternoon at the Linc. Philly should have beaten Detroit two weeks ago; however its slow start was as big a reason for that loss as was a late fumble. Last week against the Redskins the final score did not indicate just how one-sided that game really was. If the Eagles keep playing like that, their 3-0 start will quickly become a distant memory as they sink to the bottom of the NFC East.

Too much too soon could be a good way to describe the Doug Pederson Era in Philadelphia. Heading into Week 7 of the season, his coaching prowess will be put to the test against one of the best teams in the league. It is all about making the proper adjustments at this level and if you do not get it right the losses will continue to pile up. It is pretty obvious that the Eagles are not as good as the team we watched those first three games, but they are not nearly as bad as the product that trotted out onto the turf last week at FedEx Field. It is time to find the middle ground that can still lead to a productive year for the new head coach.

I honestly believe that Carson Wentz has a very bright future in the NFL and after second thought I am really glad that the Eagles did make a very bold move to land him with the second overall pick of the draft. I also honestly believe that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is an excellent fit with this team and I think this unit will be able to plug some of the holes that were exposed in the last two games. Lastly, I honestly believe that Philly can end Minnesota's winning streak this Sunday afternoon. I went against the Birds as home underdogs against Pittsburgh and I predicted them to win those last two road games against the Lions and the Redskins as slight favorites. There is just no way that I can be wrong four weeks in a row so I am banking heavily on going against my natural instincts to take the Vikings in this game.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Eagles Face Their First Must-Win Game of the Season

Before this NFL season got underway the Eagles' projected win total was seven games with the betting odds favoring the UNDER so you would think that a 3-1 start in their first four games would be an unexpected bonus. Very few Philly fans thought that rookie quarterback Carson Wentz would even be playing at this point of the season, let alone playing at a very high level. I guarantee that nobody out there thought that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would have this side of the ball ranked second in the NFL in both yards allowed (266.8) and points allowed (12.8) four games into its 16-game run. Even place kicker Caleb Sturgis has exceeded expectations through his first four games with a 10 field goals in 11 attempts including two kicks from 50-yards plus.

All of this early success has been a great ride for die-hard Eagles' fans, but following a gut-wrenching loss to Detroit last week in a game that was basically decided by a late fourth quarter fumble by Ryan Matthews, this Sunday's road game against the division rival Washington Redskins almost becomes a must-win event to keep things from going off the rails. If Philly loses this game, then all of the great things that it accomplished in its first three games will simply be chalked up to beginners' luck. If the Birds win and move to 4-1 on the year, we can then begin to legitimately start dreaming about a run to the NFC East title and a long-awaited return to the postseason after a two-year absence under former head coach Chip Kelly.

I went against our beloved Birds as underdogs at home in an in-state tilt with Pittsburgh in Week 3 and they made me eat my words. I jumped right back on the bandwagon last week against the Lions when they were favored to win on the road and they let me down. Now it is time for this team to live up to the ability that almost everyone underestimated under new head coach Doug Pederson with a big win at FedEx Field this Sunday afternoon.

These are the games that Philadelphia has to win in order to keep things rolling in the right direction and I have all the confidence in the world that Wentz and Co, find a way to get it done this time around. So much so that I have loaded my fantasy team this week with the likes of Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Darren Sproules and Caleb Sturgis against my nephew Kevin, who was clairvoyant enough to add Carson Wentz to his roster in Week 3.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

High Flying Eagles Look to Remain Perfect Against Detroit

The Eagles are off to an impressive 3-0 start including a stunning 34-3 pounding of Pittsburgh its last time out before last week's bye. They will be back in action this Sunday as slight road favorites in what could be their biggest game of the year so far. This is a very winnable matchup against a 1-3 Lions team that is coming off an ugly 17-14 loss to Chicago, but you always have to keep in mind that sometimes situations such as this present a tough test for a young team trying to live up to some lofty expectations.

If Philly plays like it has so far this year it will remain undefeated through the first quarter of its games, but there is a reason why the concept of "any given Sunday" remains so relevant in every week of NFL games. Quarterback Carson Wentz may be a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors for what he has been able to accomplish on the field; however I am more impressed with the job that first-year head coach Doug Pederson as done on the sidelines. Along with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Eagles' are doing an excellent job of utilizing the talent they have in the best way possible.

Former head coach Chip Kelly had his multitude of schemes and then proceeded to force the round pegs into the square holes to try and execute his sometimes convoluted game plan. That only worked so long before he lost his player's confidence in his ability to run this team. Pederson has already proved that he is a student of the game as well as players coach and he has benefited greatly from his association with another former Philly coach Andy Reid.

I will be the first one to admit that I blew the call against the Steelers, but in all honestly how many of you out there saw that one coming. As a tortured Eagles fan, we are always waiting for the next shoe to drop and more times than I care to remember our team obliged by losing a game it was supposed to win. Detroit this week and the Redskins on the road next Sunday present a golden opportunity for a perfect 5-0 start before welcoming Minnesota to town in Week 7 in what could be a battle of unbeatens. My confidence level remains high that Wentz and Co. will get it done this Sunday at Ford Field to keep things rolling in the right direction.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Eagles Need a Big Effort on Defense to Remain Undefeated

Carson Wentz has been the big story in Philadelphia this season behind the Eagles' surprising 2-0 start. He is the first rookie quarterback since 1970 to win his first two NFL starts without throwing an interception. With the favored 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers coming east on the PA Turnpike for a late Sunday afternoon in-state showdown at the Linc, Wentz will most likely need his best effort to date to keep the Eagles perfect on the year.

The main reason why the Eagles will either stun the Steelers with another win as underdogs or go down in defeat to their cross-state rivals will hinge on the play of Philadelphia's defense. This unit was one of the worst in the league last season in almost every major category; however with Jim Schwartz at the helm as the new coordinator, the Birds are currently sitting at a very lofty second in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in total yards allowed.

Granted, Cleveland and Chicago are hardly offensive juggernauts in this league, but Pittsburgh is. In victories over Washington and Cincinnati, the Steelers have racked up an average of 31 points and 405.5 yards a game. Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and playing at a high level and the combination of Antonio Brown and Sammy Coates have hauled in 16 receptions for 318 yards and two scores. The only plus is that running back Le'Veon Bell is still out of the lineup due to a league suspension.

If the Eagles can hold Pittsburgh to 24 points or less they have a real good chance to win this game. Unfortunately, I do not see things playing out quite like that in a 27-17 loss at home.

A Few Other Bold Predictions

Wentz throws his first NFL interception

Wendell Smallwood has a big return on special teams

Backup tight end Trey Burton has another productive day in place of an injured Zach Ertz

Monday, September 19, 2016

Eagles Look to Go 2-0 with a Monday Night Win in Chicago

I was reading an article earlier today clearly spelled out the benefits of going 2-0 to start the season in the quest to make the playoffs. According to Odds Shark, of the past 75 teams that started the new season 2-0, 44 went on to qualify for the postseason which equated to over 58 percent of the time. The opposite end of the spectrum paints a pretty bleak picture for any team going 0-2 to start the season. Going back over the last 75 teams to lose their first two games, just seven were able to turn things around and make it into the postseason.

Earlier this year when the new NFL team schedules were first released, I did pencil this game in as a win in anticipation of a loss to Pittsburgh the following week at home. I felt a 2-1 mark heading into a Week 4 bye would actually not be all that bad. However, that was when Sam Bradford was still the starting quarterback for this team. Now that first year head coach Doug Pederson has turned the keys to the offense over to rookie Carson Wentz, we could be in for a wild ride almost every single week.

Wentz looked good last week against Cleveland, but there is a reason why the Browns are widely considered to be the worst team in the league this year. I do not put all that much weight on those kind things considering that the "Any Given Sunday" syndrome appears to be alive and well with both favorites and underdogs hovering right around .500 through the first two weeks of games in head-to-head play.

Chicago did look pretty bad against Houston last week on the road, so the Eagles might catch a break in what has been a pretty tough road venue to play in over the years. I am actually more interested to see how the Eagles' defense plays against Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler, who was intercepted once and sacked five times in the 23-14 loss to the Texans in Week 1. Houston actually trailed 14-10 in that game at the half before outscoring Chicago 13-0 in the second half.

A Few Bold Predictions for Monday Night

-Eagles win 27-16

-Carson Wentz throws for more than 250 yards and he runs for more than 25 yards

-Backup tight end Trey Burton has at least one catch in place of an injured Zach Ertz

-The Eagles' defense comes up with at least one interception and one fumble recovery against the Bears' offense

Enjoy the Game!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Carson Wentz Era in Philly Get an Unexpected Early Start

So much for sitting the rookie quarterback so he can better learn the game at the pro level from the sidelines. With Sam Bradford shipped off to Minnesota and Chase Daniel still penciled in as a backup, it will be a baptism of fire for Carson Wentz when he starts his first NFL game on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Right off the bat Wentz has two things going for him. First he is playing at home and even the worst Eagles' fans should give him a pretty big break no matter how bad he plays. The second thing is that he his playing against the Browns, which are widely recognized as the worst team in the league.

On a scale of one to 10, I have set my personal expectation level for Wentz's first NFL start at five. I think he is going to do a few good thinks and can also see him throw a pick or two as well as take some unnecessary sacks. All told, I still have the Eagles winning this game on the strength of their defense and special teams. It probably will not be a pretty game given that it is Week 1 and both teams on the field are coming off a losing record, but in the NFL a win is a win no matter how you get it.

It will be very interesting to see what type of offensive scheme first-year head coach Doug Pederson goes with on Sunday. Is he going to try and run the ball and limit Wentz to short high-percentage passes to the sidelines or is he going to open things up to see how well he can move the ball downfield through the air. I do think we will get a good taste of the rookie's mobility with a few scrambles out of the pocket. This would quickly endear him to the crowd at the Linc, especially if he runs for a first down or two in an effort to extend a drive.

Overall when it is all said and done, I see Sunday's game turning out to be like an old Clint Eastwood movie; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Friday, September 2, 2016

My Fearless Forecast for the NFC East

The Eagles just completed a perfect 4-0 run through the preseason, but that has not changed the fact that they still have the longest odds on the board at BetAnySports to win the NFC East this season. The race to a title in the NFC East this season is expected to be the tightest one in the league according to the NFL divisional futures odds now that Tony Romo is out of the lineup in Dallas for the foreseeable future. Things could easily come down to the outcome of Week 17's games with New York on the road against Washington and the Eagles playing host to the Cowboys.

The Redskins start the new season as the defending division champs after going 9-7 last year, but they have the third-best odds to repeat. Dallas had been the favorite to win the NFC East the entire offseason, but with Romo on the shelf they have fallen into the second-favorite position behind the Giants. The following is a direct quote from a NFC East preview piece I wrote for early last month detailing my official prediction for the NFC East this season:

2016 NFC East Prediction

The early money has been on the Cowboys as slight favorites, but Romo is just one hard sack away from another shoulder injury. The Redskins will have a hard time defending last season’s division title and Philadelphia is still a few years away from possibly turning things around. This all adds up to New York taking its turn in the rotation by winning the NFC East at 9-7.

I thought the Romo injury would have come in the regular season, but it just goes to show how vulnerable this team really is without him in the lineup in the eyes of the betting public. Cowboy fans can get as pumped up as they want about rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, but he is definitely in store for a few "welcome to the NFL' moments over the next few weeks. Romo could be back in as early as six weeks, but I have a sneaky suspicion that his days in Dallas as the starting quarterback could be in jeopardy if Prescott has any level of success in his place.

Washington still has the pieces in place to make a repeat run behind quarterback Kirk Cousins given the overall parity in this division and if Sam Bradford can stay healthy and upright while playing to his potential, the Birds can hang around in this race deep into December. With everything I have seen from all four teams this preseason, the scales still tip slightly in the Giants' favor. They have a veteran quarterback at the helm who has already guided this team to two Super Bowl victories and if Victor Cruz can return to form, they would have the most formidable receiving corps in the division (sorry Dallas fans).

None the less, it should be a very interesting season in the NFC East and the only change I might make to my earlier prediction is that 8-8 could be a realistic record to win the title in 2016.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Eagles Running Game in the Spotlight on Saturday Night

This piece is not meant to be a knock on Sam Bradford and the Eagles' passing game. Rather it is a closer look at a ground game that I believe will be instrumental in the level of success this offense has in the 2016 regular season. Running the ball and playing defense may make for a boring football game, but it also makes for a winning season. Philly's projected win total this season is seven games and if this team is going to have any shot at eclipsing that mark to actually compete for the NFC East Division title it is going to need a strong effort from a ground game that was ranked 14th in the NFL last season.

DeMarco Murray was the featured back in last season's offense and that obviously did not work out as planned. This season things are shaping up to be a running back-by-committee approach. Ryan Mathews would have to be considered the lead back, but you also have Darren Sproules in the mix as well as Kenjon Barner. You also have Wendell Smallwood as the Eagles' fifth round draft pick out of West Virginia. He is expected to see his first action of the preseason this Saturday night against Indianapolis after being hampered with a leg injury for most of training camp.

Earlier this year I wrote a post for this blog that touted Smallwood as the next Wilbert Montgomery or for the younger fans in the crowd Brian Westbrook. Duce Staley was a great running back in Philly in his own right and he remains the team's running back coach under Doug Pederson. Duce himself is pretty high on Smallwood for his all-around talent as a runner, receiver out of the backfield and pass blocker. He will definitely be my main focus on Saturday night against the Colts.

I will not go out on a very thin limb and predict that the Eagles actually win the division this season, but I will stand by my belief that Pederson is putting the right pieces in place for a bright future that should result to a return to the top of the NFC East somewhere down the road. Whether it is Mathews, Sproules, Barner or Smallwood leading the way on the ground remains to be seen, but I think we are going to see the running game and defense return to a spotlight that was pretty dim last season.

Friday, August 19, 2016

New-look Eagles' Defense Shines in Shutout of Pittsburgh

One of the first things that Doug Pederson did when he was named the new head coach in Philadelphia was to go out and hire Jim Schwartz as his defensive coordinator. Schwartz had also been a head coach in the league with the Detroit Lions, but his greatest success in the NFL came when he was strictly working on this side of ball.

Just to get you up to speed on how bad the Eagles' defense was last year in Chip Kelly's final season at the helm, here are a few stats to chew on. The Birds ended the 2015 regular season ranked 30th in the NFL in total yards allowed and 28th in total points allowed. They were equally as bad at stopping the pass as they were stopping the run with a ranking of 28th in total passing yards allowed complementing a rushing defense that was ranked dead-last in the NFL in total yards allowed.

That was then and this is now. I have made the mistake of getting too excited of things that happen in the preseason in the past, but it is hard to ignore the four interceptions the Eagles had against Pittsburgh in Thursday night's 17-0 shutout. One was returned for a touchdown and two of the other picks were in the end zone to thwart a pair of Steelers' scoring drives.

Granted it was Landry Jones throwing the ball not Ben Roethlisberger and just about all of Pittsburgh's top skill position players sat this game out. However, a shutout is still a shutout at any level of play in the NFL especially when it comes against one of the highest scoring teams in the league.

The Eagles' defense still has a long way to go before its play on the field starts to affect the team's ability to win games when they actually count in the standings, but Schwartz has already brought a whole new attitude to this unit that was obviously missing last year. From what we have seen from Philly's offense in the first two preseason games, I am starting to think that any success this team is going to have in the regular season this year could hinge heavily on the play of this new-look defense.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Carson Wentz Flies High in His Eagles' Debut

The Eagles paid a steep price to move up to the second overall spot in this year's NFL Draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz and in last night's preseason opener against Tampa Bay we got our first glimpse at the new face of the franchise. The stats themselves were unimpressive with 12 completions on 24 attempts for just 89 yards along with an interception, but Wentz did command a presence under center and he looked comfortable in the pocket as well as rolling to his right to throw the ball.

New head coach Doug Pederson has held firm on his plans to start Sam Bradford on opening day against Cleveland with Chase Daniel second on the quarterback depth chart, but what do think the "over/under" would be on how long it takes the fans at the Linc to start chanting "We Want Wentz". Given my experience as a former season ticket holder, I would say less than a quarter of that Week 1 matchup against the Browns unless Bradford plays the best game of his career. Patience is not something Eagles' fans are long on when it comes to the play of their quarterback and when team owner Jeff Lurie pays such a high price for any player, those same fans want to see him play.

I am all for starting Bradford on opening day. If or should I say when he goes down with an injury, I would be interested to see what Daniel can do with this offense. That being said, it is only a matter of time before you have to let Wentz take over the reigns. This is basically a Catch 22 situation for Eagles' fans to get Wentz into the starting lineup.

If the Eagles remain in playoff contention and either Bradford or Daniel remain healthy, then Wentz is likely to remain on the sidelines or even in street cloths. If the Eagles stink up the joint behind the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, then Pederson will have no choice but to give Wentz a chance to show what he can do. To sum it up, the Eagles have to lose for Wentz to win the starting job. Let the chants begin!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Eagles Open the 2016 Preseason Schedule Against the Buccaneers

Two teams with much higher expectations than last season's losing records will face one another this Thursday in the opening round of NFL preseason games. The Eagles lost two of their last three games to slide to 7-9, while Tampa Bay ended the 2015 season with four-straight losses to go 6-10. Bad finishes tend to evoke a sense of urgency heading into a new season, so it reasonable to believe that both of these teams would love to get a strong start out of the gate with a victory on Thursday night even though the preseason games do not count in the standings.

Philly decided to move in a different direction by firing Chip Kelly as head coach and replacing him with what could turn out to be his polar opposite. New head coach Doug Pederson is neither brash or arrogant, which are two words that I would add to Kelly's personality profile. He does not pretend to have all the answers and he does not treat his players like interchangeable parts in a not so well-oiled machine. I am not convinced that Pederson is cut out to be a successful coach at this level, but I do like the fact that is his comfortable enough with his own ego to make the team the center of attention and not himself.

Tampa Bay has not posted a winning season since 2010 and you would have to go back to 2007 to find the last time this team made it into the playoffs. The Buccaneers also parted ways with their head coach Lovie Smith after just two seasons and turned to their offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to fill the role. He will be looking for bigger and better things from second-year quarterback Jameis Winston after the Bucs' offense finished last season ranked 17th in the NFL in passing yards and 20th in points scored. This unit does have some star power with Mike Evans at wide receiver and Doug Martin anchoring the running game, but Tampa Bay also has a long history as a franchise that has been far better at losing games than winning them.

There probably will not be all that many meaningful takeaways from Thursday night's game in what is really just an extended practice involving two teams instead of one, but whichever team does go on to win on the scoreboard will have created that ever-so thin edge over the other in their mutual quest to turn things around in 2016 under new leadership.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Eagles Flying Way Under the Radar

All 32 NFL training camps opened this week and the big headlines around the league at continue to revolve around teams such as New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay as the top four favorites to win a Super Bowl this season. There is also quite a bit of press on Denver's chances to win the AFC West for the sixth-straight season in the absence of Peyton Manning. Ironically enough, former Eagles' quarterback Mark Sanchez is still penciled in as the Broncos' starter. The stories go on and on with one common thread; nothing and I mean nothing is being written about our beloved birds.

Since Chip Kelly departed town, Philly is not even back page news with the majority of the national sites covering the NFL. I recently scrolled through the NFL section at and the one Eagles-related headline that was near the very bottom of the homepage read "Jason Peters Embracing the Post-Chip Kelly Era". Even with Kelly way out on the West Coast he still commands most of the attention when it comes to this team.

I often time refer to the term "flying under the radar" as it pertains to certain team or player that is out of the public eye, but I am not even sure I can put Philly into this category heading into the 2016 season. Maybe I should go with "out of sight, out of mind" as the tagline for this year's team.

There was an interesting poll on this week. It asked the question "Who is the Most Intriguing Team to Watch in Training Camp?". The choices were the Rams, Eagles, Dolphins, Broncos and Other. With a tally of over 65,000 votes, Denver led the way with 21 percent of the vote followed by Los Angeles (13 percent), Philly (10 percent) and Miami (8 percent). The "other" category garnered 48 percent of the votes. I guess this means that the Dolphins are another team that nobody really cares about.

With a rookie head coach like Doug Pederson trying to defy the odds that he can be a success in this league, it is probably a good thing that most NFL fans have turned their attention elsewhere. This guy could be the next "Andy Reid" or he could simply hang around for a couple of seasons while the Eagles plunge to the basement of the NFC East. Right now this is a 50/50 proposition that is going to have to be played out on the field. The only good news is that if Philly does crash and burn under his watch, it will probably go unnoticed by the majority of the national press.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The New-Look Eagles Open Training Camp

Change in the NFL is constant even with an established head coach at the helm so it should not come as any big surprise that the Eagles under first-year head coach Doug Pederson head to training camp this week with as many as 35 new faces in the fold. While many of these players will not be around when the final 53-man roster is finalized before the start of the 2016 regular season, the group of players that do make up this team will be radically different from the one that former head coach Chip Kelly led onto the field on opening day in 2015.

Sam Bradford remains the Eagles' starting quarterback, but all eyes will be on the development of the team's franchise quarterback of the future Carson Wentz. He was the second overall pick in this year's draft and he did not come cheap with Philly having to move up six spots to get him. Another draft pick that should capture some attention in training camp is running back Wendell Smallwood. There are definite question marks in the Eagles' running game and many NFL experts have gone on record that Smallwood does have what it takes to become a featured running back at this level.

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have his hands full trying to turn around a unit that was ranked near the bottom of the league in both points and yards allowed in 2015. The Eagles' run defense was the worst in the NFL; giving up an average of 134.6 yards a game. Defending the pass was not all that much better with a yards-allowed average of 267.1. Some of the new players to watch on this side of the ball include Rodney McLeod (safety), Leodis McKelvin (cornerback) and Ron Brooks (cornerback). Schwartz is counting on these three players to tighten up a very loose secondary that earned a dubious reputation for giving up quite a few big pass plays over the past few seasons.

Both Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor need to step up their game as the Birds' top two wide receivers and they could be looking over their shoulders a bit this season with the addition of free agents Rueben Randle and Chris Givens as additional targets for Bradford and possibly Wentz later in the season. All-in-all, the changes in personnel are a step in the right direction in what is shaping up to be a rebuilding process for the new coaching regime in town.

Optimism is always high this time of the year and with Cleveland coming to the Linc on opening day, Philly has a great shot at getting a fast start out of the gate. The true test for this new collection of Birds comes in Week 3 when the Pittsburgh Steelers make the cross-state trec to the City of Brotherly Love.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

You Cannot Spell Overrated Without Tony Romo

In my last post for Eagles Lincs, I raised the question as to the validity of Donovan McNabb's viability of some day being named a "Hall of Fame" quarterback. The jury is still out on that query, so this time around I decided to make a complete factual case as to why Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo is with out a doubt one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.

Let's start with the glaring fact concerning his team's overall record during his tenure with the team as the starting quarterback. Citing as my source, the Cowboys have a grand total of five winning seasons in his ten years at the helm. Any way you decide to break that down it is still mediocre at best. In his team's five winning seasons, Dallas has gone 1-5 in six playoff games. Once again, any way you try and spin that one it still comes up well short of spectacular.

Many Cowboys' fans will point to the gaudy stats that Romo has posted as the starting quarterback of America's Team. Let's start with the 2014 season which was probably his best as a pro. Dallas won the NFC East at 12-4 and it went on to beat Detroit 24-20 in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs. The run ended there with a 26-21 loss the Green Bay Packers in the next round, but Romo did get the monkey off his back after coming up short in four previous postseason performances. He threw for 3,705 yards that season, which was ranked 14th in the league. He ended that year with 34 touchdown throws, which was fourth on the list and his overall quarterback rating of 113.2 was the best in the NFL among all starting quarterbacks. That's it folks!That's the highlight reel that is supposed to pave Romo's way to Canton!

Anyone reading this post already knows how I feel about the Dallas Cowboys and their grandiose owner Jerry Jones. As one of the most self-indulging, pompous human beings to ever walk this earth, the only accurate way that I can describe Jones is that he will go down as the ultimate 'legend in his own mind'. He has gone to great lengths to promote his starting quarterback as one of the best to ever play the game and while I have no problem with an owner backing his quarterback one hundred percent (Robert Craft and Tom Brady) I still think there should be at least one Super Bowl ring involved behind Jones's ridiculous admiration for Romo.

Tony is not a bad guy and if he actually played for a different team I would probably look at his overall career in a different light. He has had a very successful run in the NFL given his humble beginnings as a free agent out of Eastern Illinois way back in 2003. In his first 13 NFL seasons, he has thrown for over 34,000 yards and close to 250 touchdowns. His overall QB rating is 97.1 and he has a solid completion percentage of 65.3. I would never try and argue against the fact that Romo is a very good starting NFL quarterback, but he is not a future "Hall of Famer" by any stretch of imagination.

Romo's playing days are not over and, if somehow the Cowboys manage to win a Super Bowl with him at the helm, this status could change. Maybe it could be as early as this season with Dallas listed as the clear favorite to win the NFC East and a "Top 5" team to win the conference, but if you truly buy into all that hype you probably also believe that pigs can actually fly.

I know that I am the ultimate homer fan when it comes to the Eagles and a big part of playing that role is hating Dallas with every essence of my being. However, facts are facts and it would still be extremely hard for anyone to dispute my stance that Romo has been, still is and destined to be one of the most overrated NFL quarterbacks to ever play the game!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Is Donovan McNabb a Hall of Fame Quarterback?

Former Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb becomes eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year so let the debate begin as to whether or not the entire body of his NFL career warrants such a prestigious honor. His career in Philadelphia spanned 11 seasons after becoming the second overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. He also played for Washington and Minnesota to round out a 13-year career in the NFL.

Some of McNabb's highlights include helping his team reach the NFC Championship Game five times, but weighing heavily against this accomplishment is just one trip to the Super Bowl which resulted to a loss to New England in 2004. On the field, McNabb threw for over 37,000 yards and 234 touchdowns while adding another 3459 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground. This makes him the Eagles all-time leader in passing yardage and touchdown throws. Some of the other stats in his favor include a 98-62-1 record over the course of 161 NFL starts.

In my opinion, McNabb had a very good career in Philadelphia that led to quite a few exciting wins, but that glaring hole in his resume of never winning a Super Bowl continues to be a major roadblock to his path to Canton. There are a number of former NFL quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame that never won a Super Bowl, most notably Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, but their accomplishments on the field clearly merited entry into the NFL's most elite club. I will be rooting for No. 5 when next year's class is announced, but I would not get my hopes all that high.

If McNabb does get elected into the Hall (and that remains a huge IF), it is going to take some time. The process could drag on for years only helping to further fuel this debate. In the meantime, we can all start rooting for Carson Wentz in what everyone in Philly is hoping will be the start of another 11-year run by a potential Hall of Famer.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Doug Pederson has Nowhere to Go but Up just released its rankings for all 32 NFL head coaches and at the very bottom of the list is Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. The poor guy has not even lost his first game and he is already being dragged through the mud. I guess somebody had to be last on this list so why not someone that is still waiting for his first chorus of boos from the Philly faithful at the Linc.

The jury is going to be out on Pederson for quite some time with the bar set pretty low for the Eagles this season. Andy Reid never had any head coaching experience when he took over the helm as the team's top guy in 1999 and he went on to have a pretty good run in Philadelphia. Pederson is a protege of Reid as part of Andy's staff in Kansas City and he even started a few games for the Eagles at quarterback to help set the stage for then rookie Donovan McNabb to eventually fill the starting role.

Pederson has not done anything wrong to deserve such a low ranking, but he has not done anything right to instill a high level of confidence that he can has his own long run in Philly as head coach. Time will tell what his ultimate fate will be, but for right now he has nowhere to go but up!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Odds are Stacked the Eagles in 2016

The odds to win the Super Bowl are usually released in early February just days after the previous Super Bowl has been played. From there, you will begin to find odds posted to win both the AFC and the NFC followed by odds to win each individual division along with the projected win totals for all 32 NFL teams. No matter how you stack it all up, the odds are clearly stacked against the Eagles heading into the 2016 regular season.

Starting with the Super Bowl, Philly is well down the list as 66/1 longshots according to BetOnline. Washington's odds are set at 40/1 followed by New York at 22/1 and Dallas at 16/1. The New England Patriots are at the top of that list at 13/2. The best odds to win the Super Bowl from any team in the NFC are 17/2 for the Seattle Seahawks.

Moving on to the odds to win the NFC, the Eagles' odds are cut in half to 33/1 and the only other teams with longer odds are New Orleans (40/1), Tampa Bay (40/1) and San Francisco (50/1). Going back to the NFC East, the Redskins' odds to win the conference are set at 20/1 with the Giants coming in at 12/1 and the Cowboys near the top of the list at 8/1. Seattle is the favorite to win the NFC at 4/1 followed by Green Bay (9/2), Carolina (5/1) and Arizona (6/1).

Things remain pretty bleak for the Birds in the chase for the NFC East Division title at 9/2 odds, which are the longest on the board. Washington's odds to repeat as division champs are set at 3/1 and New York is second on the list at 5/2. The Cowboys only won four games last season, but the oddsmakers must be banking heavily on Tony Romo staying healthy for all 16 games this year as 3/2 favorites to end up first in the division race.

Following suit when it comes to projected win totals, the Eagles are at the bottom of the list in the NFC East at seven wins with the corresponding moneyline odds favoring the the UNDER at -150. The Redskins are projected to be a half game better at 7.5 wins and their moneyline odds slightly favor the OVER at -120. New York's projected win total stands at eight with a -140 moneyline leaning towards the OVER. Dallas is projected to have the most wins in the NFC East at 9.5, but the moneyline for the Cowboys is set at -130 that the actual total will stay UNDER. The one positive takeaway from these win total odds is that Philly is not that far off the pace and if it can find a way to exceed its projected number by two games that might actually be enough to win the division at 9-7.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Eagles Open-Up the Check Book with an Eye to the Future

Nobody can accuse Eagles' team owner Jeff Lurie of being cheap. When the top brass running his team such as executive vice president of operations Howie Roseman needs the chief to open-up his checkbook Lurie appears to be more than happy to start handing out blank checks. This past week Philly paid a king's ransom to secure defensive lineman Fletcher Cox to a long-term six year deal worth a reportedly $103 million.

In actuality, the Eagles have been spending money like a drunken sailor this entire offseason extending the contracts of many of the key players that will shape both the present and the future of this team. This is great news to die-hard Eagles' fans that are starved for a championship as long as the players they are signing can live up to the expectations of these inflated contracts. It is great to have a certain level of continuity with your team's roster, but you do not want to get into the habit of overpaying for marginal talent.

Roseman has been right on a few occasions when it comes to handling the player personnel decisions for the Eagles, but he has been drastically wrong on a number of occasions as well. He was the brains behind drafting Danny Watkins in the first round of the 2011 draft, but that mistake got pinned on Andy Reid. What about the decision to go with Marcus Smith as the Birds' top pick in 2014? I guess we can pin that one on Chip Kelly, but that was before he took complete control of the team so I am sure Roseman had a hand in that blunder as well.

In what could be Roseman's most questionable decision during his tenure in Philly was mortgaging next year's draft and beyond to get quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick of this year's draft. That decision will take a few seasons to play itself out, but it will eventually define Roseman's legacy with this team. I am all for giving the right players the right amount of cash to keep them in midnight green during the prime years of their playing career, but tying up cap space on the wrong players is a mistake that can set a team on a downward spiral that will take a number of years to correct.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Eagles' OTAs Top 5 Takeaways

The Eagles' 2016 offseason workout program is officially over with this past week's three-day minicamp and the next time the team will come together as a complete group will be at summer training camp in late July. While you should resist the temptation to read too much into these OTAs in reference to the Birds' actual win and loss record in the regular season, there are a few key takeaways that could have a major impact on how well they do this year.

- The Eagles could actually have one of the best quarterback situations in the NFL

Now that Sam Bradford has made nice with the rest of his teammates, he appears to be ready to continue his role as the Eagles' starter. If for some reason he does struggle early, the Eagles could actually turn to Chase Daniel first before throwing rookie Carson Wentz into the mix. The report out of Philly is that Daniel looked the best of the three at these workouts and the fact that he is already familiar with the offense could be a huge plus.

- Fletcher Cox needs to get paid

Cox would not comment on his current contract situation when in town, but the simple fact that he was just voted No. 49 on NFL Network's annual Top 100 list is a good example of his value to the team. The two sides are confident that a contract extension will be in place before the start of summer camp, but the bottom line is that Cox is quickly turning into one of the top defensive lineman in the league and a key part of the equation when it comes to turning things around this season.

- New head coach Doug Pederson is already taking this team in a completely new direction

If Chip Kelly was "fast and furious" in his approach to running the offensive scheme, Pederson could be described as "steady as she goes". He actual knows and understands the value of a huddle and a varied snap count. He also knows that time of possession is an important aspect of the game. You can tell from the way that he runs his practices that he was paying close attention to his mentor Andy Reid during his time with Kansas City.

- The new-look defensive secondary could be much better than expected

Everyone knows that the Eagles' defensive secondary is a huge area of concern given last season's performance. While there is still quite a bit of work to be done before opening day against Cleveland, the addition of veteran cornerback Leodis McKelvin and rookie cornerback Jalen Mills have already proven to be a big step in the right direction. Nolan Carroll should be completely healthy by the time camp opens and both Eric Rowe and Denzel Rice add to the overall depth of this group.

- Wendell Smallwood could be the new face of the Eagles' running game

The Eagles used their fifth round pick in this year's draft to select West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood. Ryan Matthews is still penciled-in as the team's featured back in the running game and veteran Darren Sproles figures to be a big part of the mix for at least one season. Smallwood's role in the running game has yet to be determined but he the potential to be the Eagles most valuable rookie this year. I would not be surprised to see him in the starting role in the second half or the season or whenever Matthews inevitably gets hurt.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Jim Schwartz Revamps Eagles' Defense

The Eagles' defense under former head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis never really had a fighting chance to succeed given just how much time they spent on the field. Kelly could care less about trying to dominate time of possession so even when his offense would score it still was not on the field all that long. Last season, the Birds' defense finished the season ranked 30th in the league in average yards allowed (401.6) and 28th in average points allowed (26.9). This unit was also ranked 28th against the pass and when it came to stopping the run it was dead last on the list allowing an average of 134.6 yards a game.

No matter who new head coach Doug Pederson tapped as his defensive coordinator, it is pretty obvious that there is really only one way to go this season since it would be pretty hard for this defense to get any worse. The man who is now in charge of turning things around is Jim Schwartz. He has been a head coach in this league with Detroit, but his primary area of expertise is on the defensive side of the ball after serving as a coordinator for 10 of his 22 years coaching in the NFL.

One big thing that Schwartz does brings to the table should be a much higher level of discipline that was seriously lacking under Philly's former coordinator. The Eagles were constantly getting beat on the deep ball and they struggled to get off the field in long yardage third-down situations. The level of talent on this team was definitely not reflective of the results on the field. The defensive line is solid with the likes of Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan and players like Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are versatile enough to play up front or just off the line as outside linebackers. The Eagles' defensive secondary has been a source of angst for the past few seasons, but with some new direction you should see some better results behind cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Malcolm Jenkins as primary anchors.

The biggest change that Schwartz will try and institute is getting after the quarterback with just his defensive line. He believes in a simple scheme that hinges on getting pressure up front while playing man-to-man in the secondary. Time will tell how the current players on the Eagles' roster adapt to this new scheme, but as I mentioned before there really is only one place to go given last year's results. My question is how far up will this defense actually rise from the bottom of the list?

Friday, May 27, 2016

An Eagles' History Lesson for First-Year Head Coaches

Doug Pederson was officially named the eighth head of the Philadelphia Eagles going back to 1976 when a young Dick Vermeil took over the reins in what turned out to be a very successful seven-year run that featured a trip to the Super Bowl in 1980. In his first season at the helm, Vermeil guided the team to 4-10 record to match the same total of wins of his predecessor Mike McCormack produced in his final year with the team. Things rapidly improved in season three with nine wins when the schedule first expanded to 16 games. The Eagles won 11 games the next season and they went 12-4 in that Super Bowl run.

After a succession of three mediocre seasons under the guidance of the Swamp Fox Marion Campbell as Vermeil's replacement, the Eagles turned to former Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan as their new head coach of the team. Coming off a Super Bowl win with the Bears, he proceeded to go 5-10-1 in his first year as head coach and it took him three years to turn things around with a 10-6 record in 1988. Ryan's teams won at least 10 games the next two seasons as well but the kiss of death was three-straight early exits from the playoffs. Few fans would argue against the fact that Ryan put together the most talented Eagles' teams in this franchise's history, which only makes his lack of success in the postseason all the more harder to swallow.

Following Buddy's abrupt dismissal in 1991, the likes of Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes stalked the sidelines as the head coach for the next eight seasons and while the Eagles did go to the playoffs six times they could never advance past the Divisional Round. New ownership gave the franchise a fresh start with Jeff Lurie and in 1999 he tapped Andy Reid as his new head coach. The former offensive coordinator for Green Bay was coming off a very successful run under the tutelage of Mike Holmgren, who can be traced back to Bill Walsh at San Francisco so the pedigree was strong.

Reid's first season as head coach resulted in a slight improvement from Rhodes' 3-13 disaster in 1998 with a 5-11 mark. Things rapidly improved from there with five-straight seasons of 11 wins or more and four-straight trips to the NFC title game. The Eagles went a disappointing 1-3 in those conference championships and the lost to New England in their lone trip to the Super Bowl. Reid never achieved that level of success in his remaining eight seasons with the team, but he did lead Philly back to the NFC title game in 2008. Reid's teams won 10 or more games eight times during his 14-year tenure, but he went out on a bad note with a combined 12 wins in his final two seasons at the helm.

In a somewhat surprising move, Lurie decided to take a chance on Oregon head coach Chip Kelly as Reid's replacement and the gamble paid off right away with a 10-6 record and NFC East title in 2013. Things went downhill from there and in just three short seasons Kelly had worn-out his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love. Ironically enough, he is now the head coach of the 49ers trying to resurrect the glory years of when Walsh was the head coach there.

The big question is can Pederson successfully follow in the footsteps of his mentor after serving as Reid's offensive coordinator in Kansas City in the same way that Andy broke away from Mike Holmgren to enjoy the best run of any head coach in franchise history?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Can the Eagles Win More than 7 Games?

The experts in Las Vegas have spoken and the "over/under" has been set at seven for Philadelphia's projected win total this season. Before the draft, I had boldly predicted a 9-7 run in 2016 that resulted in a NFC East Division title. Quite a bit has changed since then so I decided to revisit the situation to update my projections.

The Eagles still have the overall talent to win nine games in a relatively weak division, but the lack of a solid running game along with a dark cloud of uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position has definitely lowered the probability that they actually reach this suddenly lofty goal.
Team vice president Howie Roseman and new head coach Doug Pederson's decision to move up in the draft to get Carson Wentz as their quarterback of the future has caused a distinct problem for the here and now.

I read somewhere that the "over/under" for how many games Wentz actually starts this season was set at 3.5. In the meantime, a disgruntled Sam Bradford remains penciled-in as the team's starting quarterback for the upcoming season. In scenario one, Bradford lights things up right out of the gate against Cleveland and the Eagles continue to win enough games to stay in the hunt for the NFC East crown deep into December.This would keep Wentz on the bench as long as Bradford stays healthy. The Birds go on to win those nine games and Wentz remains the quarterback of the future for the entire season.

Unfortunately, we have to seriously consider scenario two. Bradford has yet to really prove that he is a starting NFL quarterback that can lead a team to the playoffs. I am still giving Philly the win at home against the Browns in the season opener, but things can quickly go sideways from there. Chicago on the road and Pittsburgh at home could easily end as losses and things do not get much easier from there with four of the next five games on the road. To make matters worse, there is a stretch of games in late November and early December where the Eagles face Seattle and Cincinnati on the road with Green Bay at home sandwiched in between for good measure.

A this juncture, Philly should be ready to raise the white flag and turn to Wentz as its starter for the final four games of the year starting with a home matchup against Washington on Dec. 11. The changeover could easily happen earlier in the year if the Birds lose more games than expected, but no matter how you add things up I am having trouble coming-up with more than six wins this year whether Bradford, Wentz or even Chase Daniel is under center at quarterback.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Can Wendell Smallwood Reinvigorate the Eagles' Running Game ?

Everyone knew that the Eagles needed to draft a running back given the recent departure of DeMarco Murray and the tenuous future of Ryan Matthews as the current lead runner given his injury-filled past. I was hoping that they would draft Ezekiel Elliott, but we all know how that whole situation played out. Team vice president and de facto director of player personnel Howie Roseman finally pulled the trigger in the fifth round by selecting Wendell Smallwood out of West Virginia.

There have been quite a few success stories in the NFL at the running back position when it comes to players selected in the later rounds of the draft or even as an undrafted free agent. From what I have read, Smallwood has the skills to succeed at the next level, but my question is can he help an Eagles' running game right out of the gate after it took a major step backwards in 2015?

I was a big LeSean McCoy fan when the Eagles drafted him out of Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2009 draft. He went on to make an impact his rookie year with 637 rushing yards on 155 carries while adding another 308 yards receiving on 40 catches. Shady's best season with the team was in 2013 when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,607 yards while adding 539 yards through the air. Despite running for more than 1000 yards in four of his last five seasons with the team, then head coach Chip Kelly viewed the Eagles all-time leading rusher as expendable and decided to trade him to Buffalo before the start of the 2015 season for a player that is no longer with team (LB Kiko Alonzo).

Getting back to Smallwood, at 5-foot-11 and 201 lbs he is not thought of as every down back, but the last time I looked at the tale of the tape on McCoy he comes in at 5-foot-11 and 208 lbs. The most exciting aspect of Smallwood besides some respectable speed is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In 2014, he caught 31 balls for 326 yards while rushing for 722 yards on the ground. His production as a receiver went down last season, but in his final college campaign for the Mountaineers he rushed for 1,519 yards on 238 carries which seems pretty durable to me.

As mentioned, Matthews is still penciled-in as the starter and Darren Sproles is still on the roster entering his 12th season in the league. All three of these backs offer many of the same attributes as far as their playing style so there may be a bit of redundancy at the running back position. That being said, I am still hoping that Smallwood can break through the pack as the heir apparent to McCoy's legacy as the best Eagles' running back since Wilbert Montgomery was tearing up the shoddy turf at Veterans Stadium in the late 70's and early 80's.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why the Eagles Should Trade Sam Bradford

A few weeks before the 2016 NFL Draft I painted a scenario of how the Eagles could go 9-7 this season and win the NFC East. That was before they decided to trade away some vital picks to Cleveland to move-up to No. 2 in the draft to land Carson Wentz as their franchise quarterback of the future. One of the biggest miscalculations in my rational was the team's ability to actually land former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with eighth overall pick of the draft. As it turns out, Philly would have never had a shot at adding the best back in the draft to its roster given that the rival Dallas Cowboys used the fourth pick to add a huge missing piece to their offensive attack.

Fast forward to the present and nothing has changed with current Eagles' starting quarterback Sam Bradford's demands to be traded in light of the fact that he is now just holding a spot in the lineup until Wentz is deemed ready to take over the helm. I recently found some player prop bet odds on Bovada that has set the "over/under" on Wentz's total starts in the 2016 NFL regular season at 3.5, so it is safe to assume that he is going to be under center in a starting role sometime this year.

The only other viable quarterback on Philly's roster right now is Chase Daniel, who signed this offseason as a free agent from Andy Reid's squad in Kansas City. Daniel has only made two career starts since coming into the league in 2009 so it is anyone's guess as to how well he would perform in the full-time starting role. I for one am more than willing to find out since the Eagles' chances to win even five or six games this upcoming season is in serious doubt. If it is only a matter of time before new head coach Doug Pederson hands the keys to his offense to Wentz, why not jettison Bradford and his inflated salary for whatever you can get. He obviously does not want to be here and right now I would think that most of the fans in town would not be all that upset to see him go.

Bradford was Chip Kelly's brainchild instead of trying to work with Nick Foles, who still showed some solid promise in his early NFL career. Team vice-president Howie Roseman has already done his best to erase anything Kelly did in his brief stint as head coach and director of player personnel so why hold onto Bradford, which was probably one of Kelly's most ill-fated moves (after DeMarco Murray)?

Going back to Daniel, he already has experience working with Pederson when the two were together in Kansas City as player and offensive coordinator. He has never really been given a chance to see what he can do as a starter and he might even do quite well in a familiar offensive scheme. Even if Daniel does go on to stink up the joint then all it really means in the grand scheme of things is that Wentz will get his NFL baptism of fire a bit earlier then expected.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

5 Reasons Why Sam Bradford is Carson Wentz's New Best Friend in Philly

The Eagles' decision to basically trade away this year's and next year's draft to move up and get quarterback Carson Wentz at No. 2 was greeted with wide-scale speculation from the Philly faithful and for good reason. It will take a few years before we actually know whether or not team vice president Howie Roseman and new head coach Doug Pederson knew what the hell they were doing, but Wentz now has five good reasons of his own to thank current starting quarterback Sam Bradford for a smoother than expected transition to becoming the new face of the franchise.

First, Bradford's child-like reaction to the Eagles' trade has backfired both in the locker room and in the court of public opinion. In my mind, it would be hard to see him even with the team on opening day after completely alienating himself from the organization while demanding a trade. If he does step on the field in the season opener as the starting quarterback against Cleveland, the fans will turn on him like angry wolves.

Second, Bradford was a former No.1 overall draft pick that has yet to live up to all the expectations put on him when he first came into the league. If Bradford does stick around as the starter for most of next season and Wentz does go on and become a bust, he can blame Bradford for showing him the way.

The third reason why Wentz owes a great deal of gratitude for Branford's recent hissy fit is the Eagles' fans themselves. These tortured souls have long memories and if you turn on the team they will turn on you. Even if Wentz stinks up the field when he finally does get a chance to start, the fans will cheer him wildly just because he is not Sam Bradford.

Moving down the list, the fourth reason why Wentz should think of Bradford as his best friend is for setting the bar pretty low with his overall performance last year. Some football experts will look at Bradford's stats and argue that he had a pretty good year, but the bottom line is still wins and losses and when Bradford did get his chance to get the Eagles into the playoffs in key game against Washington in late December he failed to get the job done.

The final reason why Wentz should get a free pass this season compliments of Sam Bradford is the simple fact that hope springs eternal in Philadelphia. We have been starved for a fresh face at quarterback that actually has the skills to get this team back into the playoffs on a consistent basis. Donovan McNabb had his fair share of ups and downs during his 11-year tenure in this town, but he was a big reason for Andy Reid'success during a run that included five trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl appearance. Since then, it has been one disappointment after another.

Michael Vick had nothing left in the tank and Nick Foles was never really given a chance to prove he was a franchise-type quarterback. If Bradford does remain with the team, then that will only build even more anticipation and excitement for Wentz's eventual debut. At this point I would give Chase Daniel the starting job so he can actually help the Eagles' new franchise quarterback get ready to take over the reins.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Eagles Decide to Go Back to the Future in the 2016 NFL Draft

The Eagles made front page news with their deal to move up to the No. 2 overall spot in next Thursday’s opening round of the NFL Draft. They appear to be trying to recreate the magic of 1999 when first year head coach Andy Reid selected quarterback Donovan McNabb out of Syracuse with the second overall pick in that year’s draft. That duo never brought home a NFL title in their 11 years together in Philly, but it was still a very successful run that included five trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance.

Doug Pederson was Reid’s starting quarterback in 1999, while McNabb waited patiently in the wings to take over the helm later that season. Now that he is the new head coach of his old team, Pederson must think that San Bradford will be more than willing to play the same role for either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff while they wait their turn to become the next great franchise quarterback in Philadelphia.

There is also a very good chance that whichever of these two top-rated quarterbacks does have his name called when the Eagles are on the clock at No. 2 will get booed by the Philly fans in the crowd just like McNabb did back in '99. Going back to that pick, the Philly faithful wanted the Eagles to select running back Ricky Williams, out of Texas. This time around, the Boobirds hopes were pinned on getting former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with the eighth overall pick (I know because I was one of them). Instead, we get a quarterback (at a much higher price) that would have to really raise their game to match what McNabb accomplished in his 11-year career in Philadelphia.

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it sounds like Deja vu all over again. However, I am not convinced that things are going to work out like they did for Reid and McNabb. It is a different world today for NFL quarterbacks and whichever player the Eagles end up drafting will immediately be under the microscope in one of the toughest sports towns in the country. This will be true even if they are on the bench at the beginning of the new regular season. My big question is how motivated will Bradford be as the current starter knowing that he is just a stop-gap measure until Pederson decides his rookie quarterback is ready to go. This situation could easily result in our new franchise signal-caller getting pressed into service much earlier than expected once the Eagles tank in their first few games.

All I know is that Philly has just taken itself out of any talk about winning the 2016 NFC East Division title and into a rebuilding mode that will probably result in five or six wins this season. Before this move, the Eagles had a good chance to add a few key players on both sides of the ball with all the picks they did have. I still think that it would not have taken all that much to get back to the playoffs this season in a watered-down division. Unfortunately for Eagles' fans, team vice-president and de facto director of player personnel Howie Roseman decided the best move was to mortgage the present while possibly mortgaging the future at the same time. All this could still go back to the fact that Chip Kelly was largely responsible for bringing Bradford to Philly in the first place. What ever Kelly had done, Roseman seems hell-bent on undoing as quickly as possible.

I thought that drafting McNabb over Williams was the right move, but the Eagles already had the No. 2 pick in that draft so they did not have to give-up anything to get him. Neither of the two quarterbacks (Wentz or Goff) that the Eagles are gunning for strike me as a can't-miss pick like Andrew Luck or even Marcus Mariota. The hype surrounding both of these over-hyped quarterbacks obviously got the best of Roseman and Pederson's imagination. Unfortunately, they have put on their rose-colored glasses and put this beleaguered franchise in a prime position to take a major step backwards if or in my opinion when this over-zealous speculation does not live-up to reality.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Breaking Down the Eagles 2016 Schedule

The Eagles' 2016 regular season schedule was released this past Thursday and I decided to take a few days to reflect on what it means in terms of the Birds' chances to win the NFC East this year. Along with their six division games, we already knew that the Eagles would face the AFC North and the NFC North as well as Atlanta and Seattle to round-out the 16-game slate. Now that the actual schedule has been put together, it is time to start putting the games into the win and loss column.

The good news is that the Eagles will open the season at home against Cleveland and the early betting line on that game has Philly favored by seven points. I am going to pencil this one in as a W considering just how bad the Browns really are.

In Week 2, the Eagles will go road to face the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football before returning home to host in-state rival Pittsburgh in a late start on Sunday, Sept. 25. The best-case scenario would be a split heading into an early Week 4 bye and I'll take it.

The month October features three-straight 1 p.m. starts against Detroit and Washington on the road and Minnesota at home. I am going to get really optimistic and say that the Eagles come away with two wins in these three games to improve to 4-2 through their first six contests. Things start getting tough from there starting with a Sunday night road trip to Big D on Oct. 30 to face the Cowboys. I am looking for a split in the season series, but the win is going to have to come at home following a loss in this game.

Philly will start the month of November on the road against the New York Giants and that could spell another tough loss within the division. Now at an even 4-4 on the year, I do like the Eagles' chances to get back above .500 with a victory at home against Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 13. Unfortunately, it will be short-lived with losses to Seattle on the road in Week 11 followed by a home loss to Green Bay in another Monday night appearance on Nov. 28. For anyone not keeping score, that puts the birds at 5-6 heading into the all important month of December.

The Eagles will start the month on the road in Cincinnati as a likely underdog and the end result will prove the Oddsmakers right with a third-straight loss. The rally to the NFC East title starts with a win at home against Washington on Sunday, Dec. 11. They will then go on to pull-off the I-95 Beltway sweep by beating Baltimore on the road the following week.

The final two games on the schedule for the 7-7 Birds start with a Thursday night matchup at home against the Giants on Dec.22. I am giving the Eagles the slight edge in this one and the extra rest heading into the season finale against the Cowboys is just enough to tip the scales in their favor in that game as well.

The end result is a 9-7 record with a 4-2 record in the NFC East. That record was good enough to win the division last season and it will prove to be good enough to claim the title this year. A few other bold predictions have Doug Pederson receiving strong consideration for "Coach of the Year" honors and running back Ezekiel Elliott being named the NFL's "Offensive Rookie of the Year".

What did you expect from a life-long homer like me? Just remember when this season does unfold that you first read all about at EaglesLincs!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ohio State's Elliott to Anchor Philly's Running Game?

Mock drafts are a dime a dozen this time of the year and I personally have given up on trying to predict the unpredictable. Everything is subject to change right up until the start of the first round and I always get a kick out of these so-called NFL Draft gurus telling everyone which player a team is going to draft when that particular team does not even know who they are going to take.

That being said, there is some traction behind the rumors that the Eagles will use the eighth overall pick in the first round to select former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. There is no doubt that they need a quality running back to help inject some new blood into their ground game. Last season the offense fell to 14th in rushing yards per game (108.9) following the trade of LeSean McCoy and the ill-fated addition of DeMarco Murray to take his place. Murray is gone as well so Philly might be tempted to start from scratch with a player that can successfully fill that role for the next four or five years.

Normally, a running back will not command that high of a draft pick and I would much rather see the Birds add a huge lineman upfront given that their running issues were directly tied to a less than stellar offensive line. It all starts up front and finding offensive lineman that can fill an immediate need in the later rounds is a bit tougher than finding a suitable running back in Day 2 of the draft.

With Howie Roseman calling the shots along with new head coach Doug Pederson at the helm, the thinking may be to try and make a splash with such a high pick by drafting a big-named skill position player. We have already discussed the chances that Philly takes a quarterback at that No. 8 slot and the name Jared Goff out of California remains in the mix on quite a few mock draft boards. This will be a wait and see situation right up to that last Thursday in April, but one thing that is vitally important is that the Eagles make a significant impact with whoever they decide to take. It has been quite awhile since a first round draft pick has got the fickle Philly fans excited about the future direction of the team and Roseman and Co. are well aware of this fact.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Eagles Free Agency Report Card

The beginning of April means that the official countdown to the 2016 NFL Draft is on, but it also marks a good time to take a look back at some of the moves the Eagles made to improve their roster through free agency. I might be grading on a curve, but I am going to give the Birds a solid B for their efforts. Howie Roseman is running the show now as the De facto director of player personnel even though his actual title is Executive Vice President of Football Operations. To me, he is basically everything but head coach, which is now Doug Pederson's job title.

Some of the early moves Philly made were to lock-up the free agents on its own roster that it wanted to keep. This list included quarterback Sam Bradford, defensive end Vinny Curry and cornerback Nolan Carroll II. The Eagles also extended the contracts of tight ends' Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. All of these players have been solid contributors in the past and while I am not sold on Bradford as a true franchise quarterback, he remains a good fit until a long-term replacement can be found.

Some of the new faces we will see in midnight green next season include guard Brandon Brooks, safety Rodney McLeod and cornerbacks' Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. This group of players as a whole add some much needed depth to the team's biggest weak spots. The Eagles also came to terms with backup quarterback Chase Daniels, who worked with Pederson when he was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Daniels has only started two games in his seven-year NFL career, but many football experts believe he has a chance to take Bradford's place as the full-time starter in Philadelphia. I am not ready to jump on that bandwagon, but competition at any position is always a good thing.

The main reason that I graded the Eagles so high is for their overall approach to free agency this offseason. Getting value for their dollar has replaced the mentality of paying big bucks for big named free agents. Those type of deals rarely work out as expected and all they do in the long run is chew-up salary cap space. There are still some holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but I do believe that the team under the Roseman/Pederson regime is moving in the right direction. You cannot deny that things were much more exciting with a wheelin' and dealin' Chip Kelly at the helm, but we all know how that fiasco ended.