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.