Sixers meeting with Allen Iverson

Don’t do it Ed.

Now is not the time for crazy ideas.

Comcast Sports Net is reporting that Sixers President Ed Stefanski and coach Eddie Jordan are meeting with Allen Iverson in Dallas, where the Sixers are set to continue their losing streak against the Mavericks.

Listen, things have finally gotten bad enough where the Sixers are not threatening to be a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the playoffs, but instead qualify for the draft lottery and actually get a decent draft pick.

All Iverson does is provide a quick fix for a team in need of a long term answer – and not The Answer.

It was just last week that Stefanski said the team had no interest in signing Iverson because he did not fit their rebuilding plans and would take time away from their younger players.

I guess he changed his tune.

Would Allen Iverson bring a spark to the Wachovia Center? Yes, for at least a couple of weeks, and then what?

Iverson isn’t getting any younger and certainly not any easier to coach.

One thing this meeting does confirm: The Sixers are as desperate as we thought they were to get you into their seats.

So do you want Iverson back?

David Akers an unsung hero for Eagles

Whenever talk surfaces about this era of Eagles football, the attention immediately goes to Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb – the duo that has spent the last decade together as coach and quarterback.

However there is another piece which has been vital to the teams’ success. A piece, which like Reid and McNabb, has had big success, while also drawling the ire of fans at times.

And right now, this piece is as responsible for the Eagles’ place in the standings as any other.

I am speaking of David Akers.

A member of the Eagles since 2000, Akers is enjoying one of the finest seasons of his career and should drawl big consideration for his fourth Pro Bowl, and first since 2004. In Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Redskins, Akers was perfect in four field goal attempts and drilled two touchbacks. He has now made 16-straight field goals. For the season Akers is 24-of-27 for an NFL-best 89 percent.

Akers actually had a brief stint with the Redskins in 1998, playing in one game and missing the only two field goals he attempted. Washington certainly never figured 11 years later it would be Akers who would put another nail in their coffin.

While Akers’ leg strength has never been an issue, his accuracy on field goals from 40-yards and out came into question over the previous two seasons when he was uncharacteristically inaccurate, going 12-of-25.

This year he is 11-of-14 in that category.

The talk this week will be about Reid finally showing a little commitment to the run and McNabb leading the team to its second-straight fourth quarter comeback, and rightfully so. Coaches and quarterbacks are the stars of the show, while the kickers stay in the background.

The only time a kicker’s name comes to the forefront is when he fails to come through.

I guess that’s why we haven’t heard much about Akers this season. All he has done is come through.

Who is best team in Big Ten ?

Every poll has Florida way ahead of Alabama for number one in the country.   Having 6 undefeated teams in divison 1A is unprecedented in the BCS era, but closer to home there is a larger, more important controversy. Who is the best in the Big Ten ?

Iowa started strong, before losing 2 in a row, and Penn State and Ohio State were neck and neck all year.  But now that the games are all played and the three teams all finished at 10-2, Ohio State is getting the top spot in the Big Ten based on their single conference loss.  But wait a minute, if you want to rank the teams in the Big Ten strictly based on their head to head performance, it gets a little tricky.

OSU and Iowa both beat PSU this year, the Lions only two losses.  Iowa lost to Northwestern and Ohio State, with Northwestern not being ranked at the time of their victory.  Ohio State lost to Purdue and USC, with Purdue not being ranked at the time of their victory.

So according to strength of schedule, doesn’t Penn State have the best claim to the title ?  I know, they lost to both Big Ten competitors, but they swept the rest of their schedule, something neither Iowa or Ohio State was able to do.  But Ohio State beat BOTH their Big Ten competitors, and lost to #3 ranked USC, so don’t they deserve it ?  But they lost to Purdue ! The Boilermakers did not even finish .500 at 5-7 including losses to Northern Illinois and Wisconsin, so how good IS OSU if they couldn’t beat this team ? Iowa lost to Northwestern, a team that itself lost to Syracuse, a team PSU handled with ease !

If I had to pick a single team to represent this conference I couldn’t do it.  It appears the rest of the country is right there with me, as the AP ranks them 8-9-10, (Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State)  USA Today has them 7-9-10 (Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa) BCS has them 10-11-13,  (Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State) Harris poll has them 7-9-10 (Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa)   Ohio State leads all polls by virtue of its single Big Ten loss but then I come back to that 18-26 loss to Purdue and I can’t accept Ohio State as the best of the three.  No way would Iowa or PSU lose to Purdue, and if they did, it would not be by as many as 8 !!

If it is this hard to determine who the best team is in a conference that has no teams in contention for the national championship, maybe we do need to address the BCS process and have some sort of playoff.  What if all three teams had finished with a single conference loss ?    What if Penn State BEAT Iowa, and lost to Temple and Ohio State, and Iowa had lost to Penn State and Arizona instead of Ohio State and Northwestern ?  And Ohio State lost to Purdue and Iowa, instead of Purdue and USC ?  Then we would have three 10-2 teams that were all 7-1 in conference and no way to determine who was best.  You can’t have a championship playoff game between three potential contenders, and everything college football has in place to determine seedings in this case leaves something to be desired.  And what happens if Iowa and PSU crush their bowl opponents and OSU tanks in thiers ? Are they still the champions in the Big Ten ?

I know I am playing devils advocate, but I am positive a situation like this will develop again in the national picture soon, as it has already several times since the BCS format was adapted in  1998.  I know the quest for a college football playoff format is equivalent to the holy grail, but I still hope one day to see it come about.  Only then maybe a team like the 12-0 TCU Horned Frogs or Boise State Broncos will have a chance to be the #1 team in the land.  Until then, we will go with what we have but I for one refuse to accept the Buckeyes as the Big Ten Champions for 2009 given how hard these three teams played and how closely they match up.

Another Week, Another Win For Eagles

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favorite lines when it comes to sports or games in general is “Its always better to be lucky than good”, and today the Eagles were much luckier than they were good as they beat a Redskins team that is a shell of what it was when the season started, missing many of their best offensive players like Portis and Cooley and their big-ticket defensive player in Albert Haynesworth.  Its so bad in D.C these days that their starting running back, Rock Cartwright, hadn’t started a game since the 2003 season against these same Eagles.

The Eagles were good when they needed to be as they marched down the field in the 4th quater down by eight and not only scored a touchdown, but also tied the game when “Shady” McCoy willed himself into the endzone for the two point conversion.   This drive came after the Redskins picked off Donovan McNabb deep in Eagles territory but could only manage a field goal.  After another Eagles stop on defense the birds marched down the field again, eating up as much of the clock as they could to put David Akers in position to put them ahead 27-24 on his 16th straight field goal.  The Eagles then clamped down one more time on defense to seal the victory and go to 7-4 to stay a game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East and keep the top seed in the NFC Wild Card race over the Green Bay Packers.

The Eagles were lucky as well.   They were very lucky that on that final drive Juqua Parker wasn’t called for a roughing the passer penalty on his WWE takedown move on Redskins Quarterback Jason Campbell on the fourth down play that gave the Eagles the ball back on downs.  The ball had been thrown, and I’m not sure why Parker felt the need to put the guy on his back.  It was a stupid move that could’ve cost the Eagles in the end.   The Eagles were also just basically lucky that it was the Redskins they were playing while they went through another weekly string of inept offensive series during the third quarter and not a good team like the Vikings or Saints – two teams that Eagles may have to beat on the road in the playoffs if they want to get back to the NFC Championship Game or possibly, dare I say it, the Super Bowl this season.   Let’s face it, the Eagles played a team that is missing most of their offensive line, three of their skilled offensive position players (two of them at running back) and their best defensive lineman and they struggled to beat this team.  Each time they got a lead, they let the Redskins come right back and march down the field until that final possesion.  They cannot do that against better teams, and they can’t do it in the playoffs or they will be lucky to get past the first round and they won’t make it past the second round.   If I had to hear Eagles color man Mike Quick or 1090 am’s Brian Baldinger say one more time that the Redskins could’ve won a bunch of their games this season because they were so close I was going to rip my radio right out of the dashboard (I was traveling roundtrip from Wilmington to Severna Park so I had both the Eagles and Redskins broadcasts on at different points of my trip and I watched the game on Tivo when I got home).   The bottom line is that the Redskins didn’t win those games and they were 3-7 coming in and the Eagles, if they are as good as many of the fans think they are, should’ve won this one in a walk.  Insert my line about luck again here.

The Eagles did show some bright signs.  Jason Avant and Shady McCoy looked great, and Leonard Weaver busted out some big runs as well.  David Akers has seemed to shake off the Oakland game and has converted every field goal since and has been booting some deep kickoffs.   There were some bad spots as well.  New millionaire Winston Justice all but killed one drive by himself, and Andy Reid’s decision to insert Mike Vick on third and one rather than just continue to feed the ball to McCoy even had the radio announcers scratching their heads (Vick didn’t make it, but Weaver lept over the pile on fourth down).   Later in the game Vick came in and despite having a clear field to run behind Celek, he decided to try to throw it and tossed a laser behind Celek for an incompletion.   Speaking of Celek, he had a run late in the game of dropping anything that got close to him.  He needs to catch even the passes that aren’t right in his gut – its what the good receivers in the NFL do.   Although this play would’ve gotten called back because of a penalty, anyone recall the fake reverse where McNabb hid the ball so well that he was all by himself and then proceeded to underthrow Jeremy Maclin who just sprinted right past the Redskins secondary? The play was designed to hit the receiver in stride, and McNabb’s poor throw made Maclin have to stop and come back for the throw.  Same thing happened last week on the touchdown to Jackson.  McNabb just cannot hit receivers in stride on the deep ball.  The only time I’ve ever seen it is on those quick slants the Eagles run from time to time.

I know many of you are thinking “get off this team, they won and that’s all that counts”.  Okay, I’ll agree that at the end of the day getting the win is the most important win, and you’ll obviously take an ugly win over a well played loss.  No argument there.  The problems begin when those same folks believe that this Eagles team is going to make a run for the Super Bowl and I don’t see it happening unless they start playing consistent football and not just in the first and fourth quarters like the past two weeks.   They could very well work out the kinks and go on another run to the NFC Championship Game.  As a fan I want that more than anyone, but I’m not going to look at this team through Green and Silver glasses in the mean time.  I want to be proved wrong – I want Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb to win a Super Bowl together here for the Eagles.   Two of my worst football memories are watching Reggie White of the Packers holding up the Super Bowl trophy after beating the Patriots and then watching Dick Vermeil win one three years later for the Rams.    Reid and McNabb brought the Eagles back from the depths of football wasteland, and I want nothing more than for them to complete the job, and since McNabb isn’t getting any younger or more durable why not this year.   I hope they prove me wrong.

Eagles control their own destiny, notch 2nd win in a row.

The Eagles dominated every single offensive and defensive category in todays game and in the process managed to just barely win.  They had more total plays of offense, more yards passing, more yards rushing, had better yards per pass and rush attempt, had more time of possession, better 4th down efficiency, allowed fewer turnovers, and barely escaped with a win !!

Yes they were not as good on third down, thanks to the Redskins being unnaturally good at that, but they did everything they could to give the Redskins the game until the 4th quarter, from the initial onsides kick they misplayed, allowing Washington to have a 24 yard field, quickly shortened to a 19 yard field with the 5 yard penalty, to repeatedly being called for offensive penalties that negated many of their better plays.

They had a touchdown called back that turned into a field goal, they brought Vick in every time the offense gained any momentum and he promptly disrupted the rhythm of the game, they had countless passes dropped including three in a row by Brett Celek, they lost DeSean Jackson after another touchdown catch due to injuries,  yet they won the game to go to 7-4 and put their fate in their own hands for the first time all season.  Jackson’s catch was his shortest of the year, a mere 35 yards.  This guy is clutch and the best reciever we have had in years, and I hope he is recovered in time for next weeks contest !

Simply put, if the Eagles win out, and beat the Giants and Cowboys in their final meetings, they win the division.

If they beat the Giants and Cowboys and win 1 of their other three remaining games, they will win at least the wild card.

A couple positive observations, the one two punch of McCoy and Weaver was productive for the second week in a row.   The halfback/fullback tandem rushed for 120 yards on 23 carries and Buckley came through with the first touchdown of his NFL career to pull the Eagles within 2.  Then McCoy performed a balancing act to tie the game up with the 2 point conversion allowing Akers to win it with his field goal on the ensuing drive as the Eagles scored 11 unanswered in the fourth quarter for the win.  Assante Samual overcame an average first half with 2 interceptions to keep the Eagles in the game.  And the Eagles finally appeared able to convert a third and short with their running game, a quality they had been seriously lacking over the past 6 weeks.

Through the first three quarters fans had to be worrying about the Eagles repeatedly driving the length of the field and having to settle for field goals.  A 90 yard 10 play drive for the tying touchdown followed by a 10 play drive for the go ahead field goal hopefully put some of these qualms to bed, at least until next week.

One can only hope Reid won’t overplay Vick in the reunion next week with his former team, the Atlanta Falcons.  I think enough has been seen this year to confirm the “Vick experiment” is a dismal failure, it is time to let McNabb run this team for the final 5 games, and if not satisfied with his judgement and performance, you have Kolb chomping at the bit to have a go at it next year, I repeat for the millionth time this year……WE DON’T NEED VICK !!!

OK, got it out of my system, for now, on to next week.  We dodged a serious bullet against the Redskins, hopefully we will fare better against the Falcons.

Eagles Cannot Afford A Letdown Against Skins

The Eagles avoided what would’ve been a disastrous three game losing streak last week against the Bears as they hung on for a 24-20 victory.   The win put them at 6-4 just a game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East and in the drivers seat for the top wild card spot in the NFC.    A loss to the Redskins on Sunday could change all that in a hurry so the Eagles need to focus on their opponent and not let their eyes wander past this week on the schedule.

The Cowboys and Packers both won, so if the Eagles fall Sunday they would fall two games behind in the division race and would fall behind the Packers in the wild card standings as well with just five games left to play.  6-5 with tough games against the Giants, Cowboys, Falcons and Broncos still on the schedule isn’t where you’d like to be, and you can’t count the 49ers out, either.

What’s that you say – Andy Reid would never let the Eagles discount or look past an opponent? How’d that work out in Oakland a few weeks ago? Last season the Eagles picked themselves up off the carpet after getting beat down by the Ravens 36-7, a game where McNabb was benched, and whipped the Cardinals 48-20, took out the Plaxico-less Giants 20-14 (a game where they led 20-7 going into the final minute of the game), beat the Browns 30-10 and sitting at 8-5-1 controlled their own destiny as they went down to Washington to play a Redskins team that had nothing to play for but pride.  Well, pride won 10-3 and it almost cost the Eagles a playoff berth had it not been for a few stars aligning just right (including a very improbable win by the Raiders over Tampa Bay) and the Eagles simply beating the Cowboys into next year 44-6.   The Eagles were flat that day in Washington, just like they were in Oakland earlier this season and they simply cannot allow it to happen again.

Let’s just hope that the Eagles learn from their past and come out firing on all cylinders and score early and often and put the Redskins away.

Flyers can’t buy win on Black Friday

It may be “Black Friday” but it wasn’t a day to celebrate for the Orange and Black.

After snapping a three-game losing streak on Wednesday, the Flyers stumbled at home against the Buffalo Sabres, falling 4-2.

If you were at work, or simply forgot the Flyers had a matinee, here is a brief recap of what went wrong at the Wachovia Center.

— The Sabres had been winless in their last four games and hadn’t scored more than three goals in 11. The Flyers allowed them to snap both streaks.

— The Flyers had a goal taken off the board in the first period when an early whistle kept the them from taking a 1-0 lead. The refs ruled Miller had control of a puck that was clearly loose.

— Ray Emery looked average, but didn’t do as bad as his stat line (4 goals on 25 shots) would indicate. Two of the goals he had no shot on, including the fourth of the game, a goal by Tim Connolly. The goal came in front of a crowded net when Connolly’s shot bounced off the back of Emery’s mask and into the net. Regardless, the Flyers have now dropped three straight with Emery in net.

— Right winger Ian Laperriere was hit in the face by a slap shot by Buffalo’s Jason Pominville late in the first period. He returned in the third, but it was an ugly incident to watch.

— The Flyers couldn’t solve Ryan Miller. After beating the NHL’s GA leader for five goals in the teams first meeting, the Flyers have struggled to solve him in two games since. Outside of a 30-second span late in the first period when the Flyers scored twice, they had no answer for Miller.

— The Sabres Drew Stafford was credited with the game’s first goal, but it was Matt Carle who was responsible. Carle inadvertently knocked his back-hander into his own net, giving the Sabres an early lead.

About the only good that came from the game was done when the gloves were dropped. Dan Carcillo locked up with Craig Rivet twice, getting the best of him, especially in the second encounter.

Report: Iverson to retire

So this is how it ends.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Steven A. Smith is reporting that Allen Iverson is set to retire.

If he goes through with it, the future Hall of Famer will be leaving a game that seems to no longer want him.

A prolific scorer throughout his NBA career, Iverson gained a reputation as a selfish player and clubhouse cancer over the last few seasons.

While with the Sixers Iverson put fans in the seats every night, as he was always a threat to go for 40-50 points. Sixers fans will likely never forget the crossover move he put on Michael Jordan, a move that symbolized Iverson’s ready for the big time.

The issue throughout Iverson’s career was if he made the players around him better. Allen loved to shoot the ball – passing was another story.

If this is indeed the end of Iverson’s career it would be a shame. Younger fans will only know the selfish Iverson who refused to come off the bench for the Pistons, leading them to send him home late in the season, and then having the same happen with the Grizzlies after just a handful of teams.

And now it looks like no one in the NBA wants Iverson.

What a contrast from his great years in Philly.

Iverson was drafted by the Sixers in 1996 and played 10 seasons for them, leading them to the NBA Finals in 2001.

For his career, Iverson will finish as the sixth highest scorer per game in NBA history, with a 27.0 average. He also won a Rookie of the Year award and four scoring titles.

Iverson also played for the Nuggets, Pistons and for a few games, the Grizzles.

We will know more on the story over the next day or two and whether or not this is simply a ploy by Iverson to try and draw interest from a contender or if he is sincere.

So will you remember Iverson the All-Star who brought excitement to Philadelphia basketball or as the guy who couldn’t put his ego aside and help a team as a role player?

Holiday time: Williams out with broken jaw

Lou Williams will have plenty of time to think about his last second miss in the Sixers’ 108-107 loss to the Wizards on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, he may have 4-to-6 weeks to think it over.

Comcast Sports Net revealed that Williams suffered a fractured jaw last night after taking an elbow in the fourth quarter. Williams was able to finish the game and nearly helped the Sixers rally back from a 15-point deficit, with a 26-point effort.

The Sixers have not released an official timetable on his return and Williams – who is second on the team averaging 17.4 ppg – is to be evaluated on Thursday.

The one bright spot for Sixers fans is that they should get an opportunity to get a good look at rookie Jru Holiday, who was the team’s first round pick. While Philadelphia still has guards Willie Green and Royal Ivey on the roster (that’s going to scare opposing defenses), neither possess the raw talent of Holiday, who has been buried on the bench for much of the season.

For the season Holiday has played in just eight games averaging 3.5 points in 8.8 minutes. Regardless of who sees the minutes tonight the Sixers don’t figure to be much of a match tonight against the Celtics, who lead the Atlantic by 3 ½ games.

We all know the Sixers aren’t going anywhere this season. Eddie Jordan should do the fans a favor and give the team a look at a player they hope becomes the answer at point guard.

Phillies aren’t resting on their laurels

Agent Oscar Suerez states the Phillies and veteran utilityman Juan Castro have agreed on a contract, and will likely finalize the agreement with a physical next week.   There were strong indications a one-year deal would be announced next week, pending the results of the physical.   I wanted to see the Phillies acquire Omar Vizquel for multiple years.  The Castro acquisition would be beneficial for the team, but hardly is a long term proposition.

Castro, 37, is a .230 hitter, with a .270 on-base percentage, in 15 major league seasons. In 57 games with the Dodgers last year, he batted .277, while playing shortstop, second base, third base and left field.  He makes a suitable replacement for Bruntlett though he has not turned any unassisted triples plays !  He can also spot Jimmy Rollins since he has experience at shortstop, and a better arm than Bruntlett had.

Manager Charlie Manuel is normally not one to fully use his bench players,  he stated that he wanted a utility player who could start in place of Rollins and Chase Utley.   Bruntlett batted .171 in 72 games last season and clearly never gained Manuel’s trust.  Castro may have slightly better offensive statistics than Bruntlett, but it seems obvious that the Phillies are more interested in acquiring a utility player with a good arm, who can think on his feet and not commit errors.  With their power and run production laden offense, an additional bat is not the highest priority at this time.

Rollins and Utley will both be 31 next season, and would benefit from regular time off. Rollins played in 155 games last season; Utley 156. The second baseman in particular endured a rough September, batting just .204. He later admitted to suffering mental and physical fatigue late in the season.  Rollins on the other hand heated up as the season wore on and could have used a couple games of relief early on when mired below the Mendoza line.

It is good to see the management working on the mix on this roster, even though they made it to the World Series and came up slightly short of back to back championships, Amaro and Manuel are smart enough to realize they need to keep imrpoving and adding to this team to make sure they remain competitive.  castro is a fair start, but there are other free agents out there that I believe would benefit the team more.  Specifically relief pitchers and closers, the two positions most likely to blame for the Phillies falling to the Yankees this year.

Got skates? The Flyers may need you

Even on a night where the Flyers don’t suffer any injuries, they find away to lose a player.

The NHL announced that Flyers’ forward Daniel Briere has been suspended two games for a late hit on the Avalanche’s Scott Hannan last night. That means Briere will miss Wednesday’s game against the Islanders as well as Friday nights contest at his former employer, the Buffalo Sabres.

The news is the latest blow for a Philadelphia team that is already without the services of Simon Gagne, Darroll Powe and Blair Betts for the next four to six weeks or so. ]

Winger Aaron Asham is also sidelined with an injury to his side, and it is unknown when he will return.
The Flyers are in a very tough spot right now, playing in a division that is unforgiving. If the Flyers slide they can find themselves in a deep whole fast.

The Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi wrote about how if the Flyers are an elite team they must be able to overcome injuries here:

Carchidi is correct in his statement, but the Flyers have yet to show that they can overcome being this shorthanded, dropping their last three contests. We will find out a lot more about this team over the next month or two. Younger players will get their chance and the team may need a different guy to step up every night.

This glue that must hold this team together while it heals is Ray Emery, who has had a difficult week, suffering six and five goal nights. If he can return to the form he had through the first 20 or so games, the Flyers should be able to stay right with the top teams in the Atlantic.

If not, the team will be playing a lot of catch-up to start the New Year.

Winston Justice, how far you have come

Entering the 2008 season, Eagles fans got shivers whenever the name Winston Justice came up. Thoughts of his 2007 performance against the Giants where he allowed Osi Umenyiora to get to Donovan McNabb seven times were imposible to forget. Although some of the blame had to go to Andy Reid for putting the second-year player making his first career spot in that position in the first place, Justice was immediately labeled a bust.

Today he is labeled a multi-millionaire.

ESPN’s Adam Sheftler is reporting that the Eagles have inked Justice to a four-year deal worth $18 million, including a $6 million signing bonus.

Two years later Justice has turned into a quality lineman, playing a variety of positions before settling in as the Eagles starting right tackle. Justice was set to become a free agent at season’s end, so the move helps solidify an offensive line that saw an overhaul this year when veteran tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas were not resigned and Jason Peters and Stacey Andrew were brought in.

Andrews has been a major disappointment, while Peters has performed well, but has had problems staying on the field.

Then there is Justice who proves his doubters wrong game-after-game.

If you are in need of a feel-good story, look no further than Justice. No one will be labeling him a bust anymore.

Flyers traveling the unkind road

Remember that scene in the end of “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy clicks her heals together and repeats: there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home?

Ray Emery and the rest of the Philadelphia Flyers might be doing that as we speak.

For the third consecutive game the Flyers lost on the road, this time falling to the Avalanche, 5-4. The Flyers were out-worked and out-played through the first two periods before playing an inspired third session. Even with their two third-period goals, the hole the Flyers had dug themselves was just too big to overcome.

A week ago this team was making its case as a top team in the Eastern Conference. Lately they have looked pretty average. Emery struggled mightily Monday night, giving up five goals in two periods just a few days removed from allowing six goals in a loss to the Sharks.

The Flyers finish off their five game road trip on Wednesday against the Islanders. Normally the Islanders are the perfect team to play when a team is looking to fix its woes, but that has not been the case this season. New York has stayed in the thick of the (early) playoff mix, staying above .500. The team is a statistical oddity as it has won just nine of its 24 games, yet at 9-8-7 they have as many points (25) as the Flyers.

After that it is back home to take on a Sabres team that has split two meetings with them this season.

 Three bad games in November is not the worst thing in the world but it is cause for concern.

And unlike Oz, this is no dream.

He appears to be “the real McCoy”

With Westbrook apparently out for more than just a game, and the Eagles riding a two game losing streak into their showdown with the Bears at Soldier field, a lot was resting on the back, or rather legs of rookie running back LeSean McCoy.

The rookie came through with flying colors, just missing his first 100 yard rushing game with a 20 rush 99 yard effort Sunday night.  He also scored his third touchdown of the season on the go ahead score in the fourth quarter that put the game away for the Eagles as they fought for a 24-20 victory.

So far this year, McCoy has three games where he rushed for 80 or more yards and a touchdown, and the Eagles have gone 3-0 in those games.   Westbrooks heir apparent was selected in this years draft with the thinking that he could develop for a year or two behind the All Pro running back and eventually take over the starting job when Westbrook retired.   We all hope to see Westbrook return, but it is becoming evident that the veteran’s playing days are numbered and McCoy has shown promise especially given his rookie status.

The addition of Weaver to the running corps gives the Eagles an extremely potent 1-2 punch even if Westbrook does not contribute much more to the team given his health concerns and age.

In fact, team management has done a good job of upgrading the entire roster with a stable of young players that will be the Eagles strength for years to come.  McCoy, Weaver, Jackson, and Maclin are all currently under 22 years of age.  The QB role will be filled by Kolb who just turned 25.  Macho Harris is devloping into a strong young cornerback at age 24.

This year may be presenting some real challenges for the team, and a slew of unexpected injuries to key personnel have made it difficult to form any kind of cohesiveness on offense, defense, or special teams.   But what is becoming evident is that, once McNabb, Westbrook and other key elements of this team retire or can no longer produce, the Eagles will continue to fly high and be competitive.

Last night’s win also keeps them in the hunt for the NFC East title, as they kept pace with and stayed a game behind the Cowboys and even with the NY Giants.  After securing 4 NFC East titles in the previous 8 years, and after back to back years of 8-8 and 9-6-1, it is time for the Eagles to return to the 10+ win seasons we have gotten used to since Andy Reid has been at the helm.  I stated before the season started the Eagles should be 10-6 this year, and they can still hit that mark if they do not lose any more games they are not supposed to lose.

Their remaining schedule is not easy, with games at New York and Dallas, and games against Denver and San Francisco at home but their next two games should be wins, hosting the Redskins and visiting Atlanta, so if the Eagles take care of business they should be 8-4 and hopefully tied for the NFC east lead going into the night game in NY which is shaping up to be probably the most important game of their season.   With McCoy in the backfield, I give them better than even odds of continuing to get the job done.

For Eagles A Win Is A Win

Donovan McNabb spent the better part of last week telling everyone who would listen that last nights Eagles/Bears game was a much needed win for the Eagles.  He was right mainly because if the Eagles fell to 5-5 they would be tied with the Bears and the Bears would hold the first tie breaker advantage.  After watching yesterday unfold with the Giants winning in overtime and the Cowboys escaping with a less than impressive 7-6 win over the Redskins last night’s “must win” mantra was even more truth than fiction.

The Eagles looked unstoppable for their first couple of drives, scoring ten quick points despite sputtering out in the red zone on their first possesion.  Unfortunately they weren’t able to put away a weaker opponent and somehow the Bears and their lackluster offense managed to put up twelve straight points for a 12-10 lead early through the third quarter.   McNabb and the Eagles finally broke through later in the third on a 48 yard touchdown strike to DeShawn Jackson to regain the lead at 17-12.   At that point you had to think that was going to do it as the Bears just had nothing on offense, but somehow the Bears marched down the field culminating in a Cutler to Davis touchdown in the right corner of the end zone, a similar pass that eluded Olsen earlier in the game.  The touchdown and two point conversion pass to Forte gave the Bears a 20-17 lead and going into the fourth quarter you had to begin to think “here we go again” as the Eagles were 5-28 since 2004 in games they trailed in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles got the momentum back when they blocked Robbie Gould’s 48 yard attempt that would’ve given the Bears a 23-17 lead, and McNabb led the offense down the field, converting a key third down on a beautiful pass to Jackson in the middle to keep the drive alive.   LeSean McCoy, who had fumbled away the ball earlier in the quarter when Charles Tillman came in and swatted the ball out of his hands, one of three forced fumbles on the night for Tillman, took the ball to the house for a ten yard touchdown run and a 24-20 Eagles lead.  The Eagles got the ball back one more time but were unable to convert on a third down that would’ve ended the game, but Jay Cutler took care of that as his attempted pass was tipped by Tracy White into the hands of Sean Jones for the interception that sealed the victory for the Eagles.

This was a game the Eagles clearly should’ve dominated against an opponent that quite frankly offensively couldn’t get out of their own way for most of the first half.  The Bears red zone offense made the Eagles troubles look very minimal.   Had the Eagles played a different opponent last night they might not have come away with a win, but such is life in today’s NFL.  The Cowboys got just as lucky yesterday, coming away with a very last minute 7-6 win against a just as hapless Redsins team that the Eagles get to face next week.  In the NFL, a win is a win, especially on the road.   The Eagles are still not as good a team as the Vikings or Saints at this point, but they just might be good enough to overtake the Cowboys for the NFC East if they can get their defense healthy.   Sheldon Brown is playing with a bad hamstring, and Asante Samuel had to leave the game with a stinger.  On offense, their line is finally healthy and the did a nice job pass protecting for McNabb.  With Westbrook all but lost for the season they are very thin at running back and will have to rely on rookie “Shady” McCoy pretty heavily down the stretch.   The Eagles are already relying on young players in Maclin and Jackson at wide receiver and Celek at tight end.

McNabb had an excellent game, going 23 for 32 for 244 yards, a touchdown and interception.  Jackson caught 8 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.  McCoy, starting for Westbrook, ran the ball 20 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.  Michael Vick even turned in a nice play, running for 35 yards on a third and short in the first quarter.

At 6-4, the Eagles are tied with the Giants and stand a game behind the division leading Cowboys, both of whom the Eagles have to play down the stretch, both games coming on the road.   The Eagles stand as the first Wild Card right now thanks to a better conference record (5-2) than the Packers.   The Eagles control their own destiny and can still win the division but cannot afford any kind of letdown.   The Redskins come to the Linc next Sunday and the Eagles must play like they did at the beginning and end of last night’s game for all 60 minutes if the expect to move to 7-4 next weekend.  For now, the Eagles avoided a 5-5 record after ten games, matching last season when at 5-5-1 the Eagles won four of their last five combined with some help on the season’s final day got them into the playoffs when most thought their season was over.  They might not get as lucky this year if they don’t take care of their own business down the stretch.