The Eagles’ QB Race: All That’s Missing is Hope.

At Least Barkley Can't Wear 34.

At Least Barkley Can’t Wear 34.

The Eagles finished a week-long rendezvous with New England last Friday by getting drubbed by the Patriots in the opening pre-season game.  The over/under, set at just above 40 points, was probably the easiest money ever made.  If you have the courage, I highly suggest running it back on Thursday against Carolina where the number sits at 42.  You know Chip wants to get their all on his own, and the Birds certainly won’t be stopping anyone.  Not this year.  

One preseason game is hardly something to get bogged down with, but the results already have Eagles’ fans nervously looking for reassurance.  The newness of the coach, the excitement of the offense are going to wear off quickly if the Eagles can’t field a competitive team.  In terms of viability, the place to look on most NFL teams is the QB position.  Can you win with this guy?  For too many teams the answer is a definitive “no.”  In the midst of a race to name the starting QB, the Eagles should be trying to identify if not a franchise QB, at least the best guy to lead them through this season, but is Philadelphia the rare NFL team where the QB choice won’t make much difference?  Can any of these guys be winners?  Will the Eagles be so bad on defense it won’t matter?  

With all do respect to Matt Barkley, I’m going to leave him out of this particular discussion.  Barkley has the kind of arm that keeps cut-off men in business, and I don’t know one person who thinks he’s a viable option as a starter this year.  It’s not going to happen, and if does then things have already turned ugly.  That leaves us with Nick Foles and Michael Vick.  It’s a QB controversy that lacks an identity.  

Some basic types of QB controversies:  

1.  Established/Popular veteran vs. Young Gun.  Here’s one where fans and even pundits will be split.  Think Favre/Rodgers, or way back in the day for a Philly example Jaworski/Cunningham.  Teams will sometimes try to avoid this (Indy trading Manning for example), because once that young guy comes in (Unless he’s Tommy Maddox) he’s going to get a shot.  Why divide the fan base or locker room?  But, Vick isn’t established enough and Foles isn’t prospect enough to fit this category.  

2. Place Holder vs. Rookie/Young QB.  Pederson vs. McNabb.  Warner vs. Eli.  Maybe even Smith vs. Kaepernick?  In this case the ascension of the young QB is inevitable and there is no remorse about losing the veteran starter.  It’s just a question of, is the team ready for the rookie to start?  Will we stunt his growth?  But, Foles is certainly not promised the job at some point and Vick has enough support still that some would protest his benching or dismissal.  

3. Slop vs. Slop.  When teams are really bad why not give everyone a chance?  Gabbert vs. Henne.  The Cardinals.  Colt McCoy vs. Anyone.  This is the nightmare scenario for a fan–your team forcing you to have an opinion on two terrible QBs.  But, Vick and Foles certainly aren’t this bad.  They could MAYBE be starters in the NFL.  

You get the sense that Foles and Vick are battling to be the Place Holder.  At some point down the road the Eagles are going to acquire their next starting quarterback, but it’s not certain he’s currently on the roster.  If that’s the case, does it really matter if Vick beats out Foles or vice versa?  

Michael Vick is a known commodity.  He’s almost Jeff George-like in his ability to have people rave about his potential well into his 30s.  His ceiling for an individual play is probably without peer.  But over the course of a full season, Vick will do those other things he’s known for–turning the ball over, getting injured, etc.  If you had to win one game, you’d probably choose Vick, but you have to win a lot more than one game.  I

It’s no secret that I don’t care for Nick Foles.  Or “Poles,” as I call him.  When I intentionally call a player by the wrong name, it’s meant as disrespect.  When I state it so boldly, it seems irrational and mean-spirited, but it happens.  It happened with Kevin Coal-buh, and Ashanti Samuel, and it will continue through the Nick Poles era.  Foles is the only QB on the roster with a real chance to be the long-term QB it seems, but I don’t sense there is much of a chance and there’s almost no support for this in the fan base.  Obviously if Foles turns the corner and becomes a star people will claim they knew it all along, but if he was cut today, or traded away for a conditional 5th round pick.  I don’t think you’d hear a whimper.  

That’s because I’m sensing a diminished level of hope among Eagles’ fans and those who are optimistic seem to be more general in their prognostications.  “The offense will be good.”  Rather than, “Foles will develop into a front-line starter.”  And, it’s easy to see why this is happening.  First, because the fans have been sold on Chip Kelly’s system.  That’s what will be different.  Kelly’s innovation and technique will allow the Eagles to score points regardless of the QB.  The second reason is because the Eagles defense looks like it could be particularly terrible.  

The Eagles gave up 27.75 points a game last year (2nd worst in the NFC) and it’s hard to imagine them being significantly better on that side of the ball this year.  Factor in a new scheme, which they may or may not have the personnel for and Chip Kelly’s fast pace possibly having them on the field even more and the 31 points the Eagles surrendered on Friday might end up being par for the course.  

The bottom line is, with a defense this bad, or at best this unproven, Eagles fans are going to have to wait until the season starts to see if they have a chance at anything resembling a winning season.  Because, in the end, the fate of the Eagles might not rest with the quarterback, regardless of who wins the job.  Welcome to Philadelphia where hope isn’t in the hands of the signal caller.

 

Tuesday Morning Self-Esteem Check.

Not Pictured: The Bed.

What do we think of Jeff Lurie as an owner?  The guy stepped into an awfully soft spot.  Replacing Norman Braman guarantees you’ll start off on the right foot.  Lurie started out saying all the right things.  He’s got a new stadium, he’s not overtly cheap and he’s presided over an extended period of Eagles’ success.  Of course, success when it comes to the Eagles is a relative term.  The team is still without a Super Bowl, and after years of incremental progress the goal suddenly seems further away than it ever has during the Lurie era.  What role does Lurie play in this sudden nadir?  Is his relationship with Andy Reid hurting the team?

Firing Reid at this point in the season would accomplish nothing in terms of football.  The last six games are going to be very ugly regardless of who is wearing the headset, but Lurie’s decision to stick with Reid through these latest tough times could be a sign of a larger problem.  Regardless of which organization you are talking about there comes a time when change is necessary.  Don Shula left the Dolphins, Tom Landry was fired in Dallas, it always has to end.  That’s the nature of professional sports.  Does Lurie recognize when change is necessary?  

Does he recognize anything at all?  I don’t think a team should ever respond directly to the fans unless it is an extreme case, where you are risking a total alienation of the fan base.  Lurie is torturing the fan base right now.  Not because of the  team’s record, but through his commitment to the status quo.  The fans need to know that something is going to be different.  That this 14-year run is over and there is no chance that Andy Reid will have his fingerprint on this team in 2013.  As it stands, the crowd at Monday night’s Panthers game will likely be the ugliest of the Lurie era.  The owner seems oblivious to this, and it makes you wonder what else he’s oblivious to regarding his football team.  

Ok, let’s Tuesday Morning Self-Esteem Check, actually on Tuesday morning.  I was a little under the weather last night, and couldn’t make my usual wee-hours commitment to MNF trash and blogging.  

NFL Pick ‘Em Standings:  

  1. JCK, 32-22-1
  2. DC, 31-24
  3. Big Dub, 29-24-2
  4. Grossy, 29-24-2
  5. Nichols, 30-25
  6. Kraft, 29-25-1

The “Mashed Taters and Gravy,” Pick of the Week:  Grossy (San Diego +7.5)

Go ahead and re-read the selection.  I’m essentially guaranteeing a backdoor cover by .5 points.  There is a great debate in degenerate gambling circles about the half point.  Pay for it, don’t pay for it, and my thought has always been don’t get too bogged down in that half point.  That’s how I felt about the Steelers/Ravens game.  That extra half was sitting there and it didn’t bother me.  If the Ravens can win by three points, certainly they can win by four?  Or not.  I guess we learned this week that not all half points are created equal.  You may think I’m buckling to moment of vanity here, but come on, how great was that late TD?  And, then it goes under review?  Great gambling moment that cannot be ignored.  

The “Runaway Parade Balloon,” Awful Pick of the Week:  DC (Houston -15)

I can see where he was going here.  Houston is one of the five best teams in the league and Jacksonville is one of the two worst.  Houston has covered some big spreads this season.  But right there in his explanation, he should be talking himself out of it.  Vegas is trying to bait people into betting on the Jaguars.  Then, the caps lock arrogance, which I love–but only when it works.  Basically this is a penalty for failing to realize that a) The Texans have to come back and play Thursday and b) Jacksonville has Chad “Vapor Trail” Henne hiding on the bench ready to turn seasons upside down.  

***

The Definitive, Yet Arbitrary Top-1o:

1.  Atlanta, 9-1.  The Falcons are a bit of rhythm, but they’re still managing to win games.  Dodging Matty Ice’s 5 picks was quite a trick.  

2. Houston, 9-1.  Trap game against Jacksonville, bounce back Thursday to show you’re for real.  

3. San Francisco, 7-2-1.  The Niners proved they don’t need their starting QB to beat up on a team.  

4. Baltimore, 8-2.  Worst 8-2 team ever?  Perhaps. 

5. Green Bay, 7-3.  Remember when we were writing off the Packers season?  They’ve won five straight.

6. New England, 7-3.  The Patriots offense scores on everyone. Can they do it without Gronk?

7. Denver, 7-3.  In cruise control in the putrid AFC West.

8.  Chicago, 7-3.  The Bears are in deep trouble without Jay Cutler.  Hurry back, Mullet.  

9.  Pittsburgh, 6-4.  Need Ben back, but encouraging performance by the defense on Sunday night.

10. New Orleans, 5-5.  The Saints are on a bit of a roll, but is it a function of their schedule?

3-PT D.A. of the Week:  John Skelton.

Check out the tab at the top of the page to read about Skelton and one of the most prolific D.A. weeks of all-time.  Updated standings with point totals as well.  

 

Can the Dolphins Play in Marlins Park?

Look At These Two Dopes in the Middle.

This is what the Marlins do.  It’s been their blueprint since their inception.  Regardless of owner, the Marlins have become more adept than any team I’ve ever seen at dumping payroll.  They take runs, accumulate prospects, and play in front of a disinterested fan base.  In twenty years the Marlins have won two World Series (as many as the Phillies in about 120!) and have also fielded some of the worst teams, with the lowest payrolls ever assembled.  So, the question is, why is everyone in such an uproar over this particular move?  Why is trading Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes different from shipping off Miguel Cabrera, or Josh Beckett?  

The displeasure comes from the deception.  No one bats an eye when the Royals, the Padres or A’s shed payroll.  That is their small market identity.  But, “Miami” spent the 2011 off-season promising a departure from small market status.  New stadium, new attitude and a load of high-priced talent.  The Marlins were going to finally prove that baseball was viable in Miami.  When the team fizzled and the fans stayed away, the Marlins did what they always do–held a fire sale.  Baseball fans feel duped.  Miami is stuck with a 1/2 billion dollar stadium that will now be mostly empty for at least the next couple of seasons.  

We got to this point after a series of mistakes piled on top of each other.  A sampling…

1.  Miami was never a great choice for baseball.  

2.  They gave the expansion team to Wayne Huizenga, who owned the football stadium, thus dooming the Marlins to play in a terrible venue for nearly twenty years.  Most expansion teams have the lure of a new stadium.  Miami had the threat of nightly rain outs.  

3.  MLB allowed owners to swap teams as if they were trading Halloween candy.  John Henry left Miami for Boston and the Marlins were left with Jeffrey Loria who fell into the ownership of the Expos and held Montreal hostage for a stadium.  When he didn’t get his way, he left the Expos in the hands of MLB and pulled off his stadium heist in Miami.

I wonder what Bud Selig is thinking about all of this, because I know that Loria couldn’t care less.  He’s built his stadium, shoved that asset into his pocket and can now cut all the corners he wants.  But Selig is the reason this guy has a team.  He’s part of the reason there is a team in Miami.  When the Marlins draw 12,000 fans a night (if they’re lucky) and lose 100 games next year in their brand new ballpark, what kind of black eye does that give the commissioner’s office?  

***

What else is going on?  Since I’m here, maybe hit a few topics…

The Eagles are currently in line for a top-5 pick.  Is their any chance they could end up as the worst team in the league?  Jacksonville and Kansas City may make that impossible, but I think the Eagles could stay in the top-5.  If they do get a high pick, they’ll have to contemplate taking a QB.   Birds fans haven’t been in that situation for quite some time.  

***

The Phillies have yet to do anything during the “hot stove” season.  Unless you count locking up Kevin Frandsen–which I don’t.  Giving Frandsen $850,000 is not a big deal, but what the deal tells me is that the Phillies are still kind of fumbling through the dark.  They have to sign Frandsen (a guy with a marginal long-term track record at best) because unfortunately, they might need him to play almost every day.  They could end up being stuck with Frandsen at third.  Or god forbid, second base.  I imagine the Phillies will be players for the outfielders on the market, but the infield is probably going to be spare parts and athletic tape.  I am a bit surprised that Amaro hasn’t overpaid someone in a trigger happy panic fit.

***

How does someone like John Calipari become slightly less hated?  Pick on someone who is even more despised–like Duke.  Calipari claimed Duke was flopping like crazy in the first half of their game last night, and even though I saw 0 minutes, I’m sure this was the case, because that is ALL DUKE DOES EVER.  Of course, Duke knocked off Kentucky in the end, making you wonder if Coach Cal’s super freshman don’t quite live up to last year’s historic crop.  Does Nerlens Noel have enough help?  

Nerlens Noel–Future Piston.

***

Anyone want to talk Homeland?  What is the deal with Max?  Nobody?  One thing I do find interesting is how aggressively people debate the best show on TV.  Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Dexter, Homeland–did I miss one?  Walking Dead is about zombies, so it doesn’t count, but Dexter is a show that many people love and I gave only a one episode chance long ago.  I saw it again last Sunday and was thrown off by how soap opera like it felt.  The zoom in camera shots, the feeble dialog, is this Dexter?  I suppose centering around serial killers is an inherent advantage in terms of action and suspense, but as far as an overall judgement, we’re not really comparing Dexter to these other shows, are we?  I didn’t think so.  

The Playoffs Without Sanchize. Now What?

I Imagine Kate Upton will come to Her Senses by Tuesday.

Well, my big takeaway from the week 17 was, if I was still alive in Fantasy Football I would have gotten credit for a David Akers TD pass.  That would have been awesome.  But, in all seriousness yesterday kind of felt like the day that all the disappointment was really hammered home for a lot of teams.  It started here in Philly where the 8-8 Eagles closed the season with another convincing win.  Hard to believe that ridiculous scenario from a month ago came just one Jets win shy of playing out.  Makes the Niners, Cardinals, and other hideous losses all that more unbearable.  And, I imagine similar feelings in Chicago, San Diego, New York, Washington, Minnesota, etc.  For a lot of fan bases now it becomes the time to wonder about your coaching staff, the state of your franchise QB, what will happen in the draft…it’s a long way to training camp.  For the lucky 12 squads moving forward….

Who will Play Playoff spoiler this Year?

Where are the Jets?  We spent the last two post-seasons trashing the Jets and then they won 4 road games and nearly ruined the Super Bowl.  Their playoff runs always seemed to belie their real talent level and now there are big question marks hanging over the head of Sanchize and Rex Ryan.  I imagine Ryan’s act isn’t as endearing to Jets fans right about now.  He’s obviously safe, but this terrible finish probably took away most of his breathing room.  And, when will the Jets draft a QB?  Will it be this year?  It’s certainly coming soon.  Sanchez could be 10-2 in the post-season–right now he can’t win regular season games so it doesn’t matter.  With the Jets off the radar, there doesn’t appear to be a team to fill their role.  I know a few people who are high on the Giants, but I don’t see a shutdown defense or a real match-up problem from any of the lesser playoff teams.  The NFL might get the to form bracket they always dream of.

Will the Saints Benefit from playing this Weekend?

If I’m the Saints right now, I don’t want to break the routine.  You go out on Sunday, put up 45 points, take Monday off and then get ready to do it again the next weekend.  Why would you want to have a bye-week right now?  Don’t mess with the rhythm.  And, by getting Detroit in the wild-card round they’re facing a team that will be more than happy to get into another shootout.  I’m just thinking of overall confidence level here and about how the hot teams seem to have a bigger advantage than ever in the post-season.  The Saints should want to and will keep rolling this weekend.  Bad news for the rest of the NFC.

How Bad are these AFC games?

Oh my goodness.  Pittsburgh at Denver and Cincy at Houston?  Tebow, Delhomme(?) and the Scarlet Lobber?  This is the playoffs, right?  I guess this is a testament to defense?  Denver, Cincy and Houston will all fight you to the death on that side of the ball, but are we talking ratings suicide with Cincy/Houston?  There are enough Steelers fans and Tebow fans to perhaps set some records in that puke fest, but my goodness who is going to watch this other game?  The NFC is only better by default.  The NFC East probably didn’t deserve to send a team to the playoffs this year and the Lions can’t even beat the Packers’ 2nd string.  It looks like a lot of fodder clogging up the tournament, but you know what that means.  Upsets galore.

Which Defense will Submarine their QB?

Brady, Brees and Rodgers.  If you want, you can even throw Eli in there, Matt Stafford too.  These are 5 teams that give up a ton of points.  They make up almost half the post-season teams.  Plenty of experts will pick these squads to make the Super Bowl, but any and all could come up short.  I think you can definitely score your way to a title right now, but it’s a risky proposition.  I think back to a few years ago when Baltimore went into New England and jumped them early.  The Pats got startled at the opening bell and the big offensive guns never caught up.  The Packers defense tanked their chances two years ago.  The Saints couldn’t stop the Seahawks last year–that’s a problem.  People assume these stud QBs are going to meet in the conference championship games, but will their defenses allow that to happen?

***

Winter Classic Interlude:

All right, I’m heading out to the Winter Classic.   It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  There are no other truths.  I’m expecting the Flyers to maintain the momentum of the Alumni game and pick up a win.  In truth, they’ve been struggling with the Rangers and Lundquist all year.  I’m pretty nervous.  The Flyers, in true Philly fashion, are giving “Bob” the start.  This officially starts the goalie controversy of 2012.  Why wait?  Anyway, should be a cold, thrilling spectacle down at CBP.  I’ll offer a full summary tomorrow if one is warranted.

Flyers Kitten (above center) is READY!

Eagles (Others) Make it Official.

Happier Times.

There were some definitive losses in the NFL on Sunday.  San Diego showed they aren’t even willing to put up a fight in the sub-par AFC West.  The Bills, despite a much better effort, ended any hopes of taking advantage of a strong start to the season.  The Bears showed that life without Cutler could be very trying.  But, most of that was dwarfed by what the Eagles did Sunday.  A quick, 10-0, tease against New England, followed by 50 of the worst minutes of football you’ll ever see.  The defense was torched.  The offense was incompetent.  DeSean Jackson was benched.  Vince Young flashed his noodle arm, and the gluttons for punishment I call season-ticket holders started their official mutiny with a series of, “Fire Andy,” chants.  Andy would claim after the game that he didn’t hear the fans.  Does mean the chants didn’t exist?

I think those enterprising fans on Sunday broke the seal for in-game Reid-bashing, and the rest of the Eagles home slate (thankfully only 2 more games) will feature similar fan reactions the moment the Eagles fall behind.  The season-ending contest against Washington, which will likely be putting a cap on a 5 or 6 win season should be especially venomous–that is if people even bother showing up.  It was a wasted year for the Eagles, who regressed in just about every phase of the game except for those directly involving LeSean McCoy.  About the only debate left is, can the front office eat Andy’s deal if it gets bad enough?  Would they even consider it?  We know the defensive coordinator will fall on the sword again, but how many bullets can a man of Reid’s proportions dodge?

***

I should have looked up the odds on Patrick Peterson returning another punt for the Cardinals.  At least I could have hedged my bets.  Even with his track record the odds must have been pretty high, because no one in their right mind would expect the Rams to allow Peterson to do it again.  Wrong.  I think my relationship with P-squared has gotten off on the wrong foot.  He seems to have a vendetta against me, and there is no angst on my side at all.  I’m just watching in disbelief and hating on his quarterback.  Where is the ,”all he does is win games,” hype for John Skelton?  You talk about no-frills.

***

BCS interlude.  Georgia is the only team that stands in the way of an LSU/Alabama rematch for the national title, and I’m not entirely sure they won’t play that game regardless of the outcome this coming Saturday.  Somehow by blowing out an average Auburn team, Alabama erased any doubt that they deserve a rematch. After watching a bit of college football over the last two weeks, I realize that probably is the game that everyone wants to see, but I don’t understand what happens if ‘Bama wins a tight contest.  That result doesn’t seem fair to LSU.  Doesn’t a perfect regular season earn them the right to play someone new, even if they’re not as good?  Back in the days of NFC dominance, the 49ers didn’t beat the Cowboys or Giants in the NFC title game and then pass on the Bills for a rematch with the same team simply because everyone knew the Bills and the AFC stunk.  Anyway, I’d like to see Wisconsin play LSU.  I know rolling up Penn State isn’t anything special, though PSU’s defense had a pretty good year, but the Badgers are two pretty lucky plays away from being unbeaten and have serious offensive fire-power.   They should roll MSU, and then whoever they play in the Rose Bowl.

***

Here’s a random NFL observation.  How are these borderline awful teams putting together solid defenses while the upper echelon of clubs have trouble stopping scout teams?  I watched a good portion of the KC/Pittsburgh game last night (I don’t know why) and the Chiefs were relentless of defense.  Their offense buried them all day and still they had Pittsburgh in knots, and the Steelers are pretty strong offensively.  Palko turned the ball over 3 times in the span of about 4 minutes and they never broke.  They can cover, they can tackle and they get pressure.  What a concept.  But, they aren’t alone.  Jacksonville, Cleveland, Washington, Seattle…none of these teams are any good on the whole, but you’ll have your hands full on offense against them.  Have they developed these defenses out of desperation?  Do the Packers inherently have less intensity on defense, because they know Rodgers is going to hang 30-35 regardless?

***

Five Fantasy Eye-Pokes, Random Blow-Ups of the Week:

1.  Reggie Wayne.  Does anyone in the universe still own Reggie Wayne?  Wayne was on my can’t cut list for a while, I finally got rid of him and it only took the guy 3 months to have a decent game.  Constantly targeted, soft-schedule, but keep getting out-performed by Pierre Garcon.  Nice swan song, Reggie.

2.  Matt Forte.  Matt Forte owners getting a little nervous?  That workload taking a toll?  Everyone who took Forte was in self-congratulation mode through 9 weeks, but now we can’t pencil in those 20 points a week anymore.  Especially with Hanie at the helm.

3.  Vincent Jackson/Philip Rivers.  Shonn Greene Perpetual Trophy.

4.  Maurice Jones-Drew.  How is this guy still healthy?  How many times did I pass on him and make a knee joke?  And, how is he productive when Jacksonville’s offense has absolutely no other option.  Blaine Gabbert offends your sensibilities.  They went back to McNowCown.  Ugly.

5.  Peyton Hillis.  It wasn’t a good year to draft a Peyton.  I think Hillis owners (if there are any left) had finally come to terms with his horrid season.  But, he’s back, and he got just enough touches and just enough yards that you’ll now be debating whether to play him.  Trouble.

***

Arbitrary, but Definitive Top-10:

  1. Green Bay–They’ll go 15-1.
  2. New England–Everything is Clicking Again.
  3. Baltimore–I guess that was a good win on Thursday.
  4. San Francisco–Re-gress-ion.  REGRESSION!
  5. New Orleans–Only if they win tonight
  6. Pittsburgh–Didn’t impress in K.C.
  7. Houston–I think T.J. Ford is their starting QB.
  8. Atlanta–Could be dangerous come wild-card time.
  9. Oakland–Snag Palmer off waivers.
  10. Dallas–Can’t keep them away longer.

A World Without Cutler-Face

Cutler's Thumb Derails Bears Juggernaut?

After the Bears pushed aside the flailing Chargers I was going to lead off the post with an anxious eye toward Christmas Day.  Bears @ Packers.  Game of the century.  Packers could be sitting on 14-0, Bears could be riding a 9 game winning streak of their own.  Forget about presents, we’ve got the best football game of the season.  But, Cutler’s hurt.  He broke his thumb, and the Bears will be ushering in the Caleb Hanie era.  I know what you’re thinking.  What about Todd Collins? Well, he’s no longer on the depth chart.  The 3-hole is being occupied by Nathan Enderle.  Who?  The pride of Idaho.  This feels like a case for Jeff Garcia.

The question is, are the Bears really done?  They’ve won plenty of games this year without Cutler being stellar, but with Cutler in there, there’s the threat he could make a throw or two.  Is this going to be one of Cutler’s hot games?  And, now you’ve got to wonder if Hanie can be good enough to allow the Bears to continue to do what they do, which is pound you into dust with Matt Forte and their defense.  You look at the next four games for Chicago, (Oakland, KC, Denver, Seattle) and think that Hanie could probably keep them competitive, but it’s further down the road you’ve got to look to see the real impact of losing Cutler and his gun-slanging potential.

The other question this raises for me is, why is the NFL’s trade deadline so early in the season?  I know NFL teams haven’t really figured out how to wheel and deal like they do in MLB, but this seems like a classic case where a struggling team could ship off a QB and have a nice little win-win.  Now, this isn’t a good example, because I’m sure now that Donovan McNabb is worse than Caleb Hanie, but I don’t feel like skimming through every roster.  But, say, the Vikings were still starting McNabb and he was playing decent.  They could just package him off to Chicago and go with Ponder.  Or, the Titans could trade Hasselbald.  That kind of thing.  The season is just past halfway done, and the Bears are stuck with what they’ve got, or sweet-talking David Garrard.

***

College Football BCS intermission.  So, I’m no college football junkie, but from what I gather, everyone lost this week.  Except the holy SEC trio of LSU, Alabama and Arkansas.  Does anyone really think Arkansas is the 3rd best team in the country?  Honestly, no one has any idea who the 3rd best team is.  The national high school rankings are probably more accurate.  So, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Clemson all go down.  Oklahoma or Oklahoma St. is going to lose at least one more time, and the way I’m looking at it, an all-SEC title game looks inevitable.  The funny thing is, #2 Alabama who already lost to LSU, has a much easier path to the title game than the #1 Tigers.  They basically have to beat Auburn, and they’re in.  LSU and Arkansas have each other and then the SEC title game.  Is there any way OK State or another team could climb back up to #2?  I’m not a big fan of conference games for the national title.  Even if they are the two best teams.  Shouldn’t a conference decide its champion?  Isn’t that the point?  If we know that LSU already beat Alabama, why not have them play someone else?  If ‘Bama wins the rematch, what does that prove?  It’s so unbelievably messed up.

***

Brief Eagles Intermission.  I heard a comedian say once that you could hit a cat in the head with a tennis ball 100 times and it’d be funny every single time.  That’s kind of how I feel about Eli Manning fumbling on a late drive against the Eagles.  Sure, he wasn’t going for a slide this time around, but the result was the same.  The Eagles are still a mess, and still well behind NY, but some measure of relief for Eagles fans that the Giants don’t pull off the sweep.  The Eagles continue a maddening year.  Their next loss will officially bury them, but before that they play the type of defense that if they could have played in half their losses this year, they’d be 7-3–at worst.  And yet, if they were 7-3, it’d be a soft record, because they can lose to any team out there.  They’ll probably prove that against New England and if not, surely the following Thursday in Seattle.   Expectations are a funny thing, aren’t they?  Vince Young was 90% horrific, but one good drive and everyone will be loving him this morning.

***

Five Fantasy Eye Pokes, Frustrating Blow-Ups, Etc:

1. Eli Manning.  Manning shredded the Eagles earlier in the year and there was no reason to think he would fare any different this time around, but the Eagles got a ton of pressure, the Giants had some key early drops and the rest was history.  Luckily, I traded Eli on Friday.  Someone else’s problem.

2. Kevin Smith.  Did anyone know Kevin Smith was still in the league?  I really thought the equipment manager was Mo Morris’ back-up at this point.  There was Smith out of the darkness for a buck forty and two scores.  Meanwhile Megatron goes mostly quiet on a 49-point day.

3.  Shonn Greene.  Every.  Single.  Week.

4.  James Starks.  How can the best offense in the league not have a viable RB option in fantasy?  I have Starks.  Was so thrilled with myself when I drafted him late and Grant started the season as terribly as predicted.  But, the Packers refuse to let him in the end zone.  Two, that’s TWO (2), fullbacks got TD runs yesterday.  Starks?  Nothing.

5.  Torrey Smith.  Ok, everyone go pick him up (again).  Start him because you’re desperate.  And, watch him trend back to zero.  Maybe not.  The guy is fast.  But, I’m just bitter because I’ve already picked him up and cut him this year.

***

Arbitrary, But Definitive Top-10:

  1. Green Bay 10-0, eked out Bay of Pigs.
  2. San Francisco 9-1, 5 game division lead. Lulz.
  3. Baltimore 7-3, Need an AFC team.
  4. Chicago 7-3, In Memory of Cutler’s healthy thumb.
  5. Pittsburgh 7-3, Standard Bye-Week Bump.
  6. New Orleans 7-3, a soft 7-3, says me.
  7. Houston 7-3, In Memory of Schaub’s healthy foot.
  8. New England 6-3, Assuming they take care of Palko
  9. Oakland 6-4, Carson Palmer: Winner.
  10. Cincinnati 6-4, Still feisty, screw Dallas.

How Low Can You Go?

Happier Times.

The Eagles are a study in finding new lows.  They supposedly had bottomed out already for 2011 on more than one occasion and then came Sunday against the downtrodden Cardinals.  An Arizona team that is utterly incompetent on the road, and was featuring John Skleton at QB.  Their main running threat, Beanie Wells was banged up, and if the Eagles could somehow contain Larry Fitzgerald–the game had the potential to turn into a laugher.

The laughter came, but mostly from Eagles fans who were probably afraid that if they didn’t laugh, they might start to cry. A lot of people had already given up on the season before Sunday, but that didn’t mean they expected to lose to Arizona. That’s different.  Even the most pessimistic fan was probably thinking, “OK, beat Arizona then the Giants can perform the official burial this coming Sunday.”  Not so fast.  No 4th quarter lead is safe for the Eagles.  In fact, the only way I’d be nervous against the Birds is if they didn’t jump out to an early lead.  You don’t want to break the pattern.

The end result yesterday was a new low for Philadelphia teams in my lifetime.  Not in terms of actual talent, results, or anything like that, but the Eagles have become the joke of the city.  It’s been a quick journey.  They’ve burned through all their goodwill, and if you thought things turned ugly in the stands on Sunday, wait for the last few home dates of the year. If the losses keep piling up, it’ll be a controlled mutiny, or at least I hope it will be controlled.  Think about the plight of the Eagles season-ticket holder.  They’ve seen one win in their last 8 trips down to the Linc.  That’s a lot of days centered around football that end in disappointment.

Factor in the relentless and repetitive drone of Andy Reid and Co. after the losses and fans have to be wondering what they’re witnessing.  Has a team ever imploded like this?  It’s one thing to have a terrible owner.  It’s one thing to be burdened by a small-market, to be stuck in a rebuilding phase, but the Eagles are supposed to have everything in place.  Big Market.  Plenty of money, plenty of talent, an owner we think(?) wants to win, and yet there’s nothing present in town among the fans other than a sense of doom.  Might Andy Reid actually keep his job?  How long will the fans be subjected to this particular spectacle.

I’m sure this has happened in other cities, but it’s one of those predicaments that you have to be right here to see.  A national person doesn’t care, or hasn’t taken the yearly beating to the point where they have any perspective.  Oh, the Eagles are having a down year?  Who cares.  I’d love to hear some other examples, but here in Philadelphia, at least this morning, it feels unprecedented.  Sure, the Flyers haven’t won in 35 years, but it at least always feels like they’re trying something new.  It’s wrong, it’s always the wrong personnel, but they’re not afraid to pull a trigger.  The Phillies have been to unprecedented lows in terms of results, but that was with a miniscule payroll and incompetent leadership.  Since they’ve changed personas, they’ve been successful.  And, in the NBA you just have to wait around and hope to get one of 5 or 6 franchise players, so what difference does it make?

The Eagles though have hit this point where the difference between expectations and results has reached historic levels. Throw in no real accountability and a fan base who has finally had enough, and you’ve got perhaps the worst sports season I’ve seen in my lifetime.  It feels but hyperbole, even as I type it, but I’m not sure that it is.

***

Quickly around the League:

1.  Teams are getting exposed.  Buffalo, Detroit, teams of this nature.  The NFL season is a constant boiling down process. In a few weeks we’ll be convinced that only 4 teams can win the Super Bowl.  Meanwhile, the teams like Buffalo, Detroit, maybe Cincy and the like are forced to wonder what to do when they miss they playoffs and don’t have a top draft pick.

2.  Are Denver fans happy they’ve won 2 straight?  I mean, are they really?  Tim Tebow is gonna set records.  Stinky, smelly, putrid record that hopefully no one will ever attempt to break.

3.  Why can’t the Jets figure out the Patriots offense?  Or at least they can’t for 4 quarters.  New England had been shackled by two straight opponents, but they’ve hung about 70 on the Jets this year.  With the Jets’ defense, that doesn’t make a ton of sense.  And, is this the year Mark Sanchez plays like himself in the playoffs?  Assuming they make it…

4.  Why can no one win in Seattle?  Or, why can’t good teams win in Seattle?  I feel like the Rams have a better shot at going in there than the Ravens do.  The Eagles are going to be in a world of hurt for that Thursday game.

5.  If you had to bet 1,000 dollars on the 49ers making the Super Bowl, what odds would you need?  I’m still not comfortable saying the 49ers will even get out of the divisional round, yet there they were winning another game yesterday the way they win games.  Would you rather have a stud defense or a stud QB?  Anyway, SF is 6:1 right now to win the NFC.  I wouldn’t go anywhere near that.  How about 15:1?

***

Five Fantasy Mutt-Faced Dogs and/or Choke-Artists of the Week, Etc:

1.  Baltimore D–How many people needed a RB this week, took a peek at Marshawn Lynch and said–No chance.  Not against Baltimore.  Well, anything is possible in Seattle.  Beast Mode went Beast Mode.

2.  Matt Stafford–What the bleep was that?  Hey Stafford, are you going to be good, or are you going to be hurt/stink all the time?  Time to make up your mind.

3.  Ryan Torain–Is this his 2nd appearance?  3rd?  Why can’t Shanny stop giving this stiff the ball?  Personal, because I was dabbling in Roy Helu like a moron this week.  Thanks for giving Torain 12 for 20 yds in the 1st half, Shanny.  Great coaching.

4.  Cam Newton–A million fantasy owners who thought Cam was going to carry them to glory are suddenly very, very nervous.

5.  Shonn Greene–Just because Grenne should be on this list every week, and it’s been that way for two years now.  Does anyone get started every week and do less?

***

Arbitrary, But Definitive Top-10

  1. Green Bay–Minnesota Should be A Pushover (jinx?)
  2. Houston–The Texans are the beasts of the AFC.
  3. San Francisco–Beating the Giants Don’t Impress Me None.
  4. Chicago–On Fire, much like their Soccer Team.
  5. Baltimore–As long as it isn’t the week after they play Pittsburgh.
  6. Pittsburgh–Can’t Get Rid of Them
  7. New Orleans–No Threat to Anyone, but Decent.
  8. New England–Tommy B Still Not Looking Fully in Sync
  9. Dallas–They Feel Better than NY Right Now.
  10. New York Giants–They Feel Worse than Dallas Right Now.

***

Ok, there’s your Football Monday.  Discuss.  It’s going to be a good week here.  We’ve got the Presidents Cup.  Dust off the Red, White and Blue.  We’ve got the Self-Esteem Check tomorrow morning (someone went 5-0), we’ve got a mailbag (limited question space still available), and maybe if we’re lucky, we can get on Eagles fire some (all) of their coaches watch.

Rough Sunday.

A Scene The Phils Will Try to Avoid on Tuesday.

Sometime during the early evening hours on Saturday night, after the crowd at Citizens Bank Park had been standing for several minutes and the Phillies had taken a 4-3 lead, I started yelling at Tony LaRussa.  Well, I wasn’t really yelling at him, I was just offering advice.  It was smug, and fueled by the adrenaline of Ryan Howard’s  upper deck home run. Speaking to my friend as if he were the Cardinals’ manager I said, “Take him out, Tony.  Take him out now.  If you don’t, Raul is going to go deep.”  Three pitches later Ibanez had homered, the crowd had found a new level of insanity, and the Phillies were suddenly up 6-3.  You watch enough baseball and I believe you learn to feel the momentum.  I know a guy who calls far too many home runs for it to be just a fluke.  

No matter how anyone does it, though, it always makes for a good story.  The Phillies took the lead, and you knew the game was over. Ahead by three with Halladay settled in?  Forget about it.  I guess how often I tell that story in the future will probably depend on how the rest of these playoffs unfold.  When Cliff Lee couldn’t hold a four-run lead on Sunday, the type of lead that is supposed to be insurmountable with the Phillies’ pitching staff, the NLDS picture got a lot more cloudy. 

And, speaking of momentum, the game Sunday night didn’t feel right to me as soon as St. Louis scored their first three runs.  An inning earlier, Ryan Howard had been up with two men on-base and sent a shot the other way that from my first base perspective looked like it had a chance to leave the stadium.  It would have put the Phillies up 7-0, and for all intents and purposes, up 2-0 in the series.  But, the ball came down on the track, curse my poor perspective, and a few minutes later the bottom of Cardinals’ lineup was bleeding Cliff Lee out with a series of tiny incisions.  The fact that it was Theriot, and John Jay, and then later the “up-to-that-point hitless” David Craig made Lee’s failure all the more puzzling.  

Of course the manner of the loss, blowing the lead, makes the fans feel worse than they likely should, given the series is tied 1-1, and the Phillies still have Cole Hamels on deck.  That’s the beauty of this rotation.  They still haven’t gotten a real shutdown performance, but now they may need one from Hamels to nose back ahead.  I don’t think we have to be any more worried about the Cardinals than we already were.  Albert Pujols hasn’t looked superhuman, the Cardinals starters have struggled, and their bullpen has balanced one rough outing with a great performance last night.  All along we knew the Phillies were going to have to pitch to get this thing done, and that’s still the story.  Send the next ace out there Tuesday, and hope to give him enough support to win the game.

***

The Eagles are a whole other story.  During the 4th quarter of the Eagles game I started getting a lot of texts.  They were similar in nature.  “This is comical.”  “This is so bad, it’s funny.”  “This is hysterical.  I hope they lose.”  Of course, no one actually thought it was funny.  That’s just the type of thing you can say when there are still 12 games left in the season and delusional sports fans behavior requires you to still believe there is a chance for the Eagles even if outwardly you are saying otherwise.  Also, I’m not sure anyone really thought the Eagles were going to lose until Maclin fumbled that ball. Sure, it was going to be an embarrassing win, but it was going to be a win nonetheless.  The fact that it turned into perhaps the worst regular season loss in the Andy Reid era is still a little hard to believe, though if you looked around the NFL, it was hardly the only blown game.  

I think the worst part about the Eagles 1-3 season is that they’ve run a con on the fans.  Fans are gullible, they want to be optimistic at their simplest level, and the Eagles exploited that with their flashy off-season.  The fact that they ignored core deficiencies, ignored the fact that they couldn’t really protect Vick toward the end of last year was all swept up in wave of free-agent signings.  I don’t know the signings have been busts, there are times when Jason Babin is all over the place for example, but they haven’t done a thing to address what handicapped the 2010 Eagles.  They still can’t tackle, they still can’t protect Vick, and they still can’t stop anyone, with the slight caveat of their defense occasionally looks good when the pass rush gets to the quarterback.

Of course, this is all Andy Reid’s mess.  It’s been his to claim for some time, and now I’m afraid he looks more incompetent than ever.  The Castillo hiring, the redundancy of their offensive issues, the horrific drafting, it all has to come back to Andy.  And, if the Eagles are truly on the verge of a disastrous season, something in that 6-10 vein, it’s going to end up being a test of loyalty.  The fans loyalty, their willingness to max-out Eagles revenue regardless of product in the Andy Reid era vs. Banner and Lurie’s seemingly unflappable allegiance to Andy Reid.  Would Eagles fans ever not sell out the Linc?  Or would Lurie ever get rid of Reid?  Which is more likely?  

Of course, the lone upside of all this is that the Eagles may be one Michael Vick injury away from joining the Andrew Luck race.  Their schedule is certainly difficult enough.  If the Vikings could ever figure out how to win a game or two…who knows.  

Vick Gets 100 Million* to Play Behind Revolving Door.

Apparently Vick is Putting Down Roots in 'Historic' New Hope.

Is there a more misleading number than the one attached to an NFL contract?  People are finally starting to get the hang of asking about guaranteed money, but it’s still a footnote in most cases.  Michael Vick signs for 100 MILLION!  (~40 million guaranteed).  That’s a pretty big difference, isn’t it?  Only 40% of the contract is guaranteed and given the nature of the NFL and Vick’s game, he’s probably more likely to end up with closer to 40 million than 100 million.  But that 40 million number hasn’t taken away the shock value, the sticker shock of Vick’s new deal.  That seems like an awful lot of money people say, failing to realize it makes them sound like an idiot.  Under the franchise tag, Vick was scheduled to pull in a massive haul this year.  He’ll actually be earning slightly less money under this current deal and then the Eagles committed themselves for one more season.  That’s really all that happened.  The Eagles put the Mike Kafka era on hold until at least 2013.

The Eagles don’t make commitments easily, and so there was a part of me that thought they’d let Vick ride out the year on the franchise tag.  “Let’s see if he breaks,” they’d say while Andy Reid threw Vick into harm’s way like an overgrown kid weaving his new RC car in and out of traffic.  Reid and Vick are still an odd match to me.  Vick doesn’t seem like the kind of QB Reid always coveted, but then once Reid saw what Vick could do on the field he was blinded.  He was an immediate convert.  It’s evident in the Vince Young signing.  There’s no way that Young would have been the backup they brought in during the McNabb years.  They would have been the ones trying to lure Kerry Collins out of retirement.

Other things I see when I look at this deal:

Will they be able to keep Vick healthy enough to get a return on their investment?  That would concern me more than the actual salary figure.  As always, it isn’t the fan’s money, and the Eagles are always under the cap, so who cares if they pay Michael Vick two million dollars or twenty?  But, at almost twenty million per for the first two years if you factor in a likely buyout if they do cut ties, the Eagles are saying they expect Vick to be out there for the next 32 games.  You can’t guarantee anyone’s health, but you can certainly have some control over the number of hits a guy takes.  Vick does a poor job of limiting contact, and so, you’d like him to be standing behind a stout offensive line.  The Eagles have a rookie center, a rookie right guard, and a guy playing out of position.  It took three plays for Vick to get hammered in the last pre-season game.  You listen to analysts and they say there is no way Vick can stay healthy.  Is this true, or is it leftover Vick hate and jealousy manifesting itself in subjective wishful thinking?

Of course the Vick deal also brings to mind DeSean Jackson and his quest to get an extension.  I think most Eagles fans expected these deals to happen in concert.  Vick comes off the franchise tag to free up some cash and DeSean finally gets his money.  After waiting for every single other Eagle to get paid, the big play receiver would finally be happy.  Or not. Like I said before, the Eagles don’t come to commitment easily.  But, you’d expect if they commit to Vick, they’d want to keep his most dangerous weapon around.  It’s going to be hard for the Eagles to swallow that pill though, because DeSean is sitting at that teeny, tiny salary figure for this season.  In my opinion, they better get it done, because I don’t see Jackson having even an average season if he plays it out under his current contract.

Finally, I wonder if the two-year agreement with Vick is also a two-year agreement with Andy Reid.  For so long it was Reid and McNabb tied closely together, and when they didn’t achieve their goal for more than a decade it was McNabb who was shown the door.  Andy, bulletproof as always, gets to stick around and try things with another QB.  That was supposed to be Kevin Kolb, but things change, and now Vick is Reid’s meal ticket.  I think there is a sense that Reid will finally be under pressure this season.  The long tenure is starting to wear on the fan base, they made numerous moves in the off-season that gear toward the present, if Andy Reid isn’t under the gun this year, when will he ever be?  Well, I think the answer is probably next season, assuming the Birds don’t win a Super Bowl in that time.  I’d imagine Reid will get this year and if he fails will get to write it off as a lot of new guys, new coaches, new schemes and will get a last chance to redeem himself in 2012.  If nothing happens there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy finally get shown the door, and of course Michael Vick, and his remaining 60 million non-guaranteed, could follow him out-of-town.

So, About That Eagles Offense…

Has Anyone Seen the Pocket?

Can you believe we are just two Fridays away from the return of NFL Pick ‘Em?  It’s been too long.  But we’ve got to be patient.  We’ve got to get through this hurricane Irene scare and we’ve got to get through Labor Day Weekend and then it is on.  In case you were wondering, I have been keeping a casual eye out for NFL Pick ‘Em muses.  What an honor it will be for the one that gets to kick off the season.

I don’t know if watching pre-season football can give you any kind of edge in picking games week one.  I’m sure there is no correlation, but I know I’d have a tough time picking the Eagles right now.  I didn’t have the pleasure of watching them get destroyed by the Steelers last week, but it sounded like a putrid effort across the board.  I suppose last night was an improvement, but we have to speak in relative terms.  It was the Browns.  Is your defense automatically going to look better against Cleveland than it will against Pittsburgh?  Yes.

I’m not that concerned about the defense, though.  The bigger problem appears to be the Eagles complete lack of pass protection.  I heard someone talking about the line last week and they said, “What are you worried about?  Peters and Todd Herremans are fine.  Jackson is coming back, you’ve got a first round pick playing right guard and the only real question is right tackle.”  Well, right tackle is a pretty big question mark.  And, just because Danny Watkins is a first round pick doesn’t mean he’s going to step in and solidify the position.  Michael Vick was running for his life last year, and he was doing pretty much the same last night.  Hurries, knockdowns, fumbles, sacks…and that was just the first possession.

It was a signature first drive for the Eagles.  They shocked the world by running on the first play and picked up a nice chunk, setting up 2nd and 3.  From there, maybe you keep running the ball, establish some control up front?  Nope, the Eagles throw two straight times, can’t protect Vick and turn the ball over.  I can’t decide if that, or when they used a tight end around later to pick up a 4th and 1 was the most definitive Andy Reid play of the night, but it’s pretty clear that results aside, the Eagles aren’t clicking in the passing game.

Their success on offense last night came on dump-offs, actual running of the football and broken down plays where Vick scrambled.  It was an interesting look into Vick’s fantasy value, because he had no connection with any of his wideouts, but still looks like a guy who is going to be piling up 8 or 10 points rushing every week.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for 10 scores this year.  But, it’s a dangerous way to play.  He took plenty of hits last night and he’ll take more.  The Eagles offense still looks dangerous, but it doesn’t really look high-powered.  Where’s the efficiency?  It’s all broken plays and home run swings.

***

Elsewhere in pre-season action, Andy Dalton did exactly what you’d want him to do.  Sorry, Gradkowski, it’s the Dalton show.  The public deserves to see this week one.  Dalton outplayed Cam Newton, who was pretty horrific, but still looks like the week one starter.  I think a reasonable fantasy strategy this year will be to take the defense that is playing Cincy or Carolina.  The Panthers open with Arizona, though.  Does anyone have that much courage?

Also last night, Rex Grossman and John Beck waged a war for the ages as the Redskins’ starting job remains up for grabs? They put up pretty similar lines in a loss to the Ravens, but I think we all know deep down that Grossman got the better of it.  The real question is, how did the Ravens give up 31 points to the Redskins under any circumstances?  Luckily, the offense was in mid-season form.  There’s a lot of talk about Anquan Boldin being finished.  Personally?  I’m a Boldin guy, and who else is Flacco going to throw to?   Last night, 73 yards and a TD.  Sounds like a solid WR3 to me.