Carson Wentz- Man or Myth?



Much has been made about the young man from North Dakota over the past few days. Is he for real? Is he a fraud? Objectively,he’s somewhere in the middle. That’s not a terribly interesting opinion to have, but based on the statistics, it’s true. He’s won two games. He has a high completion percentage, but a low yardage total. He’s thrown 3 (should be 5, if not for drops) touchdowns with no picks.

Two games into his professional career, he’s as good as anyone has ever been. Hyperbole? Sure, but it’s a pretty low bar. Rookie quarterbacks in the NFL are usually trash. Short of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, wins are sparse and interceptions are common. His stats look nice, but that’s not why I’m sold on him.

He passes the eye test, and his demeanor is second to none. He’s 6’5”, 250 pounds, statuesque and an impressive specimen. The old adage about “If you drew up what you think a quarterback should look like, it would look like him” is accurate. He commands a huddle, his teammates believe in him, and he’s focused and intense. He is quickly challenging Jordan Matthews for the title of “Most Time Spent at the Team Facility.” He is nothing but humble and respectful in press conferences, and credits his coaches and teammates for all his success.

This is still not the reason I’m driving the Wentz bandwagon.

It’s his play recognition, which is a direct result of his film study and work ethic. I’ve never seen a rookie come to the line, pick up on blitzes, call audibles, set the tempo, work the snap count, and find stay calm like he does. He doesn’t play like a rookie.

For all I know, though, his victims (the Browns and Bears) may be the two worst teams in the league, and, for that matter, there’s a good chance the Birds are going to get blown out by the Steelers on Sunday. But let’s keep in mind this was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and trading Sammy Sleeves was supposed to be punting on the season; any progress and sign of  hope is fine with me. If the Eagles lose the rest of their games but Wentz improves, this will not be a lost season.

This all comes with one caveat:  the kid needs to slide. Athletic as he is, he’s going to get annihilated if he keeps trying to outrun defenders like he’s playing against Wofford or Lehigh. James Harrison would love to hang Wentz’s head on a wall like a 10 point buck.

Remember- winning this year is not the end game. The results are secondary to Wentz’s development. They may compete in a horrid NFC East, but it’s more important he stays upright and gets experience. Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman lost a combined 28 Games in their rookie season.

Here’s hoping Carson Wentz’s rookie year goes a little more like his opposite number on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger is the best comparison to Wentz- big, strong, athletic, cannon arm, natural leader, and did not go to a college powerhouse. Ben’s rookie year was a rousing success, but he took a few years to fully reach his apex and become a superstar.

It’s much too early to say Carson Wentz is heading down the same path- but it’s a hell of a start.



In a hurry this week, so let’s keep it short:

Steelers -1 over RAMS

Chargers +2 over VIKINGS

TEXANS -3.5 over Bucs

PANTHERS -3.5 over Saints

PATS -14 over Jags

Bengals +1.5 over Ravens

TITANS +5 over Colts

FALCONS pick em over Cowboys

CARDINALS -6 over 49ers

SEAHAWKS -14 over Bears

Bills +2 over DOLPHINS

Broncos +2 over LIONS

PACKERS -6.5 over Chiefs

and finally..

JETS pick’em over Eagles

I don’t want to give up on the birds just yet, and I’ll be happy as can be if they pull this off. But you can’t possibly bet on a team that looked as bad as any team ever has last week to beat a Jets team that’s rolling right now. I’m writing with my head, not my heart.



Above: Friend of the website Cary Williams has a fleeting moment of happiness before his dreams are crushed

Above: Friend of the website Cary Williams has a fleeting moment of happiness before his dreams are crushed

CAROLINA -(4.5) over Houston
Houston looked sterile last week against the Chiefs. Don’t let the close final score fool you- to quote the great Tony Bruno, they got boat raced against KC at home. Now they’re going on the road, and bringing their quarterback carousel with them. I’m still not sold on the Panthers, but they should do enough to beat the Texans by a touchdown.
Just ask yourself this: do you think Ryan Mallet can win in a hostile environment? How many times has he done it at Michigan and Arkansas, let alone the NFL?

NEW ORLEANS (-10.5) over Tampa Bay
Vegas is begging you to take the Bucs, but don’t take the bait. Jameis Winston still has a bright future in the NFL, but he looks exactly like you’d expect a rookie to look: lost and scared. He’ll be fine, but he won’t go on the road and beat the Saints.
The poor performance by the defense was what would scare me if I was a Bucs fan- they made Marcus Mariota look like Joe Montana. It was an abysmal performance.

Detroit (+3) over MINNESOTA
(and to win)
Speaking of abysmal performances, what the hell happened to the Vikings? They let a San Francisco team everyone had left for dead trample them. Now at home, against a rival, will they wake up? I don’t think so.

PITTSBURGH (-6.5) over San Francisco
Let’s give Jim Tomasulo some credit. He got the 49ers ready to play, and their defense hammered Teddy Bridgewater and co. into submission. It’ a nice story.
The Steelers won’t be in the mood for nice stories, though. This is a playoff team, and they got embarrassed last week by their inability to notice the biggest, best player on the other team split out wide by himself (on more than one occasion). They’ll have fixed their communication issues, and if by chance they have to listen to the radio feed in their headsets again, at least it’ll be their own broadcasters this time.

New England (+1.5) over BUFFALO
(and to win)
This has all the makings of a classic trap game. On the road, hostile environment, division rivals, Rex Ryan, stifling defense, Bills riding high after beating the AFC favorite… How can you pick the Patriots?
Because Bill Belichick will make sure they’re aware of all of the above. He will not let them forget it. I was dead wrong when I guessed they’d come out flat last week- the Patriots were fired up.
Shady McCoy will get some yards, and it should be low scoring, but I’m interested to see how the Bills overcome two things: an inexperienced quarterback, and the age old question: who covers Gronk?
I mean, really, he’s uncoverable. The only reasonable option is to bracket and double him all game, but then Julian Edelman will see single coverage and eat them alive.

CHICAGO (+1.5) over Arizona
(and to win)
The Cardinals are a decent team, and they go in to Chicago with every chance to get a win against the Bears. I just think the bears have too many weapons on offense to lose at home in this one; I like Matt Forte to have a big game. Alshon Jefferies’ health is obviously a big concern, but they should be able to edge the Cardinals.

CLEVELAND (pk) over Tennessee
This game is a complete and utter mystery. You can’t pretend to have any idea who is going to win; it’s all gut feeling. The point spreads were all over the place here- some have the Titans as favorites, others the Browns.  Marcus Mariota looked great last week, and Johnny F’ing Football is starting today, so there’s sure to be fireworks.
Sometimes, though, you take a step back and keep it simple: the Browns are at home and have a good defense.

ST. LOUIS (-2.5) over Washington
The last time Nick Foles faced the Redskins, he tore them to pieces in a shootout. He won’t have Jeremy Maclin and LeSean Mccoy this time, but after the Seahawks, the Redskins will seem like a JV team.
I have no faith in the Redskins. They played well for stretches last week, and led in total yards for a while, but they just could not put the ball in the end zone. You don’t score, you don’t win.

Atlanta (+2.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
(and to win)
The Falcons played well for a half last week, which is more than the Giants can say. Look, I understand it was a game near then end, but neither the Giants or the Cowboys looked like they had any right or ability to beat anyone that day. It was a horror show for fans of good football.
The Falcons front 7 played much better than anyone expected, and should keep Elisha on his back all day.

Baltimore (-4.5) over OAKLAND
What in the world happened to the Raiders? There was so much optimism! What a humiliating game, getting shellacked on their home turf by the Bengals.
Baltimore didn’t look too impressive last week either, but they should be able to handle the Raiders. Justin Forsett should have a solid day, assuming he plays.

JACKSONVILLE (+6) over Miami
I’m not ready to give up on the Jaguars just yet. The Dolphins didn’t look very impressive last week against the Redskins, short of Jarvis Landry going off.  The Jags should cover the spread, at the very least. Their defense is nothing to joke about, and they have plenty of high draft picks on offense who should start to develop… sometime.
The wild card here is that the stadium will most likely be just as filled with Dolphin fans as Jaguar fans. This may swing the momentum late on.

PHILADELPHIA (-4) over Dallas
Full disclosure: if Dez was playing, I’d be picking the Cowboys. But he’s not. Terrence Williams, Cole Beasley and the ‘Boys don’t scare me. They’ll get some points, but the Eagles should be able to outpace them at home. If the Birds play like they played the second half against Atlanta, this game won’t even be close.
They won’t be able to keep that up for 60 minutes, but they should be able to beat a Dez-less Dallas by a touchdown. Let’s just hope and pray it doesn’t come down to a Cody Parkey field goal. Oh, David Akers, where art thou?

GREEN BAY (-3) over Seattle
I don’t think Seattle has any reason to panic just yet, but this was the worst possible game they could imagine after a week one debacle in St. Louis: having to travel to Lambeau to face a Packers squad hellbent on revenge from a fluke NFC Championship Game loss a year ago.
Oh, and remember when everyone was panicking about losing Jordy Nelson? James Jones sure put a stop to that. He’s going to bury that fraud Cary Williams, especially with no Kam Chancellor over the top.

INDIANAPOLIS (-6) over New York Jets
Indianapolis has to take that game film from week one, strap it to a rocket, and fire it into the sun. They can’t possibly be that bad. They’ll be at home, and the Jets will struggle to move the ball. It should be low scoring, though, as the Jets have a massive advantage in the matchup between Corners and Receivers when Indy has the ball. Indianapolis will have to establish a running game and control the tempo.

Season Stats:
Straight up: 7-9
ATS: 6-10

KANSAS CITY (-3) over Denver

I don’t like Spaghetti Manning on the road at KC. Wouldn’t surprise me if he comes out pissed off and thrashes the Chiefs either. Tough game to call, so I’m taking the home team.



Above: Two GOATS

Above: Two GOATS

Pittsburgh (+7) over NEW ENGLAND
(and to win)

The New England Patriots have had quite an interesting 6 months since they were caught with their pants down with the Deflategate scandal. Whether or not you believe them to be innocent, they should show up in Foxboro ready to play- the banner will be raised, the Steelers will be in town, and the fans will be well-lubricated after a day full of Brady worship and drowning themselves in both smugness and Harpoon IPA.
From a pure X’s and O’s standpoint, though, this Patriots team is significantly weaker than last year’s. Brady is back, but looked horrendous in his limited preseason action, and seems visibly shaken by the beating he’s taken in 2015. The receiver position is weakened by the absence of Brandon LaFell, and the loss of Darrell Revis absolutely cripples their secondary. I like the Steelers in this game, unless a sticky-fingered Pats assistant finds his way into the Pittsburgh locker room and gets his hands on the gameplan.

CHICAGO (+6.5) over Green Bay

I think the Packers take this game by a field goal. This Chicago D is going to be atrocious- historically so- but the Green Bay defense isn’t that good either, and the Burrs will be ready to go week one at Soldier Field.The loss of Jordy Nelson makes this a much closer game than anticipated, but Aaron Rodgers is still more than good enough to take down Chicago.

HOUSTON (-1) over Kansas City

Both of these teams believe they’re on the ascent. Both of them consider themselves playoff contenders. Both will be heartbroken to lose an early season game they feel they should win.
I like KC on a neutral field- Alex Smith is competent enough, and they have a solid group of skill position players in Charles, Maclin and Kelce. Their offensive weapons dwarf Houston’s.
But I like the Texans defense better, and in an evenly matched game, home field advantage is important.

Cleveland (+3) over NEW YORK JETS
(and to win)

I think the Jets are going to be awful this year. I’m not overly impressed by their quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends or wide receivers. Their offensive line is okay, but it can’t carry such a dreadful skill position group. If their defense can stay on the field *cough Sheldon Richardson cough* they can steal a few games here and there.
I’m not too particularly impressed with the Browns, either, but I think McCown will do less to lose a game than Ryan Fitzpatrick will, if that makes any sense.
This game is a toss up, but I think Ryan “Every-Announcer-Must-Mention-My-Beard-and-Harvard” Fitzpatrick will throw a game-losing INT in a crucial moment and blow it for the Jets.

BUFFALO (+2.5) over Indianapolis
(and to win)

The Colts are everyone’s dandy team this year. It just looks like everything has slid into place for them. But I don’t trust any team that goes out and adds a bunch of over-the-hill talent and expects to win with it. Andre Johnson and Frank Gore are past it. If they think going to Orchard Park is going to be a cakewalk, they’re going to have quite a rude awakening when they run into a fired-up buffalo team that is going to flatten their weak defensive front into a fine paste. Take the points.

Seattle (-4) over ST. LOUIS

I love me some Nicky Franchise, but that Rams team is going to be awful. The ’07 Giants proved you can win with nothing but a solid pass rush, but that was more of the exception than the rule. The Rams have nothing else going for them, and Jeff Fisher is a fraud. What, pray tell, has he won in this league? If you listen to the media, you’d think he’s got a few Lombardi Trophies in the bank. It’s embarrassing that he and Andy Reid continue to garner such praise despite being in the league this long with nothing to show for it.
Regardless, the Seahawks will suffocate that pathetic excuse for an offense and win going away. No clever special teams tricks will save them this time.

Miami (-4) over WASHINGTON

I’m not the biggest Ryan Tannehill fan in the world, but he shouldn’t have any issues against the Redskins, who will be fighting all year with the Rams and Jets for the first overall pick.
Kirk Cousins is not an NFL starting quarterback, and the Dolphins D will eat him alive. Look for the boo birds to be out early in DC, with patience wearing thin from the Redskin fans. I really don’t blame them, as the last couple years since RG3 went down in a heap in the Wildcard Round have been embarrassing. Those fans deserve better than Daniel Snyder and that train wreck of a franchise.

JACKSONVILLE (+3) over Carolina
(and to win)

Look, I know the Panthers won a playoff game last year, but have we all developed convenient amnesia regarding the circumstances? They were a 7-9 team that got in by virtue of being in an abortion of a division, and they got gifted a home game versus a team with no quarterback. No really, the Cardinals had no quarterbacks left. Ryan Lindley started that game. RYAN LINDLEY. A PLAYOFF GAME. That whole game was farcical and should be perceived as illegitimate.
Point being, the Panthers were not a good team last year, and the Jags won’t be as bad as you think they were. They’ll be feisty at home and should put up a good fight. I think they have every chance to win this game.

ARIZONA (-2.5) over New Orleans

This has all the classic hallmarks of a New Orleans loss. Saints traveling cross country? Drew Brees on the road? Drew Brees past his prime? Stingy home defense? Wild crowd?
I like the Cardinals in this game comfortably, especially with a healthy Carson Palmer.

SAN DIEGO (-3) over Detroit

Losing Ndomakong Suh will mean a lot less personal fouls, but it also means a loss of identity. Just who are the Detroit Lions? What is their gameplan, short of “Throw it to Megatron every play,” with a sprinkle of “Throw it to Tate if Megatron is double covered?” Their defense used to be mean and tough, and I’m very interested to see what they look like this year.
I have a feeling they’re going to be soft, and Philip Rivers eats soft defenses on the regular. I just don’t see the Lions flying to California and beating the Chargers, even with the 3 points.

Baltimore (+4.5) over DENVER
(and to win)

I’m not a passenger on the “Peyton is done for” bandwagon.
I’m the driver. That dude is toast. Stick a fork in him. The Broncos will win 8 or 9 games this year and miss the playoffs, and Manning will retire. It starts with a crushing loss against the Ravens. Joe Flacco will have fond memories of the 2012 Divisional Round game where they force overtime on a last-gasp Hail Mary in one of Peyton’s biggest choke jobs of his illustrious choking career.
Ravens win by two scores at least.

Cincinnati (-3.5) over OAKLAND

I think the Raiders are heading in the right direction. They have a solid young quarterback, a diamond in the rough in Latavius Murray, and a few good young players on defense. The Bengals, on the other hand, are already there. Yes, they blow it in the playoffs every year, but they’re still good enough to handle the Raiders in week one. Their defensive front will have no problems with the Raiders offensive line, and Derek Carr will be running for his life the entire game.

Tennessee (+3) over TAMPA
(and to win)

MARIOTA! WINSTON! Oh, the drama!
They’ll both struggle. It’s week one for two promising young stars. In 5 years, this game may be a battle between two heavyweights; but for now, it’s a battle of which supporting cast can carry their young signal caller. I think the Titans will have a good defense this year, and their offensive line will be alright. And “alright” is enough to beat Tampa bay.

DALLAS (-6) over New York Giants

The Cowboys offensive line will demolish the Giants front seven. When NYG brings extra help, Tony Romo will carve the Giants joke of a secondary into pieces. It doesn’t matter that Odell Beckham will have his way with whatever pathetic corner tries to cover him, because it’ll all be garbage time yardage. Dallas wins big at home.

Philadelphia (-3) over ATLANTA

There’s no learning curve here for the Eagles rebuilt secondary- Julio Jones week one, Dez Bryant week two. I think Matt Ryan will pick on Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll a bit, but at least they’ll put up a fight, unlike the bums the Eagles had last year.
The key here is the Falcons lack of a running game. They’ve done nothing to lead me to believe they can run on anyone, let alone Fletcher Cox and company.
The Falcons will have no answer for Chip Kelly’s lightning quick offense, and Sam Bradford will have a solid first week. The game will be high scoring, but the Eagles should win by a touchdown.

Minnesota (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

When I’m not on the “Peyton is Done” bandwagon, I’m firmly entrenched on the “Teddy is the Next Big Thing” bandwagon. The kid is going to be a stud. I think he takes a big first step by going on the road and beating a downtrodden 49ers squad.
How can a team be downtrodden before they play their first game, you ask? It takes a special group, and this Niners team has all the tools. They have the potential to to be a disaster. I believe they have what it takes.

Brandon Boykin and the Chip Kelly Bogeyman

Above: Horrible racist Chip Kelly and All-world champion CB Brandon Boykin

Above: Horrible racist Chip Kelly and All-world champion CB Brandon Boykin

Brandon Boykin is one of three things: stupid, bitter, or irresponsible.
Hey, who am I to judge? We all have our flaws, right? Just because Brandon Boykin may be an  idiot doesn’t make him a bad person. Alternatively, in the same breath, just because he’s bad person, that doesn’t make him an idiot. If he’s neither, then he’s just careless. I truly hope, for his sake, that it’s the third possibility.
Brandon Boykin was traded by the Eagles to the Steelers for a 5th round pick. Inevitably, like clockwork, out came the accusations of racism. Boykin did not shoot them down when offered, instead saying that Chip Kelly has issues with “Grown men of our culture.”  Of course, he quickly backed down and swore up and down he doesn’t believe Kelly is a racist. That’s a very amateur way to cover yourself when you know what you’ve said was dumb: say one thing then immediately say something completely opposite.
So what’s the problem, then? A grown man stated his opinion, then backed off of it? Who cares, right? Everyone, apparently. And this is the problem. All over ESPN, the first thing on sports talk radio, Sportscenter, PTI, ATH: The Eagles and Chip Kelly’s racist image. You can’t make an inflammatory statement then pretend there was nothing to it no more than you can shout fire in a crowded theater and be surprised when there’s mass panic for the exits.
This is why I have to make one of the above three determinations.  There’s no other explanation for making a vapid statement like that. First of all, it’s incredibly stupid to make any judgements about someone like Chip Kelly in that vein. Chip Kelly cuts you because he’s uncomfortable around men of your culture, Brandon Boykin? I’m sorry, but who did he bring in at your position that made you expendable? Eric Rowe, Brandon Browner, and Walter Thurmond. What do all these gentlemen have in common? All young African-American Males. To make that statement is to insinuate those three aren’t of your culture.
Perhaps Brandon Boykin was bitter he wasn’t given a fair shot? This is the most understandable. He had a good run at the nickel spot and was never given a legitimate chance at starting on the outside. But to say it’s because Chip is uncomfortable with you “culture?” Come on, now. Chip was such more likely to be  uncomfortable that you were about as tall as Mugsey Bogues and couldn’t make it on the field ahead of the worst starting corner combo in the NFL. If Boykin REALLY killed it in practice, he would have started ahead of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.
The bitter card has been played by several former Eagles in relation to Chip Kelly, though. One of the first people to call out Chip Kelly was Tra Thomas. Arguably one of the greatest Eagles players of all time, no one can doubt what Tra/William did on the field. Chip even gave him his coaching start in the NFL. But when his contract wasn’t renewed, Thomas followed the lead of noted race-baiter Stephen A Smith and stated there was a “hint of racism” in the Eagles locker room. Has anyone taken notice that Tra Thomas hasn’t gotten another coaching gig since being fired by the Eagles? There are plenty of “non racist” coaches out there who would love to hire him if he was a competent coach, right?
The bitterness is exemplified in LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. No one can doubt Shady was an thoroughly outstanding running back. and DeSean was an absolutely electrifying WR and PR. But both of their comments after being let go were thoroughly undeserved. McCoy was outrageously blunt: Chip wanted to get rid of all the “good black players.” It’s an unbelievably ignorant statement. Chip replaced him with the NFL rushing champion, Demarco Murray, a black man, and Shady had the unmitigated gall to say something like this? Are Jason Peters, Fletcher Cox and Malcom Jenkins not “Good Black Players”? LeSean was incredibly out of line saying something like that. DeSean Jackson, too, has spent quite a bit of time and energy trashing Chip Kelly in ESPN the Magazine and his TV show that nobody knows exists.
For his sake, he’d better hope it’s just being irresponsible, just mouthing off without thinking of the consequences. What does he really mean by “men of our culture?” What does that say about Chip’s favorite players, young men like Jordan Matthews, a black man who is the first to show up to practice and the last to leave, who works harder than anyone and doesn’t stay out partying all night? Or Kiko Alonso and Mark Sanchez, two hispanic-Americans who have been first in line to defend Kelly? Or DeMeco Ryans, Cedric Thornton,  Darren Sproles, and Brandon Graham, all African-Americans who work hard and would run through a wall for Chip? What are LeSean and Boykin really saying about those players? Have they not noticed Chip is just systematically getting rid of former Andy Reid players, white as well as black, like Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce and Nick Foles? Why does there have to be some sinister undertones? Why can’t it just be you weren’t good enough, or Chip wanted to go with someone taller or a straight line runner?
More importantly, why do I care?  This is a frivolous piece of fluff invented by the 24-hour sports news cycle to fill up time not already taken up by Deflategate. Any rational person can see how goofy this entire “saga” is.
I care because this is supposed to be football season. I want to rip on Chip Kelly for the abysmal Riley Cooper contract because Cooper underperformed last season, not because I think Chip has some evil ulterior racist motives. I want to turn on sports TV when I get home from a crappy day at work, and listen to them go over whether their new #1 corner Byron Maxwell can step up, not whether their former #3 is frustrated he got traded. Nothing annoys me more than to hear commentators and social media morons who don’t pay more than 10 seconds of attention to this team outside of Sundays in the fall babble on about how he must “address” this situation, and that the diabolical, racist Chip Kelly bogeyman is out to get every young black player.
It’s embarrassing, quite frankly. This shouldn’t have to be addressed, no more than talking about the Illuminati and the fake moon landing. God help me, I’d almost rather- and this hurts to type- hear people talk about Tim Tebow. Almost.

Pre Draft (Pre Mariota?)

Some over-excited fans and analysts liken draft morning to Christmas morning. I must have read it twenty times today.  It doesn’t hold that appeal for me. It makes me nervous. Being a long-time Eagles fan is a difficult proposition. You can hope and pray things go your way, but most likely, it won’t. Somehow, though, you try to convince yourself that this is the year, and the future starts now.
Thanksgiving day is a classic example. The Eagles smoked the Cowboys in Dallas in their showcase game, took a stranglehold of the division, and seemingly left their competitors in the dust. The Birds promptly got beaten by Seattle and Dallas in quick succession, all but ending their season.
4 months later? ”This is the year,” “I can feel it,” etc, etc. Holding on to that optimism is all we have.
This draft has plenty of reasons for optimism. For one, the Eagles can address their horrendous secondary. Or maybe they can replace Todd Herramans or Jeremy Maclin at a G or WR. Perhaps they go out of the box, and draft the fabled “Best Available Player,” which never seems to work out. But maybe, just maybe…
They trade their first round picks from this year and next, the Brown’s first round pick by way of Sam Bradford, and a combination of veteran talent (Fletcher Cox {Please no}, Mycheal Kendricks, Vinny Curry) and swing a trade with the Tennessee Titans for the opportunity to select a certain Hawaiian kid who won some silverware over the winter.  This is the single most intriguing aspect of the draft, regardless of team: will the Eagles get to #2 to draft Marcus Mariota?
Two months ago, I’d have told you you were insane, that it would take too much to get from 20 to 2. One month ago, I’d have told you it was a dream deferred, based on the fact they traded too many picks to the Rams to get Sam Bradford. Yet the same draftniks, pundits and “sources” who told the general public point blank there was no way it could happen are suddenly changing their tune. The Eagles are, as of 7:20 PM on draft night, the odds on favorite to select the former Oregon QB. The Bears have emerged as a dark horse in the race, and the Browns have seemingly dropped out (balking at the prices).  This is changing by the minute.
Who am I kidding? This is Christmas morning. Get hyped. This is the most excitement you get as a football fan until September.
Some other draft notes:

-Winston is all but confirmed to go first. But it would be tragically hilarious if the Bucs pulled a fast one and drafted Mariota. Much ado about nothing, then.

-If the Birds stay put at 20, there’s a couple names I like: Byron Jones, DB, UConn,  and Eric Rowe, DB, Utah, being first on the list. These guys will most likely still be on the board, and they fit most of Chip’s qualifications: Versatile, hard working, character guys who fit a need. The Eagles desperately need safety and corner help. I wouldn’t be upset if they went guard or WR instead.

-Where will Todd Gurley land? He’s a generational talent at RB, but has injury problems. Not only that, the value of RBs has fallen off a cliff. Drafting a running back in the first round has fallen out of favor, as the back-by-committee philosophy has become pervasive. He could go anywhere from the Jags at a 3 to falling out of the first round. If any team gets to draft him t the back end of the first, they’re getting a steal. The kid is unbelievable.

Much more draft related stuff later. And yes, I’m aware they probably won’t get Mariota. It’s nice to dream, though.

Kelly Versus Convention


Trade your starting quarterback and running back? Cut two of your longest tenured players? Why not? Chip Kelly is anything but a slave to conventional wisdom.
Is Kelly a lunatic? Maybe. Is Kelly a genius? Perhaps. There’s a good chance he’s both. Chip is the coach, GM, judge, jury and executioner, for better of for worse; and if you’re going to take a chance on a coach with a unique strategy and outlook on the game, there’s no use in going halfway. This Eagles team is going one of two places: the promised land, or the wasteland. There is no in between.
The Eagles have had a “safe,” “successful” coach and front office with Andy Reid and co., that locked up young talent, never overspent, and let go of veterans sooner rather than later. Andy Reid was a good coach.
And how many Super Bowls did being safe and successful bring to Philadelphia?
The only time that regime went out of their way to make bold moves, they overspent on the overrated Nnamdi Asomugha, traded Kevin Kolb for a dog named DRC, and loaded up on mediocre veteran talent with big names (Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown).
Is this a repeat episode? We have no way of knowing until the finished product is on the field. After initial shock and disbelief over the flurry of roster turnover, I’ve come to some conclusions.

Byron Maxwell was overpaid, but necessary.
The Birds desperately needed corner help, and that’s putting it lightly. Cary Williams seemed physically incapable of turning his head and locating the ball. For a press corner, that’s pretty shameful. It’s akin to a point guard who can’t pass or a one-eyed goaltender. And Bradley “Flames” Fletcher? He was quite possibly the worst starting cornerback in NFL history last year, and I say that without the slightest bit of hyperbole.
Billy Davis’ scheme didn’t help, either. The definition of insanity is performing the same action repeatedly and expecting different results. Running press coverage with terrible press corners and no safety help almost every play was a textbook example. How many times did DeSean and Dez Bryant need to emasculate Bradley Fletcher before Davis finally decided give him some help?
Byron Maxwell should be better than the both of them, and he wasn’t going to leave Seattle unless someone offered him a contract well above market value, so I understand the big money being thrown at him. I’m not oblivious to the fact that he played opposite Richard Sherman and that he had the best starting safety combo in the league behind him- but this is a risk the Eagles had to take.
As for who will play over the top of Mr. Maxwell…

Losing out on Devin McCourty could be Crippling
The Eagles and Giants, according to reports, offered the Patriots Safety a boatload of cash to leave New England. He observed the offers on the table, took them back to Foxboro as leverage, and the Patriots gave him similar money to stay put. Chip Kelly was counting on pairing McCourty with Malcolm Jenkins for a formidable safety duo, but his hopes were dashed by the Hoodie.
The domino effect of this may set the Eagles back much further than anticipated. Who is left on the depth chart? Earl Wolff, who Chip seems to dislike as much as he does Brandon Boykin? Now that they didn’t shore up safety in free agency, they’ll have to spend a high draft pick on the position in lieu of addressing other glaring needs, like WR, CB and G.
The lack of depth at these positions, to me, is a self-inflicted wound.

There was No Need to Cut Todd Herremans, and Matching the Offer for Jeremy Maclin should have been a Priority
To reiterate the last sentence of the previous paragraph, cutting Herremans was done in far too much haste. Yes, Herremans is not the same player he was 4 years ago. Yes, he was making a healthy bit of money-  but he was definitely serviceable. Since some of the free agents fell through, they’re left having to shore up the roster much more than initially anticipated, and Guard was not a problem a month ago. Now it is. Factor in Evan Mathis and his dirtbag agent, and the Eagles now are paper-thin at the position.
The only position more shallow on the roster than guard is WR. The Eagles have two second year players and Riley Cooper returning, and nobody of note (Miles Austin is toast) has been added. I have faith in Jordan “Pope” Matthews, and Huff may be a good player, but he needs to learn to hold on to the ball. And I realize how fashionable it is to despise Riley Cooper, but I don’t think he’ll be as ineffective as he was last season. I’m okay with these three- as a 2nd, 3rd and 4th WR.
Which is a problem, because the Eagles no longer have a number 1. Jeremy Maclin has reunited with Big Red in KC with his hometown Chiefs. I realize Maclin was overpaid to play in KC, but I am of the belief the eagles should have sold the farm to keep him. If the Birds didn’t toss aside DeSean Jackson last year, I’d be more amenable to letting Maclin walk, but now there is nobody left. Jordan Matthews will draw a number one corner now, and there will be tons of pressure on Zach Ertz to shoulder the load. This could be a crisis. Think Todd Pinkston/Na Brown/ James Thrash.
Thee money that is now tied up in Ryan Mathews and Miles Austin could have been better spent keeping at least one of the two above.

The Running Back Situation is a Complete Mess, but Will be Incredibly Productive
Of all the intrigue and drama of the Eagles offseason, the transaction that makes the least sense out of all of them is not losing Trent Cole, or trading Shady or Foles.
It’s the Ryan Mathews signing. I cannot fathom the money they spent on Ryan Mathews. There was no reason for it. The true #1 back, Demarco Murray, was going to be signed yet, and Chris Polk and Darren Sproles would have been a wonderful compliment to him.
I just get the feeling they agreed to the Mathews deal, then Murray fell into their laps, and it was too late for Chip to back out of signing Mathews. There’s no logical reason to spend $4M on your backup RB when your new starter was just guaranteed $18M.
Make no mistake, this backfield will be stupendous. Murray will be amazing, at least when he can stay on the field, and his 1-cut style fits Chip’s offense much better than the aforementioned LeSean McCoy. I just think they’re getting far too much money when the Eagles have so many other problems.
One last salute for Shady:

I’ll miss that. There will never be another back like him.

Bradford has the Potential to be Great, but the Acquisition is Puzzling
Before I say anything negative, keep this in mind:
There is a chance Sam Bradford will be an absolute stud. He may show up and throw ropes, command the no huddle like he’s winning the Heisman again at Oklahoma, stand tall in the pocket, make all the right reads and lead the Eagles to the promised land.
Then again, he can tear his ACL and watch the Mark Sanchez/Matt Barkley USC horror show with the rest of us.
I’m not anti-Bradford; in fact, I probably have a higher opinion of him than most. I think he never had any weapons with the Rams, and he’s just scratched the surface of his potential. He was a number 1 overall pick, and personnel guys in the league seem to love him.
I just haven’t seem him on the field enough to be confident in trading away a good young quarterback in Nick Foles, who I think will play a long time in this league. Losing a second round pick is what makes this unconscionable for me. Was Bradford’s value that much higher than Foles’, especially considering his injury-plagued past?
Sam Bradford has a lot to prove, but I’m not burying him until I see the product on the field.

Chip Kelly may be burning the Eagles to the ground, with no plans to stick around if things go south. We constantly hear rumors of him returning to college if his grand experiment in Philadelphia fails. But you don’t hire a visionary and then tell him how to do his job. It would defeat the purpose to have a coach as creative and bold as Kelly and tell him specifically to not do the things that make him unique. If the Eagles wanted conventional, they would have went with another run-of-the-mill assistant coach from a successful team, like Gus Bradley or Todd Bowles. But conventional doesn’t win a lot of Super Bowls. Would you ever accuse Bill Belichick or Pete Carrol of being conventional?
If the Birds are going to roll with Chip Kelly, they may as well go all in.
Draft day is rapidly approaching. Who knows? Chip may stun us all and stay put, draft sensibly and let everyone settle down for a moment.
Just don’t hold your breath waiting for “conventional,” because it sure as hell isn’t coming.

Hey look! He posted something!

I realize there has been a serious dearth of content on this website over the past few months. I sincerely apologize to my readership, all 4 or 5 of you. I moved on from my original position at work to a much more stressful one, which severely negatively affected my motivation to go home and write.
That’s a fairly pathetic excuse, however. If writing is something I want to do with my life, there shouldn’t be anything stopping me from at least posting a new article every now and then. I’m going to at least attempt to commit to churn out some new material on a more frequent basis, if for no other reason than to vent my inane opinions on someone other than my girlfriend and coworkers.
Since I last posted, the Eagles collapsed down the stretch (and still finished with ten wins), the Flyers sputtered out of the gate yet again (and charged their way back into the hunt), Penn State had a fairly terrible regular season (but finished with a feel-good victory), and everything with the Sixers is going exactly according to plan (lose as many games as possible).
Speaking of complete and utter ineptitude, my NFL picks against the spread were reminiscent of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams squaring off against Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr.
Which is to say I didn’t have a great season. But there’s always next year, right? I hope 2015 is more forgiving.
I will be writing more in the next year, I promise, even perhaps about things other than sports. And I expect all 4 or 5 of you to go ahead and read it.

Week 4 ATS

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Niners quit on their coach today if things go south. There have been rumblings over the past few years of strife between the players and coach Harbaugh. There was even the bizarre story of Harbaugh the elder attempting to orchestrate a trade that would send him to the Browns. The Browns! What on earth would make you want to leave a squad you’ve completely turned around and made into a dominant force to go Cleveland? Cleveland! This is not to knock the fair city of Cleveland, but that front office treats coaches so poorly (poor Rob Chudzinski,) it makes you really wonder what kind of damage was done in SF to make Jim Harbaugh see the Browns organization as greener pastures.

San Fran still should have an advantage, especially since the Eagles are flying across the country and are on the road. The 49ers HFA, however, is pathetic. When they moved out of Candlestick, not only did they alienate their fans by making it a road trip out of SF to get to Santa Clara, they willingly left a tough place to visit. Candlestick was known for the swirling winds, loud fans and championship atmosphere. Santa Clara’s new stadium is a joke- it’s built on WiFi and phone jacks, and ordering sushi to your seat while you check out Twitter. It’s a nice place to visit if you want to hang out with other Silicon Valley types, but it’s a pitiful place to play a football game.

As far as the game goes, if the Eagles jump out to an early lead, it’s probably over. The Niners have had a poor start to the season, and have really struggled to score in the second half of games. To be fair, Philadelphia hasn’t set the world on fire in the first half, so there’s no guarantee this happens. There’s a good chance the 49ers just come out and annihilate the Eagles and get right back on the right track. But if momentum and negative feelings mean anything, the 49ers are not prepared for this game.

WASHINGTON (-3.5) over NY Giants
CHICAGO (+0.5) over Green Bay
Detroit (-0.5) over NY JETS
PITTSBURGH (-7.5) over Tampa Bay
BALTIMORE (-3.5) over Carolina
Miami (-4.5) over OAKLAND
HOUSTON (-3.5) over Buffalo
INDIANAPOLIS (-7.5) over Tennessee
SAN DIEGO (-13.5) over Jacksonville
Atlanta (-2.5) over MINNESOTA
Philadelphia (+5.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
New Orleans (-3.5) over DALLAS
New England (-3.5) over KANSAS CITY