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.
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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.
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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

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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:

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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

Week 3 Picks

Instead of going crazy over the unwarrented public backlash about the end of the Eagles game on Monday, I’ll direct you to this wonderful article by Jimmy Kempski of philly.com.

After he bashes that jamoke Heath Evans, the second half is a breakdown of how the missed call everyone in America was complaining about was actually the correct call.

Do not let Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, Jon Gruden and Heath Evans fool you. If you look at it logically, not throwing the flag was the correct call.

Anyway, nothing more this week, here are some picks:

 

ATLANTA (-6.5) over Tampa Bay
NEW ORLEANS (-9.5) over Minnesota
Green Bay (+1.5) over DETROIT
PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) over Washington
Dallas (-1.5) over ST. LOUIS
Houston (-2.5) over NY GIANTS
Indianapolis (-6.5) over JACKSONVILLE
CINCINNATI (-6.5) over Tennessee
CLEVELAND (+1.5) over Baltimore
San Diego (+2.5) over BUFFALO
NEW ENGLAND (-14.5) over Oakland
ARIZONA (+2.5) over San Francisco
MIAMI (-4.5) over Kansas City
SEATTLE (-4.5) over Denver
CAROLINA (-3.5) over Pittsburgh
Chicago (+2.5) over NY JETS

The Referee Conspiracy and Week 2 Picks

The NFL played a pretty neat trick on you, average football fans. You were thoroughly hoodwinked and/or bamboozled, and you didn’t even know what hit you. It was a perfect con.
How so? Well, how did you feel about the officiating this weekend?
I can’t tell you how pleased I was by the relative lack of flags in week one. If you were parachuted to the planet Earth from a distant planet, with no concept as to how American football is played, and you just had to soak up the culture of the game from scratch, the preseason would have left you with the opinion the men in vertical, monochrome stripes were the star players in the National Football League.
Chipping a tight end six yards down the field? Illegal Contact! Automatic first down! Clutching a receiver as he tramples over you? Defensive Holding! Automatic first down! 3rd and 19, and you and receiver collide seven yards downfield in a perfectly legitimate fight for the ball? Too bad! Defensive Pass Interference! First downs for everyone!
I was in attendance for the Patriots-Eagles preseason contest in August. An enjoyable affair for the most part, but the zebras did their very best to rain on everyone’s parade. There were several drives marred by consecutive penalties, many of which had neutral and opposition members of the crowd booing on penalties called on both sides. This is not to only bring up anecdotal evidence; a quick survey of teams and matchups around the league came to the same conclusions: the referees were specifically instructed to call more ticky-tack penalties on the defense. Everyone knew it, everyone acknowledged it, from Dean Blandino to your local play-by-play guy.
And for what, you ask? It’s obvious, isn’t it? the NFL attracts the casual fan through scoring. Offense is sexy. Long touchdown passes bring in the guy with a short attention span and the lady from work who usually doesn’t pay attention while the game is on. Defense, on the other hand, leads to bad press from concussions and writers/bloggers/anonymous internet posters complaining about 13-10 games, not to mention pretty-boy quarterbacks getting hurt and losing endorsement deals.
Fantasy football also takes a huge hit when offensive players get smacked around and injured. The fantasy market is in direct competition with the true football fan market. I play fantasy, but I know people who don’t give a damn about the local team, and only watch RedZone in lieu of their local squad. These people are slowly killing the sport. They don’t care about the health of the sport, only that their RB2 doesn’t get vultured by the goal line back. Defense be damned. Integrity of the game be damned. Who cares that the NFL is breaking scoring and yardage records with abandon? We want more!
And the NFL wants this. Which leads me to the crux of this post.
What did you think of the penalties in the preseason? “Way too many!” you may exclaim. “They’re ruining the game!”
Comparatively, what did you think of the penalties in week one? “Well,” you may respond, at least it’s way down from the preseason.”
Hook, line, and sinker.
According to the good folks at NFLPenalties.com, this is the highest amount of week one penalties they have on record. It’s quite clear the NFL called that many penalties in the preseason to make the amount of penalties they call in the regular season seem reasonable. By making the rate of flags in the preseason outrageously high, they’ve successfully tricked the public into thinking this absurd amount of penalties is totally acceptable.


I’m no Roger Goodell. As much like I’d like to trick the public into thinking my week one picks against the spread were totally acceptable, it’s inarguable that was by far the worst week I’ve ever had picking games.
I was fine straight up, but I was massacred ATS by extremely close calls multiple times. No excuses, it’s just how it goes; surely, the lines can’t be as cruel from here on out.
I was right about the Jags showing up to play against the Eagles, but the late scoop and score by Fletcher Cox was a classic backdoor cover when the Jags were about to walk away with the +10.5. The Jets won by 5 with -5.5 line. And the Steelers and Broncos blew massive leads to cough up their ATS victories. But hey, if you’re going to have a terrible week, it may as well be week one.
Straight Up: 9-7
ATS- 4-12

Follow these at your own risk:

Pittsburgh (+2.5) over BALTIMORE
You’d have to be crazy to take the Ravens right now, considering their current situation. No, I’m not talking about Joe Flacco’s monstrosity of a contract. And yes, I know it’s tasteless to make jokes about their current situation. The Steelers played pretty well last week too. I like this play.

Jacksonville (+6.5) over WASHINGTON
The Skins played very poorly last week, and RG3 was as godawful as ever. The Jags had a little fight in them last week. They may or may not win, but I like them with the points.
Jacksonville 21, Washington 20

Miami (-0.5) over BUFFALO
All aboard the Knowshon Moreno hype train! Seriously though, as well as the Bills played last week, beating the Patriots soundly was quite impressive. For all intents and purposes, this is a pick ’em.
Dolphins 28, Bills 20

CINCINNATI (-4.5) over Atlanta
Boy, did I blow it on Atl vs. NO last week. But I still thought the Bengals were incredibly impressive. This line should be a little lower, but I don’t think the Falcons will have that spark they came out with in week one, and the Bengals will win this game at home.
Bengals 26, Falcons 21

New Orleans (-6.5) over CLEVELAND
Boy, did my Super Bowl picks look terrible last week. There are two games that I think the quarterback will come out pissed off and annihilate the overmatched opposition. This is one…
Saints 35, Browns 12

New England (-3.5) over MINNESOTA
And this is the other. Always pick the Pats after a loss in the Brady and Belichick era, it’s easy money, even with how well the Vikes played last week. I’d be stunned if they follow up that abortion of a performance with another one in Minnesota.
Patriots 31, Vikings 17

Arizona (+0.5) over NY GIANTS
This is the most questionable line of week 2. How is this not higher? Is there something I don’t know? They Giants looked lost in Detroit. Eli was awful, their receivers didn’t know their assignments, their o line got bullied, the defense blew coverages, etc. etc… and the Cards beat a very good Chargers team. That weak home field advantage in MetLife surely isn’t worth enough to make this a +.5 spread, right? The Giants are FAVORITES? How? What am I missing?
Cardinals 27, Giants 17

TENNESSEE (-3.5) over Dallas
I couldn’t have been more wrong on the Titans. That offensive line is dynamite. They should handle the sorry Cowboys at home. Tony Romo looked cooked last week. Either his back is that bad, his colorblindness is acting up, or he lost his confidence. Any way you slice it, it’s bad news for Cowboys fans. Speaking of which, that was some pretty pathetic home field advantage they had last week. Getting outnumbered in your own stadium is even worse when it’s the biggest stadium in America. Cowboys fans are frauds.
Titans 31, Cowboys 27

Detroit (+2.5) over CAROLINA
I was very impressed with the Lions on Monday night. If they play like that, they should have no problem with the Panthers. Who’s covering Megatron?
Lions 33, Panthers 20

TAMPA BAY (-5.5) over St. Louis
This is less an endorsement of the Bucs than it is an inditement of the Rams. They were easily the worst team of week one. I see no reason a squad like that can go on the road and beat anyone.
Bucs 17, Rams 6

Seattle (-5.5) over SAN DIEGO
I love this Chargers team. A lot. In fact, if there was a game I was going to pick against the Seahawks, it’d be this one, on the road in the heat against a vengeful Philip Rivers and co.
But then I remember what I saw on opening night, and I remind myself there’s no logical way I can pick against Seattle until I see them lose.
Seahawks 30, Chargers 21

Houston (-2.5) over OAKLAND
The Texans were a pleasant surprise week one. The Raiders looked pretty bad. I could see this game go either way, though. I’ll go with the team that showed me some fight last week.
Texans 17, Raiders 10

GREEN BAY (-8.5) over NY Jets
I think Aaron Rodgers will pick apart the Jets. Sure, the Jets looked good against Derek Carr, but the best QB in the league should torch them. The Packers defense will play better at home.
Packers 28, Jets 13

DENVER (-13.5) over Kansas City
Wow, were the Chiefs bad against Tennessee. Throw in a couple crippling injuries on defense, and Peyton at home, and this smells like a blowout. Andy Reid will be getting flasbacks of his 2005 and 2012 Eagles squads this year.
Broncos 40, Chiefs 17

SAN FRANCISCO (-6.5) over Chicago
I don’t like this game at all. I like the Niners to regress this year, and the Bears to improve. The line is too high. But I can’t ignore the fact that the 49ers are at home and the D played well last week, and that the Bears blew an easily winnable game against the Bills. I must have changed my mind on this one five times, but I’d go with the home field in this spot.
49ers 24, Bears 17

Philadelphia (+2.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
The Eagles were the worst team in the NFL for a half against Jacksonville. Then they decided to play and blew the Jags out. The Colts were awful in the first half as well before showing up in the second half. Both of these inconsistent teams will have something to prove on Monday night. I like the Eagles’ supporting cast slightly better than the Colts. Indianapolis really do look like Luck and a bunch of guys off the street out there. If Robert Mathis were playing, I’d consider Indy. But I’ll take the Eagles here.
Eagles 31, Colts 27

NFL Season Preview (that is probably wrong) and Travis Picks vs. The Spread

     Before I issue my take on how the league will play out this year, as well as my week one ATS picks, I must issue a disclaimer:
A vast majority of NFL preseason prediction articles are shots in the dark. Some try to go as far as predicting every game, which is absolute folly. There’s no way to make judgements, based on a team’s current health and form, on a matchup 3 months from now. Reading one of these articles is most likely a waste of time (unless you’re that desperate for football that you’ll consume anything having to do with the NFL, much like myself). Nobody ever recalls their predictions at season’s end, unless they were correct, in which case you can expect them to gloat mercilessly.
Which I will do, if I’m right.
Here’s each division, with a short explanation of my train of thought. Feel free to pick it apart and call me an idiot. You’re probably right. The order, from left to right, is the projected order of finish in the division. Teams in italics are playoff bound.

AFC West: Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders
The Broncos will finish first here, but not by a large margin; the Chargers will be on their tail and at least split the season series. They were on too much of a roll at the end of last season to think they’ll simply fade away, and Philip Rivers looks as good as he’s ever been under Mike McCoy. The Chargers will be a wild card team. The Chiefs will drift back to the middle of the pack, as Alex Smith will bore and frustrate Kansas City fans with his astoundingly average performances. The Raiders will be awful. Adding a bunch of veterans to a terrible team never works out. Al Davis lives on through his son.

AFC South: Colts, Jaguars, Texans, Titans
The Colts should consider themselves lucky they’re in such an awful division, much like the Eagles. Indy really isn’t much more than their quarterback, which is enough to win them some games. The Jags will be improved, but too much raw, undeveloped talent at the receiver position, along with a sieve of an offensive line, will doom them. The Texans should be better too, but how much do you trust Ryan Fitzpatrick? At least they should be able to generate a pass rush. The Titans may challenge for the position of worst team in the league. Their offensive line has potential, but it’s offset by an absolute dearth of talent at the skill positions.

AFC East: Patriots, Bills, Jets, Dolphins
The Pats added Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to shore up their cornerbacks, who were last seen getting annihilated by Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship Game. If they can get a pass rush, and just a little production on offense by anyone not named Gronkowski, they can be a championship team. The Bills and Jets will both have very good defenses and challenge for a wild card spot, but will both come up empty because of inconsistent quarterback play. Expect to see Mike Vick and Kyle Orton at some point. The Dolphins will be middling as well, but their offensive line is in shambles and I’m not a believer in Ryan Tannehill.

AFC North: Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Browns
The Ravens will wrest the AFC North crown back from the Bengals, but it will be a dogfight. Uncertainty at the running back position may be their Achilles Heel. The Bengals will finish in second and grab a wild card spot. Having a new offensive coordinator will throw Andy Dalton off in the early going, but AJ Green will help with the learning curve. The Steelers will be bad in the early going, make a late push, but come up just short of the playoffs again. Ben Roethlisberger will throw for a ton of yards and try to put the team on his back, but I don’t like their offensive line to 1) keep the run game going and 2) keep Ben off his back. The defense looks old in some spots and clueless in others. The Browns, lastly, will sorely miss Josh Gordon, and even though they have a nice defense, they don’t have the answer at QB.

NFC West: Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams
The Seahawks will kill it at home and be mediocre on the road. The increased emphasis on Illegal Contact and Defensive Holding will cost them a few wins. The rest of the division will cannibalize itself. The Cardinals will have the best defense in the league and claim a wild card spot. The 49ers are in for a whirlwind season. All the turmoil with McDonald and Smith will upset their pass rush, and their star linebackers are crippled. I don’t foresee good things for them this season. The Rams will get to the quarterback, and that’s about it. They’ll miss Sam Bradford, who was actually having a very good season last year before he went down.

NFC South: Saints, Panthers, Bucs, Falcons
The Saints will be dominant this year. They loaded up in their secondary, got younger and faster at WR, and their O line improved vastly as the season went on. The Panthers will decline precipitously. Poor Cam will have no one to throw to (his top 4 receivers are gone), and their best offensive lineman retired. Their stout defense will have to win games for them. The Bucs will be better than last year, but loading up on Guards will only get you so far. I don’t believe in Josh McCown. There’s a reason he floated around the league for 10 years before having even a slight spell of success. The Falcons have shown me nothing on defense or the offensive line to make me believe they will bounce back. They’ll have no run game yet again. If their WRs stay healthy, then yeah, Matty Ryan will throw for a ton of yards, but they’ll be in garbage time.

NFC North: Bears, Packers, Lions, Vikings
The Bears and Packers will both be very good this year. If Aaron Rodgers stays healthy, there’s no reason his squad shouldn’t win 11 games. Bu the bears will surprise people. Their offense will be prolific. Jeffrey and Marshall will both repeat their monster performances last year as they win the division by a hair over the Packers. The Lions will be the Lions- Stafford will throw for a million yards and have an INT a game at least. They’ll outscore people sometimes, but be on the wrong end more often then not. Their highly-drafted D Line had better start producing, or they’re in for a long season. And the Vikings will be bad to start the season before switching to Teddy Bridgewater to give them hope for the future. Adrian Peterson is a surefire HOFer, but as we’ve seen time after time, he can’t do it alone.

NFC East: Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Giants
The Eagles will miss Desean Jackson, but should still score a ton of points. Their offensive line and system are too good for this division, and if the defense plays average ball, they’ll win 10 games minimum. They Cowboys, much like the Eagles, will have a fantastic offense. Romo, Murray, the O-line, Dez, Witten, the list goes on. It’s a shame they may have the worst defense of all time. Think about it: worst NFL defense from last year, minus Demarcus Ware and Sean Lee? This could get ugly. The Redskins have a lot of weapons on offense, but Robert Griffin does nothing for me. He had a great rookie year, but since his injury, he hasn’t been the same. Even when he’s healthy, he’s throwing off his back foot and looks shaky and tentative. The Giants, lastly, look abysmal. Eli has nobody to throw to, and even if he did, he’d chuck it to the other team. No O line, no defense. Stick a fork in them.

Seattle Vs Arizona

AFC Playoffs:
Wild Card: Chargers over Ravens, Colts over Bengals
Divisional: Patriots over Colts, Chargers over Broncos
AFCCG: Patriots over Chargers
NFC Playoffs:
Wild Card: Eagles over Bears, Cardinals over Packers
Divisional: Saints over Eagles, Cardinals over Seahawks
NFCCG: Saints over Cardinals
And, in the Super Bowl:
Saints over Patriots

These predictions will probably look pretty stupid come February. Oh well. Deal with it.
Anyway, on to something that I may actually know what I’m talking about:

WEEK ONE PICKS.

SEATTLE (-5.5) over Green Bay
As much as I like the Packers’ prospects this season over all, winning week one in the hornet’s nest that is Century Link Field is just too much to ask. Aaron Rodgers likes audibling at the line as much as any quarterback in the league not named Manning, and the noise will disrupt his mojo. The Raji injury really does it in for Green Bay. Expect Seattle to control the clock and the game.
Seahawks 31, Packers 24

Minnesota (+3.5) over ST. LOUIS
The Rams simply haven’t had enough time to digest the Bradford situation and give Shaun Hill reps with the first team. Cordarrelle Patterson should have a big day.
Vikings 24, Rams 17

CHICAGO (-6.5) over Buffalo
The Bears, at home, with a dynamite offense, will have no problem with the Bills. EJ Manuel will struggle.
Bears 38, Bills 10

Washington (+2.5) over HOUSTON
Alfred Morris and Roy Helu will carry the day. Redskins fans hopes will not be extinguished this early in the season, as long as JJ Watt doesn’t break RG3 in half. Ryan Fitzpatrick will throw a few picks and the Texans won’t recover.
Redskins 23, Texans 14

KANSAS CITY (-4.5) over Tennessee
Feeding Jamaal Charles should be enough to beat the Titans. I’m surprised this line isn’t higher. KC’s defense will stifle Jake Locker.
Chiefs 28, Titans 13

Jacksonville (+10.5) over PHILADELPHIA
No, the Eagles won’t lose this game. But usually, whenever everyone is absolutely sure a game will be a walk in the park, the favorite starts to get a little cocky, and the underdog gets pissed off and shows up to play. This line is a product of the ocean of hype the Eagles are pumping out right now. The Jags will not be as bad as they were last year. They’ll make the birds sweat it out.
Eagles 30, Jaguars 24

NY JETS (-5.5) over Oakland
The Jets won’t score a ton of points, but their home field and defense will be more than enough for the Raiders. The Jets run game will control the flow. Expect a lot of punting.
Jets 17, Raiders 9

PITTSBURGH (-6.5) over Cleveland
I’m not a big believer in the Steelers this year. But I believe less in the Browns. Neither team will score a lot, but the Steelers have enough in them to beat a sorry Browns offense by a touchdown. I think. The Browns will come to play on defense, but Antonio Brown will have a big day.
Steelers 24, Browns 17

BALTIMORE (-1.5) over Cincinnati
Joe Flacco will have a lot of work to do to prove his worth. His albatross of a contract denied the Ravens a chance to lock up several of their championship players. I think this year he takes a step back in the right direction after a disappointing 2013. Beating a good Bengals team at home is a good start. But it’s his defense that needs to come up big in this game. Contain AJ Green, and you stop the Bengals. I don’t have a strong feeling on this one, so I’m going with home field.
Ravens 20, Bengals 17

New Orleans (-2.5) over ATLANTA
I think the Saints will blow the roof off the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have done nothing to make me think they’re going to improve this year, and the Saints did nothing but get better.
Saints 42, Falcons 21

New England (-4.5) over MIAMI
The Dolphins just don’t have the horses to keep up with the Pats. Revis will lock down Mike Wallace, and Tannehill will have nowhere to go. The Dolphins always play the Patriots tough in Miami, though, so the game will be relatively close.
Patriots 31, Dolphins 21.

DALLAS (+4.5) over San Francisco
At home, in Jerryworld, Tony Romo will light up the battered 49er defense. Kaep and co. will rally in the second half and make it a high scoring affair. In the end, the Cowboys weapons will outshine the 49ers in a new edition of a classic rivalry that will little resemble Steve Young vs. Troy Aikman. Expect a lot of points.
Cowboys 44, 49ers 38

Carolina (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY
The Panthers will decline this year. But their defense can still handle the Bucs. Cam will lean on his tight ends and run game and let the Buccaneers make mistakes against Luke Kuechly and the boys.
Panthers 17, Bucs 14

DENVER (-7.5) over Indianapolis
I’ll bet all Peyton Manning has done for the last 7 months is watch film, alone in his basement, shunning Eli and Archie, shooing them away so he could watch slow motion replays of each play of that train wreck in February. He will awaken from his slumber this Sunday night and unleash his wrath on poor Andrew Luck and the Colts at Mile High.
Broncos 52, Colts 28

DETROIT (-4.5) over NY Giants
If you read the above NFL Preview, you’ll recall I have very little faith in the Giants. They may have some success against the Lions suspect defense, but Detroit should easily move the ball on big blue.
Lions 34, Giants 20

ARIZONA (-3.5) over San Diego
This could be the game of the week. Shame it’s on at 10:30 PM on the East Coast. The Chargers will show flashes of brilliance, but the Cardinals defense is just too good. I like Andre Ellington as a surprise performer this week.

US Soccer and the Casual Fan

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I shouldn’t be this mad.
This mad is reserved for your team getting swept in the Stanley Cup Finals when they’re clear favorites. It’s reserved for Ronde f***ing Barber and for David goddamn Freese, for Curtis Enis and Joe Jurevicious, for puking in the Super Bowl. This is the hurt of sports. The feeling where something you’ve invested in comes back and gives you a good old fashioned stomach punch. I love sports. But sometimes, they suck.
Sports are the ultimate uniter. Throngs of people who don’t know each other, don’t care about each other, don’t like soccer and are casual sports fans all come together every four years for the World Cup. It’s a great thing- a vast majority of the people i talk to who don’t give a damn about the world’s game all suddenly become interested when national pride is at stake. The World Cup, much like the Olympics, make united fans out of us all- because we have a common goal, and a common enemy.
I usually shun the jingoistic. Shaming people due to what “the founding fathers would have done” or attempting to trick people into liking something because your commercial has the troops in it (I’m looking at you, Bank of America) rubs me the wrong way. It is self serving, shameless and cold hearted at its root; you can’t make me enjoy your idea, show or product simply because it’s a good idea, show or product. No, that would be too simple. So you try to rouse my interest in ‘MURRRCA to shill your goods? To me, that’s backwards and deceitful. But it works for sports, for reasons I will explain shortly. And it raises interest in a sport that, by all means, should already be popular in this country. So in this regard, I don’t mind it.
Ask any baby boomer what they think about hockey. Unless you live in the northeast, you’ll usually hear some nonsense about how it’s a Canadian sport that nobody cares about, with goons beating each other up and how “WAAAH I CAN’T SEE THE PUCK ON TV.” But ask that same person about the Miracle on Ice? You’ll be regaled with tales about beating those dirty commies and how the USA is just the epitome of heart and greatness. The sport gave them a reason to get together and become one, putting aside petty differences like politics and regions.
That’s what this World Cup has done, to a lesser extent. You get the fan who only watches every four years, who decides that this sport is kind of lame but they can get behind their country, and thinks that suddenly, they’ve become experts because they’ve watched for two weeks.
Therein lies the problem, at least for me.
For the better part of the last decade, I’ve watched nearly every qualifying and friendly match the United States has played. I’ve taken an interest in the better European leagues (PL, La Liga, Bundesliga), as well as MLS, and watched most of the participants of the 2014 World Cup at the club level. This is not to feel superior; obviously, watching more soccer does not make me a better overall person than the average American sitting next to me. It does, however, give me a better perspective on the sport.
Do you know how many times random people have told me that Michael Bradley sucks? That he should be benched? It’s astounding. I’ve said the same thing to every person who has brought it up: that while he had a poor World Cup, he was the United States best player in qualifying. He played and did well enough in Serie A at Roma and in international matches to earn that spot on the team. The only way that the USMNT was going to advance in the tournament was if Bradley found his form, and he wasn’t going to find it on the bench. It became infuriating. You don’t bench your quarterback when he throws a pick, especially when he’s been great the rest of the season. And most of the idiots trashing Bradley HADN’T WATCHED any of the qualifying. There were stooges on sports talk radio who spend their days killing LeBron and Peyton Manning trying to tell the public Bradley was god awful and should be benched after watching him play three times. Three times!
Oh, and who was instrumental in the build up to Julian Green’s goal vs. Belgium? Michael Bradley.
The Bradley issue aside, the USA was bossed around by Belgium for most of the match. Kevin de Bruyne, who Jose Mourinho unceremoniously shipped out of the Chelsea lineup, was a monster. Vincent Kompany was his usual rock solid self, and Fellani and Mirallas worked hard and kept the USA running the whole match.
But DeAndre Yedlin did a good job with the best outfield player on the pitch, Eden Hazard. And Tim howard was world class. The USA got pushed around a little, but stood their ground for the most part. They struck fast on the counter, and had most of the chances from the 85th minute on. It was a good, solid defensive performance at least. As Tim Howard made save after save, you just had the feeling that the USMNT was just going to nick that one that would push them through, against all odds.
Then came the 93rd minute, when Chris Wondolowski missed that sitter that would have been the most famous goal in our country’s history. For the average casual fan, it hurt. Just a little.
But they weren’t there when there was a savage debate whether or not the man deserved a spot on the roster. Whether an unathletic, career- MLS poacher should get a place in the World Cup for the United States. He scores a ton for the Earthquakes, but is not cut out for international football, most said.
But, improbably, there he was.
In a deadlocked match, with the ball at his feet, in the final minute of stoppage time versus a European power in the knockout stages of the World Cup.
And he made a complete mess of it.
But there was hope, we all thought. Then De Bruyne made a stunning turn in the box and went low on the seemingly invincible Tim Howard. Shortly afterwards, Romelu Lukaku did his best Drogba impression after being relegated to the bench for the majority of the match. It all seemed over.
Miraculously, the last player picked for the team, the youngest man on the US squad. whom everyone assumed took the place of the best player in US history (Donovan) on the roster came on and scored from a beautiful threaded ball by Bradley.
For me, there was flashbacks of the US  defeating Spain in the Confederations Cup, of finally beating Mexico at the Azteca, of Landon versus Algeria, of a 9 man USA holding the eventual Cup winners Italy in ’06, of Clint Dempsey in the snow versus Costa Rica. To the casual fan, it was probably just “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!”, or “USA USA USA USA!” Fun, but not necessarily rewarding.
Then captain Clint scuffed a chance on a stupendous set piece. Suddenly, it was Brazil in the Confed Cup Final, Giovani Dos Santos in the Gold Cup Final, and Ghana and Ghana again.
When the whistle blew, it was a heartbreaker. To have the chances, to waste a superhuman effort from Howard, to trivialze the efforts of all the young men (Yedlin, Cameron and Gonzalez) and veterans (Beasley, Bradley and Dempsey) who were doing everything they could to bring down a “superior” European power was crushing.
I suppose you can only be crushed by something if you have a feeling of ownership. That’s why we all get mad when our favorite teams lose-it’s the same reason we’re pleased when they win. There is no more hollow a happiness than supporting a squad only when they’re victorious.
Sadly, the prevailing attitude of the American public is a resounding “Eh.” Lots of congratulations, lots of “good efforts,” lots of blame and finger pointing.
“That was fun. Now back to not caring about soccer. Call me back in four years.”
And this, America, is why we will never win anything as currently constructed. More people need to care between World Cups, not just during them. The European and South Americans put more time in the training, education, support, coaching and infrastructure.
Do you know what the impetus for those things is? Fan support. So try to take some time to give a damn BEFORE four years from now.
Or you can go ahead and complain next time when we don’t win again.

FLYERS VS. RANGERS PREVIEW

Daniel Carcillo, Luke Schenn

FLYERS (3) vs. RANGERS (2)

2012 seems like forever ago. Way back, before the lockout, before the exodus of Bryz, before Chris Pronger officially retired, the Flyers were cruising. Our emotions were flying high, and memories of Richards and Carter were pushed into the abyss.

They were up against the Devils in the second round. Flyer fans remember that series. The orange-and-black had just come off a stupendous first round smashing of the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. And what a series that was. First, there was the 8, 8 and 10 spots put up back and forth, courtesy of our old pals Bryz, Bob, Fleury and Vokoun. Crosby acted like a small child whose cookies and candy got taken away by disapproving parents, and Sean Couturier stole Evgeni Malkin’s lunch money. If you recall, in the deciding game 6, Claude Giroux had the best shift in recent Flyers history: he won the face off, absolutely eviscerated Sidney Crosby, then skated right down and blasting one stick-side past Marc-Andre Fleury.

If you forget, please remind yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tit_fbYnmLc

This was the high water mark of the captaincy of the Ginger Jesus. Peter Laviolette famously remarked that his young captain was the “best player in the world.” The Flyers were riding high after knocking out one of the Cup Favorites.

Then they played the New Jersey Devils.

It didn’t matter that the Flyers had players who had Stanley Cup Experience from 2010, and it certainly didn’t matter that the Flyers had knocked the Devils out with no problem in the previous playoffs. This time around, the Devils harassed them in the neutral zone, got the puck in deep on their forecheck, and made the Flyers fight hard for every inch. They forced turnovers, frustrated Claude Giroux, and highlighted the inadequacies of the Flyers blueliners and goaltending. By the time their skilled forwards got the puck, they had to dump it in and make a change, where the Devils simply skated it right out and pushed it back to the Flyers end. The Devils easily dispatched the Flyers on the way to the Cup Finals.

The Flyers strength, then and now, is hassling teams who have a high skill level and a shaky mentality. The Penguins are the epitome of this; if you put Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Kunitz, Letang et al on ice, all healthy, vs. the Flyers using international rules, they would wipe the floor with them. But when you pack them in close, let Hartnell and Simmonds push the Pens around down low, and let G and Voracek play a physical forecheck, the Flyers can defeat the Penguins. They get thrown off their game, and they let the Flyers in their head. Crosby stops being interested in scoring and becomes more interested in going tit-for-tat with players like Dan Carcillo (then) and Zac Rinaldo (now). Against a skilled, finesse team, Philadelphia can have their way.

Where the Flyers begin to have problems is against disciplined teams that play layered defense and don’t take stupid penalties. The Bruins are one of these teams. This would have been the worst matchup for the Flyers, had they fallen to the 8th seed. But the matchup against the New York Rangers isn’t much better. They are a defensive oriented squad who can pack it in on defense and make the Flyers play a slower, bogged down game.

As with any playoff matchup, goaltending is the first area of concern, and Henrik Lundquist automatically makes it an advantage for the Rangers. Sweden’s second favorite athlete (after the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic) matches up favorably with every goaltender in hockey this side of an on-a-roll Jonathan Quick. He’s had a great year, collecting a silver medal in the Olympics, not to mention a 33-24-5 record, a 2.36 GAA and a .920 save percentage. He’s posted better stats against the Flyers on average than the rest of the league, going 2-1-0/2.03/.940, and has played lights out in the month of April, with a 1.57 GAA and a .949 save percentage. In his career, King Henrik is 27-13-3 all time vs. the Flyers.

As I mentioned before, the Flyers struggle against defensive-oriented teams, so this would be tough sledding either way: outside of last year (where they missed the playoffs in a strike shortened year), they were eliminated the previous two years by the Devils and Bruins, two teams who are notoriously disciplined on D. But this year, round one will pose a special challenge, as the rival New York Rangers have always given the Flyers trouble. Although the season series is tied 2-2, they Flyers have been historically awful over the past few years at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers have defeated the Flyers 8 straight times since March of 2011 in Manhattan. If you want to include the Wells Fargo Center, the Rangers are 13-4 against the Flyguys over that span. The killer blow to the Flyers would be the loss of starting netminder Steve Mason, whose solid play this year has help lift the Flyers from their horrendous start to the 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division. He is questionable for the start of the series on Thursday.

The Rangers boast a talented (if underachieving) crop of forwards in Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis. The real key to their success is the play of their defenseman Rayn McDonagh, who has absolutely lit it up down the stretch and been the lynchpin of their run over the back end of the season. The stud 21-year-old, who has scored 43 points after barely contributing at all the first half of the season, had an injury occur two weeks ago and will not be at full strength.

So it seems it will fall do Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and the rest of the NYR blueliners to attempt to stop the bustling Flyers offense. A balanced attack, led by Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Scott Hartnell can give any team fits; a balance of physical play and speed mixed with skill give the Flyers a chance to win in any series. Each of the aforementioned players is a 15 goal scorer.

But to win this series against New York, the Flyers will have to steal one on the road. And I’m excited to see whether they can do it.

Start growing your beards.

My heart says the Flyers win in seven.

My head, on the other hand….

RANGERS over FLYERS in 7

DeSean Should Still be an Eagle

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   The Eagles just made a massive blunder. Cutting DeSean Jackson was a terrible move on multiple levels, and it screams of mismanagement and arrogance.
    I love Chip Kelly as much as the next birds fan. He turned a 4-12 garbage dump of a team into a contender in no time flat. But what the hell just happened over the last month? How do you go from having potentially the best offense in football to having one where the two starting receivers are:
A) A questionably solid guy who missed the entirety of 2013 with a decimated knee
and
B) A questionably solid guy who may have maxed out his potential with 47 catches and 835 yards last year.
    This offense went from a sure thing, the top rushing team in the NFL, top 5 in points and yardage, with every starter returning (plus Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles) to anything but.
    Purely from a football standpoint, there is absolutely no way you can say the offense is better without DeSean Jackson on the field. His influence on the way defenses play the Eagles goes far beyond his pass catching abilities. Someone with DeSean’s pure, unadulterated speed and gamebreaking ability commands either a double team or, at the very least, a safety rolled over to his side of the field.
Has Riley Cooper ever seen a double team with Jackson on the field? How about Maclin?
    Maclin is going to see the opposing team’s top corner now, each and every game, daring him and his surgically repaired knee to beat him in space. Riley Cooper isn’t going to have a secondary backed off in fear of getting beat deep- he’ll have no room to operate. The same goes for Celek and Ertz. Nick Foles won’t be able to keep the defense honest with the threat of the deep ball.
    But this hurts the running game the most. Safeties can creep up into the box, no longer worried that number 10 will turn them into a SportsCenter Highlight. The bread and butter of the team, the offensive line, will have to deal with 8 in the box, and the NFL’s best running back suddenly won’t have the running lanes he had in year one.
    Does this mean the Eagles offense will be subpar? No, I don’t think it will. But I believe they will drift back into the middle of the pack. This worries me on a deeper level than X’s and O’s, though.
    Chip Kelly is smarter than you or I when it comes to football. I should trust him. I WANT to trust him. But this reeks of arrogance. This comes off to me as a coach who thinks that he can put any player into his system and they’ll come out a star on the other end.  While he was at Oregon and New Hampshire, he didn’t have a choice- players were in and out every 4 years, and he had to recruit new ones. If a player was going to take too much effort to reign in, he can go and get another to replace him. He was a molder of players- he took in high schoolers and turned them into Chip Kelly prototypes. He could build them from the ground up.
    But the NFL is different. He doesn’t have an unlimited talent pool; the best players get the most money, and you have to either draft them or pay them. He can’t just go recruit 10 five star recruits- he gets one first round pick, one second round pick, and so on. He could turn an average athlete into a good college player. But turning an average athlete into a good NFL player is near impossible- his competition gets the same platform he does now. He’s not luring in blue chippers with the promise of a shiny new facility and cool uniforms at the University of Oregon, and telling the kid he’ll never get that if he went to Cal or Utah or UCLA. You can’t do that in the NFL. There are only a small number of truly outstanding talents, and it’s exceedingly difficult to find and keep them.
    And he just had one under contract, with plenty of cap space to keep him.
    DeSean Jackson has never killed anyone. DeSean Jackson is not a Crip. Is DeSean immature? Of course. Comparing him to Aaron Hernandez, who is straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie, is silly. We all agree DeSean should grow up. But posting pictures to twitter and Instagram is a ludicrous excuse to cut a star player. The fact that he has pictures with known gangbangers and alleged murderers is disconcerting. But he was never implicated in any way to be part of the crime. The police assured everyone that he was never considered a suspect. This isn’t Ray Lewis. This isn’t Mike Vick. Hell, this isn’t even Ray Rice.
    Chip Kelly seems to be so certain that he is an offensive genius that he can take out a key cog and replace it with some spare parts he found lying around. Is DeSean a diva? Was he late for meetings? Is he self absorbed? Too bad. Make it work. He’s an elite talent. In the field of coaching major professional sports, massaging egos and making people who are different than you understand your goals is just as important as diagramming plays and planning workouts.
    Richard Sherman spends all day defending his honor on twitter, telling everyone how great he is. David Ortiz cried and complained to the local media that he wants a new deal, even though he was still under contract for he upcoming year. LeBron James commands a media empire that rivals Peyton Manning, and had a Primetime TV show produced so he could tell everyone where he was going to play. Patrick Kane got drunk and beat up a cab driver. Franck Ribery was involved in an underage prostitution scandal.
    Oh, but Sherman and the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, Ortiz and the Red Sox won the World Series, Lebron and the Heat won the Finals, Kane and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, and Ribery and Bayern Munich won the Champions League.
    These transgressions all have varying degrees of seriousness. But these are all distractions. They all show me-first behavior (Sherman and LeBron did nothing wrong but hog the limelight), or just complete disregard for the morally correct thing to do (Kane and Ribery defied the law).
    But what DeSean did (or does) is about at the level of Sherman and Ortiz. There was no harm done. Nobody got hurt by a result of his actions. All he did was ask for a new contract (like Papi) and act like a fourteen-year-old girl on social media (like Sherman). Chip has to just bite the bullet and deal with it. DeSean was too special a player to cut, especially under contract in the prime of his career.
    I thought better of Chip. But who knows, maybe he is an unparalleled genius, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Maybe this offense will hum right along in 2014 and they’ll impress yet again, and we’ll forget all about DeSean.
    But maybe they won’t. And maybe Jackson will sign with a rival, or a championship contender. Imagine, if you will, as an Eagles fan, watching him win a Super Bowl with the 49ers or Seahawks, or perhaps scoring the game winning touchdown to knock the Eagles out of the playoffs wearing a Redskins or Giants uniform.
    The fact that they couldn’t move his contract before this tidal wave of bad news struck is a damning inditement on the Eagles front office. Not only did they receive no compensation for losing their number one receiver, not even a mid round pick, but now Jackson can sign anywhere for whatever number he chooses. What that means is, instead of there being a small number of potential suitors because of the $10M cap hit (such as the Jets and Raiders), now the Super Bowl contender can swoop in and pick him up for bargain rate. Seeing him chest bump with Andy Reid again would make me sick to my stomach.
    You might say the “culture” and the “locker room” are better than ever now at the NovaCare Complex. DeSean wasn’t a hard worker, and he clashed with Chip, so you can argue that the locker room will be all peace and harmony and breakfast shakes. But I would counter that I know what makes positive vibes in a locker room, and it isn’t getting the guys who buy into Chip Kelly’s system the most.
It’s winning.

So you’d better keep winning next year, Chip.