Sunday, December 31, 2017

Eagles - Cowboys Top 10 Takeaways: The Obvious Becomes More Obvious

Soon To Repeat
> There will be people who talk about how the blame for QB Nick Foles' day is all the fault of a combination of drops, the weather, or the offensive line. These people are trying to will themselves into the hope that this team can win playoff games with Foles. They can't. He's terrible.

> The only play you needed to see in this game was his ridiculously bad pick. The only good thing you could say about him is that he avoided turnovers, and he doesn't do that anymore, either. I don't care if it's talent or focus or mental acuity. I just know that he fails the eye test. And every other.

> How bad is he, really? Well, if I were running the franchise... I'd have signed Colin Kaepernick. I'd have signed him the moment QB Carson Wentz went down. I'd have signed him in the preseason, given that Wentz got hurt last year and all QBs can get hurt. I'd have coached Kaepernick up, benefitted from his mobility, and had a dramatically better option than Foles or utterly forgettable QB3 Nate Sudfeld in the event of a catastrophe. But no, it was more important to leave an asset on the sidelines because of the NFL's unofficial blacklist, and a franchise that reached out to a convicted felon (Mike Vick, not very long ago, really) didn't have the sack to sign a guy who has been to a Super Bowl, who has won division championships, and was 16/4 in TD to INT ratio last year. Utterly and completely indefensible.

> Not to put too fine a point on this, but the Eagles went all-in this year when they traded for RB Jay Ajayi. Leaving QB depth untouched in the stupid, stupid hope that Foles could recreate some fluke magic from three years and one thoroughly thought out offensive gimmick system was, well, criminal.

> I know this stance will make some question my fandom, or my mental health, or why I even bother to watch sports, when a 13 win season seems like a disaster. But, well, reality has a way of demanding that you acknowledge it. Nick Foles is trash.

> Getting away from the obvious... not a great debut for CB Sidney Jones. He didn't make any obvious mistakes, but that had a lot more to do with general Cowboy ineptitude and apathy than his own skills. Better luck next year.

> The Eagle backups on defense were more than competent today, but in the short run, it doesn't matter. If you'd like to tell the story that this means the team is deep and has drafted well, that's all well and good.

> One final kudo to the defense; even in the wee moments, they didn't give up a score to Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, and damn near kept him from getting 100 yards on the ground. When pathetic Dallas K Dan Bailey missed his fourth straight kick, it even gave the offense a chance to win on a miracle.

> If you've ever seen an offense take a delay of game on the play before Lateral Buffonery, let me know. I've never seen it. They were lucky not to give up a touchdown on it, by the way.

> See you in two weeks when the Eagles season loses to a team with a QB. Because they don't have one, and you don't win playoff games without one.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Week 17 NFL Picks: Completist

This week will see all of the NFL games happening in two time slots on Sunday, rather than the usual (good lord) five, which is occasionally even as high as eight.

Which will make the league remarkably time efficient for my fantasy league problem (yes, I'm in a league that goes all the way through week 17), but is mostly being done because the league knows the ratings are going to tank with relatively few games mattering for playoff position or your nerd gambling.

It's also going to make most people shy away from betting against the spread, because what do you do with games that matter less (much less) to the participants than the gamblers?

Well, you avoid it. Unless you are like me, and you need to finish the year strong to balance out any number of coin flip metrics.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Green Bay at DETROIT (-7)

Houston at INDIANAPOLIS (-5.5)

Chicago at MINNESOTA (-12)

NY JETS (+15) at New England

WASHINGTON (-3.5) at NY Giants

DALLAS (-3) at Philadelphia

CLEVELAND (+6) at Pittsburgh

CAROLINA (+3.5) at Atlanta

Cincinnati at BALTIMORE (-9.5)

BUFFALO (-2.5) at Miami

NEW ORLEANS (-6) at Tampa

JACKSONVILLE (+2.5) at Tennessee

KANSAS CITY (+4) at Denver

Oakland at LA CHARGERS (-7)

SAN FRANCISCO (-4) at LA Rams

Arizona at SEATTLE (-8.5)

* * * * *

Last week: 9-6-1

Season: 117-113-7

Career: 999-1000-43

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Eagles - Raiders Top 10 Takeaways: Winning Even Uglier

Ten takeaways from the game that led to the Eagles clinching homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, and yet made everyone in the fanbase convinced they aren't going to do a damn thing when they get there...

> As good as QB Nick Foles looked last week against the Giants, he was just all kinds of godawful in this game. Against a Raider defense that has been putrid for most of the year (I've seen them up close, it's been that bad, especially in the secondary), Foles was hesitant, wild high, not mobile at all in the pocket, and a clear and persistent liability. There's no way that this team wins one playoff game, let alone three, with this level of QB play.

> The left side of the offensive line is getting to be a real problem, so much that it's getting in the head of the right side. RT Lane Johnson had his worst game of the season, and while LT Hali Vaitai kept his name out of the papers, it's not as if there is such a thing as an offensive lineman who comes out looking good when the team winds up with a whopping 215 yards of total offense. I get that it was cold and windy out there, but FFS, that was terrible.

> PK Jake Elliott continued his recent string of disturbingly erratic kicking by missing a chip shot at the end of the first half. It could have been a big damned deal, and wouldn't shock me if it is when the games really matter.

> This was the second game in the last three weeks (also the Rams) where the Eagle defense scored on a meaningless lateral play at the end of the game to cover the spread. Suckout for the ages, twice? Clearly there's something going on for this squad this year.

> If you'd like to be encouraged by the defense showing up and shutting down the Raiders, especially in the second half... well, it's your prerogative. 10 points in any NFL game is impressive. But this Raider club still ran the ball well for much of the night and came in with backup OL and beatup WRs. I'll take encouraging signs, and maybe this defense is just that much better at home, but still. Not encouraging enough.

> I'm not in love with CB Jalen Mills; he gets sucked in on way too many go routes, and his closing speed on the Cooper TD was so bad, I thought he had pulled something. But he's better than the backups, assuming 2nd round pick Sidney Jones isn't ready to take the world by storm, and he doesn't hang his head after getting beat. There are many worse CB2s out there.

> How bad was Foles, and how drastic is the dropoff from QB Carson Wentz? The Eagles were 2 for 15 on third down tonight. And won the game. I'm still not entirely sure how.

> I get that the Raiders won their division last year, and that QB Derek Carr was a fairly high draft pick in 2014 with many good moments in his career. But the dude just looked like a journeyman to me for most of this game, and the fact is that the Raider QB should not be a born again guy who looks like he's always got eye makeup on. But me in the Not A Believer camp on this guy.

> As frustrating and ridiculous as much of this game was -- complete with the 2017 NFL Specialty, Phantom And Omnipresent Flags -- getting the win and creating a de facto Week 17 bye week is just huge, especially since the rest of the conference still has to go hard for seeding, with the suspect QB Panthers and Vikings in the hunt for #2. As bad as Foles was tonight, the team still won the game, with a defense that did what they had to do on short fields for nearly the entire second half. Give me the Week 15 offense with the Week 16 defense, and maybe we can luck out three games and save the magic season. Jeff Hostetler and Brad Johnson and Joe Flacco all have rings. Foles could be in the conversation with those slugs.

> Next week, it's Dallas with nothing to play for against the Eagles with nothing to play for, in front of 70K people getting their New Years Eve drink on for many hours before Amateur Hour strikes. And while you'd normally bench anyone with a pulse and get a lot of tape of QB2 Nate Sudfeld, who is absolutely the best Sudfeld in NFL history... well, Foles was just hot garbage tonight. Getting him some feel good reps might help, especially if Dallas cooperates and also throws a bunch of bench meat out there.

Anyway, congrats to the team for avoiding meaningful football in Week 17, and continuing to sell out for wins when things aren't easy. I'm still convinced that the season ended with Wentz's injury,  but I'd really, really like to be wrong...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Week 16 NFL Picks: Priorites

This week, I swap out the relentless main hustle, side hustle and gym work for main hustle, gym work and holiday prep back in the mortgage in New Jersey. All of which leaves the same amount of free time as before, but to be honest, free time just winds up being wasted time for me, since the lack of a task tends to just, well, create tasks. One of which is to make picks!

* * * * *

INDIANAPOLIS (+13.5) at Baltimore

MINNESOTA (-9) at Green Bay

Tampa Bay at CAROLINA (-10)

CLEVELAND (+6.5) at Chicago

DETROIT (-4.5) at Cincinnati

MIAMI (+10.5) at Kansas City

Buffalo at NEW ENGLAND (-12)

Atlanta at NEW ORLEANS (-5.5)

LA CHARGERS (-6.5) at NY Jets

LA Rams at TENNESSEE (+6.5)

Denver at WASHINGTON (-3.5)

JACKSONVILLE (-4.5) at San Francisco

NY Giants at ARIZONA (-3.5)

Seattle at DALLAS (-5)

PITTSBURGH (-9) at Houston

OAKLAND (+9) at Philadelphia

* * * * *

Last week: 6-8-2

Season: 108-107-6

Career: 990-994-42

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Eagles - Giants Takeaways: Winning Pretty Ugly

For the next little while at least
Today's game was watched from a recumbent bike seat, as I attempted to make up for lost time on fitness goals for the year. It's fun to translate nervous energy over your team looking for all the world like they peaked at the wrong time into burned calories!

And with that, on to the most salient points to my eyes from this slog.

> HC Doug Pederson needs to understand that (a) QB2 Nick Foles isn't going to get you those automatic sneak first downs the way the late lamented Carson Wentz did, and (b) RB LeGarrete Blount has been secretly terrible in short yardage most of the year. I'm all for aggro play calling on fourth down but know your personnel.

> This was the third straight game that the defense made the opposition look like world beaters, and I'm starting to really worry about this unit. Was November just a matter of home cooking against terrible QBs? Russell Wilson, Jared Goff, and Eli Manning have all gone for big numbers, and you can't even blame Game Script or Prevent Defense on it. If the pass rush doesn't get there, the secondary is getting beat.

> The team doesn't escape with this win without the oft-maligned special teams. A blocked PAT, a blocked FG, and a blocked punt really make that much of a difference and kept Big Blue from settling for a last-minute figgie to re-take the lead. To go 12-2, you need some breaks, and some of them, you also create.

> It's rare that you win a road game while getting out-gained by 160 yards, but that was just the way this one went. Every time you thought the Eagles had gotten past their early snooze, the refs or Blue would make a play, mostly the same stupid slant play they made a couple of dozen times before. I miss the early season secondary.

> Blue had 23 carries for 65 yards today, which sounds bad but really isn't for these slugs. Giving up 29 points to a team whose best pass-catching threat is a butter-fingered rookie TE really doesn't speak for playoff hopes.

> The other big reason an 11-2 team was able to get past a 2-11 one: red zone offense. Nick Foles was great at this today, following the Wentzian model of sharing the wealth. When Blue had to have it late, QB Eli Manning couldn't deliver.

> Really rough day for CBs Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. Neither man looks hurt or gun-shy, but both guys were really bad in this one, with sloppy tackling, repeat penalties, and overall shakiness. This team is going to need a lot more from both guys if it's going to take advantage of its seed.

> With the win, the Eagles clinch a first-round bye as no worse than the #2 seed in the NFL, but keeping the foot on the gas is necessary due to the Vikings beating the garbage out of a, well, garbage Bengals team today. Philly has Oakland and Dallas left, while Minny goes to Green Bay and finishes with Chicago. If both teams win out, the Eagles are the 1 seed, and it's looking more and more critical to be that, frankly.

> If Giants CB Eli Apple is in the NFL in 2 years, I'm an airplane. Dude just doesn't want to tackle and isn't nearly good enough to make up for that critical failing.

> Great day for the Eagle offensive line on downfield blocking. C Jason Kelce especially seemed to be spry and useful at destroying DBs which is honestly not something you expect a center to have the quicks to pull off.

> By far the most encouraging sign from the win, and the one you will hear the most about, is QB Nick Foles collecting 4 TDs with no turnovers. But from the eye test, he's still wooden, and why Blue would give credence to him being a threat to run, we'll never know.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Week 15 NFL Picks: Best Of Times, Yada Yada

Well, folks, we're three weeks from the finish, I'm alive for money in both of my fantasy leagues, the picks are in the black, the Eagles are the top seed in the NFC and on track to be at home for all playoff games. It's all skittles and beer, yes?

Well, except for a devastating knee injury to the MVP of my fantasy team, my real team, and before he got hurt, the whole goddamned league.

Keep smiling, keep dancing. If we just dance and clap harder, Nick Foles will be a real boy, my teams will luck into desperately needed money, and the karmic chasm that opened up after the Russians stole the election for quite possibly the worst man in America who could have had the job will fill.

On to the picks!

* * * * *

DENVER (-2.5) at Indianapolis

Chicago at DETROIT (-5.5)

LA Chargers at KANSAS CITY (+1.5)

MIAMI (NL) at Buffalo

Green Bay at CAROLINA (-2.5)

Baltimore at CLEVELAND (+6.5)

HOUSTON (+10.5) at Jacksonville

Cincinnati at MINNESOTA (-10.5)

NY Jets at NEW ORLEANS (-15)

PHILADELPHIA (-7.5) at NY Giants

ARIZONA (+4.5) at Washington

LA Rams at SEATTLE (-2)

New England at PITTSBURGH (+3)

Tennessee at SAN FRANCISCO (-2)

DALLAS (-3) at Oakland

ATLANTA (+6.5) at Tampa

Last week: 10-6

Season: 102-99-4

Career: 982-986-40

Monday, December 11, 2017

On Carson Wentz's Injury



There will be many folks in Eagle Nation who will talk about how great the game was.

These people also probably think that Lincoln was really enjoying the play before Boothe had to go and ruin it.

There will be people who want to talk up Nick Foles for his fourth quarter relief job, to praise Nelson Agholor for his amazing game-ending catch, to talk about how good Alshon Jeffery and Trey Burton and Torrey Smith (yes, Torrey Smith was good today!) were, and how the team still has So Many Weapons.

These people don't understand NFL football, or just how incredibly dependent the game is on the QB.

There will be people who will talk about how hard QB Carson Wentz works, how advanced the medical tech is now, how he'll be good as new for training camp and how this injury will get him to play smarter, rather than put his body at risk.

These people do not understand just how much pressure Wentz puts on a defense in his pre-injury mode. How he'd make guys miss badly and buy more time to go down field. How special he's been on third downs. And how he's not going to be that way, post knee surgery, because he's going to go from a callow youth with no fears to a guy with doubt in the back of his mind.

If you've been watching Eagle Football long enough, you know how this goes. Randall Cunningham was on top of the world prior to a season-ending injury, and he really never was quite the same after that.

Finally, there will be people who look at the team's 11-2 record, the schedule with three extremely winnable games, the likely nature of top seed in the conference with two games at home to win to go to the Super Bowl. They'll think the team still has a high chance to win a Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, and a championship for the first time in 57 years.

These people don't get that the teams that come to the Linc will have, quite possibly, Drew Brees or Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. And how those teams will have margins for error, confidence they can come back if they are trailing, and guys that make plays that win games for teams even though they, well, shouldn't.

Kind of like how Wentz kept the Eagles in a game in Los Angeles yesterday where the defense was no longer good against the run, the special teams were the worst they've been in five years, and the offensive line no longer dominant, due to injury.

The Eagles' season isn't over on the Wentz injury.

But their realistic hopes of winning a championship, now or soon?

Poof.

And if you really want to get fatalistic about it, swap in soon for ever.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Week 14 NFL Picks: Final Four

Four more weeks to turn around this back and forth year, folks. No time like the present. On to the picks!

* * * * *

NEW ORLEANS (+1.5) at Atlanta

Indianapolis at BUFFALO (NL)

Chicago at CINCINNATI (-6)

GREEN BAY (-3) at Cleveland

Oakland at KANSAS CITY (-4)

DALLAS (-4.5) at NY Giants

DETROIT (NL) at Tampa

MINNESOTA (-2.5) at Carolina

SAN FRANCISCO (+3) at Houston

SEATTLE (+3) at Jacksonville

NY Jets at DENVER (+1)

TENNESSEE (-3) at Arizona

Washington at LA CHARGERS (-6)

PHILADELPHIA (+2) at LA Rams

BALTIMORE (+5.5) at Pittsburgh

NEW ENGLAND (-11) at Miami

Last week: 6-10

Season: 92-93-4

Career: 972-982-40

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Eagles - Seahawks Takeaways: In Which Doug Pederson Shows He's Not Ready

Well, No, But, Well, Kind Of
> On the bright side, we were all counting on this to be a loss at the start of the year anyway

> We pretty much knew what we were getting from this game when HC Doug Pederson folded his napkin and punted on fourth and short at midfield early

> If you want to lose a road game with the better line, secondary, special teams and offense, fumbling in the end zone is pretty much the way to do it

> As good as QB Carson Wentz is, he still needs work against a blitz and/or a loud crowd

> Watching a WR get tripped, having the flag thrown, then having the flag picked up is Just What Happens On The Road, I Guess

> As salty and bitter as I am on this game, Russell Wilson Is A Goddamned Witch

> Sure, having longtime friend CB Byron Maxwell with the coup d'etat INT wasn't in any way nauseating

> Losing Zach Ertz and Tommy Jurnigan to injury also was totes adorable

> While I don't want to remember any part of this game, Wentz to WR Nelson Agholor for 51 yards, 45 of it in the air as he's stumbling down, gets saved

> No, seriously, this game is Exhibit B of how Pederson in a Big Game is downright terrifying, and if you want the capsule summary, just watch the decision making at the end of the first half, please

> I didn't know you could hit the PR without it being a penalty, but Seattle Road Game Is Amazing

> Also amazing: that you can throw for a first down, see the first down on the replay, and don't get the spot anyway

> If you had told me that a Seattle team without most of its starting secondary could hold this offense to 10 points, I'd have told you were high

> You would never know that Seattle is the most penalized team in the NFL from this game

> Wilson avoids grounding by going backward a lot, which isn't a thing

> Just run around for a while and wait for the refs to bail you out seems to be Seattle's best play

> Throwing a flag several seconds after the play ends because the fans cheer for DPI was almost a thing

> Calling obvious blitzes on 3rd and 10 against Wilson, so he can float it perfectly to Baldwin for 48, is also not much in the way of great defensive playcalling

> I'd go into more details about this game, but Liquor Is Calling

> The Eagles are no longer the top seed in the NFC

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