Friday, January 30, 2009

Possible Elton Brand Trades

Earlier this week, Chad Ford of ESPN started a wild fire of a rumor that Elton Brand, the Sixers prize off season acqusition was available. Since then, Phil Jasner of the Daily News, who is closer to the situation, has said that is not true, according to his sources.

I hope he's wrong.

The debate on whether or not to trade Elton Brand is a good one, and I can see both sides. I agree with the reasons not to trade him: its early in the season, he's been injured, he can help the Sixers in the post season, etc. I get all of that.

But in my opnion, Ed Stefanski has a chance to save this team from a potentially crippiling contract. Elton Brand is on the books for 5 more seasons, and around 16 million per season. When they signed Brand, that was their one chance. All of the trades, including the Iverson one, led to that moment. That one choice on what to do with all that money.

Its safe to say, as of right now, they blew it.

It could turn around, and Brand could contribute. But does anyone see him living up to that contract here in Philadelphia? Trading Brand would be admitting that it was a mistake, but do you really have to cut off your nose despite your face for 5 more years?

Even with Brand at 100 percent, contributing at his top capability, theres no way the Sixers get past the Celtics, Cavs or Magic this year. So why not trade Brand and get out of this contract now, while you still can?

I don't think the Sixers should just give Brand away. But if you can get one of these things, you pull the trigger:

1) an expiring contract
2)a high draft pick (not likely)
3) a player who can help now, but has a short term deal

I went onto ESPN's Trade Machine, and looked at some options. Here are some deals I thought made sence, under those guidelines

1. Elton Brand and Willie Green for Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver

On paper, you wonder why the Jazz would do this, but I think they would. Boozer has had a dissapointing year, and because of his injuries, Paul Millsap has emerged as a potential All-Star. He is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in only 32 minutes per season this year. Boozer is a free agent at the end of the season, and they won't keep both Millsap and him. By making this move, the Jazz get something in return for Boozer before they loose him on the free agent market. For the Sixers, they get to rent Boozer for the rest of the season, and if things don't work out, they get his 12 million dollers off the books this off season.

2. Elton Brand for Wally Szcerbiack

On the court, all this gets the Sixers is an outside shooter, a role they need and Kareem Rush has failed to step into. But most importantly, this gives the Sixers his 13 million doller expiring contract. Combined with Andre Miller, this gives them 23 million this off season to play with. The Cavs don't need to make a move, but out of all the players I've heard them mentioned being interested in (Vince Carter, Jermaine O Neal, etc) Brand would help them the most. Adding Elton Brand would give them scoring downl ow, which they need. Also, Brand has shown to be a positive influence in the locker room, and would not disrupt their chemistry.

3. Elton Brand for Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich

This deal works, but I'm not sure I would pull the trigger on this one. The upside to this deal is that the Sixers get Hinrich, a young point guard for the future. The Sixers don't really have anybody behind Andre Miller right now, and this would solve that problem. Thomas can leap out of the gym, and would fit in with this team. For the Bulls, they would get Brand for Hinrich, a player they need to get rid of anyway with the emergence of Derrick Rose.

4. Elton Brand and Reggie Evans for Shawn Marion

I would pull the trigger on this trade in a heart beat. Marion fits in perfectly with the Sixers style, can shoot the 3, and can lock down players like Kevin Garnett in the playoffs if needed. Plus, he is 17 million dollers off the books this summer. The Heat are trying desperatly to trade Marion, and they are talking about trading him to the Kings for Brad Miller and Kenny Thomas. The Heat have tried before to get Brand, and I think they would do this trade. That would give them Brand down low to play off of Dwanye Wade. This could make them a serious playoff threat.

By making these moves, the Sixers have the chance to gain a valuable asset (a huge amount of cap space this summer) for trading away somebody who is not contributing to the team (in fact, he is hurting the team). This is nothing against Elton Brand as a player or a person. To me, he showed what a great team mate he was by agreeing to come off the bench these last few games. Think Iverson would have done that?

The sole reason behind wanting to trade Brand is it gives the Sixers a do over. With these moves, the Sixers would have potentially 25 million dollers in cap space this off season. Now, what if they use that to sign a marginal point guard (Rajon Rondon?) and some roll players (Raja Bell?), setting them up with potentially 15-20 million in the summer of 2010.

If they don't trade Elton and, I don't think that's a huge mistake. I just think its a better idea to trade him, plain and simple. It is better for the team in the short and long term.

Not many people in the world get a chance for a due over. This is the Sixers chance.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

McNabb Criticism Inaccurate

They say you never know what you got till it's gone.

Donovan McNabb has always been a hot topic amongst fans in Philadelphia. I can't remember another athlete who had so many people just plain out hate them. Allen Iverson always said that your going to have a million people love you, and a million people hate you. For him, that probably wasn't true. Iverson, through all of his on and off the court up and downs, was always loved by this town. He was loved for his on the court hustle, and was loved by the youth for his off the court demeanor. While there were people who were not his biggest fan, over all he was loved by this city.

McNabb has never gotten to that level, and I don't understand why.

Philadelphia is a football town. It may have been red for a couple of months, but over the last 10 years, the city has bled nothing but green. Now, I understand that as the quarterback of a team, you open yourself up to the public criticism. But never have I seen one player been so hated after doing so much for this city.

Before we dive into the reasons people want McNabb out of town, lets look at some of the impressive stats that he has accomplished over his time in Philadelphia, excluding his rookie season:

* In 112 regular season games, McNabb has an impressive record of 71-35.

*The second best touchdown to interception ratio (2.1)---ever.

*Led the Eagles to the playoffs in 7 of his 9 years as quarterback

*Has never lost a first round playoff game

*Has more passing yards and touchdowns then any other Eagles quarterback ever

After looking at those numbers, why would people ever want to run him out of town? For years, he has kept the Eagles, the heart and soul of this town, relevant. Remember Bobby Hoying? Doug Peterson? Or, for people with short memories, Kevin Kolb?

People who criticize McNabb point to the same things: accuracy, injuries, his smug attitude, and his inability to win the big game. To those people, I think they need to look closer at McNabb's career a little closer.

* McNabb has started 30 of the last 32 Eagles games, and for his career, has started 85% of Eagles games played (since his was drafted)

*Has completed over 57 percent of his passes every year but 1 (his rookie year).

* McNabb is within 5 percentage points, in terms of career completion percentage, of all of these "elite" quarterbacks : Peyton Manning, Tom. Brady, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Kurt Warner

* Dan Marino's completion percentage: 59.4. McNabb's? 58.9

* He has a higher career completion percentage then John Elway, and is 41rst overall in career completion percentage, out of 219 players.

* McNabb has only thrown over 10 interceptions in a season 4 times out of his 10 seasons. In contrast, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Mannin, Tony Romo and John Elway have all thrown over 10 interceptions all but 1 of the seasons they played.

* In 14 playoff games, McNabb is 9-5, for a winning percentage of 64. Compared to other quarterbacks, Peyton Manning (46%), Brett Favre (54%), and John Elway (63%), that is an impressive figure.

* Ok, he lost the Super Bowl. But that was 1 game, facing a dynasty team. And he did throw 3 interceptions, but he also threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns.

So in comparison to other quarterbacks, its not fair to say he is a horribly inaccurate passer, or that he gets hurt all of the time. If he is a horrible passer, at a 58 percent completion, what does that make Elway? An awful passer? What does that make Joe Montana (63% comp.)? A marginal passer? Its not fair to slam McNabb for being inaccurate, then praise Manning, Elway, or Montana for being one of the best passers ever, when there completion numbers are comparable.

Also, to put into perspective how important it is to lead the league in completion percentage, guess who the all time leader is in completion percentage? Chad Pennington.

People will point to the game against the Cardinals, and point to the throws his missed. He did throw behind Hank Baskett on one play, a play in which Joe Buck, watching the replay, felt could have been a touchdown based on the yardage in front of him.

But Baskett still caught the ball.

And maybe if McNabb had the luxury of throwing to Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Plaxico Burress, Hines Ward, or Larry Fitzgerald, that play would not have been stopped just because it was not a perfect ball. People blame that fact that McNabb did not hit Baskett in complete stride, but what about all the bad throws Manning, Brady and Romo can make because of the skills of their receivers? McNabb is not afforded that same luxury. In his 1 season with Owens, McNabb had a completion percentage of 64%.

In terms of his attitude and on field demeanor, I understand that he can get under some peoples skin with laughing on the field. But would you rather have somebody like Eli Manning, who pouts and has the body language of a 5 year old. Ok, McNabb laughs. But did you see Kurt Warner yell at his offensive coordinator this past weekend?

I'm not going all Warren Sapp or Michael Strahan on the Philadelphia fans. I know that their are a lot of people who want McNabb to stay. And the people who don't, its fair to have your opinion on McNabb. I'm just saying, if you look at the facts and numbers, and what he has accomplished, there is no reason to want him to leave. None.

So to everyone who wants McNabb gone, have fun next season with Kevin Kolb at the helm. Have fun watching the Eagles win 4 maybe 5 games. Have fun watching Westbrook continue to wilt away, and have probably the last productive season ever mean absolutely nothing. But especially have fun watching McNabb light it up in Minnesota, Chicago, or wherever he ends up.

Because, like they say, you never know what you got till its gone.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Eagles Off Season Questions

As the Cardinals and Steelers prepare for the Super Bowl, the Eagles are once again left at home looking for answers.

This season was one of twist and turns, and whether you think they are or not, the fact is the Eagles were 1 of the 4 final teams left playing. Does that make them a top 4 team going into next year? Its way to early to tell. But you could argue that with some tweaks, they could get right back to where they were, and maybe take that next step.

But before they go to Lehigh, there are some big questions the Eagles need to answer.
1) McNabb Situation: The minute Kevin Kolb stepped out of the field for the 2nd half in Baltimore, everyone knew this would be an interesting off season. Alot of that has gone away with the Eagles surprising playoff run, but the fact remains, McNabb was benched. Now, you could argue that the Eagles need to please McNabb in this off season to make them happy. McNabb has said repeatedly that he is going to want to sit down with the Eagles and talk about why he was benched, and I think he is going to want a new contract. If I'm Andy Reid, I give it to him. McNabb is the only chance the Eagles have next year. If you get rid of him, and go with Kolb or a rookie, you might as well get rid of Westbrook, Dawkins, Runyan and Thomas, because the Eagles will offically be a rebuilding project. With a happy McNabb next year, the Eagles will be a favorite to win the NFC.

2) John Runyan and Tra Thomas: This might be the biggest off season descion for the Eagles. Runyan and Thomas are both getting up there in years, with both of them playing over 11 years. Ideally, and chances are very high, that the Eagles draft a offensive tackle with their first round draft choice. But, I still think they should resign them both. Runyan never misses a game, and Thomas has played in 31 of the last 32 regular season games. I would love to see them resign them, and let them tutor the new rookies. You don't want to throw a rookie on the offensive line, protecting McNabb's blind spot.

3) Lito Sheppard: Over the years, maybe the only situation the Eagles handled worse was the T.O. fiasco. At last years draft, the Eagles were being offered 3rd round draft picks. Now? They are probaly going to have to end up cutting him, or getting an extremely low draft pick. The Eagles took an asset and turned him into a problem. I don't see anyway the Eagles bring back Sheppard.

4) 2 First Round Draft Picks: After trading for the Carolinas Panthers first round draft pick in this years draft, the Eagles hold the 21rst and 28th selection in this years draft. I'd be surprised if they took two players in the first round. I think they will try to package them to move up for a top notch offensive line player, or trade one for a 2nd round pick and something else. I don't see them moving up for a skill position player. I would love to see them draft a running back with this selection. I saw one mock draft that had Beanie Wells of Ohio State falling to them. Something tells me that woulnd't even take them if he did, but I would love to see him on this team.

5) Wide Receiver: Maybe its just me, but I don't think the Eagles HAVE to add a number 1 wide out to this team. Would it improve them? Absolutely. But I do think they need to address both the running back and full back position before they go for a receiver. There will be some top notch ones available to. From what I read, I think Anquan Boldin, either Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson or TJ Housmanzadeh could all be had. While it would be nice to add them, I think that the Eagles are ok at wide out. Kevin Curtis came on really strong at the end of the year, and DeSean Jackson is a flat out play maker. Throw in Jason Avant and Hank Baskett (if he is resigned), and I think you can get by with them. Then again, T.O. might be avaiable.....

6) Brian Westbrook: As I said before, Westbrook has been a dissapointment this season. With Buckhalter being a free agent, and after the Eagles treated his playing time I don't know why he would resign here, the Eagles need a bonafide back up for him. Whether that comes from adding a running back via trade of frer agency (Larry Johnson maybe) or from a top draft pick (maybe Wells or Moreeno), they need someone to help Westbrook. They have maybe 1 or 2 years left of good production from him, and as we saw in the playoffs, at the end of the season, Westbrook was a ghost. The Eagles need someone to take the load off of his shoulders and help out. Oh yeah, and maybe a full back would help.

Those are just some of the issues facing the Eagles. I didn't mention Brian Dawkins, because I find it hard to believe that he will be somewhere else. Also, I think the defense is good enough that they can not really adress them this off season and still be one of the best in the league. The Eagles are close, that was evident this season. But there is work to be done.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Show Him The Money

This past week, the Phillies and Ryan Howard started their annual winter date together: Arbitration meetings.

On both sides, and in public opnion, I think there is little doubt that he deserves a raise. Last season, Howard finished with 48 home runs and 146 RBI's, both tops in the MLB. This is the second time he has finished tops in both of those categories in the league, last doing it in 2006. In his first 4 full seasons as a Phillie, he has also managed to collect some pretty impressive hardware. He has been MVP, Rookie of the Year, and of course, World Series Champion.

The only place where Howard has not been leading the leagues in, it seems, is in his pocket. In 2006, when he was MVP, his salary was $900,000. While that is grossly underpaid, he was not MVP when he got that deal, so you can't blame the Phillies for that. However, there is no denying that they got him at a bargain rate. That next summer, the Phillies rewarded Howard for his play, boosting his salary to 10 million dollers.

In 2008 Howard outplayed his contract as well. Once again, he led the league in HR's and RBI's. He was also an intregal part in the team winning their first World Series since 1980. This past season, once again, the Phillies got him at a bargain rate, even at 10 million per season.

When you look at some of the salaries in the league, it becomes aparent how under paid Ryan Howard was. Not 1 player (from an offensive standpoint) from the top 25 paid players in the league, led the MLB in an offensive category. Ryan Howard led the league in 2. If you start to read the names of the players, it is almost comical to see who makes more then Howard. Jason Giambi. Jim Thome. Randy Johnson. And not only did these players make more then Howard did last season.

Every player in the top 25 made more last season the Ryan Howard has over his whole career.

When arbitration started this summer, the Phillies came to the table with an offer of 14 million, a 4 million doller raise from last season. Ryan Howard and his agent requested 18 million. Since then, there has been some debate as to whether or not the Phillies should pay him what he asked for.

I'm here to say not only that they should, but that it is a no brainer.

If the Phillies signed him to an 18 million doller deal, he would still not be in the top 5 paid players. This despite leading the league in HR's and RBI's 2 out of the last 3 years. In comparison, the New York Yankees signed Mark Teixeira to an 8 year, 180 million doller deal this off season. Howard had more HR's, more RBI's, and around the same slugging percentage. While Teixeira did have a higher batting average, Teixeira will be making 22.5 million dollers this season. Even if Howard did get the 18 million dollers he asked, that would still be 4 million less then Teixeira.

The Phillies have been getting Ryan Howard at a bargain rate for the last 3 seasons. Their unwillingness to agree to a long term deal with one of the premier power hitters in the league (and you could argue that this is even before his prime) is ludacris. Skeptics will point to the errors at first base, but how many games have they lost because of that? In the post season, Howard had 2 errors, the same amount as Jimmy Rollins. And in those 2 games, the Phillies were 2-0.

The Phillies do not need to keep leaving these winter meetings without a long term deal with Howard, and continuing to make him upset. Because soon, when Howard hits the open market, some team will pay him what he is really worth, and the Phillies will be left in the dust.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Eagles Cards Recap

It took a few days, but I think I'm finally ready to talk about what can only now be known as "The Disaster in the Dessert"

For Eagles fans, Sunday was a day of huge ups and downs. The excitement leading up to the game was huge. For once, after the Phillies were crowned champions in October, we didn't feel like we were leading up to dissapointment. There was no curse waiting to kill our dream. We were the team of destiny, and the Super Bowl ticket was ours.

Then, it all went to shambles.

I mean honestly, who would have ever guessed Larry Fitzgerald would have 3 touchdown passes and over 100 yards recieving- let alone in the first half! Did Jim Johnson even bother scouting the Cardinals. I swear I did more research for this game then Johnson. By half time, I had accepted the season was over. Then, just like they did in the regular season, the Eagles got me right back.

In a span of 10 mintues, the Eagles scored 19 points, to pull ahead 25-24 after a circus touch down catch by DeSean Jackson. They really were a team of destiny. They were going to the Super Bowl.

Then, the biggest play of the game. On 3rd down, the Eagles stopped the Cardinals to force a 4th and inches. After all the research I did, and all the talking I did about how the Cardinals couldn't run the ball- they did. First Down. In my heart, I knew that was ball game.

The Eagles lost. Their season is over. Once again, there season falls one game shy of the Super Bowl, and Andy Reid will rock the hawaiin shirt once more.

So, for the last time this season, here is what I liked and what I didn't like:

What I Liked:

DeSean Jackson: Jackson had a great game in alot of ways. First, he caught the ball 6 times for 92 yards, and did a great job of keeping his feet in bounds on a number of side line catches. He also did a great job sticking with that touchdown ball. I know it looked like an easy catch, but he still made it. But what impressed me most about Jacksons day was when he hustled down and got the ball back after the interception in the first half. As he rookie season came to a close, I think its save to say he is the Eagles best receiver, and should be a star next year.

Larry Fitzgerald: He really is that good. Hands down the best reciever in the game today. The Eagles just couldn't stop him. I haven't seen somebody single handedly dominate the Eagles like that in a while. That first half was like a personal highlight film. And to think, the Eagles almost had him.

Brent Celek: He might not have as much "potential" as LJ Smith, but he's made more big plays in these playoffs then Smith has in his entire time here in Philly. His 2 touchdown catches on Sunday was enough to do that. He can really be a weapon for this team next year.

Donovan McNabb: Did he miss some throws? Yeah, he did. If he throws for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns, should the Eagles win the game? Yeah, they should. You cannot pin this loss on McNabb. You just can't. He engineered that comeback in the 2nd half, leading the Eagles to 3 straight touchdowns. If the defense hold the Cardinals from scoring on that last drive, everyone is talking about how great he is. Its not his fault he didn't.

What I Didn't Like

The Defense: Wow. I never saw this coming. Not only did the Cards just go up and down the field on this defense, they made it look easy. I can't believe this defense fell for that stupid trick play. And why did they single cover Fitzgerald on the goal line. What sense does that make? Then, with all the momentum in the world on their side, they left the Cards take 8 minutes off the clock, go down and score the go ahead touchdown. This loss is on the defense.

Jim Johnson: As poor as the defense played, his game plan was even poorer. Why would you not double Fitzgerald? And for all of this talk about how great of a coordinator he was, the Eagles got NO pressure on Warner in the first half. He was completely out coached by the Cardinals offensive staff. And I blame him for all those mistakes made by Quinten Demps, because he should not have been in the ball game so much. Especially after that personal foul on Warner.

Brian Westbrook: Everybody gets on McNabb, but could Westbrook had come up any smaller? 45 total rushing yard? He was a complete non factor in this game. Buckhalter looked way better then Westbrook did when he was in the game. It might be because he was hurt, but at what point do you say maybe he will just allways be hurt, and that 1 great game he gives you every 4 just isnt worth it? He is a huge reason the Eagles lost on Sunday.

Lito Sheppard: When did he become somebody who you just couldn't put on the field? Why play Demps over him? Sheppard is a 2 time Pro Bowler. I don't know if things would have been different had Sheppard been in their, but they couldn't have been worse. Are the Eagles even trying to get anything for him this off-season? I don't see how any team gives them anything higher then a 4th round pick for him, if were lucky.

Sav Rocca: It was his fault that Akers missed that extra point. Now was not the time to forget which way the laces on the football are supposed to face.

Another Season Lost: God damn it sucks they lost.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ravens at Steelers Preview

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC Championship Game

Steelers Offense vs Ravens Defense

For two weeks, I have said the Ravens defense was going to carry this team. And for two weeks, they have. They have done it with forced fumbles, interceptions, sacks, and just dominating defense. In this postseason, they are giving up only 9.5 points per game, the least in the playoffs. 

However, in other defensive categories, they have slipped. They are giving up more rushing yards and more passing yards in this post season then they did during the regular season. And its not like they have played two top notch, power offenses. So while they have been dominating, and they have been the reason the Ravens have won, I think that is more a product of turnovers at the right time.

This week, they will have a hard time against the Steelers offense. Like the Ravens defense, the Steelers offense is a tough, Super Bowl winning group. They have been hard to watch at points, but they have gotten the job done when they needed to. Last week, they added another weapon, as Willie Parker looked like his old self, gaining 147 yars on 27 attempts. He won't get that vs the Ravens, but I think his running will open up the passing game for Ben Rothlisberger. 

With all that being said, I don't think the Steelers will be able to put up alot of points. Im just saying they have a better chance to score then the other teams have this post season, and not make key turnovers the other offenses have vs the Ravens. 


Ravens Offense vs Steelers Defense

Last week, Joe Flacco became he first rookie quarterback ever to win 2 playoff games in the same year. He hasn't been the reason they have won, but he also has not cost them the game, like Ravens quarterbacks of the past. He has thrown for 148 yards per game, 1 TD and 0 INT in the playoffs. He has been helped out by the huge play of veteran wide reciever Derrick Mason, who has 148 yards in 2 games. 

While Flacco has been able to get by so far without having to carry this offense, he will this week if he wants to win. Points will be hard to come by in this game, so he needs to make sure they capatilize on all oppurtunites when they get them. That means field goals instead of touchdowns. And it means not turning the ball over in the red zone. 

The Steelers defense didn't look dominating last week, but that game was over before they started to give up alot of points. The Chargers were able to beat them down the middle of the field, but they had no luck running the ball on them. I don't think Flacco will be able to beat the Steelers defense down the field. 



If you like points, this will not be the game for you. These two teams are cut from the same cloth, they both hit hard and love to run the ball. This two teams also hate each other. Every player on that field better have their head on a swivel, because late hits will be plentiful in this game. 

They are even in almost every aspect of the game. They both have great defenses. They both have hard running games, now that Willie Parker is back. They both have great, young coaches. And they also both have recievers that aren't great, but can get the job done.

Where they are not the same is quarterback, and that will be the difference. Flacco has managed the games well so far, but he hasn't made big plays to win it. Rothelisberger will make the plays to get the Steelers into the Super Bowl.

PICK: Steelers

Ultimate Eagles Cardinals Preview

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals, NFC Championship Game

Eagles Offense v Cardinals Defense

Coming into this week, a lot of pressure is on Donovan McNabb. Like it or not, his legacy is on the line. All of the good will and the fans that he has won with this run to the playoffs will be lost if he dosn't get this team to the Super Bowl. With a loss, he drops to 1-4 in Championship games, which is not good.

McNabb's numbers have not been amazing this post season. He actually has thrown more interceptions then touchdowns, and he has a QB rating of under 75. But, despite the numbers, he is making plays when the Eagles need to. He has converted big third downs when the Eagles need them, and I think that will be important in this game. There's going to be a point in the game, early on, where the momentum will be in the Cardinals favor, and the Eagles are going to need to convert a big third down to keep the drive alive. I think he will get it done.

The Cardinals secondary has alot of talent, and McNabb will have to be careful not to make a wild throw, because they have the players in the secondary to make him pay. 2 Cardinals have 2 interceptions this post season; Ralph Brown and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie. The Cardinals have forced 9 turnovers this post season, and in a game like this, turnovers are going to be huge.

As always, Brian Westbrook will be huge in this game. There have been reports that he reinjured his knee in the game vs. the Giants. Obviously, he is not at 100 percent. I am a big Westbrook fan, but I don't think he has had a good season. I have been dissapointed with his overall production, even though I will but the fact that it is due to injuries and being the focal point of the other teams defense. With that being said, I think he has a big game. I think being indoors works to his advantage, and he is able to make some big plays. I think the Cardinals will test him early, seeing if he is healthy enough to beat him.

I think the Eagles will be able to move the ball against this team. They were able to do it in their first meeting with the incredible ease. I do buy the fact that the Cardinals defense is improved, but they gave up 48 points last time. So even if they have improved, where does that bring them? 34 points? 28?


Eagles Defense vs Cardinals Offense

As discussed all week here at Philly Stand Up Sports, the Cardinals offense does have some weapons. Fitzgerald is a beast, and absolute monster. Kurt Warner is a former MVP, Super Bowl winner, and Super Bowl MVP. The pieces are in place for the Cardinals to put up a lot of points, especially at home, in an atmosphere should be crazy, as this is the first time ever the Cardinals will play in the NFC championship game.

But while all the pieces are in lace, and they do have weapons, the Eagles defense is in the zone right now. They are playing as a team, and are clicking on all cylinders. 4th and 1 vs the best running team in the league? Check. Going into the defending Super Bowl champions house and holding them out of the end zone? Check.

this post season, opposing offenses are converting 3rd down on the Eagles a mere 33% of the time. They have the 2nd best pass defense in the post season, led by Pro Bowler Asante Samuel, who has 2 INT this post season. In their last meeting, Samuel did not play, and that was huge. Lito Sheppard covered Fitzgerald in that game, and ate him up. He won't do that to Samuel. 

So for all of you guys worried about Fitzgerald, here is a number that may help you calm down. The Eagles have given up 100 yards to a receiver only 4 times this season, and in those games, they are 3-0-1. So in games recievers have burned them, they have won, I think Jim Johnson and this defense makes Fitzgerald a non factor.


When the Eagles beat the Giants to reac this game, I was overjoyed at the fact they got the Cardinals. If I could pick 1 team to play for the championship game, it would have been them. Now, here the Eagles are. 1 win away from the Super Bowl, and only the Cards stand in their way.

But as the week goes on, I have become less and less confident. Gary Cobb, of, made a good point this week, saying that the media here acts like they have already won. Everyone is saying it's our year, practically getting ready for the parade, when they are not even in the Super Bowl yet.

All week, I looked at the Cardinals. I looked at almost every stat there is, watched their first game vs. the Eagles, and looked at their players. After doing this, and taking in the atmosphere around the game, this could be a trap game. Everyone thinks were going to win. Everyone. But remember, everyone knew we were going to beat Tampa Bay in the last game of the Vet. Carolina Panthers? That was our year.

The Cardinals have the weapons to make us pay for being over confident.

If the Eagles come out flat, they will loose. They are a good team, but they are not good enough to play their B game and win in Arizona. The Eagles are the better team, that is undeniable. Their defense is better. They have the better quarterback. They, as a team, have more experience in this type of game, and have veterans that want to win more then anything. You think any one the Cardinals wants to win more the Brian Dawkins?

I see the game playing out like this: the momentum will be on the Cardinals side early on. I can see them getting a long pass to start the game. But I think the Eagles defense is just to good to let them loose. I think they will make big defensive play at some point. I also think DeSean Jackson and Quiten Demps will have big days on special teams. McNabb will play well, and I think he is capable of having his first break out game of the playoffs vs the Cardinals defense. 

Like I said last week, the Eagles can get behind in this game and not panic. They play well as a team from behind, and that is a credit to the leadership and heart on this team. I think they can trail in this game, and come back if they have to. I think the magic number for the Eagles is 24. If they can get 24 points, they will not lose this game. The Eagles defense hasn't given up more then 20 points in 6 weeks. 24 points win it gets them to the Super Bowl.

Pick: Eagles

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cardinals Season Recap

As the Eagles get set to take the field on Sunday for the right to go to the Super Bowl, lets take a look at the team that hopes to get in their way, the Arizona Cardinals.       

Look at Season: 

The Cardinals had the luxury of playing in the NFC West, where no other team finished the season with a winning record. Of their 9 wins, they got 6 versus teams in their own division. That means that against teams outside of their division, they went 3-7. If you look even closer, you see that they were horrible against real competition this season. When they played a team that made the playoffs this season, they went 1-4. Overall, versus teams with a winning record, they went 2-7. Going into the playoffs, they lost 4 of their last 6. Another interesting thing I noticed was, if the San Francisco 49ers had won that game they lost versus the Cardinals late in the season, both teams would have finished 8-8. So to say they ran away with this awful division isn't even true. 

Improving Defense: 

All of the talk has been focused on the Cardinals running game, but their defense is the one that has really stepped up this post season. In the regular season, they were dreadful. They gave up almost 27 points, good for 28th in the league. They got absolutely shredded through the air, giving up the most passing touchdowns in the league, and almost 8 yards a pass. They were slightly better against the run, giving up 110 yards per game. 

This post season, they have improved in every category. They are giving up only 18.5 points, and have forced a total of 9 turnovers. They have done much better against the rush, almost cutting there average in half, giving up 68 yards on the ground per game. This is an impressive number, because in the playoffs, they have faced DeAngelo Williams and Michael Turner, who were two of the best running backs in the league this season. 

In the post season against the pass, they have only really improved slightly. They have given up 3 touchdown passes, and are still giving up over 200 yards passing a game. However, they have been able to cut down their per-pass average down by almost 3 yards, from almost 8 yards to right around 5 yards.

One Dimensional Offense:

We all know how I feel about the Cardinals running game, as I wrote about earlier in the week (see below). So while some people think they can run the ball, everybody really knows that the offense begins and ends in the hands of Kurt Warner. Kurt Warner is a Super Bowl MVP, and when left alone, he can kill you. 

And in this offense, he has the weapons to do it. The Cardinals tout 3 receivers who gained over 1,000 yards this season, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Boldin has been hurt this post season, and won't be at 100 percent this weekend. When he is, he is a huge, strong reciever who is hard to bring down in the open field. Larry Fitzgerald has used this post season as a coming out party, and is going to be hard for the Eagles to stop. He has 3 inches on the Eagles cornerbacks, and has a great vertical leap.

Warner had a good season, but if you look back at the numbers, you will see he didn't fare well against good teams. When Warner took the field vs a winning team, he threw 12 TD's and 9 INT. To put that in perspective, for the season he threw 30 TD's and 14 INT's. Warner is immobile, and when he is pressured, he will make bad throws or put it on the ground. If you can get him behind early, and make him have to bring the team back, he can't do it. When he is winning, his QB rating is 102.5. When behind? 88.4, almost 20 points less. 

One thing the Eagles have to be careful of is Tim Hightower and JJ Arrington catching it out of the backfield. The Eagles are going to bring alot of pressure, and if they get caught over pursuing, and one of these running backs gets the ball in the open field, it could spell trouble for the birds. These running backs are fast, and on that turf, they could take one to the house. 

The Cardinals Nest

The Cardinals were a much better team at home this year then they were on the road. At home, they went 6-2, and they got their only win vs a playoff team, when they beat Miami in week 2.  At home, Kurt Warner had a rating of 106. On the road, Warners rating dipped down to 88. The stadium has a retractable roof, and it will be closed, making it lound in their. I don't think this will get to the Eagles, who have to many veterans on their side to let the atmosphere get to them. I actually think the Eagles will benefit from playing on the turf, as I expect them to take advantage of the speed of DeSean Jackson. Also, I think the surface will be easier on the knee of Brian Westbrook, who would have a much harder time contributing in a cold, outside stadium (as evident by last week vs the Giants.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tale of the Tape: Eagles/Cards Rd. 1

I just watched the game between the Eagles and the Cardinals from Thanksgiving day. Here at my thoughts from the game:

Heading Into Game:
Coming into this game, the two teams were in two very different positions. The Cardinals were winners of 3 of their last 4. They were however, coming off of that loss, an 8 point defeat at the hands of the then impressive Giants. With a record of 7-4, the Cardinals already had the division all but wrapped up. They knew they were going to the playoffs, and to be honest, had very little to play for.

The Eagles, on the other hand, were coming off of the worst couple of games probably ever in the Andy Reid/ Donovan McNabb era. They were 5-5-1, and 0-2-1 in their last 3. McNabb was coming off the fiasco in Baltimore when he was benched, and for the first time every, McNabb knew coming into the game that his coach was on the sideline, ready to pull him at any given moment.

Not only was McNabb fighting for his career, the Eagles were fighting for their playoff lives. They knew that even if they won out, a playoff spot was unlikely. Still, going into the Thanksgiving day game, it was a must win for the Eagles.

What the Box Score Looked Like:

Quarterbacks: McNabb 27/39 260 yards 4 TD's.....Warner 21/39 235 yards 3 TD's 3 INT's

Running Backs: Westbrook 22 carriess 110 yds 2 TD's 2 cts 20 yds 2 TD's ....J. Arrington 2 carries 10yds

Receivers: D. Jackson 6 rec 76 yds 1 TD....L.Fitzgerald 5 rec 65 yds 2 TD

What the Numbers Tell Us:

From a statistical standpoint, the Eagles absolutely killed the Cardinals. They killed the Cardinals in every category. Here are some numbers that stood out:

1) They outscored them in every single quarter, and scored a touchdown in every single quarter.

2)The Eagles had over 7 times as many rushing yards as the Cardinals (25 to 181).

3) They dominated the time of possession, holding the ball almost twice as long as the Cardinals (39:33 to 20:27)

4) The Eagles ran 40 rushing plays, and were stopped behind the line on only 1 of them.

5) The Eagles were over twice as successful on 3rd Down Conversions (30% to 66%)

6) The Cardinals got more sacks then the Eagles (1-0)

What the Tape Tells Us:

After reviewing the game tape, here are some things that stood out to me:

1) On 2 of the 3 interceptions by Warner, he was pressured.

2) The Offensive Line manhandled the Cardinals defensive line. In the red zone, the Eagles got 3 of their touchdowns up the middle, whether it was by running it or by doing Andy Reid's famous shuffle pass. Either way, Westbrook almost walked into the end zone on all 3.

3) I wasn't impressed by the Cardinals linebackers. When they blitzed McNabb in the red zone, they completely lost track of Westbrook, and McNabb threw it for an easy touchdown. Also, Westbrook had a lot of success getting around the corner, which tells me he was beating the Arizona linebackers to the sideline consistently. The Eagles had a lot of success with Westbrook running it from the off-set position, or faking the reverse, which I also attribute to the linebackers.

4) Kurt Warner is dangerous when he has time. On all of the Cardinals big plays, there was no pressure in his face, and he had success throwing the ball.

5) The Eagles corners had trouble with the Cardinals receivers. When Anquan Boldin caught the ball in space, there were a few times it took almost 4 Eagles to bring him down.

6) Of the Cardinals big plays (the 3 touchdown passes, and the long ball to Larry Fitzgerald) Lito Sheppard was the cornerback beaten on all of them

7) The Cardinals were down 14, 12 minutes left in the 4th with the ball

8) Eagles receivers were wide open all day. There were numerous times they caught the ball running wide open, or caught it and were able to turn and run. \

9) The Cardinals dropped a lot of balls

Final Verdict

After breaking down the tape, here was what I was left thinking.

1) With Asante Samuel in there, and playing the best he has all season, the Eagles will be better against the pass, as Sheppard was picked apart in this game

2) I am glad the Eagles defense is playing so well right now, because the Cardinals offense looked good. Real good. And they will be even better at home.

3) Im not buying the whole "The Cardinals didn't give us there best shot, it was a short week" excuse. This was a semi-close game in the 4th, and the Eagles were playing with the same amount of rest. Also, everyone says the Cardinals were coming off a tough, physical loss to the Giants. Um, the Ealges were coming off a tough, humiliating, blow out loss where there franchise had to be benched. I would call that a little harder to come back from.

4) The Eagles are the better team

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cards Run Game Still Grounded

Leading up to this Sundays game, you will hear a lot of talk along these lines: The Cardinals didn't give the Eagles there best shot, they now run the ball, they have a brand new defense. 

Look, I give the Cardinals all the credit in the world. No one, and I mean NO ONE thought they would get this far. I can only imagine what the odds were for the Cardinals to host the NFC Championship game. They needed 2 extensions of 24 hours to sell out their first home playoff game- in years. Since then, everyone seems to be hoping on the Cardinals bandwagon. This week, they needed about 6 minutes to sell out the game for Sunday.

To be honest, that is about the only difference between these new Cardinals and the old Cardinals.

I did some research on this "new running game of the Cardinals", and I just didn't see it. During the regular season, the Cardinals averaged a league low 73.6 rushing yards per game. So from that point, there was no where to go but up. They rushed it around 21 times a game, and averaged about 3.5 yards per carry. That was last in the league.

This post season, the only thing the Cardinals have improved on running wise? They are running it more. Thats it. This postseason, they have ran it an average of 35 times per game, 14 times more then the regular season. In those 71 carries in 2 games, they have accumulated 231 times, for an average of 3.3 yards per carry.

That is less then they averaged in the regular season- when they were last in the league.

So for all of this talk of the Cardinals new running attack, it really isn't there. Also, if you break down the numbers when it comes to carries, you will see they havn't even really committed to running it that much more.

In there first game, a close 30-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons, they ran it only 24 times- 3 times more then there season average. So when the game is close, they are the same old Cardinals. They rushed it over 40 times, but that game was a blow out, and they didn't really have to throw it.

And look at the competition they have run it agaisnt. In the first playoff game, they faced the Falcons, who during the season gave up almost 5 yards a rush, 25th in the league. In the playoff game vs the Falcons, the Cardinals averaged 3.1 yards per carry. In the second game, they faced the Panthers running defense, who also gave up around 5 yards per carry during the regular season. In that game, the Cardinals once again ran it for around 3 yards a carry.

This season, the Eagles defense was 4th in the NFL in stopping the run, giving up around 3.5 yards per rush. If they Cardinals got 3.3 vs a defense that gave up 5 yards a carry, what is there new running attack going to get vs the Eagles? 2? 1.5? In the Post Season, the Eagles have faced the best running team in the league- the Giants- and the best running back in the league- Adrian Peterson- and have given up 4 yards a carry. There is no way the Cardinals are getting 3.3 yards vs the Eagles.

With doing something more, you would think you would get better at it. But they have gotten worse the more they have run it. So when you everyone talk about how the Cardinals run it more, and the Eagles need to worry about it, lets hope they are right. I hope the Cardinals run it every play. If they do, this game will be over- and quick.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Statistical Look at Eagles in NFC Championships

Here we go again.

This week, the Eagles will take the on the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship, there 5th trip in 8 years. On paper, it is a very impressive accomplishment, and in alot of ways it is. But ask the fans, and they'll tell you it has brought them mostly heart break.

There was the Ronde Barber interception. McNabb watching the Rams celebrate. The late hit on McNabb agaisnt Carolina. The Joe Jurevicious catch. Footballs bouncing off the Eagles receivers into Panthers. Marshall Faulk running all over us. Andy Reid in a hawaiian shirt- 3 years in a row. 

These are the memories that come along with "NFC Championship Game" in Philadelphia. Sure, we beat the Falcons the last year, but Eagles fans were already on the way to Jacksonville before the game started. All week, on ESPN, Pardon the Interuption and Around the Horn, you will hear about the Eagles futility in the past Championship games. But have they just not shown up in the Championship games, or just been a victim of bad luck at the wrong time- 3 years in a row. 

Lets take an in depth look at the past championship games, compared to Wild Card games and Divisional games. These numbers exclude this years playoffs, and only games that Donovan McNabb played in.

Points Scored:
Championship Game: 16
Non-Championship Game: 23

Points Allowed:
Championship Game: 20
Non-Championship Game: 12.5

Championship Game: 307.5
Non-Championship Game: 338.5

Yards Allowed:
Championship Game: 293
Non-Championship Game: 297.5

Passing Plays:
Championship Game: 35.25
Non-Championship Game: 34.5

Running Plays:
Championship Game: 21.75
Non-Championship Game: 19.75

If you break down the numbers, you do not see that big of a difference. They ran the ball less, but when your losing, thats what tends to happen. They have let up almost the same amount of yards, but given up almost 8 more points. They have been able to get the same amount of yards, but have scored around 1 less touchdown. What can you make of these numbers?

To me, it shows that when it comes to the Championship game, its not that the Eagles choke. They don't not show up on 1 side of the ball, they don't really abandon the run, or decide to throw it 50 more times.  It really has just come down to a couple of different things. When the played the Rams, they were a young team, that just wasn't ready to go into St Louis and win that game. Any time you have to put in Koy Detmer, your not going to win, and thats whats happened agaisnt the Panthers. And the Bucs? Well, you can make excuses- McNabb coming back from injury, Blaine Bishop playing- but they did just lose that one.

Now, you could argue that they just havent performed well in any playoff game, but they have not performed way worse in the championship game then in any other playoff game, at least statistically.

Then again, that could all change Sunday. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Eagles Smash Giants

Here come the birds.

Forget the tie. Forget the benching. Forget the season ending loss in Washington. Its all out of the window now. Heres all that matters- the Eagles are one win away from the Super Bowl. 

With a dominating defensive performance that has led this resurrection, the Eagles went into the Meadowlands and came out with a 23-11 win, ending the defending Super Bowl champions season. The win moves them into the NFC Championship game with the Arizona Cardinals, who got there with a surprisingly convincing win over the Carolina Panthers. The game will be a battle between the 5 and 6 seeds in the NFC. You have to think that alot of people will like the Eagles in this game. 

But back to todays game, heres what I liked and what I didn't like:

What I Liked:

The Defense: This is a Super Bowl winning defense. They did give up some yardage today (307), but they held them out of the end zone when it mattered. Asante Samuel came thru again with a key interception to set up the first touchdown. That was a key play because it sucked all of the momentum out of the Giants, and set the tone for the day. In the second half, when McNabb thru an interception, they held the Giants to a field goal to keep the game close still. Then, at the end of the game, they twice stopped the Giants on 4th and 1, ending the season. Even though they ended up with over 100 yards on the ground, they got the key stops when it mattered. 

Donovan McNabb: Today, he did what Eli Manning could not- take some hits, make some bad throws, but still win the game. He converted key third downs, got in on the quarterback sneak, and made a beautiful throw to DeSean Jackson at the end of the game to seal it. He didn't get sacked, and moved around when he had to. His throws to Jason Avant and to Correll Buckhalter on third downs won the game. You don't lead your team to 5 championship games in 8 years without being a clutch quarterback in the playoffs. You never got the feeling Manning was going to lead them back. You thought McNabb would.

Quiten Mikell: First off, congratulations to Mikell on making second team All-Pro this week. All season he has been there for the Eagles, whether it is up on the line of scrimmage stopping the run, stripping the ball, or getting the key interception. Today, Mikell came thru again, battleing thru a knee injury to come up with the game sealing interception. 

Going to Arizona: If your the Eagles, you have to be thankful for this matchup. If Eagles fans could pick one team to play for the championship, the Cardinals would have been the pick. 

What I Didn't Like:

Eli Manning: Have you ever seen a quarterback look more dejected? The whole game his body language was awful. With every bad pass, or dropped, he threw he hands up and shook his head. People get on McNabb got laughing and smiling, but I'd rather have that then Manning. Also, he attempt on the quarterback sneak was pathetic. I could have got farther then he did. 

Unsportsman Like Conduct: That call on McNabb was stupid. Hes just having some fun, chill out. Especially Troy Aikman. Calm down.

Slow Start on Offense: They got the job done when it had to be, but only 18 yards in the first quarter? The Giants defense is good, but next week, they need to come out stronger from the beginning. This defense is to good to be let down by this offense. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Eagles v Giants

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

New York Giants at a Glance:
The defending Super Bowl champions at times this season have looked unbeatable. Much like during their playoff run last season, the Giants played with a swag, and feeling that no matter what anybody said, they were better then there opponent. They started there season 4-0 behind the play of Eli Manning, and the running attack led by Brandon Jacobs. They rolled to 11-1, and looked like a lock to come out of the NFC. Then, there season took a dramatic turn. Star wide out Plaxico Burress, shot himself in a night club, and was suspended for the season. He now faces 3 years in jail. Since that time, the Giants have not been the same, and have stubbled into these playoffs going 1-3 in their last 4. 

Last Time The Teams Met:
The Eagles and Giants last met in week 14, the first game after the Plaxico Burress fiasco. The Eagles rolled into the Meadow lands and beat the Giants at there own game, 20-14. Brian Westbrook had 131 yards rushing on 33 attempts, and 6 catches for 72 yards. The defense absolutely shut down the Giants offense, holding Brandon Jacobs to 52 yards, and Eli Manning threw for only 132 yards. If you take away the fluke blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, the Eagles won that game 20-7.

A Tale of Two Teams:
When Burress went out for the season, all of the talk was how the Giants would be fine, and it was better to get the "cancer" Burress out of the locker room. Well, as they should not be surprised to find out, anytime you lose a 6-5 star wide reciever, your team suffers. Since Burress was suspended, and they knew they wouldn't have him for the year, the Giants have gone 1-3. Before? 11-1. Lets look at the offense with, and without, Burress:

Manning Passing Yards
With: 218
Without: 153

Giants Points:
With: 29
Without: 18

As you can see, this offense is no where near what they were before they lost Burress. Last season, the Giants were a weak team to start, strong team to finish. This season? The exact opposite.

Now, onto this weeks game:

Eagles Offense vs the Giants Defense:
This is not the Giants defense from last season. However, they are still strong. This years unit is giving up only 18.4 points per game, good for 5th in the NFL. They are strong agaisnt the run and the pass, finishing in the top 9 in both of those categories. The Eagles offense this season tho, has been able to move the ball. In the first meeting, the Eagles scored 31 points, and McNabb had a solid game throwing 3 TD's and throwing for 194 yards. In the second game, the Eagles took to the ground, as Westbrook carried the ball 33 times for 131 yards. So the Eagles can have success agaisnt this unit. The Eagles did well protecting McNabb agiasnt the Giants, not giving up 1 sack in the two games.
Where I think the Eagles can really attack these team is in the middle of the field. They had success agaisnt the Vikings over the middle, hitting Jacon Avant for big third down conversions. If they can get Avant, Brent Celek, or Brian Westbrook matched up with one of their linebackers, they could move the ball right down the field. This would also negate the pass rush of the Giants, as they would have to keep the linebackers off the line of scrimmage. It would also help the run. 


Giants Offense vs Eagles Defense:
As I said before, this Giants team is not the same without Burress. But, they can still run the ball, and run it well. Jacobs is a huge, physical, pounding running back, and if the Eagles let him have a good game, it could all be over. When he is running well, the Giants control the clock, and control the game. Especially in a cold game, like it will be tommorw, you don't want the other team controling the line of scrimmage. In the game the Giants beat the Eagles, Jacobs had 22 carries for 126 yards. In the game they lost, Jacobs had 10 carries for 52 yards. The Giants recievers are nothing to be afraid of, but with a solid running game, they can do damage.
The Eagles defense is playing its best ball of the season, and is shutting teams down. It shut down Adrian Peterson last week, and is 4th in the league agaisnt the rush. The unit is playing with a swagger right now. They are stopping the run, stopping the pass, getting turnovers, and rushing the passer. That is the type of defense you want right now.


While the Giants crusied thru most of the regular season, the Eagles had alot of adversity. There quarterback was benched, there running back hurt, there season dead. However, they fought thru all of it, and here they are. They are a better team for it. The Eagles right now, are the better team. They showed that when they beat the Giants in week 14, in a meaningful game. The Giants, on the other hand, are free falling. If it wasn't for an over time win agaisnt Carolina, they would be 0-4 going into the playoffs. Tommorw, they will benefit from being at home. When the game starts, they will say they are the defending champs, and that all of the regular season drama is behind them. If they get out to an early lead, they could build on that and play with confidence. But if they get behind, watch out. I think this is a fragile team right now. If they Eagles can go in their and dominate early, the Giants won't come back. There not strong enough. The Eagles however, are. I think the Eagles can withstand anything the Giants bring to start the game, and I think they will play well. I expect the defense to dominate, and the McNabb to have a great game. Not from a statistical stand point, but I think he dosn't turn the ball over, and makes big plays when he has to. It won't be an easy game, and beating the defending champions never is. But this is not the same Giants team from last season, or even earlier in the season. They are a 1-3 team on the decline. The Eagles are a 3-1 team on the uprise, with all the confidence in the world.

Pick: Eagles

Steelers v Chargers

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers Offense at Chargers Defense:
Sometimes, watching the Steelers offense can give someone a headache. Or in Ben Rothelisbergers case, a concussion. Big Ben got nailed in the Steelers last game of the season, and had to be carted off the field. He will play, but its been only 2 weeks. Even with him at full strength, this team has trouble scoring. They were 20th in the league in scoring, at only 21 points per game. And for all of the talk about how the Pittsburgh Steelers are traditionally a tough, running team, this team is not that. They are 23rd in the league in rushing at only 105 yards per contest. They Steelers do not create alot of big plays, and score when they drive down the field one play at a time. 
The Chargers defense came up big last week, holding the Colts to only 17 points (you could argue they held them to 10, as they weren't even lined up for 1 touchdown). They give up alot of yards, but can hold teams out of the endzone. There weak spot is there secondary, as they are second to last in yards allowed, at almost 250. This could be the andidote for Big Bens headache, as he should have no problem moving the ball down the field on this team. 


Chargers Offense vs Steelers Defense:
The Steelers defense is the best the league. They rank first in points allowed (13.9), yards allowed (237.2), passing yards (156.9) and second in rushing yards, at 80.2. Last time they played the Chargers, they held them to 10 points, and held Darren Sproles to 1 carry for 0 yards, and 1 catch for 9 yards. Sproles will get more then 1 carry tommorw, but its no fluke that they held him in check. Sproles strength is  his speed, and that is the strength of the Steelers defense. Chris Lombardi, on the B.S. Report., said that the field in Pittsburgh is not a field built for speed. That is not good for Sproles. 
If Sproles can't get anything done, the game will be in Phillip Rivers hands. Rivers played well enough to win last week, but didn't throw any touchdowns. In their first meeting, Rivers threw for only 164 yards. Rivers has played in 5 playoff games, so he won't be ratteled by this big stage. But he will be ratteled by the Steelers defense.


This Chargers team can never be counted out. Last season, they went into Indianpolis and won as huge under dogs. This season, they came back from 4-8 to make the playoffs, then they beat the Colts again as underdogs. So while the Steelers are favorites this weekend, don't expect that to get to the Chargers. The Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the league, and will not be an easy out. But for an offense that is currently built around a small, quick running back, you do not want to face one of the hardest hitting, fastest defenses in the league. I don't expect Sproles to be effective, and the Steelers defense to hold the Chagers offense in check. The Steelers offense should only need around 17-20 points to win this game, and I think they can do it 

PICK: Steelers

Cardinals at Panthers

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

Cardinals Offense vs Panthers Defense
The Cardinals threw a new wrinkle into their offensive game plan last week- the run. Everybody thought that this offense was a one trick pony, considering their last in the league run attack. However, by running the ball- 22 times for 96 yards- they were able to open up the passing game, and that is where this team thrives. The Panthers defense is surprisingly, very average. They are only 16th agaisnt the pass, and 20th agaisnt the rush. If the Cardinals can run the ball like they did last week, they should be able to gash this team thru the air. In the regular season meeting between these two teams, Kurt Warner threw for 381 yards and 2 touchdowns. The combination of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin should have success again this week, as last time they faced the Panthers they combined for 16 catches, 2 touchdowns and 178 yards. Boldin is batteling a pulled hamstring this week, but he should play. 


Panthers Offense vs Cardinals Defense
The Panthers have a complete offense, and average 26 points per game. They can drive the ball down the field with their running attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, or they can strike quick thru the air with WR Steve Smith. Even when they hand off, they can take it to the house, with Williams being one of the quickest running backs in the league. The Cardinals had success stopping the run last week vs Micheal Turner, but Williams is a whole other beast. Turner is a great back, but he is more of a bruser. If you let Williams get into open space, he is gone.
Quarterback Jake Delhomme finished the season with 15 touchdowns, but also threw 12 interceptions. He can be great at times, but he also can hold this offense back. If the Cardinals can stop the run, and put the ball in Delhommes hand, it would improve their chances of winning. However, even that might not be enough, as last time Delhomme gashed them for 248 yards and 2 TD.


Not many people expected the Cardinals to be here (well, except me). Not even the Cardindals thought they would be here, as they celebrated winning last week by pouring gatorade on their coach, acting like they had won the Super Bowl. This week, they once again will not be expected to win, and that is probaly a good thing. The Panthers are 8-0 at home, and with the Panthers having not hosted a playoff game in awhile, the home field advantage will be huge. When the teams played last, the Panthers won by 4 points. It was a close game, and anyone who thinks that the Cardinals have no chance tonight is just wrong. This should be a high scoring game, and unlike last week, when Warner was playing a rookie quarterback, Delhomme should not shy away from this big stage. 

PICK: Panthers

Ravens v Titans

Baltimore Ravens v Tennesse Titans

Ravens Offense v Titans Defense:
Joe Flacco had a so-so start to his playoff career last week, going 9/23 with 135 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions thrown. While Miami's defense is good, they are no where near the defense of the Titans. The Titans gave up the 2nd least points per game this year, giving up only 14.6. They were also very strong agaisnt the run and the pass, finishing in the top 10 in both of those categories. Agaisnt the Dolphins, Flacco was able to just manage the game, and let his defense swallow up the Dolphins offense. This week, if the Ravens hope to pull the upset, he'll have to make some plays down the field and make the Titans defense respect the pass.
Last time these two teams played, Flacco finished 18/27 for 153 yards and 2 interceptions. However, that was early in the season. Flacco has matured since then, and should be able to improve his numbers the second time around. Neither Willis McGahee or LaRon McClain had good days running the ball last time the two teams played, combing for a little over 100 yards on 33 carries. 


Titans Offense vs the Ravens Defense:
The Ravens defense is almost an offense within itself. It can force teams to punt, giving the offense great field position, it can create turnovers, and it can take those turnovers to the house. Ed Reed came up big last week, with 2 interceptions and he took 1 back for a touchdown. This Ravens defense is playing alot like the one that took them all the way to the Super Bowl not to long ago. Last time these defense took on the Titans, they held them to 3 points thru 3 quarters, only to give up 10 in the 4th. 
The Titans offense is not a flashy, trick show offense. They like to run the ball with their two stud running backs, Chris Johnson and Lendale White. They are like thunder and lighting, with White getting the tough yards up the middle, and Johnson being able to strike quick, and take any run into the endzone. Kerry Collins, who took over for Vince Young early in the season, has been effective, and when he last played the Ravens, he managed to go 17/23 for 163 yards and 1 touchdown, with 2 interceptions. 


All year, the Titans were considered the top team in the league. However, not many people thought of them as a playoff contender. Teams like Indianapolis and Pittsburgh got more buzz then they did, despite finishin 13-3. Now is the Titans chance to prove they were no fluke. But it will be hard to do agaisnt this Ravens team. The Ravens defense is playing great right now, and Flacco has come along considerably since he last saw the Titans. Last time these two teams played, the Titans won on a long touchdown drive in the last 2 minutes of the game, to win by 3. However, the drive was only kept alive by a controversal roughing the passer call. This game should come down to the wire, and it is going to be  long scoring affair. In the end, I think that the Ravens defense does a little more then the Titans, and Flacco improves from the last meeting with the Titans.

Pick: Ravens

Monday, January 5, 2009

State of the Sixers; Ed Stefanski

Before we go into the Sixers, and the problems this dissapointing squad is facing, the real question is:

Does anyone care?

This season, the Sixers are averaging 13,00 fans, which places them 25th in the league. Teams like the Clippers, Bucks and Wizards all have better attendance then the Sixers. you can blame it on the economy, but its not like Philadelphia is the only place getting hit. You could blame it on the Phillies world series win, but they havn't played in months. You could blame it on the Eagles, but up until last week, they were dead in the water.

No, blame it on this- the Sixers suck.

What a dissapointment this season has been. Its not good that about 35 games into the season, everyone is wishing they could redo this off season. Anyone wish that we had Josh Smith instead of Elton Brand? Good thing we kept this group together and signed Iguodala for 80 million dollers. First round pick Marresse Speights? Started 2 games.

The Sixers tried to turn it around with the firing with Maurece Cheeks, and inserting Tony Dileo as head coach, who by the way, has never coached an NBA game. When the Sixers fired Cheeks, they were 9-14. With Tony DiLeo as coach, they are 4-6, which is around the same winning percentage. So the coach wasn't the problem.

The Sixers are struggling on the offensive end. They are 25th in the league at scoring, averaging about 95 points per game. Their defense is better, as they are 14th in the NBA, giving up 97 points. Many people say they they are having trouble adjusting to having Elton Brand in the line up, saying that they can't run like they used to. But they are 2-6 with Brand in the lineup, and 11-14 with him in it. Thats almost double the winning percentage with him in the lineup. But even with it doubled, they are still a sub .500 team with Brand. Everyone expected them to compete for the top 4 spots in the East. Now, they are 5th- in the Atlantic Division. The New York Knicks blew up their season, trying to get Lebron James in 2 years- and still are ahead of the Sixers.

The Sixers better hope this is just a mirage, and the Brand-Iguodala combination works. Because they are stuck with it- for 6 years. It will be hard to trade Iguodala, and even harder to trade Brand. For all the praise Ed Stefanski got last season, all he really did was trade Korver- most of the team that made that run was built by Billy King. Lets look at Stefanskis moves, giving them a plus or minus:

1) Trade Korver: Did develop Young, but now leaves the Sixers looking for a outside shooter
Overall: Even

2) Sign Elton Brand: We have to base it on so far, and so far, all the move has done is tie up the Sixers cap for the next 6 years. It could change, but right now....
Overall: Minus

3) Sign Iguodala: The Sixers did have to resign him, but they gave him way to much. They now have Young and Iggy at the same position, and you coudl argue that young is almost as good. Iguodala can't shoot, and with Brand down low, thats what the Sixers need.
Overall: Minus

4) Signing Kareem Rush, Donyell Marshall and Royal Ivey: Have they done anything at all this year?
Overall: Minus

5) Sign Lou Williams: This was a good move. He signed a good young player for a reasonable deal (5 Million a year).
Overall: Plus

6) Draft Speights: Its only about 35 games into his rookie season, but he does look good so far. But where does he play? Brand is the 4, and hes not a 5.
Overall: Even

7) Fire Cheeks: Way to early to do it, and has no provided a spark at all. DiLeo is not the long term answer, leaving the Sixers looking for a coach in the off season.
Overall: Minus

Thats 2 evens, 2 plus and 4 minuses. This Sixers off season was the big one. They traded Iverson to get to this point- grossly under the cap, ready to sign a big player. The Sixers didn't trust Billy King to make that call. But could he have done worse then Stefanski?

The season is still young, and the Sixers rebounded last year to get to the playoffs. But after all the hype and the exctiement, its hard to imagine this team finishing higher then the 7 seed- at best. And the more the season plays out, and the less people come, and the less people stop to care, the question has to be asked: Is this Stefanski's fault?

Burrell to Rays?

If the Phillies and Rays are going to have a rematch of this years Fall Classic, it looks like the Phillies will be facing an old friend- Pat Burrell.

FoxSports is reporting that Pat Burrell is about to sign a 2 year, 16 million doller deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Reports are that he would be the DH for them, and would be placed in the line up to protect Evan Longoria.

I was surprised to see that the deal is only worth 8 million dollers a year, which is 6 million less then he made last season. I thought the whole reason the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez was to save money on Burrell? They gave Ibanez a 3 year deal worth 30 million dollers, 12 million more then Burrells deal, and 2 million more per year. Lets compare the players:

Burrell: 32 years old, bats: right, 33 homers, .250, 86 RBI's, .367 OBP, .507 slugging, vs left: .279, vs right: .238

Ibanez: 36 years old, bats: left, 23 homers, .293 BA, 110 RBI's, .358 OBP, .479 slugging, vs left: .305, vs right: .228

When Ibanez's deal with the Phillies runs up, he will be almost 40 years old. Burrell will be 35. On that basis alone, I would have rather seen the Phillies give Burrell the 2 year deal for 16 million. You could say he woulnd't have signed that in Philly, but he did in Tampa, and he said he wanted to return to Philly, so I think he would have.

Burrell finished with 10 more home runs then Ibanez, and also (and this is key) bats right handed. With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both batting lefty, Burrell was there to switch it up. Now, the Phillies will have 3 lefties in a row, with Ibanez batting lefty as well. Burrell also had a higher OBP and Slugging average. The one thing that Ibanez does bring the Phillies is some one in the lineup who is not just a power hitter, but can hit it around the field.

But still, if you look at the 2 players, I would rather have Burrell for 2 yr/16 mil then Ibanez for 3 yr/ 30 mil. Burrell has been in Philly his whole career, and I think bringing him back would have been good for the club house, and helped carry this years momentum into next year. I know he wasnt the main reason, or the Phillies biggest club house presence, but there was no need to mix up the pot.

In the end, I don't think the Phillies will not repeat as champions becasue of this move. You could argue that Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth were more important then Burrell, making him the 6th best player in the line up. But at Ibanez age, there is a risk he could lose it. For all of his faults, you knew aht you had with Burrell.

And what you had helped the Phillies win the World Series.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Eagles Move On

It was a win, and at this point in the season, the Eagles will take it. After letting the Vikings hang around for most of the game, the Eagles were finally able to do away with them, and left Minnesota with a 26-14 win. This means that the Eagles live to play next week, and will head to the Meadowlands to play the Giants for the third time this year. 

The Eagles let the Vikings stay to within 2 for much of the game, but in the 4th quarter, Brian Westbrook took a screen pass 71 yards to finally put the game away. It was the Eagles only offensive touchdown of the game, with David Akers making 4 field goals. While it wasn't a dominating performance, it was a game that the Eagles earlier in the season would have lost. No games are easy in the playoffs, especially on the road. So for the Eagles to come away with a 12 point win is impressive. There were a lot of positives to take from the game, and a few things the Eagles need to work on. 

What I Liked:

1) Andy Reid: This season, I have thrown alot of the blame on Reid. Im not saying this win takes that all away, but in moving to 7-0 in the first game of the playoffs, Reid deserves some credit. The Eagles could have given up after the two week blow of Cincinnati and Baltimore, but with all of the teams around them collapsing (Tampa Bay and Dallas) Reid held his team together. And whether you think they are or not, they are 1 of only 8 teams still alive. That is a credit to the coach. In todays game, I thought he did a good job calling the plays, and he even out smarted the  other coach when it came to time management. He also stuck to the run, even with little success. Brian Westbrook had the same amount of carries as Adrian Peterson, and I can't even imagine what the odds of that happening would have been before the game. 100-1 maybe? He also called the screen play at just right the time, and sealed the victory. 

2) Jason Avant and Kevin Curtis: Both of them came up big today, and combined for 11 catches for 103 yards. But that is not where they came up big. Both players had big third down catches in the second half. Avant had a key one with the Eagles agaisnt there own goal line, helping them get some breathing room. He is the Eagles best option over the middle in key 3rd down plays. Curtis did a good job holding onto the ball and running with it after the catch. The Eagles really missed him during the season, but he is starting to emerge at just the right time. 

3) The Defense: Without the play of the defense today, the Eagles are packing their lockers up this week, not getting ready for New York. All of the talk is how McNabb has resurrected the Eagles since his benching, and that is somewhat warranted. But its the defense that really has brought this team back from the dead. Today, they allowed only 14 points. They held Peterson to a mere 83 yards on 20 carries. If you take away his 1 big run of 40 yards, that 43 yards on 19 carries.  They also scored what would turn out to be the game winning touchdown, and got two turnovers.  Asante Samuel really stepped up today, playing hurt. Other then maybe Baltimore, this is the bet defense playing right now. 

4) David Akers: He went 4 for 4 today and looked great doing it. All of his kicks were dead on, and looked like they could have all been good for 60. After a rough start to the season, if he can continue to kick like this, he is another weapon for the offense.

5) Brent Celek: So what are the chances LJ Smith is our starter at TE next year? .001%?

What I Didn't Like:

1) Offensive Line: Im not going to pretend I know about blocking and how well each player on the line played. But I do know a problem when I see it, and today, protection was a problem. McNabb was running all over the place and had Vikings in his face for alot of the first half. The Vikings do have a good defensive line, but they looked like a line of Hall of Famers today. Tra Thomas looked like Winston Justice when Jared Allen right right by him to force the fumble on McNabb. They also got nothing going on the ground. I give them credit for setting up the big screen play well, but other then that, I was unimpressed. They have got to play better next week. 

2) Sheldon Brown: I know this is nit picking, and he did have a good game. But he has got to catch that interception!

3) Brad Childress: He really is a product of Reid. First, he declined a penalty that would have forced the Eagles into 3rd and 24, and knocked them out of field goal range. Way to show confidence in your defense, and to give the Eagles 3 points. Then, with around 1:30 remaining in the half, he lets the clock run down to 50 seconds, and calls a pass. If your going to try to score, why let the clock run down so far? He actually managed to let Reid outsmart him on clock management. That really is a accomplishment in itself. 

4) Jared Allen: Something annoys me about him. He did force a fumble, but it seems like everytime he makes a tackle, he is behind the line flexing his muscles to the crowd. Jared, your team is losing, shut up and get back to the huddle.

5) Correll Buckhalter: I would have liked to seen him get more plays. He got 1 carry after he took his first one 27 yards. I did like how they spilt Westbrook out wide and left Buckhalter in the back field, but he is a huge weapon for the Eagles that dosn't get used enough. 

6) Lito Sheppard: Did anyone else feel bad seeing Sheppard come in for garbage time?