What Would Buddy Do?
Trying desperately to panic (but mostly failing)
Posted on October 1st, 2008 at 10:54 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Such is the plight of the fan: my favorite football team has played pretty well over the first month of the season, and while they’ve had a couple tough losses, there are tons of encouraging signs and reasons for optimism in re: the length and overall entertainment value of this edition of the Philadelphia Eagles.  And yet I still feel kind of bummed out about the whole 2-2/ last-in-the-NFC-East thing. 

The local blathertariat tell me, somewhat convincingly, that things are looking good.  The nerd rankings at Football Outsiders also flatter the hell out of the Eagles (and should be a fairly strong predictor of future success) — #3 in VOA and # in the DAVE ranking.  Even Donovan McNabb is kindly suggesting, in so many words, “B*tch be cool.”  And yet, as Dunavin points, the losses do seem to linger longer than the wins. 

(Actually the whole McNabb blog post this week was really odd, but in a good way — it was like he was giving the fans a pep talk.  And he actually hit a lot of relevant points: didn’t make excuses, thought the Chicago game was a bummer, but now it’s time to move, plenty of more season left.  He was also about 10x more articulate than his cliche-ridden pressers.  And he even made fun of Andy Reid with the title of the post (”Time’s yours!”).  I dunno.  It was actually a really charming piece.)

So I guess it isn’t so bad after all?  Not now at least, and not assuming the Eagles can win their next two games (leaving them a respectable 4-2 at the break).  Let us not speak of other scenarios, as 3-3 at the break will not feel sweet and 2-4 will border on disaster. 

And thus shall we spend our day anxiously waiting for the latest injury update on the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook; without “the best player on the team,” 2-4 feels a lot more likely. 

(Whew.  That felt good.  Got it all out.  Very cleansing.  Time to move on, like Dunavin said.)

And here I thought we might make it to October without a craptastic loss
Posted on September 29th, 2008 at 12:17 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

about to break off the pattern

On a weekend that the Phils clinched their second straight NL East championship, we didn’t really think that we’d be twice blessed with an Eagles victory on the road, did we? Without Brian Westbrook?

Despite the text messges I received upon landing in the Pacific Northwest last night (”Don’t even bother watching the game”), I plowed through the tape of the game, and the Birds weren’t terrible. The defense, in fact, was excellent in the second half. McNabb was fine — not great, but certainly on his game. But you pile up a couple injuries and stumble on a couple important plays and voila! You lose to the Bears!

(I hate to admit it, but I was a little Nancy Negative ahead of this game, and it looks like my anxieties weren’t completely unfounded.  SIGH.)

The thing is, most NFL games are close, and you have to expect to lose a couple close games each year. Last year’s team probably lost about 1.5 more close games than the league average (Packers, Bears, Seahawks and second Giants game come to mind); previous years’ teams lost fewer of the close ones. We’d like to believe that the Eagles are so formidable that they won’t even be in very many close games, but that’s just not true. They blew a close one last night; let’s hope that the next couple break their way.

My observations upon viewing last night/ this morning on my PC screen via Slingbox:

The Birds need some sort of Team-minus-36 plan.  This will be the most obvious and pedestrian thing I write all week, but man, it sure does look different without the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook out there.  Andy Reid needs to start working on the binder of plays for when they don’t have the best back in football on the field.  Cause it doesn’t seem like he tends to have very many good ideas.  Also, they miss Westbrook in a ton of ways – not just running the ball and scaring people with his placement in the formation, but the blitz pickups and blocking as well.  Buck whiffed a bit last night on those.  We won’t talk about Booker, other than to say….

…Booker isn’t there yet.  Seems like a decent situational/ once-in-a-while substitute, but this guy is not serviceable as a first-down back in the NFL.  And suddenly we’re a bit thin at that position.  The portions of the second half when Buck was out were horrfying.  Horrifying. 

We’ve found the weakest link.  Another solid game from the young linebackers.  Gocong even got into it a bit more this week (good for him on the sack), though I think Gocong might be sticking out on film as the “one you can beat if you want to” — that first touchdown was on him, and looked pretty similar to the Marion Barber TD catch from two weeks ago. 

Question I’d like someone to answer.  I’m wagering against the Eagles in prime time games until further notice.  I’m desperate to be disproven on this, but they’ve just been awful in night games for too long now.  Is there some sort of Kerry Collins-on-the-sauce-with-the-Giants thing at play here?  (My theory on Kerry Collins on Sunday night games with the Giants was that since it was a night game he’d clear himself to have a few extra drinks on Saturday — since the game wasn’t until later and he wouldn’t have to get up early — and this would inevitably snowball and leave him in terrible shape for the whole day Sunday.  Yeah, you’ll see me in hell for that one.)

And suddenly DeSean Jackson is our best offensive player?  I mean, that was it, right?  No B-West and suddenly Jackson is the number-one option?  Is that really the deal at this point?  Nice to see Reggie Brown catch some balls last night, though.  He looks like he’s getting back up to speed, and he’s had some great games against the Skins in the past – they’ll need that Sunday.

Marvels on the defensive line.  Someone who actually knows something about football needs to explain to me how a little dude (all characterizations relative, of course) like Dan Klecko keeps getting to the quarterback (and why Broderick Bunkley can’t).  I could not have been more wrong about Dan Klecko all summer.  And he keeps making plays.  Remarkable.  Also, at what point can we admit that Juqua Parker is playing really well and isn’t some sort of undersized liability? 

I agree with Les.  Should have used Dunavin down on the goal line.  He’s the most gifted guy on the field.  Let him win it for you.

Don’t discount the other injuries.  The running game missed Westbrook, obviously, but it also missed The Big Kid and L.J. Smith (editor’s note: we’re about 3 mm away from affixing “much maligned” to the front of L.J.’s name in the Word Press templates).  Probably wouldn’t have hated having those guys out there for the goal-line offense.  Ultimately, the offense probably looked crappy because it was missing four ostensible starters — and that was before Buck got dinged up.

Yeah, this one sooked.  The B-West injury watch vigil will continue all week ahead of a tough division game against a confident Redskins team.  Yikes!  On the upside, I bought myself some tickets to that one and will get to see it firsthand.  


Creepy Symmetries
Posted on September 28th, 2008 at 12:42 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

For the avoidance of doubt, the Eagles played on Sunday night in Week Four last year against a good defensive team on the road without the services of Brian Westbrook and one of their best offensive linemen (Tra Thomas).  Yeah.  That one sooked, and not just because (a) I had to watch it in person and (b) it was the effing Giants (on which my feelings are well documented).

I want to believe that tonight’s going to be different, and it should be: Donovan McNabb is acres healthier and more confident than he was at this point last year, and the Birds’ defense is playing with a ton of swagger.  But the Bears are no joke, at least on defense.  A vengeful Brian Griese may have lit up the Bears’ secondary (oh, the irony!), but the Bucs were completely useless running the ball (I know this mostly because I started Earnest Graham in one of my imaginary football leagues).  From the volume of third-person self references coming out of Tommie Harris, we should expect a similar performance this week.

I have visions of a lot of stalled dink-and-dunk offense from the Birds, nervous stops from the defense, and a game that isn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter.  I think the Birds win because the Eagles’ defense is feeling strong and because Donovan McNabb doesn’t like to lose in his home town, but I think it’ll be a hassle all the way.  Let’s call it 23-17 Birds.

(Also, really nice Fog Bowl segment on the ESPN pre-game show this morning.  No buddy interview, though.  SIGH.)

So this is what 7-9 looks like (but does it get anyone fired?)
Posted on October 22nd, 2007 at 10:06 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

mediocrity has a new nameI don’t think the Eagles are terrible. Sure, the defense came up pretty small at the end of the game against the Bears, but they also stopped the Bears inside the five-yard line on a prior drive, so let’s assume those plays even out. And the offense moved the ball decently well, and probably could have scored at least one more TD, but they never looked explosive or dangerous.

All in all, it wasn’t good, it wasn’t too bad, and when it mattered most, the Eagles couldn’t get it done, so they lose this week. 

I think this game is how most of the Birds’ remaining games will go. They’ll be in most games, but will sputter or succeed based on a few high-stress plays at the end of the game.  (Read the rest of this story.)

Feeling 13 percent better about Eagles’ chances in NFC
Posted on August 20th, 2007 at 11:09 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Giggle giggleAfter watching first Jake Delhomme and now Rex Grossman in preseason games, I feel at least 13 percent about the Birds in the NFC. Their ineptitude has a chance to cripple two decently strong teams/ potential rivals for the Birds in the NFC.

And that is totally sweet. 

Delhomme looked worse than the night last December when his overwhelming desire to commit silly turnovers jumpstarted the Eagles’ run to the playoffs, and Grossman couldn’t really handle the exchange from center.

At least the Panthers did something about the problem in the offseason by bringing in David Carr; the Bears continue to stand by the Sex Cannon. What can the other players think at this point? Grossman is edging into Chuck Knoblauch territory — he just looks crushed out there. Yikes. And, from the sound of it, this isn’t lost on the Chicago fans, who realize that this dude is going to clown the chances of their otherwise strong team. Oh well!

(This is all great for the Birds. Even if 5 isn’t in there, I still think the Eagles will get more consistency from the QB position than these two teams. Good for us.)

3 large drops of sweat [Chicago Tribune]