What Would Buddy Do?
Friday Eagles Hangover: this week, it’s mostly just the turkey (and all the alcohol)
Posted on November 28th, 2008 at 10:17 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie


What a pleasant surprise: 48-20? Happy Thanksgiving!

In a game that couldn’t have gone better for the Eagles (save for Max-Jean Gilles getting hurt), all the flailing parts of the team suddenly looked competent and the team rolled over a Cardinals team that wasn’t actually ever in it. The quarterback was accurate and focused, the running back looked spry, the offensive line played their best game in months, the wide receivers held onto balls that didn’t hit them square in the chest, and the new-look secondary made a bunch of plays against the best wide-receiver combo in the league.

My day-after observations:

Oh no, this is going to make Andy Reid especially smug, isn’t it.  Let’s see, capture early lead throwing the ball, force other team to throw, run the ball against humiliated, desperate defense, pin ears back on defense, cruise to victory against tired opponent.  Great.  You were right all along, Andy!  Feel free to chuck it 55 times against the Giants.  The road to 7-8-1 is paved with wins like these!

The lines came to play.  When was the last time the Eagles pushed another team around this thoroughly at the line of scrimmage (on both sides of the ball)?  I can’t even remember.  The play consistently took place on the wrong side of the Cards’ line of scrimmage.  I guess the boys on the offensive side must’ve really taken those anonymous comments to heart.

The Cards must have really suffered in the short week.  Must not have been time for a lot of film study.  I mean, how else to explain not seeing the shovel pass?  Everyone in the Delaware Valley as well as each of the Birds’ NFC East opponents knew that was coming.  Comical.

Looks like opponents are taking the CamelCased One seriously.  Dare we say more seriously than the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook?  The Cards completely overpursued Jackson on the fake end-around that Westbrook took down to the three.  Huh.  Can’t say we hate that.

Take that, Prime Time curse.  The Eagles finally won one at night!  With the Browns looming on Monday Night in a couple weeks, well, they might even win a second.

I hope Lito Sheppard doesn’t have trouble selling his house.  Let’s see, undrafted free agent Joselio Hanson not only starts but picks off a pass, and Lito Sheppard had the coverage on not one, not two, but all three Cardinals’ TDs.  Looks like we’ve found the weakest link.

Pass me a vial of whatever they stuck in Brian Westbrook.  Didn’t look too gimpy last night, though most of his running was vertical and between the tackles (not a lot of stretch plays or sweeps).  Whatever.  It was a treat to have B-West making plays.

And we’re off.  Actually hitting up the Flyboys this afternoon, and looking forward to it.

Giants game preview part 2 (what I’m watching)
Posted on November 9th, 2008 at 6:05 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

As I’ve already covered the top-shelf storylines and offered a proposed final score for the Eagles - Giants game tonight, I apologize for the high miscellanea-to-actual-football-content ratio in this post. But it wouldn’t be the Giants game if I didn’t spoil myself a bit. So in addition to the overeating I’m planning for the game tonight (pulled pork that I’ve been slow-cooking for hours, mac and cheese, cole slaw, cocktail weenies, pecan pie — yeah, bad), I’m also treating myself to a bonus game preview/ football Sunday post.

What I’ll be shouting about during tonight’s game (or have already shouted about this afternoon):

Feeling oddly at peace in re: Plax. I’m typically paranoid about Plaxico Burress ahead of Giants games, but this time I’m feeling pretty relaxed about him. Not that he isn’t a great player who seems to enjoy Eagles-killing plays, but I guess I’m just taking it for granted that he’ll score against the Birds. As in, there are plenty of other things to worry about that might not actually happen; it isn’t worth sweating the givens, however disagreeable they may be.

Just to repeat in re: top-shelf storylines. Yup, I’m just as apprehensive in re: the Birds’ ability to handle the Giants at the line of scrimmage as I was yesterday. Just checking in on that.

Early test of the post-Phils afterglow? Now that the Phillies have won, we’re all supposed to be relatively mellow about the other teams for a little bit, right? As in, the Phightins won the World Series, so we all should have a sense of perspective w/r/t the other teams in town. Yup. Looks good on paper, doesn’t it. The Seahawks were a pretty easy landing last weekend, but bringing in the Giants for a primetime game at the Linc just a week later? That’s a cruel, cruel test of the constitution of our Sports Feelings’ Soul. And I wish I could pretend it was one I wasn’t going to fail miserably.

Update your bookmarks. Ugh. Enough with the splash page on the Birds’ official site. That splash page is the Saved By Zero of philadelphiaeagles.com. You want “index2.html” to go straight to the content. Speaking of, they’re pushing extended online coverage of tonight’s game on NFL.com — need to make sure I keep an eye on that.

Speaking of game coverage. The Jets were the Fox early game in New York. That would be the 40-0 at halftime Jets game. Fox stayed with it until halfway through the fourth quarter (it’s the home team, I know, they have to, but still). Yawn. If the NFL was willing to sell me more games, I wouldn’t have flipped the channel to a very exciting MLS game (Allez les RBVs!). Oh well.

Things I’m dreading ahead of the game. Brian Dawkins getting turned around and then run over by a Brandon Jacobs with a bit of momentum. McNabb losing a fumble on a sack. The Eagles throwing eight times in a row in the first quarter. A David Akers miss. Wasted timeouts due to jumpiness in re: blitzes.

Things I’m hopeful about ahead of the game. DeSean Jackson going out of his way to make a big play on national television. A more mobile McNabb extending plays. A stout game from the Eagles’ defensive tackles. A pick from Omar Gaither. Continued heroics from Juqua Parker. Brian Westbrook’s deep personal animosity for the New York Giants manifesting itself in many many touchdowns.

And that’s what I’ve got for you. Off to negotiations with the pulled pork. Go Birds.

Proper Birds handle Nerdbirds; woe be unto sports fans of C@L
Posted on November 3rd, 2008 at 4:11 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

coaching em up

And we’re back.

Following a sometimes soggy but always glorious weekend in the Pacific Northwest, BountyBowl is back on Eastern (Standard) Time and ready to sign. Respect must be paid to our hosts out west as well as the benefactors who hooked us up with game tickets and other entertainments — it was a great trip. Mercifully, the Eagles pitched and made sure we also got a result. We wouldn’t say it was a barnburner of a game, but, well, 26-7 is a lot better than it otherwise could have been, especially coming out of a nervy first quarter. What we noticed at Qwest Field:

About the first five minutes. Whew. Ugly start for the Birds — both flavors. You know it’s an odd game when there have been five total possessions and there are still 10 minutes and 45 seconds left in the first quarter. That’s what a 90-yard touchdown and four three-and-outs will do to you. For the uninitiated — essentially, non-NFC West opponents — the opening quarter at Qwest Field is usually pretty dicey. The crowd is always on their feet and screaming for the better part of the first quarter; I liked that the Eagles kept their poise and didn’t panic. Then the crowd settles in a bit, the initial chaos clears, and things get a bit more balanced. Good on the Eagles for not freaking out.

Lito the ostensible starter. Sheldon Brown was initially on the field for the Birds’ first defensive play, but was replaced before the snap by Lito. So that means that Lito was the starter? I think I liked him better as a backup — he bit on the pump fake like a rookie on what was really the Birds’ only horrible defensive snap.

Evil Dunavin returns! I was making jokes to my Seattle crew before the game about how Evil Dunavin had shown up for the first quarter against the Falcons, and lo — he returned for the opening frame against the Nerdbirds! I guess Dunavin must not like seafood, because he looked just plain miserable on the Jumbotron all day. Mercifully he came around after the awkward start and made a couple sweet plays dodging traffic in the pocket. Those definitely looked cool in person.

Poor L.J. Smith. Andy Reid did a nice job standing up for L.J. today (by essentially claiming that Brent Celek’s big day was possible because he doesn’t command the sort of attention that L.J. does), and for this we admire Big Red. Thankfully, this sort of game didn’t happen at home. Also, the conspiracy theorists on the team (Lito, we’re looking at you), would likely point to Celek’s big day as some sort of contract-fueled scheme to highlight the backup guy at the expense of the potentially pricey vet. I don’t think so, though. Celek was great all day — I especially liked that tight-end screen they ran in the fourth quarter. Very classy.

David Akers lives! Good for increasingly beleaguered David Akers — it isn’t kicking at Qwest, and he was rock solid. You keep your job another week!

The heavens smiled on Seattle. I don’t know how or why it happened, but we got extremely lucky with the weather for the game. It was flat-out pouring just 30 minutes before kickoff, and we were sitting in an uncovered part of the stadium. That could have been horrible. Luckily the heavens cleared and — gasp! — it was even sunny for parts of the afternoon. Remarkable!

Things my homer brain was probably imagining. Did it seem like the Seahawks DBs were getting away with a lot of contact in the first half? Or are Kevin Curtis and the CamelCased One just on the small side? (We’ll also accept “a little from column A and a little from column B” here.) Also, The Seahawks PA guy kept exaggerating the Seahawks’ success on a play-to-play basis; he just seemed to be rounding up rather aggressively. Luckily, the refs are still in charge of awarding first downs.

More shaky stuff from Dawk. Because of our collective fondness for Brian Dawkins, let’s try to forget how he whiffed on the Koren Robinson TD and focus instead on the big hit he delivered on the sideline to force an incompletion later in the first quarter. Moving on….

Things that deserve their own post. I’m starting to have dark, lonely thoughts about the Eagles’ offensive line. They just don’t seem to be capable of lining up and pushing the other guys around. And they’ve got a BIG test coming up.

And, finally, a word for our hosts. Dude, I feel ya, Seattle. These are some dark times (literally and figuratively) for sports fans in the Northwest. The Sonics are gone, the Mariners were the worst team in baseball, the Huskies just lost 56-0, and the Seahawks are having a down year. Not a ton of goodness there. I’ve already heard some of the Philly press giving you grief about leaving early, but I can’t say I blame you. Your team didn’t have it yesterday, and it’s not like better days are coming soon.

For the most part (the exception being the drunk jackass in the row in front of us), the Seahawk fans were a chill bunch — folks in our row even leant us a towel to wipe down our seats. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t take any abuse, but it sure subsided after the first quarter. Thank you kindly for hosting us in your stadium and proving that we can all watch sports together without getting too upset about things.

Blown call denies Eagles opportunity to crush fans’ souls in win over Falcons
Posted on October 26th, 2008 at 5:21 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie


Bank error in our favor this afternoon, as a pretty hideous call on a seemingly muffed punt snuffed out any chance for a final Falcons comeback attempt. Certainly we can’t assume that the Falcons would have driven those 60 yards for the go-ahead score, especially with a rookie quarterback and no timeouts, but, well, as Eagles fans, we’re given to a certain glass-half-full worldview at the end of games. So it was lovely of the referees to hook us up on that.

Other thoughts and takeaways from the Eagles’ glorious victory this afternoon.

The Best Player On The Team. Welcome back, Brian Westbrook! That Eagles offense sure looks a lot more confident when the best player on the team is on the field. Westbrook looked limber and quick and didn’t seem to be feeling the effects of his recent rib injury. A buck-sixty-seven will do very well, thank you very much.

The long-awaited quarterback sneak. After weeks of braying from the blathertariat (yours truly included), we finally saw a Donovan McNabb quarterback keeper at the goal line. Which then touched off a Donovan McNabb touchdown celebration/ silly dance, which, quite frankly, we hadn’t seen in a while. The good folks at PE.com were kind enough to post the following ridiculous photos. We start with some Thriller…


…followed by dog-at-the-hydrant…


…and finished with a groin-loosening flourish.


David Akers quiets the haters. It wasn’t the most challenging afternoon for David Akers, but whatever. He made all of his tries, and spared us all the awkwardness of discussing his job security for at least another week.

“Best of the Eagles Playbook” on display this afternoon. As if the split-back set on the goal line leading to a shovel pass wasn’t enough, the Eagles managed to call the fake-dive-and-pitch-outside to Westbrook on third-and-short late in the fourth quarter. That particular call was especially galling, since the result was exactly what our table at the bar expected. That is, prior to the play we specifically discussed how the Eagles would call this exact play as well as the precise manner in which it would fail. We mention this not to beat our chests, but as a stern warning: if idiot fans can call the play, I’m assuming that opposing defensive coordinators can as well.

The redemption of Lito! Good for that number-twenty-six fellow…what’s his name again? The backup cornerback who took that bad PI call but then made the big pick in the end zone? If he keeps trying super hard in practice, maybe he’ll play a little bit more!

Speaking of DBs. We loved the pick from Samuel, but the first Roddy White TD seemed to be as much Asante’s fault as anyone’s — especially since it looked like he was trying to jump the route and go for another interception. Oops. Don’t know if they discussed that on the telecast — we didn’t have audio at the bar.

Another rough day for the officials. In addition to the horrific blown call on the muffed punt, there were a couple other head-scratchers from the zebras, most notably the personal foul on Trent Cole for what was a perfectly textbook hit on Matt Ryan. There was no helmet-to-helmet contact, he hit him as he was throwing…I didn’t really get it.

The CamelCased One shows his age (yet again). So we can understand how DeSean Jackson has convinced himself that he’s still in college and that he can just run faster than everyone else, even if it means running backwards on punt returns. It worked against the Skins, why not try it again? Ugh. Forward, DeSean. Forward. Though it’s worth noting that we’re still excited enough about Jackson that we’re willing to write off yet another brain fart as a “harmless part of his maturation.” Enjoy it whilst it lasts, young fella!

Can Philly go 4-0 for the weekend (the Flyboys won yesterday as well)? We sure hope so. Go Phightins.

Kevin and DeSean, huh?
Posted on October 22nd, 2008 at 4:49 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Just watched Andy Reid’s presser. It contained actual information!

Most interesting/ compelling thing he said: “…it’d be Kevin and DeSean” in re: who will be starting at wideout. Sorry, Reggie Brown!

Least interesting/ compelling thing he said: “I feel like I have an All-Pro tight end” in re: a question about L.J. Smith. That’s probably why you guys went after Tony Gonzalez! So you could have two All-Pro tight ends!

Angst regarding bus travel, uncomfortable weather drew DeSean Jackson to football
Posted on October 22nd, 2008 at 10:18 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Cool piece in this morning’s Inquirer about Eagles’ rookie wideout DeSean Jackson and his erstwhile talent for baseball.  As you might imagine, DeSean was “good at sports” as a kid, and had something of an aptitude for more than just football. 

Things I learned from said article included: (1) DeSean was a speedy leadoff guy (Um, yeah, that makes sense), (2) DeSean’s dad lived in the same house as Roberto Clemente growing up (Huh?), (3) both the Phils and Rays took a look at him as a high schooler (How relevant!), and (4) the DeSean Jackson Is Cocky ™ meme is alive and well.

Certainly the CamelCased One doesn’t lack for confidence:

“I was definitely pretty good,” Jackson said. “I had a lot of speed. I was a leadoff hitter, and I’d get on and steal second base. Sometimes, I’d be risky and steal third. Sometimes, I’d even try to steal home. I led my league in steals and batted like .400.

“I thought about [baseball], and I didn’t like the idea of going on long bus trips and playing in the middle of nowhere when it was hot. I know it takes a long time to get to the big leagues, and I couldn’t see myself sitting in a hotel room watching football, because it’s something I love.”

Mercifully, DeSean hasn’t forgotten his Nuke LaLoosh media training, and quickly followed up with a salvo of rookie-appropriate cliches:

“I might pull my Deion out after this football thing is over,” Jackson said in reference to former two-sport star Deion Sanders. “It seems like it would be tough to do both. I’m just playing football and that’s tough, so I can only imagine what it’s like to do both.”

Yes yes, it looks very difficult for you.

I think there are plenty of footballs (also, Greg Lewis can have a seat)
Posted on October 21st, 2008 at 10:30 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

G Lew

With the ostensible return of Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown to the Eagles’ lineup this weekend (though there’s still plenty of time for Brown to strain a groin before Sunday), talk has turned to the Eagles’, hold on, deep breath, suddenly deep and talented receiving corps.

With the what now? 

Are we actually using phrases like “There are enough balls to go around”?  Really?  Because of a win against the Niners?  What about the two weeks of lousy against the Skins and Bears?  Personally, I think the Eagles’ receivers are just fine — certainly not elite, but definitely competent when healthy.  But this isn’t the 1992 Dream Team; I expect most fans will be content if the Eagles can muster up just a few big plays from their wideouts.  I certainly don’t think we have to worry about hurting these guys’ feelings.

Of course, a healthy Curtis means that someone among Baskett, Avant and Greg Lewis is likely going to sit this week.  Um, again, I don’t think this is an advanced-placement-level question: the answer is Greg Lewis.  I guess he and his 172 lbs. play a little special teams, but so do brand-new linebackers. 

Of course, the larger question here is what happens to young Master DeSean.  I really hope that having Curtis and Brown healthy doesn’t land him on the bench, and instead is used “as an excuse to find him deep in single coverage.”  That’d be sweet. 

Iggles Blog vs. BountyBowl Bye Week Blogganza (#2)
Posted on October 16th, 2008 at 3:07 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So we’re rolling with another call-and-response dialectic with Derek at Iggles Blog.  He led off, and now I’ll attempt to provide some mildly witty/ interesting responses.  Game on! 


Derek, Derek, Derek.  If our recent series of presidential debates have taught us anything, it’s that the form requires, no, demands that one ignore the first question and instead take 90 seconds to graciously welcome and thank everyone in attendance.  So screw whatever it is that nerd from PBS wanted to know about “economic policy,” I need to thank the janitorial staff here at Hofstra for doing such a nice job with the wastebasket in the green room.  The Philly sports blog equivalent is the following:

“Before we say another word about the Birds, CONGRATS TO THE PHIGHTINS!  The Phils are going to the World Series!  Our oft-jilted city is four wins away from a moment of great rejoicing!  Let us send each other celebratory text messages!”

(Seriously.  We couldn’t be more fired up about the Phils.  I’m not going to say that they’ll actually take over as the city’s number-one team, but, um, with the bye week looming, well, I assume we’re all going to enjoy an affair with the Phils.  Now I need to make my peace with the amount of money I’m going to throw at tickets.)

Aight.  Time for football.

First things first — the CamelCased one, young Master DeSean.  Two weeks ago, after seeing him in person, I decided to go all-in on DeSean.  I had tried to play it cool, act all cautiously optimistic about him, poo-poo his achievements by insisting that he was just a rookie, etc etc.  Nope.  I’m there.  I agree with you that he’s the most exciting thing to happen to the team since early 2005 (?); what I think you mean here is really “most exciting thing since #81 started doing sit-ups in the driveway”?

Certainly my newfound fondness for DeSean is not without its risks.  That is, said fondness hasn’t changed the fact that DeSean is still 168 pounds.  Seeing him get clotheslined in the second half against the Niners was particularly sobering; that’s the sort of hit that reminds us that small guys happen to get injured more frequently than more stout fellows.

All that said, WOW.  The speed is what the eye notices first, but I agree with you that he seems to get how to get open against zones.  And his hands have been fairly reliable (with some exceptions), especially for a rookie.  I’m actually at the point where I consider any play that involves DeSean to be “an excellent coaching decision” that demonstrates Andy Reid’s subtle and uniue genius.  As in, it is never a bad idea to give DeSean the ball.  For the past couple years, the only other person whose qualified for that sort of praise is Westbrook.  (The opposite of this would be any play involving Lorenzo Booker.)  So there we are.  Six games in, I’ve got him in the same category as the Best Running Back In the NFL in 2007.

DeSean also puts to rest one of the most boring Eagles memes of the past 8 years: The Eagles Need A Number-One Wideout ™.  Seriously.  It’s done.  And I don’t want to hear that he’s too small to be a Number-One guy.  Steve Smith is 5′9″ (though a fair amount heavier than Jackson).  It’s done.  DeSean Jackson is this team’s playmaker for the next 5-6 years (pending catastrophic injuries, of course).

This is part of the reason why I wasn’t particularly bothered by the Roy Williams (sub two) trade to the Cowboys.  We actually didn’t really need that as desperately as we all had thought in March, and we certainly didn’t need it at the price the Cowboys paid.  Cheers to Jerry Jones for making a potentially franchise-crippling trade for an admittedly mercurial guy.  Couldn’t happen to a better group of folks!

Now to your other points.  I’m not sure I totally understand your presumptive blame of the coaching staff for mistakes they might make in the future, but I’m definitely on board for “the rest of the league has film on Andy Reid and they pretty much know what’s coming.”  You know how I know that?  Because we all know what’s coming.  An incompletion on first down?  What do you think we’re doing on 2nd-and-ten?  I imagine we’ll hear Big Red describing how they’ve been self-scouting over the bye, looking for tendencies, blah blah blah.  I’m sure they will.  But will it be enough?  Or is the playbook just stale?

Things I do blame the coaches for: that horrific play at the goal line against the Skins.  There was confusion on the field?  Right.  That’s all on coaching (not just poor, predictable LJ Smith).  And of course the Dallas game.

Now it’s my turn.  The bye week is a good time to revisit old predictions and invent some new ones.  So what’s going to shock us over the second half of the season?  What’s shocked you in the first half?  If you’d prefer a bit more direction, a couple nominees:

1.  This Darren Howard fellow.  Do my eyes mistake me, or is Howard actually playing well right now?  Was this the guy we were supposed to see two years ago?

2. Your buddy David Akers.  I feel badly talking about it since he might actually read one of these things, but, um, things aren’t looking so good there.  Do you think that he’ll be the kicker at the end of the season?  Give me the scenarios that might put his job in jeopardy?

3.  Finally one of your favorites: do the Eagles have one of the best young linebacking corps in the NFL or are they still a player short at best?

4. Is the NFC East still the best division in football?

5. BONUS: give me something I don’t see coming but should, both for the Eagles and the rest of the division.

Bring it.

Birds confirm existence of less organized teams than themselves in win over Niners
Posted on October 12th, 2008 at 8:33 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Whew!  Close one.  I was admittedly nervous until the spread-busting return from Juqua Parker nee Thomas.  Note well that a play prior to that I had remarked to my buddy that it struck me as odd that a defensive end was dropped so deep in coverage at the snap; it wasn’t like they were showing a four-man front and then he dropped into coverage.  Nope, he was playing linebacker (in the post-game coverage I’m sure there will be much discussion of the “Joker” linebacker position).

We’ve actually got a full house coming for the Phightins here at BountyBowl HQ, so expect post-game reactions to trickle through slowly.  Still, my quick hitters after the game:

David Akers makes it through the bye week.  Did he actually make the challenged one?  We’ll never know.  Leads one to wonder why there isn’t a more definitive camera angle for that sort of thing, but hey, we’re more than happy that Nolan wasted a challenge on it.  If he had missed it…and the block…and well…you can kind of guess what the big storyline would have been in a loss.

Game balls to the deserving vets.  Correll Buckhalter and Juqua Parker nee Thomas, take a bow.  You guys both played great games — heart-and-soul-of-the-team-type games.  And it’s nice to see it from the guys who aren’t on the cover of the media guide or on the tickets. I thought Buck’s stamina was especially impressive; he really seemed to keep running with energy deep in the game.  And Parker, well, we wrote the following two weeks ago, and it feels even more true today, “Also, at what point can we admit that Juqua Parker is playing really well and isn’t some sort of undersized liability?”  Juqua Parker, you’ve earned yourself a place in my official taxonomy: enjoy your tag.  Quintin Mikell is an honorable mention here.

Heroics in the secondary.  Speaking of, the Birds were a couple diving deflections away from some scary things late in that game.  Kudos to Sheldon Brown and Mikell for making some huge plays.  Also Dawk stepped up and got stronger later in the game (who needed to make up for some sloppy tackling earlier in the game).

Lito’s hurt?  Dude.  I mean.  They’re going to give you grief for that.  It’s not fair, but they will.

Andy Reid isn’t actually crazy.  That is, he seems to have agreed with the assembled masses and majority of the blathertariat (yours truly included) that DeSean Jackson is the best guy they have on offense with Westbrook out.  Jackson seemed to have gotten a lot of different looks and touches, and the kid played well.  I get more excited about him every week.

Takeo Spikes, you’re a cruel, cruel man.  Dude, you catch JUST ONE ball that hits you in the chest last year and the Birds might have made the playoffs (the Seattle game was the most offensive).  And now you gotta be picking off Dunavin in the red zone?  Seriously?

That’s it for now.  More later, let’s go Phightins.

Eagles - Niners Preview: what horrors await?
Posted on October 12th, 2008 at 12:07 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So that makes two weeks in a row of abject horror and frustration for Eagles’ fans.  The last two games, both tough losses, haven’t exactly been delightful samples of NFL entertainment.  We’ve watched our favorite team make crucial mistakes and get pushed around by decent-but-not-great opponents.  We rationalized the loss in week 2 to the Cowboys because we talked ourselves into the Cowboys being sooooo good.  We’re now out of excuses on that front.  The Birds are now in a position where they have to convince us that they are slightly better than mediocre.  And even that is unlikely to be settled this week.

Whatever anxiety you might feel as an Eagles’ fan today, don’t for a second think there’s a scenario where you feel significantly better at 8 pm this evening.  That is, even if the Eagles do emphatically win on the road, what do we know?  That the Eagles can triumph against another middle-of-the-road team?  Super.  Then we have two weeks to think about being 3-3 in the toughest division in the NFL.  And if they lose, well, time to dust off the Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid eulogies.

This is all a long way of saying that very little will be awesome this afternoon or for the next two weeks, and there’s the possibility that things could be really really awful for Eagles fans.  It’s the Kobiyashi Maru.

Everyone got that?  Sound sweet?  Negadelphia eanough for you?  Okay, on to things that’ll make me shout at the TV this afternoon:

What I imagine the Niners will be up to.  On offense?  How about Frank Gore off tackle left.  Followed by Frank Gore off tackle right.  Followed by Frank Gore off tackle left.  Lather rinse repeat.  The Eagles got downright pushed around last week, especially to the outside in the running game.  I imagine that the Niners will try to challenge the Eagles in a similar way.  And man do I hope that the Birds are up to stopping them.

What I hope the Eagles will be up to.  Throw it to number 10.  Run it with number 10.  Get him deep.  Run wide-receiver screens.  I’m shocked that a rookie is far and away the Birds’ most threatening player at this point, but he is.  And he’s got a bit of a homecoming thing happening here (played college ball across the bay) — let him show the locals that he’s a baller.  Sure, he might do something stupid, but that’s the rookie tax, and given the dearth of actual playmakers who made the trip, I think we’re all willing to pay it.

25?  Have a seat next to 37.  Fingers crossed that the Klecko-to-fullback move actually means Hunt-to-tailback which actually means Booker-to-bench.  Booker isn’t a lost cause quite yet, but it’s too early to expect much from him.  We’ll all feel better (especially 5) if he doesn’t see too many snaps.

Will Curtis play?  I would assume Curtis’ participation will be similar to Reggie Brown’s first week back — he’ll be out there, might see a ball or two, but we can’t expect fireworks.  Now’s definitely the moment to snag him in your imaginary football leagues though.

Does LJ read PFT?  So the Birds are interested in Tony Gonzalez?  How you feeling about that contract extension, LJ?

The defense is officially on the hook this week.  Shame on us all for focusing on the offense this week.  The Birds need their defense to play well if they’re going to win against the Niners.  We should assume a mediocre showing from the offense — they’re missing a bunch of starters.  The defense?  Nope.  They look pretty healthy.  This team needs help, and the defense was humiliated by the Redskins last week.   Sooo, Trent Cole, Asante Samuel, and other defensive players whose jerseys get sold?  Time to participate in the culture of accountability!

Obligatory David Akers non-excuse.  Dude, we do NOT want to hear about how windy it is out in San Francisco.  Seriously.  I’m mentioning this in advance.

A humble request.  Can the kickoff return team make a play?  Being in the stadium last week I finally got to see what the return team was up to, and it wasn’t very impressive.  Blocking was beat, and Demps seemed content to barrel into the back of the pile.  It’d be nice to start a drive beyond the 25-yard line.

And the score?  I’m a sucker.  A total sucker.  I actually believe that the Eagles can tough this out.  I think they’ll need some sort of Donovan McNabb scramble on a big play in the fourth quarter to seal it, but I think they get it done (ever so barely): Eagles 26, 49ers 22.

Go Birds.

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