What Would Buddy Do?
In case things weren’t going perfectly enough for Eagles fans this week
Posted on January 15th, 2009 at 11:29 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

What’s that?  The Cowboys have decided that a certain wide receiver might be more trouble than he’s worth?  You don’t say:

“I think we all know that chemistry is the problem with this team more than the schemes or anything else,” a Cowboys source said. “Are we going to continue to allow talent to outweigh everything else in the decisions we make with players and putting the roster together? We’re like the Redskins used to be when they signed every player they wanted. There’s more to it than talent. It has to be more about the team.

“The big one [Owens] didn’t get discussed yet, but I’m sure it will and real hard.”

If that isn’t enough, perhaps some discussion of Eli Manning becoming a member of the $100-million club, then?  And Giants fans aren’t universally thrilled?

“You see $120 million and it just seems like too much money,” said Nizam Abdul, 40, of Ozone Park, holding a copy of the Daily News with Manning on the front page.

“Besides, he lost the game,” said Abdul, still stinging from Sunday’s 23-11 loss to the Eagles. “Everyone is still upset about it.”

Yes yes, I’m serving heavy doses of Haterade.  It’s not very nice.  I know.

Monday Eagles Hangover: the cure for hangovers is obviously EAGLES AWESOMENESS
Posted on January 12th, 2009 at 8:42 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

thatza touchdown

Been quite an interesting 36 hours for your humble author. From a windswept and cold tailgate at the Meadowlands to the best Eagles game in recent memory to the Happiest Place On Earth ™ and back, I can’t certainly complain of a lack of variety in my stimuli. And as I return home this evening in my big-boy pants and assorted standard-issue Banana Republic work clothes (with my cold-weather Eagles costume furtively stuffed into my carry-on baggage like some sort of smuggled sports-feelings WMDs), I’ve still got a glow about me.

Surely that’s the only way I made it through this little trip, which should have left me pretty worn out and haggard.  (Certainly my decision to “celebrate” throughout the day alone should have left me a little slow.)  Nope. I’m feeling great. Been feeling great all day. Such is the impact of this level of Eagles Awesomeness: it might have the power to cure hangovers and remove the need for sleep. We’re having scientists, trained scientists, look into it right now.

My day-after storylines and bulletpoints (written mostly without my usual embarrassingly exhaustive review of the mainstream post-game content, but we’ll take what we can get):

All hail the defense. Um, so at what point can we suggest that this is the best Eagles defense since 1991? What will it take? That defense, you might remember, didn’t shine like this one has in the post-season, and were more consistently dominant. They also had a bit of mean-spirited swagger that doesn’t seem evident in this team. For all the ferocity that this Eagles defense brings on the field, they’re not bullies. They’re not the Ravens. They just succeed, but without seeming to engender many bad vibes from opponents.

All that said, the worst thing I’ve ever heard uttered about Brian Dawkins. I actually heard someone a few rows back say, “I hope Brian Dawkins breaks his leg.” Out loud! Doesn’t he know that God might be listening and will surely punish him dearly for such a remark?

One of these weeks someone will figure it out. Westbrook doesn’t have it. He doesn’t. He’d love to prove us all wrong (like he did on the screen pass against the Vikings), but the jump isn’t there. We probably won’t get a straight answer on how hurt he is for a long time — some knee thing, the dread high ankle sprain, the ribs — hopefully at least three weeks. But he isn’t the weapon that we imagine him to be. Part of that probably has to do with the defenses he’s faced in the last month, but he just doesn’t look quite as quick. Still, as long as he’s willing to step on the field, folks will have to ignore him at their peril — especially in a warm-weather game on grass.

So if B-West isn’t carrying the offense, who is? Well duh. It’s the quarterback and a suddenly consistent group of receivers. Is it fair to say that McNabb has entered a new stage in his career over the past two months? This might be worth it’s own post, but it sure feels like he’s bringing the polished passing skills he’s acquired in the past couple years together with a determination and desperation (especially on third down) that he seemed to have last had in 2002. And I’m probably imaginging things here, but he actually seems more confident than he has in a while. Even when things haven’t gone well the past couple weeks, he’s been fairly unflappable. Makes me smile.

The things we carried.  I took a commemorative white towel with Giants’ logos all over it from a marketing/ promotions drone when I entered the stadium. The attendant looked at my Trent Cole jersey and Eagles hat and gave me a “Really?” “I want a souvenir to remember this by.” Pretty happy with that decision. I’ll put it on the shelf with my Phils towel from the NLCS and my plastic coffee mug from Fourth-and-26.

Stoppable (!).  I couldn’t tell who turned on Eli first: the fans or Tom Coughlin. Folks in section 108 were not happy with young Mr. Manning yesterday. The pick to Samuel prompted a chorus of anti-Eli haterade from the assembled Giants’ fans. I cannot explain how happy this made me.  To see them turn so quickly: it meant they were very much on edge heading into the game, and suggested that they were rightly terrified of the Eagles.  And with so much time to play!  It was truly glorious.  Though I guess Coughlin wasn’t far behind the fans, in that he essentially gave up on throwing the ball in the second half.

Speaking of, you know who loves to say, “I told you so?”  Everyone.  But mostly Derek gets to say it today.  When he wrote this, I was just psyched that he was telling us the Giants wouldn’t win the Super Bowl (I was happy with “anyone but the Giants” at that point).  But to have the Birds be the ones to beat them, TWICE?  Heh heh heh. Take a bow.

And one more shot at the Giants’ fans.  Dude, y’all certainly left that stadium puh-retty early — certainly a lot earlier than I was personally convinced that the game was over.  I guess my pessimism about games not being over until they are actually over — which is what happens when your team surrenders two blocked-kick TDs at the end of the first half in a single season — is stronger than your willingness to cheer your team, THE DEFENDING SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS, until the final whistle of the season.  I mean, really, why bother?

Yeah, I’m still soaring with this one.  Go Birds.

(Correction: I unforgivably misspelled Brodrick Bunkley’s first name in an earlier post.  No excuses.  Bad form from me.  Sloppy.)

Eagles - Giants Game Preview: It’s cold outside, and we wouldn’t have it any other way
Posted on January 11th, 2009 at 9:48 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Of course the Birds would have to play the Giants.  Of course.  As if it wasn’t offensive enough that the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, now they have a chance (a four-point chance at home with a bye week in the mix) to end the Eagles’ season.  It’s been a glorious and serendipitous couple weeks for the Eagles and their fans, but now we’ve to deal with the defending champs.  And I’ve signed up to watch it in person.

Certainly I can feel emboldened by our previous trip to the Meadowlands.  Sure, the intensity on the field and in the stands was different that day, and the Giants’ fans in our section were very polite (even before it was obvious that the Birds were beating them down), but that was definitely my best-ever Eagles experience in that stadium.

I do not expect a repeat of that experience today, either from the Eagles or the locals.    This is going to be as tough as it gets on the field and in the stands (I swear I’m not going to lose my temper if I absorb a snowball in the head — I will bend like the reed in the wind!).

But here’s the thing — can we ask for much more than this?  Even if the Eagles win, any matchup the following week will be a letdown.  The defending champs in rough conditions in their own soon-to-be-retired stadium?  With two of the best defensive teams in the league?  If the NFC East has its own set of Gods, surely they must be pleased by this offering.  As a fan, even if it doesn’t go our way, I consider myself lucky to have a seat for this one.

(At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it.  I’ll be a complete lunatic by kickoff I’m sure.  At least I can say I made a commercially reasonable effort to be an adult.)

What I’ll be shouting about:

I’m looking for someone to convince me that the Eagles will succeed on offense.  The weather is going to make it difficult to throw the ball effectively.  The offensive line didn’t get much of a push last week against the Vikings (though admittedly the Vikings are pretty tough against the run), the starting fullback (Buckhalter) weighs as much as I do (yikes!), and the starting running back continues to limp.  Can McNabb and the wideouts be strong enough — again — to move the chains?  That might be asking a lot.  I dunno.  It’s a bit disheartening.

Speaking of, Jon Runyan doesn’t look good.  And I don’t just mean because of his hirsute appearance or cretinous manner of discourse.  He didn’t move well against the Vikings last week, and I can’t imagine he’ll move any better in 28-degree weather.  But hey, he’s only facing Justin Tuck, that shouldn’t be a problem.  We can only assume that Runyan will have an ungodly cocktail of painkillers pumped into his bloodstream before the game and that he’ll hobble through it again.  Don’t worry, Jon.  Walking in your forties is completely overrated.

And then, the apocalypse scenario.  Runyan or one of the guards gets hurt.  Mike McGlynn is on IR.  Thus would Winston Justice enter the game.  That will be the point where my wife has permission to roofie me for the remainder of the game.

First tackle.  First foul.  First shot.  First goal (1).  So last week it was Brian Dawkins who established the appropriate level of violence with his brutal shot on Adrian Peterson.  Who’s going to step up with a big hit early this week?  Feels like it’s Sheldon Brown’s turn.

First tackle.  First foul.  First shot.  First goal (2).  Given my general level of concern about the offense’s ability to succeed against the Giants, it’s extremely important that the Eagles survive the inevitable rush of enthusiasm from New York in the first few minutes of the game.  Going down by more than 10 points in the first half could be deadly.

I wish I could be more excited about the special teams.  After the Minnesota game, I assumed that special teams would be an advantage for the Birds.  Then I remembered how David Akers is completely spooked by the Meadowlands and how multiple field goals were blocked.  Still, this will be the rookies’ place to shine today.  We’ve come to expect it from DeSean Jackson; wouldn’t it be lovely if we got something special from Demps?  The Giants struggle in their kickoff coverage — it could happen.

Things that do not worry me.  The Giants’ passing offense.  I imagine that the Eagles’ secondary thinks they can handle the Giants’ wideouts, and I imagine that they’d be correct.  And I’d also say I’m especially emboldened in this prediction after pulling my little stats in defense of Tavaris Jackson the other day.

Things that might worry us.  As well as the Eagles have defended the run over the past two months (really since the first Giants game), I still think they’ll have a tough time of it versus the G-Men today.  The Birds didn’t get a week off, and it’s cold outside — you can imagine them wearing down a bit.

Do we have bandwidth for one more superhero performance from 36?  It is unlikely that the Eagles will be able to win without a superhuman effort from the gimpy 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook.  Westbrook had enough for the Eagles to win last week, but he didn’t look consistently strong throughout the game.  I can’t imagine that the Eagles win without Westbrook making at least one big play.  The nice thing about Westbrook is that he completely terrifies Giants fans.  In the parking lot a month ago, more than one person was still haunted by his punt return in 2003 — and then he goes and scores twice that afternoon.  Seriously, he has them spooked.  Also, if the wideouts don’t catch the ball, the Birds are cooked.

Hopefully they’ll score before they get to the 20.  Things haven’t looked so good in the red zone of late.  Huh.  Guess they’ll have to score from 21+ yards out!

Actual prediction.  Rational brain, you go away now, and stop reminding me how healthy the Giants are and how the Eagles have a pretty limited ceiling on offense, and how the conditions favor the rested, ball-control offense.  Instead, suggest that the Eagles’ defense really might be that good, and that Andy Reid and Jim Johnson are up to the challenge today.  I can’t imagine either team making it much past 20 points; let’s hope the Eagles are on the friendly side of that number.  Luckily, we can all rest assured that churches throughout the Delaware valley are filled with young men and boys ignoring a series of horrific wars around the globe and are silently praying for an Eagles victory.  And really, who are we to argue with the power of prayer?  Eagles 17, Giants 16.

GO BIRDS.

Eagles - Cowboys Game Preview: immanetize the eschaton
Posted on December 28th, 2008 at 11:32 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Much like Andy Reid and the Eagles, we’re playing this game preview straight.  Now is not the time to fret about playoff scenarios and the likely end of some very very very impressive Eagles’ careers.  Now is the time to focus on the Cowboys game and the last couple days of coverage in the papers.  We’ll have time later (and by “later” we mean “in thirty minutes”) for a lengthy discussion of our sports feelings and the end-of-days scenarios for our favorite players.

What we’re talking about today:

The new kid might also be a choke artist (!).  In what might be a hint of blathermonkey/ fan angst for years to come, we had a volley of DeSean Jackson coverage rounding out the end of the holiday week.  The CamelCased One is certainly primed to be the next star for this team, and as such will need to shoulder a fair amount of heavy scrutiny for the next couple years.  While it’s great to hear that he’s the team’s playmaker (which we’d been pushing for a while) and that Andy Reid expects him to make plays, catch the ball, all that, the thing that’s nagging me about DeSean is that maybe he gets nervous too.  That is, he dropped the ball with the game/ season on the line.  For the franchise whose quarterback famously puked in the Super Bowl, it’s not exactly sweet that the alleged best player on our team for the next few years appears to get nervous at the end of the game.  Not to panic, but I think it’s fair to be be VERY VERY disturbed by this.

Everyone’s favorite Eagle.  Fittingly, L.J. Smith won’t play today (listed as doubtful), in what has to be his final game as an Eagle.  How appropriate!  Topics that merit revisiting after the season: how terrible a decision was it to bring back L.J. Smith?  The cynics amongst us can pin at least two-and-a-half Eagles’ losses indirectly to him (Chicago, both Washington games).  What if a Terminator came back through time and prevented the Eagles from franchising him last year?  Would the Birds have won one more of those games?  Sort of like a retroactive roster abortion?

End of days, Part 1.  So now it looks like conventional wisdom has Dunavin coming back for the Eagles next year.  Sweet.  There.  I said it.  Also, that was about the only thing I got right in this set of mid-season predictions. By the way.  Though I was close on B-West not breaking 900 yards rushing (he’s at 886 right now) and Shawn Andrews not playing another down.

End of Days, Part 2.  So Dawk has to be back next year, no?  He made the Pro Bowl, which is probably partially a lifetime achievement/ he’s a popular guy around the league thing, but still.  He’s at least going to be in camp.    And those bitter, bitter comments from Tra Thomas.  Wow.  I hope he isn’t pissed on his way out.  GREAT Eagle.  Runyan too.  Big sigh.  We’ll have more time for this in the next few weeks.

Speaking of, an offseason of villainy.  Remember the guys who cut Duce Staley and Jeremiah Trotter?  Yeah.  They’re back.  Get ready to turn your hatred on the front office.

This week’s blathertariat non-story.  So the quarterback is telling people he’s played well.  Uh huh.  So maybe his delivery wasn’t perfect, but, um, doesn’t everybody do that?  That is, when you hand in your performance review at work, do you tell everyone you think you sucked?  Didn’t get the kerfuffle here.  What I thought was interesting was how Andy Reid addressed the non-story on Friday:

“He has done very well. I think, statistically, when you look at it, he has done a nice job. The only stat I really care about, however, is that the team plays well. That’s the most important thing right now. I think when and if you take that statement he made out of context, and you really know what Donovan is all about, he’s about the football team. If you finish reading the whole quote, I think he finishes up where I don’t see that as a negative statement.”

So no one asked Andy Reid if he thought Dunavin’s self-assessment was negative.  But Reid’s answer indicates that he realizes how the comment was chewed up and digested by the media, to the point that he suggests that it may have been taken out of context (”If you finish reading he whole quote…”).  So Andy Reid realizes that the press are trying to make a story out of this, but he won’t say that outright, though he still will give the politically correct answer.  Eerie.  The Birds’ media team definitely prep him for these things.  Or (most disturbingly), he reads it himself.  Reason number 467 that the Philly media is a lot of work to deal with (also why we love said media).

Speaking of, it’s been a long year for the press too.  Went through the game previews this morning.  That’s just some cold shit from Les Bowen right there:

Let’s say everything the Eagles need to happen earlier in the day happens. Are they then going to beat a divisional foe to close the deal? What’s their record in the division again (1-4)? Their coach thinks he could have run it “a few more times” after abandoning the balance that brought him a three-game win streak, calling pass plays, disastrously, 16 times in a row in the second half last week. The quarterback who can’t quite produce a game-winning drive when the chips are down thinks he’s had a “great” year and would just like to mention, with the season on the line, that he could use a new contract.

Bah, humbug.

Yikes.  These people all need a vacation from each other.

My own prediction.  Since it’s my blog and this might be the last Eagles game for a while, I’m treating myself to the twin fantasies of (a) the game actually mattering and (b) the Eagles playing well.  We’ll pretend that the Cowboys aren’t the Eagles’ superiors on both sides of the line and that the Birds haven’t been atrocious within the division this year.  Instead we’ll focus on Tony Romo struggling this time of year and imagine that the Eagles will make a couple big plays on special teams (hey, why not).  Birds prove that they aren’t just last year’s 8-8 team (or even 8-7-1) with a better punt returner: Eagles 27, Cowboys 23.

(Immanetize the eschaton definition link, in case you were wondering.)

In shocking turn of events, Eagles now least dysfunctional team in division
Posted on December 11th, 2008 at 11:11 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Dude, two weeks is a long time.

Following the Baltimore game (a 36-7 pummeling that begot a few days of McNabb career eulogies, calls for Andy Reid to step down, and a general malaise across the Eagles fan base), the Birds’ season was looking pretty grim.  Not only was the team playing poorly, but there appeared to be a bit of disarray at the NovaCare Complex (”Who told Donovan he was benched?” “Can the relationship between the coach and the quarterback ever be the same?”).  The Birds were in last place (again) and looked like they’d remain there for the rest of the season.

Two wins later, not only does joy and happiness reign in Eagledom, but the rest of the division has done us a favor and gone completely goofy.  The Birds may be third in the division standings, but they’re dead last in Dysfunction.

My rankings:

1.  New York Giants.  In their win against the Skins, they looked like ruthless killing machines.  A week later, they look extremely human — I guess that’s what a criminal investigation involving three of your players (including two of your best players) in the media capital of the known universe will do to you.  (Hey, maybe it was the Skins that were the problem the week before….)  We all assume that the G-Men will bounce back in Dallas, but we can’t pretend that the Plax thing isn’t screwing with them — it was their backup wideouts and their jerkface-under-investigation MLB who were the weakest links against the Birds.  Also, it’ll be years before someone can top the statement: “In 2008, the Giants were rolling to the Super Bowl until they literally shot themselves in the leg.”

2.  Washington Redskins.  Tough call here, narrowly edging out the Cowboys.  What pushed the Skins into the second slot was having their best player taunting their first-year coach on the radio.  Yikes.  Who’s actually in charge here?  Can you imagine the hullabaloo if Donovan McNabb or Brian Westbrook derisively called Andy Reid a “genius” on 610?  Now it’s apparently more than just Portis who are down on Zorn?  The full quotes below:

“We got a genius for a head coach, I don’t know, I’m sure he on top of things. He’s got everything figured out. Hey, that’s up to him. All I can do is when he calls a play is go out and try to execute to the best of my ability.”

And then later, on the big picture, he had this to say:

“I don’t know where it went wrong, all I know is it’s going wrong. So, you know, maybe I’m the problem. Maybe I’m the problem since I don’t practice, since I’m the only person that don’t practice and come out and play and try to give it what I’ve got, maybe I’m the problem. So I might need to be on IR.”

3.  Dallas Cowboys.  So you know sh*t is pretty f*cked up in the rest of the division when the team with T.O. and the Pacman (who might have a career-threatening neck injury) can’t even crack the top two in dysfunction.  Beyond the yearly refrains regarding Tony Romo’s proven inability to win at the end of the season, Jerry Jones actually called out Marion Barber for not playing through an injury.  Dude.  Marion Barber does not appear to be fragile or shy.  Ease back there, big fella.

4.  Philadelphia Eagles.  Serotonin is flowing at all-time highs in the Delaware Valley as the team patiently looks forward to being 13.5-point favorites on Monday Night.  No dysfunction here, just a bunch of guys who get along so much that they’re wearing playoff beards.  Smile, everyone!

Eagles - Giants (Extended) Game Preview: Birds Salvation?
Posted on December 7th, 2008 at 10:06 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Well, it was kind of a disaster the last time I went to Giants stadium, both on the field and off.  The Eagles got clobbered, and my night may have included some unnecessary heroics.  Both the Eagles and I survived the evening, but only barely.  Thankfully, my then-fiancee was there to witness it, and she still married me.

(Winston Justice, never doubt the potential for forgiveness and redemption!  There’s hope for you yet!)

I wasn’t kidding when I dropped the Terminator jokes about the Giants this week.  That they played so well in the middle of all the nonsense last weekend was actually pretty unnerving.  Shouldn’t they have been at least a little bit distracted?  And to go on the road against a tough divisional team on Sean Taylor day, I mean, yikes.  THEY CANNOT BE REASONED WITH.  THEY DON’T FEEL PAIN.

(Speaking of Terminator, I hope everyone caught the new teaser trailer.  And that you’re enjoying The Sarah Connor Chronicles as much as I am, which is a lot.  If I have any complaint with the Terminator TV show, it’s that they’ve trivialized the act of killing a Terminator.  It used to take two full hours of feature film to kill a Terminator and entire city blocks were routinely destroyed in the process; now they kill one every other week on TV.  Anyhoo, no more killer-robot talk for now.)

If they actually show up and play well again this week, well then I think we can consider Tom Coughlin for Hank Paulson’s job.  It’s just very difficult to argue that Tom Coughlin isn’t doing the best coaching job in the NFL right now.  It’s impressive and commendable as a management exercise, and it’s not like I’m eager to say nice things about the Giants.  These guys are good.

Some talking points ahead of this afternoon’s game:

The 36 Chambers of B-West’s relative assessment of his health.  So early in the week Brian Westbrook was telling folks that this was the “best [he’d] felt” since the beginning of the year, but then he didn’t practice Thursday or Friday and was listed as questionable in the final injury report.  These two seem like contradictory conditions, unless you consider that “best [he’d] felt” means that Westbrook has been feeling “terrible” for most of the season and that the extra rest over Thanksgiving has given him the opportunity to feel “marginally better than he will for the next month of his life.”

The rest of the RBs.  No Buck, so the Birds will be one gimpy #36 ankle tweak away from Lorenzo Booker and Kyle Eckel gamely attempting to pick up Steve Spagnuolo’s blitzes.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Obligatory Plax impact.  Yup, Igglesblog had it right, it’s silly to pretend that the Giants won’t miss Plax.  Against some other teams, it’ll matter.  Against the Eagles, it shouldn’t, unless the Giants’ offensive line doesn’t play well.  That is, it makes sense that the Birds sell out against the run and hope their secondary can hang and Eli doesn’t have a big day in the cold and wind.  But I actually think that the Giants will still run well against a stacked Birds line.

That which I envy most about the Giants.  Having a dominant offensive line really does make a difference, doesn’t it.  Things that the Giants aren’t afraid to do include, but are not limited to, “running on third-and-1.”

That which I envy second most about the Giants.  It’s not that the Eagles are afraid to spend expensive draft picks on defensive linemen.  They just didn’t manage to pick Justin Tuck.  He’ll only be killing the Birds for the next five to six seasons.  While similarly branded, Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws aren’t quite the same thing (though both went higher in their respective drafts).

As dominant as the Giants’ defense is.  Huh, the Eagles actually have three more sacks than the Giants this year (the teams are 3 and 4 in the NFL rankings, respectively).  We’d all be very surprised if the Birds weren’t at least minorly successful against the Giants’ passing game.  I’m having happy flashbacks to the 2006 game at the Meadowlands that ended with Trent Cole returning a pick for a TD.  If nothing else, I expect we’ll be able to say nice things about the 2008 Eagles defense.

Do they show these ads everywhere?  The Eli Manning “Unstoppable” ones?  Please tell me I see these just because I live in New York.

Yup, I’m calling it the Meadowlands.  Doesn’t it seem like everyone’s a little slower on the Meadowlands’ turf?  Or do I just imagine too many late-season games when I think of the Meadowlands and everyone looks slower in the cold?

Guys I hope seem fast.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if young Master DeSean or Quintin Demps made a big play on special teams?  (I’m actually assuming that DeSean will be the Birds’ leading receiver tomorrow.  It’s his first time in New York — I think he appreciates the big stage.)

No one can say the Eagles aren’t getting their shot.  The season could end today at the Meadowlands.  Given that there are 3 games remaining, that would be, um, disappointing (though not entirely surprising).  Yet the Eagles probably won’t be the last team to have their season end on the road against the Giants.  Even if the Eagles explore the edges of quantum possibility and sneak into the playoffs, any significant success will involve a trip to the Meadowlands (yup, going to keep calling it that).  So today is as good a day as any to see if the Eagles are really anything more than last year’s 8-8 team (but with a better punt returner).

What I’m wearing.  20-30 mph winds at the stadium and temperatures in the 30s?  We’re going to need to layer.  Also, we’re going to hope that the Eagles don’t try to throw it 55 times.

End of the turnpike/ road.  We have to acknowledge that this is likely the last game that Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins, Jon Runyan, and Tra Thomas will play as Eagles at the Meadowlands.  It might be the last game that some of them play as an Eagle.  I’m happy to absorb some abuse in the stadium to see it live.

My predicted final score.  So I definitely like the Eagles to cover 7 points (if you’re interested in such things).  They got a couple extra days off, and this week’s events have to have some impact on the Giants, right?  But can the Eagles actually win?  I’m not convinced.  And I really really really wanted to be convinced.  There’s a best-case scenario where the Eagles bring everyone to the line of scrimmage and dare Eli to throw the ball against them in the wind and it somehow works.  The flip side of that scenario is that I don’t know how the Eagles are going to score in windy conditions either.  I just can’t believe that anything but the totally predictable will happen today.  That is, I can’t believe that the Eagles will stop the Giants from running and somehow manage to score a bunch of points on the Giants’ defense.  Final score: Giants 27, Eagles 21.

Off to Jersey and the ancestral homeland.  Go Birds.

Monday Eagles hangover: I need something greasy
Posted on November 10th, 2008 at 11:53 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

teamprayer.JPG

Okay, we’ve all had the chance to sleep off last night’s loss to the Giants. And…yeah, it still isn’t sitting well. The response to the game has justifiably focused on some of the Eagles’ decision-making in the second half, but hey, let’s not be stingy with the blame — there was plenty to frustrate fans in last night’s game.

Some additional subheads from the Giants’ game:

So much for the post-World Series afterglow.  Baseball?  World Series?  Chase Utley?  Cole Hamels?  That’s all well and good, but ANDY REID WASTED HIS CHALLENGES!  THE MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD EAGLES LOST TO THE DEFENDING-CHAMP GIANTS!  PANIC!  DESPAIR!

What did Dunavin think about the coach’s play-calling at the end of the game? The first words out of McNabb’s mouth in his post-game presser were “I want the ball.” Couldn’t agree with you more, big fella. It was surprisingly impolitic from Big Five, but hey, they can write that sort of comment off as “All competitors want the ball in big situations, yadda yadda yadda.”

More Dunavin, pukey edition. I assume everyone else cracked wise as the Eagles let the clock tick down to the two-minute warning as Dunavin was visibly panting on screen? Something along the lines of “At least he didn’t puke”? I think Michaels and Madden even joined in.

Final Dunavin comment (the “It wasn’t all his fault” division). McNabb was not excellent last night, but I actually had a little bit of hope in the fourth quarter that he might pull something together. Silly me! That hasn’t happened in YEARS! Still, as much as we can get down on McNabb, I thought the Matt Mosley piece on ESPN was a bit wrongheaded:

On this night, even the most ardent McNabb apologists were sent scrambling for higher ground. He was 17 of 36 for 194 yards and three touchdowns, but don’t let that last number fool you. His interception in the second quarter was as bad as you’ll see in the NFL, a league that Brad Johnson and J.T. O’Sullivan still call home. McNabb rallied his team late, but it only served to highlight how poorly he’d played the rest of the game.

At this point, McNabb is the fourth-best quarterback in the NFC East. With all of his experience, he’ll still take a delay of game in the red zone or botch a handoff at crucial moments. As usual, Eagles coach Andy Reid stood by his man, saying McNabb simply has to “keep firing, and he’ll be fine.”

Yeah, tough night for McNabb.  But he wasn’t the headline, and it strikes me as a bit lazy to write the blame-the-QB piece after a loss (note: the Eagles did score 31 points in said game).   Especially when the defensive line was humiliated and the offensive line couldn’t push forward for a yard when they had to.  Note also that there was nary a word of criticism of Big Red in that piece — I guess Mosley is planning for the long term with his blame allocation strategy!  Better not piss off the big guy!

Saying the unsayable.  Was Westbrook a little dinged up last night?  Are we allowed to suggest that maybe the 2008 Westbrook isn’t as impressive as the 2006 and 2007 editions?  Also, are we allowed to write columns about how he couldn’t get two yards when he needed to?  To his credit, he owned up to it in his post-game comments, but no one in the press really bit.  Also, it’s worth checking out those comments to see that he also semi-distanced himself from the play call at the end of the game.

Boneheaded plays aren’t reserved for coach, QB.  Greg Lewis.  Dude.  Running into the punt returner?  It’s a tenuous hold on a roster spot as it is.  You don’t need to be handing the Giants 15 free yards.  Also, the Tank Daniels encroachment call (that could have ended the game) was the moment were I actually lost my temper a bit.  Horrible.

Yeah, still stewing on this end.  I’ll come up with something positive later today.  For now I’m content to wallow a bit more.

(Take that, post-World Series afterglow!)

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.

Like Christmas morning for Eagles fans fond of the damaged joy
Posted on October 14th, 2008 at 2:51 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So not only did the Giants lose, but Greg Ellis sounded off about the Cowboys’ coaches AND Pacman Jones got suspended

Let’s enjoy it.  Take a week off, heal up, and take pleasure in the failures and misfortunes of others.  We’ve certainly had our share. 

(The Germans call it Schaudenfreude, and it translates literally as “damaged joy.”)

Regression toward the mean continues
Posted on October 13th, 2008 at 3:13 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

What’s that?  A Pro Bowl quarterback won’t be making sixteen starts?  And it might mean some tough times ahead for the erstwhile division leaders? 

It’s the NFL.  Randomly unexpected things happen every week, so much so that we should not be surprised when they do.  (This is also what makes it such an excellent TV show.)

On said topic, I might also recommend Fooled By Randomness; mostly it explains that anyone who thinks they’ve got a secret to predicting things is probably extremely full of poop.



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