What Would Buddy Do?
Combinations and Permutations
Posted on December 28th, 2008 at 1:23 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So I think karma and the Oakland Raiders owe us one, especially w/r/t the Bucs.

That is, I still consider that 2002 Super Bowl the one that got away from the Birds.  Whomever showed up to play the Raiders and their batsh*t crazy/ AWOL center and overmatched coach was going to win.  It was lined up for the Eagles, and they screwed it up.  For that injustice, I demand that karma amend its previous decision and hook us up with a giganto upset in Tampa today.  I demand!

The problem is 13.5 points (the spread in the Tampa game).  The other games of interest (Bears - Texas, Vikings - G-Men) seem a bit more reasonable and potentially up for grabs.  But 13.5 is a lot.  A lot a lot.  Vegas does not seem to hold much hope for the Birds.  Nor does the scheduling of these affairs do us any favors.

Still, it’s the NFL.  Goofy stuff happens, especially at the end of the season.  People get nervous and soil themselves.  Not just our favorite team.

Fingers crossed, let’s go Raiders.

Also, since I didn’t mention it earlier, the Cowboys can s*ck it.

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.)

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.

Wait, but I trust Las Vegas; a modest proposal
Posted on November 4th, 2008 at 1:45 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

As others have already noted, the Eagles are favored by three points for this week’s game against the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Despite the fact that the Eagles have lost seven prime-time games in a row (and 13 of their last 15) and the part where the Giants are 7-1 and the defending Super Bowl Champions, Las Vegas seems to think the Eagles will get the best of the G-Men on Sunday.

Nerd that I am, I struggle to disagree with the judgment of a market price (the line), especially nine weeks into the season. The first month or so of the NFL season usually produces some curious prices, but by this time of year valuations should be a bit more steady. But my emotional brain just isn’t buying it on this game. How will the Eagles’ offensive line handle the Giants’ front seven? And how will the Birds defense stand up to Brandon Jacobs? Has Vegas been spending too much time on Football Outsiders and not enough time watching the actual games? The Birds by three just doesn’t seem right, and BELIEVE YOU ME, I would like nothing more than to take this as evidence that the G-Men are overrated and the Birds will rough them up on Sunday.

A modest proposal: were one so inclined, one could place a small wager (say, fifty American dollars) on the outcome of this contest. Said wager could be placed on the Giants plus the three points, and leave one with a prudent financial hedge on one’s standing weekly emotional wager (a traditionally volatile investment). That is, one must consider if one is interested in paying fifty American dollars to lock in at least some success Sunday night: if the Eagles win, we’re all emotionally richer (if $50 poorer); if the Giants win, at least you get $45. And if the Eagles win by 1 or 2, well, you’ve hit the jackpot.

(For entertainment purposes only, of course. And yes, you’re allowed to tell me that I’m dirty for this.)

BountyBowl on the road: your Pacific Northwest travel guide (Part 3) + game prediction
Posted on November 1st, 2008 at 9:26 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Geez, did I ever pick the wrong weekend to go on a roadtrip with the Birds.  The parade photos from the 2-1-5 looked appropriately glorious.  Sorry to have missed it.

In the interim, merry has been made in the Pacific Northwest.  I’m happy to say that my blogging has suffered due to travel — lots of fun to be had, not so much time at the puter.  I’ve barely even had time to stalk the Eagles at the team hotel!  And with an early start planned for tomorrow (PST gets you up early for football — especially if you’ve got elaborate pre-game plans), well, I can’t imagine that’s going to change (nor should it!).

With that in mind, I figured it’s probably best to file a game prediction this evening.  Before the season started, I assumed the Eagles would lose this game — long flight, traditionally tough opponent, and Holmgren seems to own his Paduwan (did I spell that right?) over the past few seasons.  Quite a bit has changed since then, mostly relating to the Nerdbirds getting hit by wave after wave of badness.  While I still haven’t gotten a good answer in re: “I get why the offense is crap this year, but shouldn’t the defense be better,” no one out here has insisted that this team is actually better than their record.  Lots of empty stares and shakes of heads.  This is a game and an opponent for the taking.  The Birds need to win this game if they expect to be taken seriously.  I don’t think it’ll be easy (it rarely is), but I think the Eagles can make this happen a long way from home: Eagles 24, Nerdbirds 13.

Iggles Blog vs BountyBowl Bye Week Blogganza (#6)
Posted on October 18th, 2008 at 12:55 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Derek pwned me a bit yesterday afternoon, and then assured me that no one would be reading anything on the bye weekend anyway.  So that’s pretty sweet.  

Let’s go to the highlights: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.   

*****

I didn’t expect us to actually discuss the performance-enhancing drug thing at all.  I dunno.  This isn’t something that tends to get me too spun up; do we feel betrayed by Lenny Dykstra, or are do we treasure our memories of the ‘93 Phillies?  And if we’re talking about football, I mean, dude.  Even if these guys aren’t on banned substances, they’re clearly stretching the boundaries of natural human development.  They’ve chosen to play a hideously violent game, one which might bring them glory and riches, but which undoubtedly will remove some quality from their later years.  They’re willing to carry extra bulk and smash into other dudes.  We can’t see their faces out there anyway; if some of the killer robots want to use special fuel, well, I don’t think it really ruins the TV show.

(Unless it’s the Cowboys or Giants.  Then it’s f*cking cheating.  But I guess I generally don’t romanticize it all that much.)

Of course, it would be irresponsible to discuss performance-enhancing substances without noting that two players from the NY/ NJ Vodka-Red-Bulls were suspended on Thursday for using banned supplements.  This is MLS we’re talking about here!  What will the children think?  (Both Philly guys, by the way.)  Seriously, this is bad news.  Luckily, they were both fined 10 percent of their salary; as my brother noted, that’s like $4,000!

(What, we don’t follow MLS?)

Far be it from me to dodge a question, I’ll admit that I actually forgot that “least favorite Eagle” was in play.  I was hoping to debut a regular feature on this topic (no kidding, I was), so I’ll give you a sneak preview: his name begins with an L, ends with an R, and in the middle there’s a lot of “Orenzo Booke.”  The tight end is obviously a close second (if only because he seems to be a much bigger jerk than Booker; Booker’s just overmatched).

On to some of your points before my final volley of questions:

I don’t understand in re: Sheldon Brown.  What leads you to believe he’s only in it for himself?  Because he avoids the media-training cliches when talking about contracts?  The guy plays every single game and is by all appearances extremely irresponsible when it comes to contact.  You think he’s 100 percent healthy every week?  Big hits don’t get you contracts; gambling for picks does.  I bet Sheldon Brown has a lot of respect from the rest of the team.  And, frankly, I’d prefer it if you didn’t continue to impugn his good name!

I’m glad your commenters gave you grief for the Nerdbirds.  As loud as that stadium is, and as much as Homlgren seems to be in AR’s head, the Seahawks are a train wreck right now.  The Eagles had better win that game.

Please tell me that the MySpace story is true.  Seriously?  You really stalked Tony Hunt on MySpace?  That’s fantastic.  Also, when are you going to get your ass on the Facebook?  We have a great officer position waiting for you when you do.

You missed my rather pessimistic point on the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook.  I don’t doubt Westbrook’s pride or his toughness.  My bigger concern is his health.   Are broken ribs going to heal quickly?  Does the rest of the league know that he’s banged up in the mid-section?  I mean, I hope so.  He’s the best player the Eagles have.  But I think we might be overly optimistic about the rate of his recovery.  I mean, I hope not.  I hope he’s spending extra time in the hyperbaric chamber this week.  But we have to confront the fact that he might not be whole for a while.

Dude, you totaly dodged the McNabb question!  You’re right to note that he hasn’t had a bad stretch yet to prompt the inevitable larger conversation amongst the blathertariat, but I’m asking you now what you think.  Before the season, I certainly thought it was a done deal that this would be his final season in Philly.  Now I’m not so sure — I think he has a shot to stay for a couple more seasons (if he so chooses).  Where are you landing on this topic?  You think he’s still gone?

Also, we’re both obviously complete nerds about the Football Outsiders thing — what’s your professional opinion on the Eagles being #1 in DVOA this week?  Hidden indicator that the Eagles might be better than we all think, or proof that Aaron Schatz and the boys might need to reconfigure their spreadsheet?  I obviously think it’s the model’s fault.  While they do a nice job of trying to create a taxonomy that understands that not all plays are created equal, it’s obvious that the model doesn’t capture the value of the half-dozen plays in a game that matter a ton — and that the Eagles seem prone to screwing up.  Plays on the goal-line, big stops in the fourth quarter, sloppy stuff at the end of the first half: these seem to be themes every week.  Am I imagining things here?

It’s also worth noting that I blame Andy Reid for those screwups.  Discuss!

My Grand Prediction(s) for the 2008 Eagles season
Posted on September 7th, 2008 at 9:29 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Asking me how I think the season is going to go for the Eagles is a fairly silly exercise.  OF COURSE I think they’re going to win the You-Know-What.  But it’s not like I think that they’re overwhelmingly the best team; I’m capable of some semblance of restraint.  I just think that (deep breath)…

…If McNabb and Westbrook can stay healthy and the younger guys on the defense step up and they get just a little something on special teams and the Cowboys get a little unlucky with injuries and the Giants struggle a little near the end of the year then the Birds — traditional strong finishers — might just be able to force their way into the playoffs, maybe even pip the division, and once you’re in the playoffs, who knows what can happen, maybe they catch a cool end-of-the-road vibe from Andy Reid and McNabb, and finally get this thing done.

Yup.  This is how my brain rationalizes the upcoming football season.

All that said, I’ve got them at 11-5.  While I’m making stuff up, I’ll even give you the losses: at Dallas, Pittsburgh, at Seattle, New York, at Washington.  I’ll boldly state that they’ll win the week before their bye (!).  And I like that they get a long rest before they play at the Giants.

If I had to say anything about what I think will be special and different about the 2008 Eagles versus recent vintages at a macro level, I would guess the following:

1. I imagine that the coaching staff will be smarter and more prepared this year.  When the Eagles go to the library and study, they can hang with anyone.  The schemed the Patriots.  They schemed the Cowboys.  Andy Reid has to have his head in the game a bit more this year, right?  Things seem a little calmer across the board.  I think it helps Andy Reid.

2. I think that the Eagles love that they have three expensive corners.  If we believe that the League has adapted the rules to aid the passing game over the past ten years, and that passing offenses are going to become the default setting, then the Birds might have ideated themselves some innovation!

3. The rookies will play and make a difference.  They look appropriately cocky, and not just DeSean Jackson.  Demps seems feisty as does Joe Mays, and it looks like Laws will get a bunch of plays.  Be nice if they upgraded and updated the personality of the team a bit.

4. Speaking of personalities, maybe this year the Eagles get a little less Andy Reid and a little more Britt Reid.  I’m a little bored with the model citizen thing.  I don’t think dudes have to get arrested, but could they at least ’spress themselves a bit more out there?  A little more Asante Samuel and DeSean Jackson and a little less Donovan McNabb and Brian Dawkins?  Some occasional jackassery out there is good for business.

Aight, enough punditry; time for football.

In case you had been hoodwinked into thinking I knew something about football
Posted on August 26th, 2008 at 7:17 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Time for yours truly to eat some crow.  I believe my header was “Klecko moved to DT; deemed more polite than ‘just cutting him.’”

Congrats on making the team, Mr. Klecko.   

I guess he enjoyed the cheesesteaks and ambient level of hostility more that I would have thought!

(I hope my editor isn’t too pissed at me.)

Noooooooooooooooo!
Posted on August 26th, 2008 at 7:10 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

no no no no

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  The national press (or at least Dr. Z) likes the Birds!  Nothing to see here, national cadre of blathermonkeys!  Look, over there, the COWBOYS!  They’re on HBO!  Also, to the right, the Giants!  They play in The Capital Of The Known Universe and are supported by a gutless and poorly mannered fanbase!  Pay attention to them!   

(I don’t care if this is only a regional cover — this does not bode well.  We care not for your adulation and praise, national blathertariat.  Kindly leave us be.)

Things that will make me shout at the TV during the Eagles-Packers game
Posted on September 9th, 2007 at 10:01 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

I double-dog dare you to drop a ball on a slantJust minutes before the Birds kick off the 2007 season, I can’t help but remember an early-season game ten years ago, also at Lambeau Field, when the Birds beat the then-highly favored Packers 10-9. I can distinctly remember listening to the end of that game on the radio in the driveway of a buddy’s off-campus house. Ten years later, I live with that same guy in an extremely off-campus house (in Seattle, to be precise). Crazy how things go around and come around.

Anyhoo, while I’m cautiously optimistic that the Eagles will win this afternoon (score prediction below), one can’t help but be nervous ahead of the First Real Game Of The Season.

Sure, we think we know who can play and how they’ll perform, but until it’s Actual Football, you never really know. And it doesn’t help that the Eagles have traditionally struggled in Week One.

Thus shall I lay out the items that will cause me to shout the television this afternoon (in no particular order):

(Read the rest of this story.)