What Would Buddy Do?
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.

Monday Eagles Hangover: come on, we were all looking past the Vikings
Posted on January 5th, 2009 at 6:29 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

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Maybe the best part of this edition of Monday Eagles hangover is that…I’m not actually hungover!  At all! Note that said hangovers typically have little to do with alcohol consumption and more to do with my sensitive little bruised sports feelings. Said sports feelings are doing just fine today, thank you very much.

My day-after thoughts and bulletpoints:

Stay angry, big fella.  Surely after a season-vindicating playoff win against the Vikings, quarterback Donovan McNabb would be in an ebullient mood, no?  Oh wait.  Someone tried to ask Dunavin how he felt about Jeff Lurie’s comments regarding his future (which were all positive) at his post-game presser, and Dunavin essentially told them that he hopes that means they’ll stop asking him about it (not with a smile) and then cut off a follow-up question with “Nice try.”  He also bickered about the difference between wanting a meeting with the boss and wanting to stay in Philly.  I’d give you the quote but it wasn’t included in the transcription on the Birds’ site; this is the best I’ve got:

“Do you want to be back next year?” someone asked yesterday, reminding McNabb that he had asked for a sit-down with ownership when this season concludes.

“I’m here,” he said with a smile. “Excited.

“Nice try.”

The important thing is that the quarterback continue to think that everyone hates him and the only way he can really stick it to us is by winning many football games.  Keep it up!

Per lo usual, Sheldon Brown speaks the truth.  Nice work by BGN on picking this Sheldon Brown quote out of a post-game interview with Sal Pal:

I would never want to disrespect the Vikings by looking past them… but I kinda knew, we all did that it would come down to a rematch with the Giants.

Sheldon, I couldn’t agree with you more.  That was the thinking that led me to opt out of a flight to Minnesota in the hopes that the Eagles would play the Giants in my backyard here in New York the following week.  And it all worked out.  Excellent.  Let us also note that said ticket for the G-Men game was purchased by 11 pm last (Sunday) night.

And who says Andy Reid doesn’t pay attention to his critics?  From today’s day-after press conference:

On whether he stuck with the run yesterday in order to slow their pass rush: “Yeah, we were trying to get it going. (Jokingly) I can’t even believe that you asked that question, but I kind of feel good that you did. We tried to keep it as balanced as we could so I wouldn’t have to answer that question, but that’s all right.”

Outstanding.  Really.  Outstanding.  For everyone: the reporters, Big Red himself, all of them.  Still, even Andy Reid will have to admit that answering the same question about running the ball is better than the lot of the quarterback (”Dunavin, for the twentieth time, how did you feel about being benched and will you be back next year?”).

What made this not the Washington game.  You could argue that the offense struggled at times yesterday.  They did, especially running the ball.  But the difference for the team yesterday was that they caught the ball.  How many drops were there?  (Dawkins and Sheldon Brown don’t count.  We might even argue that Matt Schoebel shouldn’t count.)  And not all those catches were easy.  The wideouts were actually excellent catching the ball, and Brent Celek reminded us all why it’s so important that L.J. Smith rest up for free agency.  That makes a difference — sure makes Dunavin look good.

Speaking of, in re: tight ends.  L.J. Smith didn’t show up in the injuries portion of Andy Reid’s presser today, and no one asked about him.  Is he okay?  Or has he already been sent to gulag?

Guys who are growing up before our eyes.  Sure looked like Trevor Laws got more than a couple snaps on first down yesterday.  And was that Chris Gocong busting throw the line and blowing up running plays?  I thought that was what that Stewart Bradley fellow did?  And it definitely looks like Demps is going to be trusted a fair amount against the Giants as well, given that he was on the field in the three-safety alignment against the Vikings (you know, the one where the $57 million guy gets a break?).  Here’s to hoping that Demps doesn’t let any deep balls get behind him on the play fake (fingers crossed).

Go Birds.

Sorry for the lack of posts today.  We’ve had some connectivity issues, and the day job beckoned.  We’ll make it up later in the week.

Eagles - Vikings Game Preview: don’t pretend you know what we’re getting today
Posted on January 4th, 2009 at 11:38 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Well none of us are going to pretend we expected this.  Sure, we could envision this, but to expect this would have been a bit strong after the Washington game.  The Eagles are actually in the playoffs.

So, are they any damn good?

That’s the thing about the Eagles game today.  We don’t actually know what the narrative of this season is yet.  Is is the “Eagles go on a run like 2006 (Washington game is ‘just a blip’)” or is it “Eagles stumble into playoffs, but are who we thought they were”?  If they win today, many many sins will be forgiven — even if they lose the following week.  Then they’re good but not good enough, and that’s a lot better than we thought we’d get in mid-November.  If they lose today, especially if they do so in one of the ways to which we’ve become accustomed, well, then they were essentially last year’s team with a better punt returner: good on paper, but bad when it matters.

I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Eagles didn’t show up at all today, but I don’t think it’ll happen.  Rather, I think that there’s a compelling reason why it might not happen: the Eagles defense.  But more about that in a bit.

What I’ll be shouting about in re: today’s big Wild Card Game:

Your storylines.  It’s a little overwhelming (and by overwhelming, I mean that it makes writing a preview really challenging) when your team makes the playoffs in re: the clear national storylines.  As in, (1) Jim Johnson versus Tavaris Jackson (must include reference to total available quantity of blitzes), (2) Can the suddenly elite Eagles’ defense contain Adrian Peterson, (3) Teacher-versus-Pupil.  What’s sweet is that I feel good about each of those.  And the thing that worries me most is just that they go out and throw it 48 times.  Andy Reid, you haunt me!

Storylines we refuse to consider.  You’re not allowed to say, “This is an extremely close game in simulations with the Eagles winning just under 51 percent of the simulations. The key to the game is turnovers,” in an article entitled “Intel Report” on ESPN.  Generally speaking, I think blathermonkeys should be fired on the spot for uttering the phrase, “The key to the game is turnovers.”  The key to scoring is touchdowns and field goals.  The key to defense is tackling.  Yes.  It’s all true!

Fan storyline that’s a bit odd.  I assume most of you are like me in that you feel good about defense and special teams, and have no idea what we’re getting from the offense.  It’s worth noting that said offense set the franchise record for points scored…and I still don’t think we’re remotely irrational for not trusting them.

The last time these guys played in January.  The future Mrs. BountyBowl got us tickets for the game as a Christmas gift, circa December 2004.  This was a very clever strategy of hers for currying my affections.  Seemed to have worked out for everyone.  F***ing cold that day, though!

Hip, whatever.  The Birds paid a lot of money for Asante Samuel.  Mr. Samuel has traditionally been very successful in elimination games (save for an awkward moment along the sideline last February).  It’d be lovely if he felt compelled to demonstrate his penchant for the big moment against the Vikings.  Also, I’m pretending that the injury thing is an illusion.

Speaking of, he doesn’t need to play.  L.J. Smith has his impending free agency to worry about.  Let’s cut the guy some slack and let him get healthy.  It’s for the best.

The CamelCased One.  What a wonderful opportunity for young Master DeSean to go out and demonstrate he has a feel for the big moment (and redeem himself for the Washington game) than to make a play against the absolute worst punt coverage team in the league?  Very tempting, no?  We’d hate to think the kid had issues with the spotlight.

Speaking of wideouts.  Both Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown made circus catches against the Vikings when the Eagles played there last year.  A similar effort this afternoon would augur well for the Birds’ chances.

Jared Allen is scary, though not as scary as Demarcus Ware.  I think Allen will be slightly more dangerous than Ware was last week if only because Ware’s team completely quit.  But if the Birds can handle Ware, why not Allen?  (That said, I think Allen is excellent.)

Adrian Peterson is scary, though not as scary as Brian Westbrook.  Sure, AP (”Purple Jesus”) is a megastar guy who has a chance to be the best back of his generation.  But in a game that matters I feel extremely good about a Brian Westbrook, and not just because he might be the single smartest guy on the field.  He’s also good at not getting tackled!

Eagles thoughts from during the Cards - Falcons game.  While I know it’s not for everyone, it sure looks like you can run your offense through a couple dominant wideouts.  Those guys are good.

Eagles thoughts from during the Bolts - Colts game.  This was actually painful to watch for me, if only because there were so many little plays that almost but didn’t quite go the Chargers’ way (at least until the coin toss!).  Lots of dropped picks, bad bounces, that sort of thing.  It’s rare that I can feel like an Eagles fan watching another team.  Thanks, Chargers!

Things I’m glad I haven’t thought about in weeks.  How about that David Akers!  Doesn’t seem to be struggling any more.  And he’s got to feel good about a dome.

No one believes in you, Donovan.  I hope Mr. McNabb is on his laptop this morning reading the InterWebs just so he knows that NO ONE BELIEVES IN HIM.  Nope.  Not a one.  And the ONLY WAY HE CAN STICK IT TO THE FICKLE DOUBTERS is to play the game of his life.  That’s the only way you can really get us, Donovan.  Seriously.  It’ll totally piss us all off, because we don’t really like you and don’t want you to succeed.

Cardboard Box.  One of the things that makes me feel confident about the game today is that I think the Eagles actually will get the speed of the playoff game.  That is, there are a few guys on the field for the Eagles who won’t be intimidated by the moment and will come out playing fast.  Mostly I’m thinking that Brian Dawkins and/ or Sheldon Brown isn’t going to be afraid to endanger themselves in order to announce their presence with authority in the first few minutes of the game.  And now, because I can’t help it, is the link.  Treat yourself.

Game prediction. I think that the defense is going to show up this week for the Eagles, and that if the Birds can get it to 20 points they should be chill.  The problem is that I can’t really speak for the offense.  I think they could be awful.  I think it’s important that the Eagles wide receivers play well.  That means getting open and it means catching the ball.  Eagles 20, Vikings 13.

Monday Eagles Hangover: Wow, so that actually happened
Posted on December 29th, 2008 at 12:35 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

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Yup.  Still here.  Just checked the Internet, and it appears that the Eagles did, in fact, make the playoffs.  Yesterday will be fondly remembered as pretty much the best day to be an Eagles fan since 2004.  Sure, there were some solid moments in 2006, but nothing so singularly glorious as what went down yesterday.

I dunno.  I’m still reeling.

What I’m chewing on this morning (besides bacon):

The last two minutes of the first half.  The end of the first half has been something of a bugaboo for the Birds over the course of this season.  I guess we should have known that this was truly a special day when — instead of having a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, as has been their style — the Eagles scored 17 points in the final 2:09 of the first half.  Wow.

Guys we couldn’t be happier for, Part 1.  Correll Buckhalter, you’ve hung in there for years and years, and yesterday, you were the guy.  We’ve always enjoyed rooting for Buck, and this was a great Buckhalter game — made plays when he had his chance, made sure he ran north and south, and did it with a big smile.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Guys we couldn’t be happier for, Part 2.  I take back everything I ever said about Dawkins being done (though that was mostly in August/ September).  I liked GCobb’s comments about Dawk: essentially that Dawk’s game yesterday will be featured prominently in his Hall of Fame resume.  Yup.  Keep talking.

Guys we couldn’t be happier for, Part 3.  Sheldon Brown, good for you.  We thought you might have fallen into a pick by accident by this point, but hey, we’re glad you got one before the season was over.

Discussions we’ll no longer entertain.  Don’t want to hear it about Tony Romo.  Nope.  Not a word.  Until he wins any sort of game that matters, we’re not allowed to call him the best quarterback in the division.  He’s the third-best quarterback in the division.  At best.  Sure, the sample size is small, but it sure looks like Tony Romo has failed in every playoff situation he’s faced.  I’ll look forward to his skewering in the national media.

What you saw if you were at the bar with me.  So when Michael Bush broke the long run for the Raiders, the noises I was making might be best described as “uninterested porn star simulating orgasm.”  I was one of about three people watching the Tampa game at that point (in a packed bar); I think folks were a little taken aback.

Other things mentioned at said bar.  “Is that the same Ryan Moats who just scored for Houston?”  Why yes!  I suppose it is!

Better late than never.  I guess we can’t call Chris Clemons a bust signing if he shows up and delivers in the biggest game of the year.

Things we’ve already talked ourselves into.  A wild-card team with a hot defense can actually reach and/ or win the Super Bowl.  Seems to be how it goes down these days.  We get to think that for at least the next six days.  And that’s a glorious thing.

Dunavin talked about his feelings.   You know what, Big Five, you get to crow a little bit after yesterday.  You earned it.  In re: the constant criticism he faces, McNabb gave us the following in his post-game presser:

“We’re human beings, you get tired of it, but you never let them see you sweat. And you never show that it bothers you because you kill them with kindness, and when you kill them with kindness and you go out and you do your job, people understand that it never really affects you.”

Let it out, big fella.  Let it all out.

The return of Shawn Andrews?  So he’s not on IR (still).  Might the Big Kid actually get a look in a playoff game?  Huh.

I remain baffled and giddy regarding yesterday.  Go Birds.

The challenges of asset valuation in these wintry economic times
Posted on October 29th, 2008 at 11:27 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Great piece by Bob Brookover in this morning’s Inky about the Eagles’ likely approach to contract extensions and cap management in the face of an increasingly likely labor dispute in 2011. Brookover reports that the Eagles are not likely to hand out any extensions this year — exactly how he knows this is never explained, but he’s a reporter and he talks to plenty of folks who’d prefer not to be quoted down there (perhaps this is a topic for another post?). So I’ll take him at face value.

The interesting bits of the article are the compare-and-contrast views of faux starters Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown regarding the decision to take an extension early in your career versus risking injury for a bigger payday at a later date. Sheppard is a bit conspiracy-theory about the whole thing:

“That’s basically how it is right now. You can write a book about it. Talk to people around the league, they’re going to tell you if you don’t take the extensions, they’re going to get blackballed. You hate to say that about it, but that’s the way it is.”

And what did Sheppard mean by blackballed?

“If you’re on offense, they can limit your production and not let you do what you’ve been doing, and on defense, they can start finding fault,” Sheppard said. “Every little thing you do, they can use it against you.”

Sheldon Brown takes a different tack:

“You have to do what’s right for you and your family and not listen to anybody else,” he said. “Some people may say they are low-balling you, but if it’s enough for you and your family, then take it. If you don’t feel like it is, then don’t take it. Only you can make that decision.

“It’s definitely a tough choice, but it’s just like the lottery. You’re playing with fire because if you look at somebody like [ex-Eagles safety] Damon Moore, he . . . tore his knee up. I just think in the end, if it’s good enough you, go ahead and take it and don’t be too greedy. If you perform more after that, you’ll get more.”

I agree with Brookover that Brown has “the better perspective,” but for different reasons. (And yes, of course I don’t believe that Jim Johnson cares about contracts when he puts players on the field.) What I really liked was Sheldon’s approach to valuation and negotiation. That is, Sheldon seems to understand the fictions of valuation: (1) you’re worth what the market will bear at a given moment, (2) said market is subject to random fluctuations, (3) only you can make a determination of your own value/ BATNA, and, most importantly, (4) beware the hindsight bias! Sure, you can hold on for a couple more years and break the bank like Nate Clements, but you can also explode your knee. This talk of conspiracy theories and blackballing assumes that you’ll continue to perform.

(Also, given the seemingly increased level of uncertainty facing the League and the CBA (see here for Commissioner Goodell’s assessment of the NFL’s economic outlook in these wintry economic times), cash now feels like a good plan.)

Still, it’d be cruel to focus on football players as somehow being irrational economic actors. Lito may bemoan his decision to sign an early extension, but it’s not like he’s Jerry Yang. Lito left a few million on the table; by refusing Microsoft’s $31-per-share bid for Yahoo (now trading at $12), Yang left, oh, about $26 billion in value on the table. Yang insisted that YHOO’s prospects were strong and that the $31 bid undervalued his company. What he chose to ignore was the possibility that said bid overvalued his company — which is essentially what happened when the economy blew out its ACL and demand for banner ads, umm, dipped a bit.

Jerry, my man, next time give Sheldon Brown a call!

[Editor’s Note: Derek was kind enough to explain why I was an idiot over at Igglesblog in re: Joe Banner’s recent comments about extensions — while not referenced by Brookover, a more careful blogger might have figured this out — especially one who had saved it to his delicious!  I am not that more careful blogger. Mea culpa! Someone let me know if this counts as a retraction.]

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!

Iggles Blog vs BountyBowl Bye Week Blogganza (#4)
Posted on October 17th, 2008 at 4:32 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In which I defend Darren Howard’s honor (sort of) and make a bunch of random predictions of my own.

The story of the film so far: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

*****

Oh my heavens!  I think we might need an intervention here.  I’d like all the Iggles Blog readers to note that Derek just said that he’s only been to two Eagles games!  (I mean, there are legitimate reasons for this, but still.)  I bet more than a few of the fans of Iggles Blog have season tickets.  This is your hint to send Derek an e-mail and invite him to a game.  Think of all the joy (and charts, and graphs, and lengthy defenses of Donovan McNabb) he’s brought you over the years — don’t you think you owe it to him to bring him to a game?

At the very least, the Birds organization should comp you as some sort of blogger outreach program.  (NOTE WELL anyone from Birds HQ who might be reading this: I would also like to come to more games!  Right here!  The Bounty!)

Cheers to the SAWX for their big comeback last night.  Though I can’t help but note that there really isn’t a good answer in re: which city the Phils face in the World Series — it’s essentially the two cities respsonsible for the Worst Eagles Experiences of the last decade (being, of course, the 2002 NFC Championship/ Final Game at the Vet and Super Bowl XXXIX).  Depending on your inclination with these things, it’s either a win-win or a lose-lose.  I’d like to suggest some sort of Flyers-esque “Vengeance Now” value prop for the local marketing efforts, but I think the Phils are a little too PG for that.

On to the football, first with some comments on your replies to my questions.

WHOA.  Damn skippy you need to be careful what you’re saying in re: Darren Howard!  It certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but man, that’s quite a bit to suggest.  I mean, I obviously love an elaborate conspiracy theory as much as the next fellow, but the Occam’s Razor answer seems a bit more plausible; can’t we just assume he signed a big contract, loafed around and then finally got in shape when he was worried about his job?  I mean, that’s what I would have done….

But while we’re on the topic, were there ever rumblings when Dunavin showed up for work a couple years as Bulky Donovan?  Or was he just lifting too much?  I mean, McNabb is obviously a guy who’s going to need to be careful about the waistline once he’s done playing; maybe he’s just big-boned?  Also — and you’ll love this one — I’m sure you read the section in Pro Football Prospectus about how remarkably healthy the Cowboys have been over recent years…don’t tell me it didn’t lead you to wonder if there was a little something-something added to the salad bar at Valley Ranch.

Thus concludes the Unfounded Accusations portion of today’s post.

Also, you should really be more careful about what you say about David Akers.  You know he’s sitting on his couch right now sporting his fashionably rimless spectacles, catching up on Mad Men, and hitting F5 on Iggles Blog.  At the rate you’re going, you’ll never get another interview out of those Reebok people.

And now for your questions of me.

1.  Favorite / least favorite Eagles and why?  No cheating by picking old-timers, I’m talking current roster.

This is actually a pretty easy question.  It’s Sheldon Brown by about two touchdowns.  My reasons: (a) I’ve always had a fondness for big-hitting DBs, and he’s been the biggest-hitting DB for the past three seasons (with apologies to Dawk; the days of the Dawkplex are past); (b) he actually speaks honestly and intelligently to the press, and doesn’t appear to be completely full of sh*t — it’s like he skipped media training; (c) he plays every week.  That counts for a lot.  So yeah, I’m a big fan.  I’m actually staring at a framed copy of the SI cover photo of him drilling Reggie Bush (”Cardboard Box“) right now.

2.  Fill in the blanks: “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like __________.  The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like __________.”

You know, this is a really hard question to answer without sounding like a complete pervert, so apologies in advance for my answer (which draws upon the amount of time I spend on airplanes): “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to first class for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to my own private jet for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia, only we’re not going to Australia, we’re going to a special island in the South Pacific where cheesesteaks grow on trees, clothing has been outlawed, and I am about to be named emperor.”  (Too much?)

3.  You’re really not going to ask about Tony Hunt?

Okay, so tell me about Tony Hunt.  I just assume he’ll end up in Minnesota, right?  You can just ask him, right?  I assume he’s spending his time off chilling at your place?  He’s playing XBox right now?

4.  Over the past 10 months, the Eagles have been linked by rumor to approximately two dozen players not currently on their roster.  Of the guys who actually changed teams — yes, we all wanted Larry Fitzgerald — who are you most annoyed about not getting?  (NOTA is an acceptable answer if you show your work.)

Let me get the obvious and popular answers out the way first: the answer isn’t going to be a wideout, so we can cross off Randy Moss and Roy Williams.  My answer might have been different six months ago, but that was before young Master DeSean was dropped at our doorstep.  The Moss thing was especially tempting, more so than Roy Williams.  I’m just not as completely obsessed by this position as your average Birds fan.  I mean, I guess I could say Jared Allen because, well, he’s Jared Allen and it remains relatively difficult to find dominant defensive ends.  But I don’t know if that was actually ever in play.    (The Skins can have Jason Taylor, though.)

I actually would have been pretty psyched if the Birds could have nabbed Jeremy Shockey.  There.  I said it.  He’s better than L.J., and would have played like a complete psychopath against the Giants.  But my actual answer — and admittedly, this is very fresh — is Tony Gonzalez.  DOOOOOOOOOOOD.  That’s pretty much exactly what the Birds need.  A red-zone beast who’d be reinvigorated on a new team?  Plus he’s a veteran guy who’s a non-idiot and seems like he has the personality and temperament to handle the Illadelph?  Also, he comes with a lovely commitment partner.

Also it’s worth noting that I really like the guy they did get: Asante Samuel.  This is just the beginning of the Asante Samuel era in Philly.  This guy definitely counts as a playmaker, and he’s not going anywhere.  Seriously.  He’ll be a “real Eagle” soon enough.

5.  I cheated on your bonus question, but now I’m kind of interested in hearing your answer to it.  I’m rubber, you’re glue …

First off, I know I thought that the Eagles would lose to the Nerdbirds before the season began, but I herby update my opinion on this topic.  Seattle has to be the most disappointing team in the NFL right now.  The Eagles had better win that game.  Of course, none of us care about that because, well, no one cares about the Left Coast teams (nor should they — West Coast teams are, as well know, soft).    Let me throw a couple random ones out there:

a.  Shawn Andrews doesn’t play another game for the Eagles this year, and spends the off-season musing about retirement.

b.  Dallas misses the playoffs.  Wade Phillips is fired shortly thereafter.  Jason Garrett is named the head coach.  Wow.  That was awesome to type.

c.  Washington makes the playoffs.  I can’t believe I’m typing that, but playing solid defense and running the ball can get you pretty far in the NFL.  And for the life of me I’m not going to say nice things about the Giants.

d.  Brian Westbrook never really gets healthy and rushes for fewer than 900 yards on the season (he’s at 194 after six games, so I’m saying he doesn’t break 70 yards/ game over the remaining ten).

e.  Finally, at long last: Donovan McNabb starts 16 games, and, GASP, is welcomed back as the Eagles presumptive starter for 2009!

What say we to that?

Sheldon Brown convinces us we’re not actually crazy
Posted on October 13th, 2008 at 11:14 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

sheldonbrownniners.jpg

When the 49ers blocked the field goal at the end of the first half and returned it for a TD — a swing of at least 7 points, since it would be presumptuous to believe that Akers would have made it from that distance — my buddy and and I turned to each other and admitted that we weren’t even shocked.  We didn’t freak out, or start complaining about how unlucky the Eagles were, none of that.  We just turned to each other and admitted that we kind of expected things like this to happen to the Birds — after the last couple years, how could we not?

Or, more succinctly, as a middle-of-the-road NFL team, you’re naive if you think crazy mistakes won’t doom your team to at least a couple losses over the course of the season.

Then, as the second half began and the Niners started methodically moving the ball on the Birds’ defense, well, it started to smell a lot like last week. And the week before. And probably the rest of the season.

(Of course, it all ended up working out beautifully, but there were some twists along the way.)

You’d think that the anxiety we were feeling as fans wasn’t shared by the players — that, being involved in the actual game, they see more than the sports-page cliches and storylines during the course of the game. Ummm, according the Sheldon Brown, that’s exactly what they saw:

“The adversity we had before the half, everybody in the locker room said, ‘Never again,’ ” cornerback Sheldon Brown said. “Then they came out and drove it right down our throats.”

and,

“We were panicking,” Brown said. “This is a team that’s supposed to get turnovers and we weren’t getting any. We’re saying, ‘What’s going on?’ Then they started to come. That’s what happens.”

Huh.  Glad to know we’re not the only ones that were worried!

Of course, this is the sort of unfiltered honesty that we’ve come to expect from #24, and it’s what makes him our favorite Eagle quote (more on this topic later in the week, I swear).  Brown is the one who, in describing the Eagles’ win over the Redskins last year, said, “Normally, we’d find a way to lose that football game.”

Go Birds. 

You didn’t need those brain cells anyway (and that’s why we love you)
Posted on September 8th, 2008 at 10:19 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Loved this quote from Sheldon Brown:

Brown had the best hit of the game, leveling running back Steven Jackson and knocking his helmet off his head after a 24-yard catch in the second quarter. Both of the Eagles’ safeties were up near the line of scrimmage on the play, and Brown was playing centerfield.

“In certain packages, I’m helping the [other] corner over the top,” he said. “We had both safeties down in the box and I had an opportunity to play in the middle of the field.

“[Jackson] is 6-1, 230 [Brown is 5-10, 200]. Last night, coach said, ‘Small guys, go low.’ But it was an opportunity for me to go high and I took it.”

What Sheldon means to say here is that hitting Steven Jackson low would have increased Brown’s chances of both tackling the Rams’ RB and finishing the game unconcussed himself, but he has such a passion for violently painful collisions that he decided to take the “opportunity” to lead with his helmet and see if he could knock Jackson’s head clean off. 

And why not?  Treat yourself, Sheldon.  You dealt with some bullsh*t this week – you’ve earned it.  Enjoy the undiagnosed concussion and youtube plaudits from the peoples!