Subject: Your Thursday Morning Roundup
Subject: Crunching The Numbers: Arizona Cardinals
We’ve reached the quarter mark of the 2017 season already and my one-sentence description of the Eagles would be “They have enough depth to beat bad teams.” If that sounds like a backhanded compliment, that’s because it is one. But it’s also an important step forward that teams make from being merely average to good. They’re finding ways to beat opponents they should beat, even when they’re not at full strength.
The second quarter of the season turns up the heat a bit, with matches against the Panthers in Charlotte on a short week and a rematch against the surprisingly decent Redskins. But first the Eagles play the struggling Cardinals at the Linc. They’re the first team on deck for the new, revised version of Crunching The Numbers.
For those who may have missed my three-part introduction to Crunching The Numbers early last month, you can catch up on all three posts in this hub. Essentially, I used some fancy statistical analysis to select five metrics that have strong connections with winning. Every week from now until the end of the season, I’ll compare the Eagles to their upcoming opponent against these metrics and make some observations along with some predictions on how I think the game plan should be developed. Here’s how that comparison looks for this week (league rank for each statistic is in parenthesis, bold-face represents which team has the edge in that category):
A few things stick out after a quick rundown of both teams. The Cardinals are moderately decent in two areas - OY/CMP and TOP - but are otherwise bad everywhere else. The Eagles are more or less middle-of-the-pack in every statistic except OY/CMP, where they are bad, and TOP, where they lead the league.
It’s actually kind of hard to overstate how crucial TOP has been for the Eagles and just how good they are at controlling the ball. Philadelphia is holding the ball for 1:24 longer than the second place team in this metric, Houston. That gap is roughly the same as the one between the Texans (33:52) and the sixth-place team, Detroit (32:29). Given that the average play is about six seconds, the Eagles hold the ball for 14 more plays than the Texans, which is about two drives (or one really long one).
If you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, the Eagles are INSANELY good at ball control, and it’s masking their mediocrity in other important areas. If they want to keep winning while banged up on defense, they’ll need to continue their time-possession dominance by beating teams in the most un-sexy way possible, which is probably the best description I can make of Doug Pederson’s game plans.
But what about the Cardinals? We’re previewing the game, after all. These next two sections will cover that as I offer some thoughts about how the Eagles might plan for their opponent this week.
When The Eagles Have The Ball
While Doug has been (somewhat controversially) criticized for his aggressiveness early in the season, this is the game where I will absolutely be looking for them to go for it on fourth downs early and often. The Cardinals are near the bottom of the league in opponent yards per point, which is simply a fancy way of saying they are more likely to give up touchdowns than field goals (example: 60 yards for 3 is 20 yards per point, 80 yards for 7 is 11.4 yards per point). Additionally, Arizona is only averaging 6.5 points in the first half. Carson Palmer is old, the offensive line is bad, and David Johnson is injured. The Cardinals are not built to play serious catch-up, as evidenced by how they completely folded once Dallas took a strong lead a few weeks ago. They’re not going to score early, so don’t let them hang around by being overly cautious on fourth down.
Also look for the Eagles to lean on “safe” passing plays like slants and screens, with maybe a few bombs mixed in for good measure. This is the coldest of takes since it’s what they’ve been doing anyway, but considering the talent in Arizona’s defensive backfield and the aforementioned point that they’ll likely give up touchdowns it’s an easy call. There’s nothing wrong with taking what the defense gives you if what they’re giving you are trips to the end zone.
When The Cardinals Have The Ball
This is a bit trickier because even though Carson Palmer has not been throwing well at all (6.4 YPA), the Eagles have essentially been equally as bad defending the pass. The Eagles have given up a few long runs-after-catch for touchdowns in consecutive weeks, so I would want to see Schwartz avoid blitzing like the plague here. Yes, Cox is out, but with the embarrassing lack of speed in their secondary they are going to get exposed bringing extra pressure. Palmer is probably the least-threatening quarterback they’ve played so far. All they need to do is make him uncomfortable with the front four and force a mistake. Leaving seven in coverage will not only allow the safeties to play deep to bail out the corners, but it will also keep bodies in passing lanes to pick off errant throws.
I imagine the Cardinals will try the same tactics New York employed to mask the deficiencies of their offensive line, with some new wrinkles. The onus is really on Schwartz here to study that tape (and really, the Green Bay tape from last year wouldn’t hurt either) and see what can be done to counter that. I really don’t think blitzing is the solution here. The better strategy will be either to force Palmer into coverage sacks or prepare for the quick routes. If you can jump those routes the interceptions often go for six.
Overall, even though the Eagles are kind of average in a lot of these statistics, they are clearly better than the Cardinals in almost all of them. That’s what matters. The bottom line is that Philadelphia is the better team, and they’re playing a west coast team at home. The formula is simple: stay aggressive on offense and harass Palmer on defense.
Good teams take care of business against bad teams. It’s time for the Eagles to really establish themselves, especially in an NFL where everything seems to have turned itself on its head overnight. Beat the Cardinals, close out the game, and roll into Carolina with some momentum.
Subject: Welcome to
Subject: BSH Radio reacts to the season opening win against the Sharks
Bill Matz follows up the season opening victory over the San Jose Sharks with a late night Facebook Live
The Philadelphia Flyers are in first place and undefeated after a big win in San Jose pushed their record to an exciting 1-0-0 on Wednesday night. Wayne Simmonds netted a hat trick, Shayne Gostisbehere picked up three assists and the newly minted top line of Sean Couturier centering Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek were a collective plus-four on the evening.
Immediately following the game, Bill Matz went live on Facebook to discuss the game, answer questions and defend his somewhat off-putting facial hair decisions.
Check out the BSH Radio post-game video here:
Posted by Broad Street Hockey: For Philadelphia Flyers Fans on Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Subject: Eagles winners and losers for the first quarter of the season
So far, so good
The Eagles are one quarter of the way through the 2017 season. Like in 2016, they’re in first place at 3-1, and without one of their key players. But this year has a completely different feeling. It’s a good time to take stock of whose stock is up and whose is down.
There’s not much more that can be said about Wentz this season that wasn’t said yesterday. But here’s a bit more: Wentz has progressed in virtually every facet of his game. He’s seeing the field better, he’s using all of the field, his accuracy has improved, his mechanics have improved, his turnover rate has improved, he has an even firmer grasp of the playbook and more freedom with it, and he continues to make plays with his legs that few QBs can. He still needs to improve his deep ball (and the Chargers game may be an indication he’s turned the corner), and he’s left some easy completions on the field. But no quarterback irons out every issue by their 20th start. Wentz’s improvements and positives far outweigh his negatives, and that’s all you can reasonably ask for at this stage of his career.
The breakout season that we’ve been waiting for appears to have arrived. Ertz is the best pass catcher on the Eagles on merit, and has been one of the best in the league so far. He is 3rd in the NFL in receptions but 8th in targets and 6th in catch rate among tight ends with at least 16 receptions, which means he isn’t just the beneficiary of an obscene amount of throws or easy passes. His touchdown rate could improve, but with just 3 targets in the red zone he hasn’t had many opportunities. And that could be in part due to the playbook that Doug Pederson took with him from Kansas City: Travis Kelce has, for his career, been a big time chain mover before the red zone but leaned on heavily in the red zone, Brent Celek has a similar usage rate.
And Ertz is doing this without his customary 10+ reception game to boost his stats. His game by game receptions are 8, 5, 8, and 5. His production has been consistent.
Through four games Agholor has turned his career around and looks like a legitimate receiver. He’s found a home in the slot, co-leading the team in touchdown receptions. Like last year his best game was the season opener, but unlike last year he’s followed it up with dependability. He’s validated the Eagles decision to move on from Jordan Matthews.
Thought to be left for dead, Kendricks has found new life in year two under Jim Schwartz. He’s carried over his standout preseason into the regular season, earning significantly more playing time and producing with a sack, three passes defensed and improved tackling. He’s playing better, and Jim Schwartz is using him more and using him better. He’s the biggest pleasant surprise of the season.
Pederson received an inordinate amount of criticism for last season. Given everything the Eagles were missing: wide receivers, running backs, key players on the offensive line, cornerbacks; and starting a rookie QB, 7 wins was a respectable debut season. It also made it difficult to evaluate if Pederson is a good coach or not. With an improved roster and a year of experience, so far Pederson looks like he’s a good coach.
For the most part his play calling has been good, certainly effective: the Eagles are 2nd in 3rd down percentage, 8th in the red zone, and 9th in DVOA. The Eagles discipline has improved, up from 26th in penalties per game in 2016 to 20th (interestingly, so far total penalties per game for the NFL have increased this season, so they’re actually committing more penalties, but then so is everyone else). A year after Jim Schwartz’s defense carried the Eagles, the reverse is true: Doug Pederson’s offense is carrying the Eagles. Perhaps the narratives can flip as well.
Pederson has room to improve, he could call a few less screen passes on third down; his fourth down decisions have some inconsistency (though they’re more defensible than last year); and that he’s already replaced a starter is troubling, though a modicum of credit is due for that being the right call. But no coach is perfect.
And give Pederson and his staff credit for Carson Wentz’s improvements in 2017. A quarterback doesn’t make the amount of improvements Wentz has made all on his own or just because he has more talent around him.
Pederson looks even better when you compare him to the coaches who were in the running for his job. Ben McAdoo is having a season that usually gets a coach fired.. It’s 2017 and Adam Gase is running the Wildcat and lost badly to the Jets.
Like his quarterback, Pederson still has areas where he can improve, but also like his quarterback, he’s progressed in his second year and his positives outweigh his negatives. And those negatives might be easier to fix.
Getting benched after two games is brutal. Seumalo still has a potential future at center, but that the team pulled the plug on him at left guard so quickly is embarrassing for both the player and the team.
As the Eagles expected, Smith’s season last year in San Francisco wasn’t a true reflection of his ability: he’s already halfway to matching last season’s receptions and yards. And he’s clearly stretching defenses, which has significant value. Zach Ertz’s breakout season owes a small debt to Smith opening up some space in the middle of the field (and a larger one to Alshon Jeffery and Carson Wentz, not to take anything away from Ertz’s improvements). While that’s an upgrade for both Smith and the Eagles from last season—he has as many receptions but more yards than Dorial Green-Beckham did this time last year—it’s not what the Eagles thought they were getting when they signed him in free agency. Smith has dropped a few big plays (per Football Outsiders he’s 2nd in the NFL in drops with 4; Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz have 5 combined), and his yards per reception is the same as it was last season--a career low by more than a couple of yards. His current output of 2-3 catches and a deep attempt to two a game is just enough to keep him in the starting lineup, but so far he’s been a replacement level deep threat. If he doesn’t turn it around the Eagles will be justified in looking elsewhere by season’s end and certainly in the offseason.
Handed a starting job by default, Curry hasn’t done anything with it to show he’s deserving of it. Curry’s next sack this season will be his first. He does have 7 pressures (per Football Outsiders), a good total, and he’s been good against the run, but that’s not much of an upgrade from Connor Barwin. With Derek Barnett already showing flashes (he has essentially the same per snap pressure rate as Curry), there’s been nothing to suggest that the idea that Curry won’t end the season as the starter was wrong.
Subject: Markelle Fultz Declared a Bust by the Dumbest Twitter Has to Offer
Subject: NFL Picks Week 5 2017: Predictions by Football Writers
Predicting the winners of this week's NFL games.
The Bleeding Green Nation writers picks are in for Week 5 of the 2017 regular season schedule! Each week we'll predict the winners of each and every NFL game. We'll tally the results along the way and see who comes out on top at the end of the season.
After Week 4, the collective BGN Community is still in sole possession of first place. I always knew our readers were the smartest. That’s why you choose to read us! ;)
Feel free to post your own predictions or discuss the writer predictions in the comments. You can also vote for who you think will win the games. I’ll tally those results in a “BGN Community” column. Vote in the polls beneath the table. (Click here if you can’t see the polls.)
Let's get to this week's picks!
Vote for YOUR picks below. (Once again, click here if you can’t see the polls.)
Subject: Getting to know the competition: Los Angeles Kings
The Flyers continue their march down the California coast with tonight’s game against the Kings.
The Flyers look to build on the success of last night’s game against the San Jose Sharks, and ahead of tonight’s late-night matchup against the Kings, Kelly got together with Teresa Westbrook of Smog City Sports and the Her Majesty podcast to find out what we should expect from tonight’s game two. You’ll learn:
- How much Kings fans get pumped for their team!
- Which Kings’ weakness the Flyers can exploit to perform as well as they did last night
- Fun facts about Brayden Schenn!
Tonight’s game will air at 10PM on NBCSN in the Philly area and at 7PM out in Smog City on Fox Sports. Follow Teresa on twitter @nhl_haiku where she’s absolutely hilarious; let’s go Flyers!!!
Subject: Did the Flyers
The Flyers’ season-opening win was great! But it also wasn’t what it should have been.
Alright, so before I say anything else, a few quick disclaimers:
- The Flyers won their season opener last night against a good team in a tough place to play that happens to be three time zones away. That’s awesome, and I’ll take any win that we can get no matter who’s on the ice for it. Just win, baby.
- I don’t know yet what the lines are going to look like tonight in L.A., or Saturday in Anaheim, or what’s going to happen when the team decides to revert back to carrying seven defensemen instead of eight, or how long it will be until the lineup-based complaints I’m about to make here are somewhat out of date. It could well be soon, and almost certainly will be by the time this road trip is done.
- Finally, I am not in the locker room on a day-in, day-out basis, and even if I was, I don’t have Ron Hextall’s office bugged, so I don’t know what kinds of conversations he’s having with his prospects. Hopefully they’re getting clear instructions and feedback here, and hopefully, a while from now, we’ll be able to look back on this and laugh at it as a big overreaction.
So with that, allow me to put on my “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” hat and vent for a few minutes.
Like a lot of you were (if our comments and Twitter/Facebook interactions are any sort of indication), I was reasonably frustrated with some of the personnel decisions that the team made in the week preceding Wednesday night’s opener. I had been drawing up forward lines in my head that included Oskar Lindblom since the day his SHL season ended back in April, and as the preseason went on I’d at least let myself consider the possibility that the Flyers would have three rookie defensemen as lineup mainstays right from the get-go.
That, of course, isn’t quite what happened. Nolan Patrick, Robert Hagg, and Taylor Leier all made the team, but Lindblom was pretty well shut out from getting a real shot to make it during the final week of camp, and was sent to Lehigh Valley as the preseason ended. And while all three of Hagg, Samuel Morin, and Travis Sanheim “made” the final roster, it seemed fairly clear from how Hextall discussed the matter last Sunday that the only thing preventing him from sending one of Morin or Sanheim back to the Phantoms was an injury to Shayne Gostisbehere in the closing minutes of the preseason.
The backlash to these decisions from the fanbase was pretty swift and unrelenting. How can you not keep the reigning SHL forward of the year on this team? How can you decide that Brandon Manning or Andrew MacDonald are worth keeping on this team over any of these rookies? What exactly is Ron Hextall waiting for? The frustration with this team’s decision-makers, from what I could tell, probably has at no point in the Hextall era been as universal and vocal as it was over the previous five or so days.
And I agreed with a lot of it. I, too, am far more excited for Travis Sanheim’s first NHL game than I am for anything that Manning or MacDonald will do for the rest of their NHL careers, and I think that Oskar Lindblom would probably be better right now than nearly half of the forwards the Flyers iced last night. So to see those guys not get rewarded is frustrating.
But I don’t think Ron Hextall’s an idiot, or a bad general manager (and, if our approval poll from this time a month ago is any indication, you probably don’t, either). I think he’s got some faults and blind spots as an NHL-level talent evaluator, but I think he wants what’s best for these guys and is just going about it his way.
I’d also managed to convince myself, to an extent, that it’s been so long since our fanbase really watched a prospect slowly ascend through the ranks — from juniors/college/international leagues to the minors and finally to the NHL — that’d we’d kind of forgotten that this isn’t always a quick process. Think about it: how many players since Claude Giroux spent meaningful time at a lower league and with the Phantoms before coming up to join the Flyers? Zac Rinaldo? Eric Wellwood? Nick Cousins? Maaaaybe Ghost, if you think he learned a ton from those 21 games he played with the Phantoms?
The point is it’s been a while since we’ve seen legitimate prospects spend meaningful time in the AHL before becoming Flyers, and I don’t think it’s fair to see that as necessarily a bad thing when the team asks one to do so. Different guys take different paths to success, and though I’m pretty confident the decisions this team made in the past week make them a bit worse off in the short term — which, again, I see as a talent evaluation issue, not a prospect evaluation issue — I’m not going to lose a ton of sleep over them in the here-and-now. Particularly since Hextall has basically said they’ll all be up at some point this year anyways. I don’t love it, I don’t even like it, but I can accept it.
What I have a much harder time accepting is the lineup that the Flyers iced last night, one which featured both Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim watching the game from the SAP Center press box.
I’m not upset about that decision because it led to Manning and MacDonald both being on the ice. (Well, OK, I’m not thrilled about that part, but that’s not my big problem in this context.) Nor am I overly concerned about the fact that, as young guys, Morin and Sanheim should be on the ice playing games as much as they possibly can be. I’m pretty sure that this is a short-term arrangement.
I’m more concerned with this: what message are you sending to these two guys by telling them they aren’t going to be in the opening-night lineup?
The Flyers entered training camp with five returning NHL veterans on contracts. They completely punted on free agency and declined the chance to bring in a veteran defenseman on a PTO or a cheap one-year deal to either push the rookies in camp or to be there in case they all faltered. Even if the idea of three rookie defensemen making it was always a pipe dream, there were basically two spots on this roster with giant neon arrows pointing at them saying “ROOKIE DEFENSEMAN GOES HERE”.
This was supposed to be the year where these guys stepped forward and really started their Flyers careers. This was quite clearly the Flyers’ plan all along, all throughout the summer. Combine all of that with the fact that Hextall has repeatedly said that if a rookie is on the roster, he’s going to play, and even the most pessimistic observer had to figure that two rookies would be in the Flyers’ opening-night lineup, all while one of those five returning defensemen (presumably, one out of Manning, MacDonald, Gostisbehere, or Radko Gudas, but ideally one of the first two) would be watching from the press box.
So when opening night rolls around, and not only is there only one rookie in the lineup but there are two rookies up in the press box, how can the message there be anything but “these guys simply didn’t show us enough in training camp to earn a spot that we tried to hand to them”? How can Morin and Sanheim not take that as “we’re disappointed in your performances”?
I know it’s just one game, and as we know this team isn’t afraid to scratch young players for a game or two to try and teach them lessons, so in and of itself a one-game vacation doesn’t mean that much. And — if you’re willing to ignore the fact the Flyers were rolling with these pairings in practice as far back as last Saturday, before even the final preseason game — it’s theoretically possible that the Flyers were “playing the matchups” in sitting Morin and Sanheim against a team full of wily veterans in San Jose.
But even if you think those ideas have some validity in a vacuum, the first game of the year isn’t “in a vacuum”. This game is your first chance to really show off what you’ve spent all of this past summer and fall working on. It’s this team’s first opportunity to say “here’s the group that’s going to get us back to the playoffs”. And it was the Flyers’ chance to finally tell us who those big neon arrows were pointing at.
And last night in San Jose, one of those arrows was pointing at Brandon Manning, not Sam Morin or Travis Sanheim.
Did the Flyers enter camp thinking there was no chance this could happen, that they were definitely going to be rolling with at least two rookie defensemen from the get-go, and were forced to change their minds after something they saw in training camp and the preseason? Or were they always prepared for the possibility that one of the rookies would spend some time in the press box, and were fine with the alternative that was, by and large, the Flyers’ returning group of defensemen — one which helped this team accomplish nothing special last season?
Because neither of those options are appealing.
Again, I know: it’s one game. It probably doesn’t change much long-term, and I am sure we’re going to see one of Morin or Sanheim logging regular minutes soon. Heck, we’re probably going to see both of them logging regular minutes by January or so. I believe Hextall still has a plan, and whatever that plan is, these guys probably know it.
But Wednesday night in San Jose was the Flyers’ first big chance to say, to its fanbase and in front of a national TV audience, that they believe in these guys that have been the bedrock of the best group of prospects in the NHL. Instead, the Flyers took that chance to say that they think that what they did last year should mostly be good enough, and that the new guys will get there when they get there. No matter how patient they may be or how much they do or don’t still trust Hextall, fans have every right to be upset about this.
Subject: The Flyers Have Recharged Their Power Play
Subject: Eagles Game Preview: Scouting the Arizona Cardinals
Subject: Flyers vs. Kings preview: California dreamin
Can the Flyers follow up their season-opening win over the Sharks with another win in California?
The Flyers are right back at it on the ice following their seasoning opening win in San Jose with a short trip south to face the Kings on Thursday night . Puck drop is set for 10 p.m. ET from the Staples Center, and the game will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia — formerly CSN Philly — and 97.5 The Fanatic.
The Flyers went 3-for-5 on the power play and killed off four of six power plays from a dangerous Sharks attack. Elliott stopped 32 of 35 shots and made several key saves down the stretch to help preserve the Flyers’ lead late.
Coach Dave Hakstol will be looking for more of the same as the Flyers meet up with the Kings tonight at Staples, a building the Flyers have had great success in. The Flyers are 9-2-1 all-time at the arena, including a 4-2 win last season. One thing the Kings will have this time around, however, is starting goalie Jonathan Quick, who missed a bunch of time last season and is healthy and ready to go for Los Angeles.
Here are some things to watch for tonight when the Flyers battle the Kings.
1. Can the special teams — namely the power play — keep the momentum going?
The Flyers power play was abysmal during the preseason, but shined in the opener against San Jose and provided the three goals that proved to be the difference in the game. It’s no secret that the Flyers weren’t the best even strength team a year ago, and the power play needed to be a top-five unit to propel them into the playoffs instead of the middle-of-the-pack (14th overall) unit they ended up being.
If the power play can put up elite numbers like in did in San Jose on Wednesday night, small sample size notwithstanding, it could go a long way in improving the Flyers’ playoff chances.
2. Will the fourth line of Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl continue to be effective?
The Flyers’ fouth line was a revolving door of awful last season, but this new group looked like a real nice, cohesive line against the Sharks. Both Leier and Laughton are good skaters with speed and Raffl uses his body well to control the puck and create space for others.
It was only one game, but the reviews were very good for this group together and another big key to the Flyers’ success in 2017-18 will be having a bottom six that can be counted on to be effective but also to help drive play once in a while.
3. Will the first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek continue to dominate?
While the Flyers’ fourth line drew a ton of praise for their work in game one, it was the Flyers’ top line that stood out most. Giroux is looking more and more comfortable on the wing and scored the first goal against San Jose while Voracek racked up three assists. Couturier had three golden scoring chances by my count, and this line could get even more dangerous if he can bury some of these chances going forward.
The Flyers lines are expected to look the same, with the only change in net and Michal Neuvirth getting the nod in the second end of the back-to-back.
Subject: Eagles vs. Cardinals Game Preview: 5 questions and answers with the enemy
Scouting the Eagles’ Week 5 matchup.
In order to preview the (good) Birds’ matchup against the (bad) Birds, I reached out to our enemies over at Revenge Of The Birds. The wonderful Seth Cox (@SCoxFB) kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let's take a look at the answers. For my responses to Seth’s question, go check out his post over at ROTB.
1 - I look at the Cardinals and see they’re 2-2 but I can’t help but point out both of their wins came in overtime against bad teams. Is this Arizona team any good?
They have good parts that is really held back by a combination of bad offensive line play, that then got even worse as injuries just completely overtook them and it got even worse. So, they have quite literally, the worst offensive line in the NFL. Combine that with missing maybe the best running back in the NFL, a 38 year old quarterback and a lot questions at wide receiver and the offense has been bad.
Carson Palmer has played really well the last two games, especially for getting sacked 12 times the last two games and hit an additional 27 times. Not pressured, hit/knocked down 27 times. So over two games Palmer has taken 39 hits. The fact that he is still walking is amazing, so the fact that he has thrown for just under 700 yards, three touchdowns and one interception is downright amazing.
That’s the offense in a nutshell. Defensively, it is a different story. They lack a big play guy to help out Chandler Jones in the front seven. They have a lot of good players, just not one that can take any pressure off Jones. Deone Bucannon is back, so maybe he can bring that. In the secondary… They give up a lot of cheapies. A lot. That stems, at least in my opinion, from the inability to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Which means they are covering for way too long too often.
What it really boils down to, and I could have saved 300 words, is that they are a bend but don’t break defense, who needs to be a dominant, shutout type defense with how bad the offense is.
2 - It seems like the Cardinals are dealing with some issues on the offensive line. What’s going on there?
D.J. Humphries and Mike Iupati have both been out since week one. In fact, Humphries has played eight snaps on the season before his knee injury. Iupati is probably the toughest player I have ever covered, they finally shut him down because the bone spur in his elbow had to be fixed or it would have torn the tendon. He wanted to play on Sunday mind you.
Then they brought in Alex Boone, a veteran to kind of ease the loss of Iupati and help out whenever Humphries got back, and he got hurt in his first game and is out for another week (pec strain).
So they have a backup left guard playing left tackle, and a rookie left tackle who wasn’t anywhere near ready, playing left guard. They brought Earl Watford back, he was with the Cardinals the last four seasons, and he has experience at left guard, right guard and right tackle.
Then there is the trio of A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and Jared Veldheer. In a word… awful. Veldheer had his best game since his move to right tackle this last week, but Shipley and Boehm maybe had their worst.
So, basically you have a bunch of players who are playing bad, but no options to replace them because the replacements are all starting in positions they aren’t supposed to be starting at or backing up. It is basically a dumpster fire right now.
3 - What’s your confidence level in Carson Palmer?
I have been someone who has always been hard on Palmer, but this has honestly been the most impressive two games I have ever seen from him. He physically isn’t the same quarterback throwing outside the numbers, but the fact that he has completed 62.6% of his passes on 98 attempts and at least 110 dropbacks with sacks included, for a 38-year-old, damn that’s impressive.
He’s a guy at this stage who can keep you in games and maybe win a couple for you. He has won them two, he is not the reason they lost to Dallas, that was the defense, but he was the reason they lost to Detroit. My confidence level is, outside of maybe Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, I don’t know a quarterback who could survive what Palmer has the last two weeks.
4 - How does the Markus Golden injury impact a Cardinals defense that seems to be the strength of the team?
Well, they haven’t been doing much rotating at the position, so it is going to be a massive question mark moving forward. It will start with likely some Kareem Martin, who had played 14 snaps the first three games and then 13 after the injury. The real plan seems to be moving versatile first round rookie Hasson Reddick outside and letting Deone Bucannon take over inside. It may not be all Reddick, but he will likely get the bounty of time. Of course, in this game, it likely will be Martin first as Bucannon is still getting back into shape and they need too much of Reddick at inside linebacker.
The bigger question is, who steps up at the secondary pass rusher. Chandler Jones has four sacks on the season, but no one else has more than one. Who gets the push? We have all been waiting on 2016 first round pick Robert Nkemdiche, we will see if we still are waiting come this Sunday as he re-aggravated a calf injury in practice last week and missed the game against the 49ers.
If they can’t generate a pass rush against Wentz and the Eagles, a tough task for any team, the secondary could be in a for a long day.
5 - What’s one matchup that really favors the Eagles? And one that really favors the Cardinals?
The biggest matchup advantage for the Eagles is their front four against the Cardinals offensive line. When I say advantage, I mean a massive advantage. The Cowboys pass rush, who is inferior, won consistently with three pass rushers. The 49ers pass rush, who is inferior, won from nearly every position on the field. Now, the Cardinals have to find a way to contain Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and company. If they can keep the sacks + hits under 10 this game, it is a win.
For the Cardinals, they do a great job against the run, but the biggest advantage is whoever Patrick Peterson is on. That’s the biggest advantage every game, in any stadium they walk into, no matter who is across from him.
Bonus: Who wins this game and why? What’s your score prediction?
Eagles. The Cardinals struggle in early east coast games traditionally, they struggle protecting the quarterback and the Eagles have maybe the best pass rush in the NFL. If the Cardinals can develop any type of run game, we could get an intriguing game. Either way, I feel like this is the Eagles game.
Eagles 24 - Cardinals 15
Subject: Sixers notes: Joel Embiid,
Subject: Eagles Injury Report: Timmy Jernigan returns to practice while 3 players are still out
Update on the Eagles’ injury situation.
The good news is that starting defensive tackle Tim Jernigan is back. He was a full participant on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday.
The bad news is that the Eagles are still missing three players: starting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, starting running back Wendell Smallwood, and starting cornerback Ronald Darby. It’s looking less and less likely these players will suit up on Sunday.
With Cox potentially out, it’ll be Beau Allen starting in his place once again. Allen played well while starting in Week 4 but he doesn’t offer the kind of impact that Cox does.
Smallwood being out would mean the Eagles are down to three healthy running backs: LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, and Kenjon Barner. Smallwood played the most snaps (44%) of any Eagles running back in Week 4 so his absence opens up significant playing time for his replacements.
Darby being out means the Eagles will likely start Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas at outside cornerback. That is, unless the Eagles opt to put Jaylen Watkins back at corner over Douglas, which wouldn’t be preferable. Watkins and Corey Graham were full participants in practice on again on Thursday.
Destiny Vaeao was limited in practice for the second day in a row. If he can’t play, Elijah Qualls and Justin Hamilton will be the backups to Jernigan and Allen at defensive tackle. Maybe Vaeao will be ready to return for Week 6 or 7.
Philadelphia Eagles Injury Report (Thursday)
Did Not Participate
CB Ronald Darby (ankle)
DT Fletcher Cox (calf)
RB Wendell Smallwood (knee)
DT Destiny Vaeao (wrist)
DT Tim Jernigan (heel)
LB Jordan Hicks (ankle)
S Rodney McLeod (hamstring)
S Corey Graham (hamstring)
S Jaylen Watkins (hamstring)
Arizona Cardinals Injury Report (Thursday)
Official Cardinals injury report to be announced.
Subject: Patriots vs. Buccaneers: How to watch Thursday Night Football
Everything you need to know.
Week 5 of the 2017 NFL season officially kicks off tonight.
Tonight’s game features an interconference matchup between the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Pats are 2-2 while the Bucs are 2-1.
The Patriots have played a lot worse than expected. Prior to the season, there was talk of them going 19-0. They already have two losses and they needed a last-minute win at home to beat the Texans. New England’s defense has allowed the second most points in the NFL. To make matters worse, they’ll suddenly be without Rob Gronkowski in tonight’s game.
The Buccaneers blew out the Chicago Bears in Week 2 before then losing on the road in Minnesota to the Vikings. Then they came back home to beat the Giants in a close contest.
The Eagles don’t play any of these teams this year. But with the Bucs being in the same conference, it’s better if they lose. The consolation is that if the Pats lose, the draft pick the Eagles received for Eric Rowe will continue to get better.
Find everything you need to know about tonight's game below.
New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Game time: 8:25 PM EST
Channel: NFL Network, CBS
Date: Thursday, October 5
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson
Location: Raymond James Stadium | Tampa Bay, Florida
Amazon Prime members can stream this game online.
Patriots -5 (-105)
Buccaneers +5 (-115)
Over/under: 55.5 points
SB Nation Blogs
Patriots - www.PatsPulpit.com
Buccaneers - www.BucsNation.com
Open thread: discuss Thursday's game in the comments below.
Subject: Flyers vs. Kings lineups, TV / radio / live streaming info and discussion thread
The season-opening California road swing continues tonight in Los Angeles, and it’ll feature Travis Sanheim’s NHL debut.
Tonight’s game in Los Angeles is listed as a 10:00 p.m. ET start time, with puck drop likely around 10:30 p.m. ET as the Kings open their season. Locally, the game is on NBC Sports Philadelphia (the network you may know as CSN Philly); elsewhere, you can catch it on NBC Sports Network. The radio broadcast can be heard locally on 97.5 The Fanatic.
Travis Sanheim in, Brandon Manning out.— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) October 5, 2017
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Weal - Patrick - Simmonds
Weise - Filppula - Konecny
Leier - Laughton - Raffl
Provorov - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas
Gostisbehere - Hagg
Subject: Philadelphia Eagles Jim Schwartz approval poll: October 2017
Make sure to vote in the poll!
The last time we checked in on Schwartz’s approval was back in January. He earned a 76% approval rating after his first 16 games with Philadelphia.
Here’s a look at how the Eagles rank in some key categories through the first four games of the season:
- Opponent points per play: 26th
- Opponent yards per play: 30th
- Sack percentage: 23rd
- Takeaways per game: Tied for 4th
In addition to these stats, Schwartz’s defense ranks 17th in DVOA.
When you look at the big picture, the Eagles’ defense hasn’t been awesome through the first games of the year. The offense has been much better (we’ll get to that in the Doug Pederson approval poll).
In fairness to Schwartz, though, he’s had to deal with a number of key injuries. He was down to the Eagles’ fourth string safety (Chris Maragos) in the Giants game. Ronald Darby got hurt early in Week 1. Fletcher Cox has missed 1.5 games and might miss another (or two).
It’s not like the Eagles’ defense has been downright terrible. They’ve actually only allowed a total of 23 points in the first three quarters of four games this season. The fourth quarter has been much more problematic for Philadelphia. The Birds have allowed a whopping 52 points in the final quarter of their games. That ranks second worst in the NFL.
“Yeah, we've been thinking on that,” Schwartz said on Tuesday. “We were in the exact opposite position last year. Last year, we were struggling a little bit in the first half and second half we were pitching shutouts. I think there's a lot of layers to everything that goes on on the football field. 52 points in any quarter is not -- is too many. Whether it's the first or the fourth. We've got to do a better job of keeping points off the board.”
Part of the reason the Eagles have struggled in the fourth is because their secondary isn’t very strong. When teams are down, they’re going to throw the ball a lot, and the Eagles have weaknesses at corner. It’s not just the opponent’s passing attack that’s plagued them, though. Kareem Hunt broke off a big run in Week 2 thanks in part to poor tackling by Corey Graham. Austin Ekeler (who?) had a big touchdown run against the Eagles in Week 4.
Getting Cox and Darby back (and maybe even Sidney Jones, too?) should help the Eagles’ defense. This unit is far from hopeless. The pass rush looked really good in the first two weeks. If they can get back to that level of play, this defense should improve a lot.
Until it happens, though, there’s room for criticism when it comes to Schwartz.
Are you confident in Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles? Vote now in the poll below and leave your thoughts in the comments. (Click here if you can’t see the poll.)
Previous Approval Polls:
- January 2017: 76% approval
- December 2016: 54% approval
- September 2016: 99% approval
- May 2016: 93% approval
Subject: Check out Steph and Bill on television!
The BSH Radio hosts made an appearance on The 700 Level Show to preview the Flyers season
BSH Radio’s own Steph Driver and Bill Matz were guests on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s The 700 Level Show, hosted by Marc Farzetta, to preview the Flyers season.
Steph and Bill played “dump or chase” to make predictions for several Flyers players, inlcuding Nolan Patrick’s and Claude Giroux’s goal totals, the roles for Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin, and Brian Elliott taking the lead in the crease, as well as the team’s playoff chances.
The 700 Level Show airs every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on TCN. This episode will re-air on Saturday October 7 at 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia (formerly Comcast SportsNet), so set your DVRs!
Subject: Colin Cowherd and Ryen Russillo Hate on the Sixers