Life Comes at you Fast… Carson Wentz, Eagles are 5-1 and on top of the NFC. 7 Things I need to get off my chest:

For most of the past 4 weeks, from Jake Elliott’s 61 yard field goal to sink the Giants until now, I have been pretty much speechless (in the best way possible) when trying to put my thoughts and feelings about this team and this season into thought and word. So here we go, now I’ll give it my best try:

  1. As a Carson Wentz believer from Day 1, I recognized his clear, raw talent last year. I had butterflies before the Cleveland game and throughout the first month of the season. I continued to see his emerging star even as things broke down around him through the remainder of 2016. He ended the season strong, then during the offseason we heard about how rising quarterbacks typically take a big step forward from year 1 to year 2.

Well, Carson has taken about eight steps forward. I mean, the kid looks totally different. I thought he looked good last year considering what was around him, but now I go back and watch his game tape from 2016, and it’s not even close. He has taken his natural intelligence and physical gifts, and capitalized on them to now have a complete mastery of the offense, an ability to see the entire field, and improved mechanics to navigate the pocket and move/scramble when necessary.

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We’ve heard many people in the media, across the NFL, and his own teammates talk about how he’s going to be a superstar someday. Well guess what, he is one now. That someday has already arrived. He is a legitimate Top-5 QB in 2017 and an MVP candidate in just his second season. His rapid ascension, while not shocking, is amazing to behold and so unbelievably exciting to be a part of.

  1. When I became an Eagles fan as a kid in the early 2000s, the Eagles defense was ferocious. I mean, ferocious. Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, Jevon Kearse, Michael Lewis, Troy Vincent, Lito Sheppard, and Sheldon Brown led the way year-to-year. I had such a comfort watching those teams because I knew that even if the offense struggled from periodically, that defense, led by the legendary Jim Johnson, would make everything okay. We’re back to that.

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Jim Schwartz is easily the best defensive coordinator we’ve had since Johnson, and what he is getting out of these guys now in year two is amazing. The nastiness and depth on the defensive line has simply beaten opponents into submission. Ask Kirk Cousins, Carson Palmer, and Cam Newton. The linebackers, traditionally a weak spot on Eagles teams past, are thriving. Jordan Hicks, the resurgent Mychal Kendricks, and Nigel Bradham are playing fast, sound, and have been tackling machines. The secondary play has exceeded all expectations, and it doesn’t even have Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones in the lineup. The idea that we haven’t even seen the best of this Eagles defense yet should scare the daylights out of the other 31 NFL teams.

 

  1. Zach Ertz hit a low point in his career last year, no question. It was the third straight year we expected his “breakout” season and it just wasn’t happening. Then there was the dreadful Cincinnati game, where he sidestepped Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict and almost allowed Burfict to behead a scrambling Carson Wentz.

 

He heard the criticism from fans, and it bothered him. Then, he was questioned by some of his teammates in his own locker room, and it devastated him. Ertz has a ton of heart, and maybe that was the harsh wake-up call that was needed. In just the 10 games since that day, he has 65 receptions, 759 yards, 6 TDs, and has played with an edge that we hadn’t seen out of him before. He and Wentz have arguably the best QB-TE chemistry in the league today, right up with Tom Brady- Rob Gronkowski and Alex Smith-Travis Kelce.

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The breakout is happening right before our eyes, and the Wentz-Ertz tandem has plenty of years left to come.

 

  1. I refused to call for Doug Pederson’s head after just his rookie season as a coach, and so far he’s making me look good. I recognized that Andy Reid had gone 5-11 as rookie coach in 1999 before flipping the script to 11-5 in 2000. It takes time. I don’t always agree with every play call, but this team is ready to play every single week. He does an excellent job keeping this team grounded and focused through anything and everything. He also deserves an enormous amount of credit for the growth we’ve seen in Wentz, the quarterback he has tied his success in Philadelphia to.

 

This isn’t to say that he is the next Bill Belichick or Vince Lombardi. But he is in the running for coach of the year in his second season and not many people saw that coming.

 

  1. There is one thing that has remained true in the NFL and stood the test of time: the teams that go all the way and have consistent playoff success have great, homegrown teams. A big reason why the Eagles struggled to have sustained success from 2010-2016 was largely due to hit-and-miss drafting. There were some mind-boggling picks, some disappointing picks, and some downright brutal picks in that time. Furthermore, it pained me personally to watch homegrown teams like the 2010 Packers, 2011 Giants, and 2013 Seahawks both draft so well and (not surprisingly) perform so well.

 

Fast-forward to now. Look at the some of the Eagles’ key contributors: Carson Wentz, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor (!), Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, and even young corners like Rasul Douglas and Jalen Mills have been more than holding their own.

 

You’re always going to have to plug holes with free agents and trades, and all teams do. But the best ones receive major contributions from their homegrown players, and finally, the Eagles are too.

 

  1. A little bit more on Nelson Agholor. Stories like his are the best Philadelphia sports stories and endear a player to the fan base like no other. Here was a kid in 2015, picked 20th overall in the draft, and was immediately tasked to replace Jeremy Maclin’s production in Chip Kelly’s offense. He simply was not ready. He didn’t get open and he didn’t catch the ball. You won’t have much success as an NFL wide receiver if you can’t do those two things. The pick looked like a disaster, and when a team keeps missing on first-round picks, 7-9 records happen and coaches get fired. It happened here.

 

Then last year, it somehow got worse. Agholor didn’t seem to improve at all, and then had two catastrophic mental mistakes in Seattle that hurt the Eagles in a major way in that game. It left him a broken player. He opened up and ripped himself apart in an uncomfortable post-game interview, basically forcing Pederson to give him a mental health week.

 

So, that should be it, right? Bust. Done. But Agholor reached deep inside himself and found what made him a top NFL draft pick. He clearly had ability – one look at his college tape will show that. But for the first time in his NFL career, he truly realized the work it was going to take to become something in this league. He added significant muscle to his frame, became even quicker and faster, and worked tirelessly with Wentz to grow more comfortable and confident with his quarterback.

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Then, the Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith signings happened, immediately releasing pressure of Agholor’s shoulders. He had a tremendous camp, to the point the Eagles felt comfortable trading Jordan Matthews, and then Agholor actually carried over his success into the regular season. Two years later, he is justifying the first round pick spent on him. His story and how far he has come in the last 10 months is amazing. Any kid who gets knocked down like he did, picks up the rubble and comes back better than ever has my utmost respect. But more importantly than me, his play is legitimately elevating this team and has been a key contributor to this 5-1 start.

 

  1. I’ve thought about this, and I feel comfortable now saying that this is the most fun I have had watching the Eagles since 2004. Yes, that magical 2004 season that ended 3 points short of the Lombardi Trophy.

 

I am back to enjoying this team the way I did when I was a kid, when I just had faith that my team would pull through no matter what and get the job done. Yes, Michael Vick’s 2010 redemption tour was thrilling, but the Eagles had obvious holes on defense and by season’s end the NFL figured out how to stop Vick to an extent. Sure, Chip Kelly’s debut season was great in 2013, where we went 10-6 behind Nick Foles’ terrific play and got to host a playoff game. We also started 5-1 in 2014, but unlike this year, that 5-1 record happened in spite of a turnover-ridden offense and a disastrous offensive line.

 

This is different. Carson is different. Everything just feels so real about this team. However, I won’t declare anything here and I can’t quite say the “S” word until we win a playoff game. But I do recognize what is happening here. Eagle fans deserve to enjoy every moment of this. A great team is forming right before our eyes and it just gets better every single week, every single day.

 

The Eagles are lifting the spirits of an entire city right now. This is how it’s supposed to be. Philadelphia lives and dies on the wings of our Eagles, and right now, the living doesn’t get much better.

 

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Philadelphia Sports’ “Processes” – Analyzing what we trust, why we trust, and should we be?

If you asked a Philadelphia sports fan to describe their life as a fan since 2013, chances are positive thoughts aren’t the first things you’ll hear. One might talk about the gradual, year-by-year demise of the Phillies from 2008 world (expletive) champions to baseball’s worst team in 2015. They might also speak of the initial excitement and rise of Chip Kelly’s Eagles, going 19-9 through the first 28 games, only to watch them crash and fall twice as hard. Then they might talk about the tanks for the memories of the 76ers, and the Flyers being a borderline playoff team at best, now not a playoff team at all.

However, after all this, the conversation might end with a phrase that was birthed by the former General Manager of the 76ers, Sam Hinkie: “Trust The Process.”

After all the negativity and misery and disappointment, we hear the words “Trust The Process.” Why? Well, human nature would suggest that people, while going through difficult and trying times, carry on in hope that better days await. The mentality and way of thinking runs through each one of us as people, whether it pertains to sports or anything else, and we are experiencing this in the very moment.

As Philadelphia sports sits in an unprecedented spot in its history, this method of human thinking has proven itself to be true among us as fans. Never before have we not only been told by one of our teams to sit back, be patient, and put up with years of losing, but bits and pieces of that same mentality has made its way over to the other teams in this town as well. Even Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson has said in an actual press conference to “Trust the Process.” So why do we actually sit back and put up with it? Why do we accept this, and better yet why do we truly believe better days are ahead?

As you read this, think for a second what made you a Philadelphia sports fan. It may be a moment, it may be a period of time, it may be a specific athlete. You may have been a child, you may have been a teenager, you may have been an adult. Maybe your mother or father brought you up in their footsteps rooting for our teams, or maybe you gravitated towards our teams on your own.

At our very core, we follow sports and cheer for our teams because of moments of joy they bring us. As humans, we are drawn to things that bring us happiness, enjoyment, and sense of optimism. Whether sports are your “escape” from other burdens or simply a true passion, or both, it is the pursuit of happiness and joy that draws us in. Show me an Eagles fan who hasn’t had that “little kid” feeling after a Brian Westbrook go-ahead touchdown run, a Brian Dawkins suplex, or Donovan McNabb-to-Terrell Owens touchdown bomb, and I will show you a liar. Maybe Michael Vick’s thrilling 2010 season gave you an extra emotional boost as you carried on through your weeks, believing that if he can come back from his trials better than ever, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to as well. Maybe you hugged your loved ones tighter than ever in your living room when the Eagles finally got over the hump in January 2005 and into Super Bowl 39. Maybe you and a friend embraced like you hadn’t seen each other in decades following Roy Halladay’s 2010 playoff no-hitter.

Any one of us can point out these moments, and can relate to a feeling of happiness and positivity. We crave that as humans, it’s in our DNA. It just so happens that as a fan of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, or Flyers, that we find this feeling of joy through our teams.

Philadelphia has seen one major sports championship since 1983, so our craving of this feeling is as high as anyone’s. We are willing to “trust the process” of dealing with some losing to bring us an eventual ultimate high.

Adding to our craving is the fact that in the last 7 months, we’ve gotten glimpses of what can be, of what our lives can be like when these “processes” are complete. Carson Wentz stepped in as the second overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, took the field on a sunny September afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, and in 4 passes already found Jordan Matthews in the corner of the end zone. At that moment, 66,000 fans in attendance and millions watching at home felt one of these “highs” – like DAMN, can you imagine this for the next 10-15 years? Then he did it again against the Bears on Monday Night Football. After that, he was somehow even better against the Steelers in an unimaginable 34-3 rout, and the Eagles were 3-0.

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Fast forward to January. After 2 years, 2014 top pick Joel Embiid was on the court for the 76ers. Not only was he healthy, but he was already proving to be a transcendent talent. A 7-foot-3 player who can also run and also shoot the three-pointer? You gotta be kidding, right? And better yet, the Sixers started to win, and win regularly. The Wells Fargo Center had the most electricity on a nightly basis since Allen Iverson was hoisting the MVP trophy in 2001. Embiid’s larger-than-life personality was on full display and thousands of fans each night kept feeling more of these “highs.”

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Obviously, the Eagles fell back to Earth as Wentz was a rookie quarterback with a terrible supporting cast, and Embiid suffered another setback with a knee injury that the Sixers didn’t care to rush him back from. But I guarantee as you read those last two paragraphs, you began to feel joy again in reflecting on those glimpses of what can be. Those moments of joy, of happiness, of feeling like a little kid again that we have experienced in the recent past, continue to propel us forward.

Now, take a second and place yourself in the moment I am about to describe. A few years from now, it is a cold, January night in the conference championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles lead Dallas (or insert any other team) 28-24 with three minutes to go, as fans collectively hold their breaths with prior playoff disappointments at the forefront of their minds. Carson Wentz then scrambles away from pressure to rifle a pass to Alshon Jeffery or Jordan Matthews in the end zone to seal a thrilling win as white towels wave all throughout the Linc. Or maybe its a 44-6 style blowout win and a three-hour party full of jubilation. The Eagles and their fans are back in the Super Bowl and feeling the third time will be the charm.  At that moment, a 7-9 season a few years ago will have been worth every second.

Maybe it’s May 2020, the 76ers and Celtics are battling in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Joel Embiid blocks Isaiah Thomas en route to the basket, picks up the ball, throws it down the court to a dashing Ben Simmons, who slams home a thunderous dunk to put the Sixers up 15 with 3 minutes to go. The Wells Fargo Center, painted in a sea of blue and white, explodes with thunderous cheers. The Celtics call timeout, Joel Embiid runs up to hug Ben wearing an ear-to-ear smile, as chants of “TRUST THE PROCESS” reverberate through the walls of the arena.

Just imagine the joy, the child-like feeling of happiness at its purest that we all would be feeling. It may never happen, but the possibility of these moments coming to fruition are enough to keep us coming back through the good times and bad. Many Eagles fans might break down in tears of joy in the closing moments of a Super Bowl as Carson Wentz prepares for two final kneel-downs before the confetti falls.

It is moments like these that we are “trusting” will eventually come. We are trusting them because of the feeling they give us as not only fans, but as humans. We await being able to hug our loved ones who we’ve endured countless losses and disappointments with. And we currently justify our trust based on the glimpses that we’ve seen in the last 7 months.

Should we? Better yet, what choice do we really have? We crave the feeling of joy that winning brings, and in order to get there, many fans are willing to embrace what we are going through now. Will it all be worth it?

 

We gotta trust.

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Eagles Make a Statement and Why I’m Thankful for This Team

Before I begin to revel in today’s win and the current state of the Eagles, I want to flash back to two years ago today.

November 27, 2012. The Eagles had just lost a close game on Monday Night football the previous night to the Carolina Panthers. It was their 8th straight loss that dropped them to 3-9 on the season.

Michael Vick had been knocked out two weeks prior with a concussion and Nick Foles was struggling as a rookie. LeSean McCoy was out with a concussion as well and DeSean Jackson was injured in the Carolina game. The Eagles offensive line at this time? King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Dallas Reynolds, Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly. The secondary? Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman.

The 2012 season started with promise and Vick was talking about leading this team to a Super Bowl. By November 27, Eagles fans had to will themselves out of bed every morning, dreading the fact we could no longer enjoy Eagles football, and knowing we were watching the Andy Reid era come to a sad, melancholy, all-around depressing conclusion. Each and every day was a struggle, and there was a hole in my heart watching my beloved team go through this.

Now that we’ve relived that nightmare for a brief second, lets fast forward two years to right now.

The Eagles entered a battle for first place in the division with Dallas. The defense backed up their trash talk from the week and shut down a Cowboys offense that was supposed to dominate. The Eagles offense, led by head coach Chip Kelly and Foles’ backup Mark Sanchez, put on a clinic and scored enough points to win halfway through the first quarter. There’s a dozen other ways to describe what happened in Dallas today, but I’ll just leave it at the Eagles absolutely dominated to take over first place in the NFC East. It’s fitting that the 2014 Eagles’ signature win came on Thanksgiving Day. On the heels of reliving the 2012 nightmare, let’s reflect on what there is to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Trent Cole, Mychal Kendricks, and even though he’s hurt right now, DeMeco Ryans, for surviving the 2012 nightmare and refusing to accept a losing culture; for committing to playing new positions in a 3-4 scheme and excelling at them.

I’m thankful for Michael Vick for being a class act when Foles took over last year, aiding Foles in his record-breaking 2013 season, a season that was key in re-establishing a winning culture in Philadephia.

I’m thankful for LeSean McCoy, who finally embraced Chip Kelly’s culture and is carving out a Hall-of-Fame worthy career.

I’m thankful for Jeremy Maclin, who has answered every single critic saying he couldn’t rebound from another torn ACL, saying he’d never have a 1000-yard season, saying he couldn’t be a number 1 receiver. He’s proved everybody wrong and has been a class act in the process.
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I’m thankful for my Eagles fan brethren who have once again made Lincoln Financial Field into a house of horrors for opponents. The Eagles are unbeaten this year at home and have won 10 consecutive regular season games at the Linc.

I’m thankful for Chip Kelly, for completely changing the culture following the 2012 season; for introducing an innovative, science-driven program to get the most out of every single player; for committing to special teams excellence that has paid dividends; for turning a 4-12 disaster into a 10-6 playoff team; for making Eagles football fun to be a part of once again.

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Last but not least, I’m thankful for owner Jeffrey Lurie. I’m thankful for him simply being the owner and letting everyone else do their own jobs (looking at you, Jerry Jones); for having the vision to hire a college coach in Kelly with no prior NFL experience; for turning around an organization that could have easily stayed at the bottom of the standings for years to come; for understanding the passion of us fans and responding to it in a time of turmoil; for successfully hiring terrific head coaches back-to-back and leading two successful eras of Eagles football.

Eagles fans, it is critical that on a day like today we relive just how awful things were two years ago. By doing so, we can have a full appreciation for where the Eagles stand right now as one of the NFL’s elite teams. It has been a remarkable turnaround, I am beyond proud to be an Eagles fan, and I can’t help but feel that the best is yet to come.

Thank you.

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An Open Letter to Phillies President David Montgomery

Dear Mr. Montgomery,

Philadelphia fans have often been referred to as the most diehard fans in sports. Our beloved Phillies are no exception. With the Phillies remaining idle at the non-waiver trade deadline here in 2014, many fans have reached their boiling point. As I’m sure you have noticed, one man has become the scapegoat for the recent failures of this team and that man is general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.

And there are a plethora of reasons as to why.

The reason fans aren’t upset with you, Mr. Montgomery, is because you have proven your ability to produce a winner with your hires. After Ed Wade was rightfully fired as general manager after 2005, you hired Pat Gillick to fill the position. Five years earlier, Mr. Gillick successfully turned the Seattle Mariners into a 116-win team and, in just three seasons in Philadelphia, elevated the Phillies to a World Series title. He did this through properly handling young talent (Utley, Rollins, Howard, Victorino, Hamels), making astute trades and signings (Brad Lidge, Jayson Werth), and letting go of expensive yet declining stars when it was their time (Jim Thome).

The reason fans aren’t upset with manager Ryne Sandberg is because he has been dealt a difficult hand, and we see that. He inherited an older, declining team with little farm system talent waiting ready in the wing. He has not even managed this team for an entire calendar year. Fans trust that he will someday develop into a terrific manager and that it is not fair to judge him off of 6 months’ work.

There is one man who directly correlates with the decline of this Phillies team, and that is general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.

Gillick retired after the 2008 championship season and handed the reigns to Amaro as general manager. Immediately, Amaro employed a “win-now” mentality which, at the time, fans were all-in on. He made flashy signings and trades to acquire names like Roy Halladay, Hunter Pence, and Cliff Lee. He also signed stars like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Jonathan Papelbon to lucrative, long-term deals. This all seemed great at the time and Phillies fans were eating it up.

Fast forward 3 years. Yes, 3 full years. The Phillies are about to miss the playoffs for a third straight year. Ryan Howard is 34 years old as has not been the same since his 2011 achillies injury. Jimmy Rollins is 35 years old and in steady decline. Other players who are still solid starters but in decline with massive contracts include Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz. Aside from the depletion of the farm system due to the Lee, Pence, and Halladay trades, Amaro has made these aging players virtually untradeable due to their contracts.

Plenty of pieces to be traded, no one willing to pay Amaro’s price to get them.

2014 marks the third straight year the Phillies could have sold some of these aging players in attempt to get some prospects. I am not a general manager nor am I going to pretend to be one. But myself and Phillies fans everywhere are knowledgeable enough to know that three trade deadlines have come and gone without any legitimate young talent coming to the team. Sorry, Ben Revere is a sad excuse of a replacement for Shane Victorino.

Bringing back this little talent while still signing aging stars (see A.J. Burnett and Michael Young) in attempt to prolong the inevitable has absolutely buried the organization. Like I said, I am not a general manager but even I know that one of these aging starts should have brought back SOMETHING in return.

Our neighbors down the road, the Philadelphia Eagles, recently went through a similar situation. Andy Reid entered win-now mode and signed outside free agents and aging stars to try to make a final run at a Super Bowl. After two seasons, the plan revealed itself to be a disaster. The Eagles could have pretended like everything was okay and stuck with Reid, Michael Vick, and continued to bring in outside stars to cover up their mistakes.

But they looked themselves in the mirror, realized a new direction was needed, owned up to the mistakes, and just one year later the Eagles have reclaimed their position as one of the better teams in all of football.

Amaro refuses to admit his wrongdoings and pretends like this team is a contender. Attendance is dwindling because us fans are reluctant to pour our valuable time and hard-earned money into an organization that we feel isn’t giving their best effort into producing a winner. Remember those summer nights in 2010 and 2011 where the hottest thing to do in Philadelphia was to go see our 100-win Phillies? We long for those days again, Mr. Montgomery.

We are eternally grateful for the championship our Phillies gave us in 2008. However, the honeymoon is over. Long over. We are ready to have a winner once again and it is all in your hands to give us that.

See, our power as fans is limited. We can tweet #FireRuben and not show up to games and boo the team and sign petitions until our hands fall off. However, that can only go so far. Mr. Montgomery, there is one man with the power to remove Ruben Amaro, Jr. from his position as general manager of the Phillies and that is you. We are currently a helpless fanbase who is held hostage by an incompetent general manager and are unsure whether to cheer for our team to win (as we were raised to do) or cheer for losses simply to bring about organizational changes.

I speak for myself and the entire fanbase when I say that we are desperate. As much as we hate seeing our beloved Phillies struggle, we hate even more knowing that they are run by a delusional general manager who is absolutely blind to the obvious needs of the team. He has made mistake after mistake and it is time to cut the chord.

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We don’t have the final say, you do. There is one man with the power to stop this runaway train and bring the fans a winner again.

Mr. Montgomery, I hope with all my heart that somehow, someway you see this letter and take our desires into account. You have our undying support, your general manager does not.

Ruben, time’s up.

Sincerely,
Your hundreds of thousands of Phillies fans across the country

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7 Bold Predictions for the 2014 Eagles

Make no mistake, we are in the true dog days of summer for football fans. For those diehards like me who take this time of year to dream and imagine, here are 7 bold predictions for this coming season. Some might sound ridiculous, but that’s why they’re called “bold” predictions. For better or worse, in 2014:

1) Darren Sproles will prove to be an overrated acquisition.

As fun as it is to imagine what Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy can do to a defense on the field together, the Eagles are loaded with offensive weapons. Zach Ertz is bound to emerge to become a featured weapon along with Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper, and maybe even Josh Huff. Despite what the coaches say, I have a hard time believing they’re going to take LeSean McCoy off the field all that much. That leaves Darren Sproles without enough touches to replicate his New Orleans production or live up to fans’ expectations this season.

2) The Eagles will blow out the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
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In their first Turkey Day trip to Dallas since 1989, the Eagles will dominate from the getgo. With shades of nationally televised blowouts like the 2008 Thanksgiving game vs. Arizona and the 2010 Monday Night game in Washington, the Eagles defeat the Cowboys 52-10, including a Todd Herremans touchdown catch.

3) Zach Ertz will catch 10 or more touchdowns.

The Eagles feel comfortable enough with Ertz’s emergence that they trade Brent Celek at the deadline, and Ertz repays the Eagles with double-digit touchdown catches as he becomes one of the NFL’s elite young tight ends.

4) Earl Wolff will make the Pro Bowl.

By Week 3, after DeSean Jackson torches the Eagles secondary, Nate Allen will find himself on the bench and Earl Wolff (pictured below) will take over. After showing flashes as a rookie, Wolff will stay on the field and display his tremendous athleticism along with second-year poise. By season’s end, safety will (finally) no longer be a position of question on the Eagles as Wolff emerges as a Pro Bowler.

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5) Mark Sanchez will win the Eagles’ first playoff game since 2008.

Last year Michael Vick went down in the Meadowlands, this year it’s Nick Foles who will leave the season finale in New Jersey, leaving Mark Sanchez to beat the 49ers in the Wild Card Round before Foles returns.

6) David Akers will be an Eagle.

Haven’t we all had enough of Alex Henery? Chip Kelly has enough and decides to part ways with Henery by Week 8 and signs an old friend off the scrap heap.

7) The Eagles will go undefeated at home.

Take a look at the home schedule and no there’s no opponent that jumps out at you until Seattle on December 7. The Eagles surprise everyone and beat Seattle that day 20-17, then beat Dallas the next week, making up for all their home struggles as of late to go unbeaten at the Linc. With this summer’s renovations bringing in 1,600 new loud voices, it’s time to re-establish home field advantage.

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Now, by no means am I saying to take these predictions to the bank. Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with any, or if I’ve completely lost my mind. Having not had Eagles football for 6 months now, I may have done just that.

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With the Home Stretch upon us, It’s Time for the Eagles to Make their Move

Another year, another showdown with the Arizona Cardinals awaits. Over the last two seasons, the Eagles have had their share of trouble with Arizona. In 2011, the Eagles lost at home to the John Skelton-led Cardinals by a score of 21-17. Michael Vick played the entire game with broken ribs and was a shell of himself. The offense could hardly muster anything as one of the more depressing losses in recent memory sent the Eagles to 3-6. In 2012, the 2-0 Eagles traveled to the desert and trailed 17-0 in the second quarter. Vick led the team down the field right before halftime and the game was about to become interesting. That is, until Vick was blindsided and Arizona safety James Sanders returned a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-0. The Eagles would go on to lose 27-6 to the Kevin Kolb-led Cardinals. That was the first of far too many ugly losses last season.

The bad news going into this Sunday’s home game against Arizona is that the Cardinals have had the Eagles’ number the past two years. The good news is this isn’t 2011 or 2012. The Eagles are a much improved team. They are 6-5, currently a half-game behind Dallas in the NFC East and could tie the Cowboys at 7-5 with a win Sunday.

When the NFL schedule came out in April, not many people expected the December 1 showdown between the Eagles and Arizona to be a key game in the NFC playoff race. The fact of the matter is both these teams are much improved from 2012. Both teams have an entirely new coaching regime in place. Carson Palmer has regained his old form the past several weeks and heads into this game playing terrific football. Even more impressive than Palmer’s recent resurrection is the Arizona defense, suddenly a complete and fearsome unit with tremendous talent and production at all three levels.

This will be the toughest test yet for quarterback Nick Foles. It’s no secret that Foles has enjoyed a tremendous season so far (16 TD’s, 0 INT’s, NFC Offensive Player of the Month). However, Foles is now being asked to lead this team into the heart of a playoff race and he will have to begin against a very stout defensive unit. Expect Foles to take care off the football and strike a couple of big plays. Sustaining drives will be hard to do against the Cardinals. Foles will also likely face the most pressure he has all year. He’s reacted very well to having a clean pocket and having to flush out on occasion. However, Arizona blitzes early and often and they have the players to get to the quarterback. Foles will have to react to immense pressure and guide the offense effectively. It won’t be easy.

Sunday’s game will be a battle of two hot teams who have played well both offensively and defensively. Something will have to give one way or another. For the first time since 2000 or 2001, Eagle fans are approaching a playoff stretch with more “let’s see” mentality. In those years, an up-and-coming Donovan McNabb guided an Eagles team with limited talent around him into the playoff both seasons. Then came the NFC Championship Game failures, and pressure mounted on Reid and McNabb each year to get over the hump and deliver the ultimate prize.

The 2013 Eagles were not thought to be a playoff team. Right now, fans are watching a young man develop into a true franchise quarterback and lead the team on a surprising race to the division title. While this raises the bar for 2014, right now the Eagles have exceeded expectations for this season. This is where fans get to have fun watching how far this team can go, how good Nick Foles really is, and how good the young defense really is. This week is not make-or-break for either team, but it sure would be nice to get a win, stay hot, and take another step closer to a playoff berth.

My prediction:

For the eighth straight game, the Eagles defense will hold a team to 21 points or less. Nick Foles will hit one big play to DeSean Jackson but LeSean McCoy will fail to put up 100 yards against Arizona’s front seven. The suddenly-stout Eagles defense will not entirely stymie Carson Palmer and Arizona’s offense, but will slow them down from the last few weeks. I wish I could say I see the Eagles dominating Arizona like Thanksgiving night in 2008 (they are wearing the same black jerseys), but I don’t. I hope I’m dead wrong, but I think the Cardinals cause Foles and the Eagles a bump in the road. The Eagles will still be in the hunt until Week 17, they just suffer a minor setback this week.

Cardinals 19, Eagles 17

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A Gut-Check Win to Send the Eagles to First Place: Post-Game Thoughts

Today, the Eagles nearly blew a 24 point lead to the Washington Redskins en route to what would have been their 11th straight home loss. They let the Redskins hang around entirely too long before Brandon Boykin ended the comeback effort with an end-zone interception. It was an ugly fourth quarter, no doubt. Could the Eagles have made it easier, given that they dominated the ‘Skins throughout the first three quarters? Yes.

The fact of the matter is this: I would not go back and change anything. I’m elated that the Eagles won exactly the way they did.

It was beautiful to see Nick Foles and the offense come out clicking with 24 first-half points. It was also beautiful to watch the defense not only shut out Washington in the first half, but punish Robert Griffin III and completely dominate the game. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking about a possible shutout in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Griffin III scrambled left and found Darrel Young for a 62-yard touchdown. That was followed by a 2-point conversion to make it a two-possession game. No big deal right? The offense was sure to come back, eat some time off the clock, and maybe even add another score to put the game out of reach for good. Then Washington got the ball back and began to mount a drive until RGIII heaved a pass up into the end zone. Aldrick Robinson turned around to the ball a split second before cornerback Roc Carmichael did and made a spectacular catch for another touchdown. After another two-point conversion, it was now a 24-16 game and a lot of nervous fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

After Nick Foles was stopped short on a 3rd down run, Donnie Jones punted 70 yards to pin the Redskins inside their own 10. With a raucous home crowd and 93 yards to go, the Eagles defense seemed primed to put the game away, right? Not so fast. Washington drove ALL the way down the field and had many fans thinking about how to stop another two-point conversion or how to win in overtime. Then, with about 40 seconds left, the Eagles got pressure on RGIII, forced him to heave a pass into the end zone off his back foot, and Brandon Boykin came up with the game-saving interception.

And I would not have this win any other way.

The last two seasons, especially 2012, the Eagles would let opponents run up and down the field on them to the point where the defense would almost give up. The fans came to expect failure. Under Bill Davis this season, the Eagles have had their bumps in the road defensively. However, since Week 4, they have not allowed more than 21 points in a game and have come up with timely plays. This was a game for the defense to win, and they did. The great Andy Reid teams of the early 2000’s won games in the clutch and had players who rose to the occasion, especially defensively. The main reason I am happy the Eagles won the way they did is because it revealed this team’s character. This is becoming a group of winners, similar to the early Reid years.

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A winning culture is being established. Players are rising up in key moments. The recent draft classes, especially the 2012 class, is forming a very strong nucleus that is going to be the core of this team going forward. Today, the team faced adversity late in a game and pulled through. Most of all, there is meaningful football for the fans and players to take part in during the latter stages of the season. This is so exciting, to watch this promising group of players come together.

Heading into the home stretch of the 2013 season, in large part because of wins like today, the Eagles are a team that is believing in one another. It sure is a nice change-up from the last two seasons. The team is all alone atop the NFC East and only getting better. Cruising to a 24-0 or 24-8 victory over the Redskins would have shown that the Eagles could get a lead, hold a team down, and win a big home game. Winning the way they did today revealed that there is a group of never-say-die players on this team who trust one another, who have fought and overcome adversity. Enjoy this win Eagles fans, we’re in for a fun December.

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