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Category:NFL
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:54 pm
 

The Eagles 2011 Season is Over

Only 5 weeks into the season, but the Eagles are finished with a record of 1-4.

Another week, another disappointing performance by the Eagles.  This time, the Eagles made a comeback attempt but still had a critical turnover that led to a 31-24 loss to the Bills

These are some reasons why the Eagles lost:

-The defense was unable to stop the run, put any pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick or make any plays in the secondary.  The defense is loaded with "talent" and guys that have made plays in the past so there has to be an issue with Castillo and his schemes.  The one thing this group did well in the last few weeks was get to the quarterback and they couldn't even do that this week. The coaches have players in the wrong positions/scheme. That is the only explanation.

-Jason Avant had a great game statistically, catching 9 passes for 139 yards, but he made two terrible plays that cost the Eagles the game.  When a sure-handed guy like Avant can't hold on to the ball you know things just aren't going your way.

-Michael Vick doesn't deserve much of the blame for this one.  Of his 4 interceptions, only one was a truly terrible pass.  Vick is doing everything he can with what little time he is given and scrambling for his life when there is nothing open downfield.  He can't be blamed for tipped passes becoming interceptions and for the inept line in front of him. Watching the post game show, you can see that Vick hates to lose. The same can't be said about other players on the eagles sideline. There is not enough heart on that team. They need leaders in the locker room; they aren't responding to Andy Reid anymore!

-How about giving the ball to LeSean McCoy more often?  Only 15 touches for Shady, who still managed over 100 total yards. McCoy is one of the best backs in the NFL, but the Eagles don't use his skills enough. Look what Minnesota did this week...won the game by jumping on Adrian Peterson's back. I think McCoy is good enough to be the focus of the eagles offense.

-I'm so glad Juqua Parker was healthy enough to suit up this week so he could make a boneheaded play a the end of the game to seal the loss for the Eagles. That moron needs to be cut from the team. I don't care if they have to pay a penalty for cutting ties. Everyone fan watching the game knew they weren't going to snap the ball. How does a professional player make that kind of mental mistake?

-By my count, Jamar Chaney made the first play by a linebacker all season long when he picked off Fitzpatrick. The Eagles have the worst LBs in the entire NFL. Horrible (I blame this on Andy Reid and his lack of focus at that position)

At 1-4, this season is effectively over for the Eagles.  They might get a few wins and find themselves back in the NFC East title picture, but there isn't any reason to think that this team is going to start playing well.  This is a broken team that has talent but can't seem to put all of the pieces together. There is no leadership and no heart. 

Andy Reid has been a great coach in Philly, but it's time for a change in philosophy. Why wait until next year? The Eagles should cut ties right now and get first dibs on a new coach.

I can't root for this team anymore. I really hope they lose every single game for the rest of the year, so they are forced to make changes.
Posted on: October 21, 2010 8:35 am
 

Week 7 probabilities

One of the more intriguing matchups this weekend, and possibly the most puzzling prediction of the efficiency model all season, is the Patriots at Chargers. The Patriots come into Week 7 at 4-1, fresh off a dramatic win over the contending Ravens. The Chargers enter the weekend at 2-4, fresh off a loss to the rebuilding Rams. But somehow the model makes the Chargers heavy favorites over the Patriots  at 0.85 to 0.15.

In fact, the Chargers sit atop all other teams in the weekly rankings produced by the game probability model thanks to their passing efficiency on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers and the rest of the offense are in a class by themselves, averaging 7.9 net yards per pass attempt. San Diego’s pass defense is also best in the league at 4.9 net yards per attempt. The Chargers’ running efficiencies on offense and defense are both better than average, as are their turnover rates.

So what is going on? How can a team that leads the league in efficiency (and in total yards) on both sides of the ball have only a 2-4 record to show for it? A big part of the answer is very clear: special-teams play. The Chargers have given up  three touchdowns on kicks and punts, and have had further difficulties on special teams.

But things still don’t add up, so let’s look at turnover differential. Although the Chargers are better than average in interception rate, they pass so often that they actually have a turnover differential of -3. This certainly isn’t good, but even combined with their special-teams failures, it still doesn’t fully explain four losses for such a statistically dominant team. Something else is going on.

I think a big part of the Chargers’ 2-4 record is bad luck. Statisticians might call it sample error or randomness, but whatever you call it, it’s not going well for San Diego. I’m not talking about leprechauns or superstitions or the random bouncing of footballs. (Although the Chargers have lost 9 of 11 fumbles, and the league-wide rate is about 50 percent. Fumble recovery is a notoriously random event in football — just look at the shape of the ball.)

Rather, I’m talking about a concept I call “bunching.”

Let’s say there are two baseball teams, completely equal in ability, playing one game at a neutral site. Each team performs perfectly equally, both hitting exactly nine singles over nine innings. But let’s say one team gets all its singles in one inning, and the other has its singles spread out one per inning. The first team might win, 7-0. It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates an overlooked point about many sports. Successful plays are not enough. Consecutive successes are required to win.

In football, two equal teams could each have 12 first downs in a game. One team could have three drives of four consecutive first downs, each leading to a touchdown, and the rest of its drives could be three-and-outs. The other team could have 12 drives consisting of one first down followed by a punt. Both teams could have equal yards, first downs and efficiency stats, and yet one team could win, 21-0. It’s easy to imagine a game in which one team has many more first downs and yards, but still loses. Could something like this bunching effect be cursing the Chargers?

It’s a given that N.F.L. offenses tend to score in proportion to their yards gained. It’s actually an extremely tight correlation, and the best–fit estimate of a team’s points per game is to take just under 10 percent of its yards per game and subtract 10. For the Chargers, who lead the N.F.L. with 433 yards gained per game, we’d expect the offense to score about 32 points per game, but they’ve actually scored only 26.

A similar analysis for the Chargers’ defense, with the special-teams scores set aside, shows that it has  allowed almost 2 points more per game more than the yardage total implies. That’s a total difference of 8 points per game.

If we could magically add those 8 points onto the scoreboard for each game this season, the Chargers would have five wins, no losses and a tie. Of course, things aren’t that simple, and we can’t just add points after the fact. But it’s an exercise that illustrates just how random game outcomes can be, even in the N.F.L.

Here are your Week 7 game probabilities:

Win ChanceGAMEWin Chance0.45Cincinnati at Atlanta0.550.37Washington at Chicago0.630.40St. Louis at Tampa Bay0.600.49San Francisco at Carolina0.510.19Buffalo at Baltimore0.810.45Philadelphia at Tennessee0.550.14Jacksonville at Kansas City0.860.52Pittsburgh at Miami0.480.28Cleveland at New Orleans0.720.13Arizona at Seattle0.870.15New England at San Diego0.850.19Oakland at Denver0.810.26Minnesota at Green Bay0.740.53Giants at Dallas0.47
Posted on: October 1, 2010 3:19 pm
 

Vick v McNabb

Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles - It is Vick vs. McNabb as the skins visit the Eagles in this key NFL. This game will feature the return of Donovan McNabb, back home in front of the home fans as well as the continuing tale of Michael Vick’s rebirth in the City of Brotherly Love. Just a year ago, Vick and McNabb were stacked on Philadelphia’s depth chart as Vick attempted to resurrect his career. Now, they will be playing against each other on McNabb’s former stage.

 

The Eagles (2-1)  are giving 6 points to the Redskins (1-2) at home. Philadelphia has done well against

Washington, winning 12 of the past 18, including a sweep of the NFL Picks series last season.

 

Vick’s rise is nothing short of shocking, his play spectacular. In leading the Eagles to wins in his two starts, Vick has thrown for a combined 575 yards and 5 touchdown passes and 67 yards rushing and 1 touchdown. DeSean Jackson has been a big play receiver, averaging 24.5 yards per catch on 12 receptions while LeSean McCoy has gained 209 yards with a 6.1 average rush per carry. Tight end Brent Celek, on the other hand, has struggled getting involved in the new Vick-led offense after catching 96 passes in 2009. Celek might get have a difficult getting more looks, though, since Vick, though improved as a pocket passer, looks for big plays down the field, or scrambles for big gains.

 

Washington  has been giving-up big plays on defense since blowing a 17-point second-half lead against Houston, and followed-up that meltdown with a 30-16 loss to the Rams. In that game, they allowed the Rams to pile-up 365 yards in total offense while possessing the ball for over 35 minutes. The Redskins have featured a decent pass rush, with 7 sacks, and have forced 4 turnovers, including a defensive touchdown, but they’ll need to improve their third down defense against the Eagles if they hope to have any chance. They also gave up plays of 42 and 30 yards to the Rams, and they’ll to avoid the big play against the Eagles, a team accustomed to making a splash on offense.

 

Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:14 am
 

Week 3 in the NFL

Can you believe that it's already week 3 in the NFL? If I told you that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be 2 - 0 and the Cowboys were going to be 0 - 2, you would have said that I'm crazy. The unpredictable season is always exciting.

Fans can be a fickle bunch, myself included. The collective mood varies week to week, quarter to quarter, possession to possession. This sentiment is amplified following a team's season opening performance. A win correlates into a franchise's followers booking their Super Bowl accommodations; a loss spirals supporters into panic. This is especially the case in Philadelphia. Another example: the New York Jets, who arrived with unparalleled hype and hoopla thanks to HBO's Hardknocks and proclamations from coach Rex Ryan. Yet after suffering a defeat to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, seemingly the entire football world wrote off Gang Green's title aspirations. Pigskin pundits blasted New York management for cutting ties with running back Thomas Jones, signing washed-up veterans, and welcoming the distraction of a reality series into training camp. Former star Joe Namath took issue with the team, stating the current Jets needed to "shut up and play." Ryan was crucified for his game plan, whose conservative nature seemed to contradict the coach's brash attitude and assertions. Keep in mind, New York lost by just ONE POINT. But in the NFL, there's a thin line between bliss and bitterness.

On to the game of the week:
The Atlanta Falcons were the recipients of similar vitriol after a Week 1 defeat to Dennis Dixon and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Falcons were expected to bounce back from a disappointing and injury plagued 2009, and competing against Dixon, a 3rd string quarterback, appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Troy Pomamalu and the Steeler defense had a different itinerary in mind, as Pittsburgh came out victorious in a 15-9 overtime slugfest. Soon after, Mike Smith's squad was showered with criticisms and condemnations. Would Matt Ryan fall short of his projected potential? Was Michael Turner's 2008 an aberration? After Roddy White, were there any viable weapons in the aerial arsenal? So on and so on...

A 41-7 drubbing of defending NFC West champion Arizona seemed to lay to rest doubts among the Dirty-Bird backers, if only for a week. Ryan threw for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 117.3. The Burner rushed for 75 yards on just 9 carries before succumbing to an injury (although not feared to be serious). Receivers not named White accounted for 14 receptions on Sunday. In short, Atlanta looked like the playoff-contending team that many had forecasted.

In reality, the Falcons fate is somewhere between their two performances. The Pittsburgh D, after shutting down Chris Johnson and Vince Young in Week 2, looks to have reclaimed their tenacious tendencies that led them to a Super Bowl in 2008. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are doing their best Little Giants impersonation. Atlanta travels to the Big Easy this week to play the Saints, off to a 2-0 start in their title defense. I give the edge to New Orleans; prediction: 28-19.

But rest assured, no matter what the outcome, one fan base will be making January playoff plans while the other will willow in its own misery. At least until next week's game.

These are my picks for the rest of the NFL:
Vikings over the Lions
Ravens over the Browns
Patriots over the Bills, aka the worst team in the NFL
Raiders over the Cardinals
Texans over the Cowboys...how bout dem cowboys? 0-3
Dolphins over the Jets
Steelers over the Buccaneers
Titans over the Giants
Bengals over the Panthers
Colts over the Broncos
49ers over the Chiefs
Eagles over the Jaguars
Redskins over the Rams
Packers over the Bears
Chargers over the Seahawks

Posted on: September 22, 2010 10:08 am
Edited on: September 22, 2010 10:08 am
 

To QB or not to QB - part 2

It came as a shock, but the Eagles temporarily pulled the plug on the Kevin Kolb Era after 10 passes, two quarters and an “exceptional” relief job by Michael Vick. At a strategically called news conference, head coach Andy Reid said he prefers starting Vick this week instead of Kolb, the quarterback the Eagles anointed their future, but was it really his decision?

“You’re talking about Michael Vick as one of the best quarterbacks right now in the NFL,” Reid said. “I didn’t expect, obviously, the accelerated play of Michael. I mean, he’s playing exceptional football right now. I think that’s obvious to everybody.”

Vick has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 459 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 105.5 passer rating. In two games Vick has guided the Eagles to seven touchdowns in six quarters while Kolb has directed the offense to just a field goal after getting knocked out in the first half of the opener with a concussion.

In a win over the Lions last week Vick survived six sacks and made several plays evading a pass rush that Kolb wouldn’t have been able to escape. Kolb probably would have ran off the field crying. The offensive line was horrible. Reid said starting Vick had nothing to do with the line play or the health of Kolb, who has been cleared to practice.

What does Kolb think about this? Reid indicated that he didn’t like it. The Eagles announced before playing the Lions Sunday that Kolb would start next weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Vick also made it clear Kolb was the starter. “At the time, I told you what I believed,” Reid said. “Obviously I’m not like – any of us – able to predict the future.”

Reid said he watched film of Vick the past two days, spoke to general manager Howie Roseman and consulted team president Joe Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie just to be sure they were all on the same page. A team source confirmed Reid’s reversal began when he second guessed his decision to stick with Kolb. Ultimately Reid said he made the decision. But there were immediate reports – denied by the Eagles – that upper management made the call.

“I think I had to make this decision,” Reid said. “I’ve had the full support of the front office. I counseled with Howie Roseman today and bounced some things off of him. But the first person I met with on this decision was Kevin Kolb. That’s the first person I talked to. And I met with him the last two days, and we shared thoughts. He’s a young quarterback that I think the sky’s the limit for. He’s just in a situation where he’s got an ex-superstar that now has regained his abilities. And it’s really that simple. Michael Vick is playing out of his mind right now and that’s a beautiful thing. What a lucky franchise and a lucky head coach I am to have two quarterbacks that I feel that way about. I mean it’s unbelievable.”

Unbelievable sums up the entire drama.

Team sources didn’t expect Reid to act impulsively after the Eagles spent much of their offseason transitioning to Kolb from quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was traded to the Washington Redskins. Reid is stubborn and resistant to change. By grooming Kolb the head coach made it clear he didn’t think Vick would develop into enough of a pocket quarterback to operate the offense effectively to win games. Vick apparently has made a believer of Reid.

Kolb couldn’t have seen this coming. Only Monday he said he trusted Reid, and that the coach always did what was best for the organization.

At every bend in the drama Tuesday, Reid publicly refused to second-guess himself even though it was obvious he had done just that. NFL sources suspect Reid really did get cold feet about playing Kolb this week and the following week, when the Birds host McNabb and the Redskins. I think the decision came from the GM and owner.

“Again, this is more about Michael Vick and his accelerated play,” Reid said. “He’s sitting there as possibly the hottest quarterback in the NFL at this time and deserves an opportunity to play. It also allows Kevin to continue as a young quarterback in the NFL, his maturation process, and, again, to become a franchise quarterback in the future.”

Kolb’s future, however, appears to be somewhere else.
Posted on: September 20, 2010 1:07 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 1:11 pm
 

To QB or not to QB- that's the question in Philly

Before anyone goes there, let me beat you to the punch: When Donovan McNabb was the QB, the Philly fans wanted Feely, Garcia, Kolb and even Vick. Now that Kolb is the QB, some fans are calling for Michael Vick. Are the Philly fans just plain crazy, or are they more intelligent than people give them credit for?

McNabb was a good QB, but he always managed to come up short. He wasn't good enough to elevate the team to the next level. The fans realized that McNabb wasn't the answer, so they rooted for guys like Jeff Garcia and A.J. Feely. Neither one of those guys was better than McNabb, but somehow they won games. The fans realized McNabb wasn't a great fit in our offense and we didn't need him to win games.

Eventually, Reid and the Eagles organization admitted that McNabb wasn't good enough, sending him down route 95 to the nation’s capitol. Enter Kevin Kolb, the Eagles 2nd round pick in 2007. Instead of having an open QB competition in training camp, Andy Reid handed Kolb the starting role. What did Kolb do to earn the starting spot?

While Kolb got reps with the first team, Vick threw passes to practice squad players and other guys who eventually got cut from the team. Playing with the first team, Kolb had a sub-par preseason and couldn't find the end zone in any of the four games. He didn't look good against the Packers, either. You could tell from the body language of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin that they didn't believe in Kolb. Further, NFL analysts couldn't find anything that Kolb did well in the first half. The offense was stagnant with Kolb behind center. When Vick took over in the second half, the offense came to life; they nearly won the game.

Maybe a preseason and half of one football game isn't enough to judge Kolb, but maybe it is. Based on the evidence this year, the only thing we can confirm is that nobody knows if Kolb can play in the NFL. All we can do is trust what Reid tells us. Meanwhile, we have a backup quarterback who has been to multiple pro bowls, and has won games in the post season.

You have to wonder whether it's fair to say that Vick looked like his "old self" yesterday, because it's hard to remember when Vick was ever as poised a passer as he was against the Lions. He was 21 of 34 for 284 yards and 2 TDs with no turnovers. The numbers don't really even tell the story. How many times did he stand in and make a great throw on a play where he knew he was about to get blasted? He was accurate, he was calm under pressure, and generally looked fearless out there. I've never been a big fan of Vick as a QB, but there's really nothing to criticize. The guy played fantastic.

After 1.5 games, Vick has proven that he can win games for the Eagles. Kolb hasn't shown anything. Time will tell if Andy Reid is a genius, or if he is just being a stubborn moron. I hope he is right about Kolb, but I don't know how you can keep Vick on the sideline after what he has shown.


If Kolb loses the next 2 games, Reid better hand the keys over to Vick.
Posted on: December 17, 2009 9:29 am
 

Perfection can't lose...Colts vs Jags

Some people are picking the Jaguars to take out the Colts, but I haven’t seen any evidence to support that claim. The Jaguars need the game more, but the Colts are a better team. I can’t see Peyton Manning sitting down at any point in this game, if it is still close.  

Passing Attack: The Colts top rated passing offense will square off against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. The question on everyone’s mind concerning Indianapolis is which of their players will play, and how many minutes will they get now that they’ve secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC. With three games remaining on the schedule, and with their undefeated record still on the line, it would seem to be a fair assumption that the Colts stars will play a full sixty minutes this week as long as the game remains competitive.

If they happen to hold a two to three score advantage midway through the third quarter or at the start of the fourth, we may see the likes of Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne then head to the sidelines. For the most part however, expect these guys to remain in the game long enough to make a meaningful contribution to your fantasy squad.

The Jaguars allow an average of 239.5 passing yards per game to opponents, which ranks 26th in the league. They’ve also allowed 20 touchdown passes this season, which is among the higher figures in that category. With the Colts offense averaging nearly 300 passing yards per outing expect Manning to have another productive day even should he get pulled early. In fact, the only reason to doubt he’d have a 300 yard performance is if he went to the sidelines early. Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon should also have strong outings against the Jaguars suspect secondary.

Running Attack: Although the Colts have produced 13 rushing touchdowns this season they’ve failed to manufacture much in the way of yardage on the ground. Their 88.0 rushing yards per game ranks 30th in the league, and of all the Colts regular starters Joseph Addai seems the most likely to see reduced playing time throughout the remaining weeks due to his past track record with injuries. He’s also battling a sore knee heading into Thursday night, which gives more reason for caution with him. He’ll remain a threat to score a touchdown in the early goings, but don’t expect too big of a day from as his number of snaps could be more limited than the other Colts starters.

On to the Jaguars…

Passing Attack: The Colts defense may allow 227 passing yards per game, but the Jaguars air attack has been a bit of a roller coaster ride this season. For every strong outing had by Garrard, like his Week 13 performance against the Texans in which he threw for 2 touchdowns and 238 yards without any turnovers, he’s had as equally disappointing ones…like his performance last Sunday against the Dolphins in which he completed just 42.3% of his passes while throwing for 139 yards with no scores.

Further detracting from Garrard’s value is the injury status of his lead receiver, Mike Sims-Walker. Walker had been battling a knee injury, and more recently a calf injury, that has limited his production over the last 3 weeks to a total of 6 receptions for 64 yards without any touchdowns. The third year wide-out who had been enjoying a breakout campaign throughout much of the season is expected to play on Thursday, but the short week doesn’t bode well for him after he made a surprise start last Sunday despite being listed as doubtful heading into that contest against the Dolphins.

With Walker likely to again be at less than 100%, and with Jacksonville wise to keep the ball out of Manning’s hands by controlling the clock with Maurice Jones-Drew, it’d be a bit of a risk to start any members of the Jaguars passing regime and expect meaningful results.

Running Attack: The Jaguars are among the better rushing teams in the league, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 127.8 yards per game on the ground. The Colts defense meanwhile ranks 17th in the NFL against the run, yielding just over 110 rushing yards per game. While the Jaguars will likely have to take to the air more often than they’d care to against the high octane offense of the Colts, Jones-Drew should still remain the focal point of their offense and manage to come away with at least one score and 100-125 total yards of offense.

Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Jacksonville 17

(that’s right…another win for the Colts)

Posted on: December 11, 2009 5:25 pm
 

Eagle view of Cowboys and Giants - week 14

There are a lot of good games in week 14, but frankly, I don’t care. The two games that I’m focusing on are Philly vs New York, and Dallas vs San Diego.

Let’s start with my birds:

Passing Attack: Donovan McNabb has played well this season (2,427-16-6), but the offense did not skip a beat (in fact on some levels it was more productive) when highly drafted backup Kevin Kolb took over for the injured McNabb in the early season. McNabb is still an upper tier QB, but age and injuries have taken away his running game which was a dangerous part of his skill-set in the past and he has been inconsistent at times. When he is on his game this offense flows as well as any unit in the game, but some weeks the passing game just seems out of synch. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are two young emerging stars at WR, and perhaps a move to Kolb will allow them all to grow together. Jackson missed last week’s game after suffering a concussion the week prior, but is expected to return this week –keep an eye on his status. Also note the Giants tendency to allow opposing TEs to have big games.

The Giants beat their rival Cowboys last week but the depleted Giant secondary did not contribute much to that victory. Tony Romo threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs against the Giants who at one point had the top ranked passing defense but have fallen down the rankings steadily for the last several weeks. They are still ranked seventh in passing yards allowed (199.0 ypg), but their 21 TDs allowed in 12 games says that they are easily beaten through the air. They will be best served by trying to keep Desean Jackson in front of them in New Jersey this weekend in order to try and limit big plays or that TD total could grow. I’m not expecting the Gmen to shut down DJack. He was at home last week, and he is ready to explode.

Running Attack: Brian Westbrook may return this week from his post-concussion syndrome, but if he does he will likely be very limited. LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver have been very effective in Westbrook’s absence and should get the bulk of the carries even if Westbrook does play. Like the Cowboys, the Eagles tend to abandon the run early so it may be the second week in a row that the Giants run defense looks good merely because it wasn’t really tested.

New York is ranked 15th in the league in run defense, allowing 102.6 ypg. They have allowed 15 TDs in 12 weeks including long TD runs to both McCoy and Weaver in the Week 8 matchup. Under-rated tackle Barry Coefield doesn’t get much recognition in a defense loaded with bigger names but with fellow “up the middle” players like Antonio Pierce and Kenny Phillips lost for the season, Coefield will be a key to the run defense going forward.

Predictions:
Donovan McNabb: 245 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 5 yds rushing
Jeremy Maclin: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Desean Jackson: 65 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving

On to the GMen:

Passing Attack: Eli Manning peaked during the first five weeks of 2009, but also played well against the Falcons and the Cowboys sandwiched around a stinker against Denver during the last three weeks. Manning is playing with pain in his foot – and it’s well known that December has not been kind to him – but to his credit he has emerged as the leader of this offense. He is largely responsible for making the Giants biggest question mark heading into this season – their WRs – into a true strength of the team. Third year WR Steve Smith is only a handful of catches away from breaking the Giants record for receptions in a season and has been a steady presence for Eli to rely on all year. TE Kevin Boss wasn’t used much earlier this season but has really stepped up his game and has been a factor in recent weeks. Like the Giants the Eagles also have a tough time stopping opposing TEs so consider Boss if your options are limited.

The Eagle defense harassed Eli during the last meeting between these two teams, and have generally fared well against the younger Manning in past years. The Eagles are allowing 205.3 ypg and 18 TDs on the season. While they can be susceptible to big plays at times, this is a team that loves to blitz (33 sacks) and force opposing QBs into mistakes (20 interceptions). Eli will need to be sharp and smart if the Giants wish to beat their second consecutive division rival.

Running Attack: Brandon Jacobs turned short swing pass into a 70+ yard TD catch and run last week against Dallas. In other strange news, it snowed in Dallas last week. Not sure which occurrence is more unbelievable. Ahmad Bradshaw has struggled since injuring his foot but ran hard last week in the Meadowlands and will be needed down the stretch for the Giants playoff run. This offense works best when they can hit opposing defenses with a one two punch in the running game.

On the season the Eagles are allowing only 98.8 ypg on the ground and only 8 TDs, so it’s not an easy matchup for the Giants. Will Witherspoon acquired from the Rams at the trade deadline has helped shore up the middle of the run defense and Trent Cole, known more for his pass rushing ability, has developed into a pretty good run stopper as well.

Predictions:
Eli Manning: 275 yds passing, 3 TDs, 2 Ints.
Steve Smith: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 50 yds receiving
Hakeem Nicks: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Boss: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brandon Jacobs: 60 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 55 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving

My crystal ball says: Giants 24 Eagles 27 (fly eagles fly)

Now, on to dem boys vs the Chargers

 

Passing Attack: Vincent Jackson presents a difficult match up for any defensive back as he has elite deep speed in a 6’5”, 230 pound frame, but has disappeared the last few weeks much to the dismay of his fantasy owners. TE Antonio Gates has picked up Jackson’s slack during that time much to the joy of his fantasy owners. Jackson has improved each season and is a gifted player. One would have to think that he’ll turn his season back around. Although it’s risky during this important part of the fantasy season to start players that have not been producing recently Jackson seems due for a big game and I’d recommend starting him. Unfortunately I will be facing him in my opening round playoff matchup this week, further cementing his chances for a big game from him.

The Dallas defense ranks 20th in passing yards allowed, allowing 225.9 yards per game this season with 17 TDs. Teams have been able to move the ball through the air against this team despite a talented pass rush and secondary. Expect the Chargers to attempt to exploit this weakness as Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates are all big fast targets that should pose problems for even the physical Dallas secondary.

Running Attack: After a slow return following his ankle injury that caused him to miss a few weeks, LaDainian Tomlinson was buried by many fantasy pundits. However, he has scored 8 TDs over the last 6 weeks. He’s obviously not the same back he once was, but is still effective and his numbers improved once the Charger offensive line returned back to health. Tomlinson is no longer elusive and his burst is not what it was in years past but he still has that nose for the endzone and the Chargers know it. As long as expectations are lowered he’s still a fantasy asset.

Dallas has been a solid run defense this season, allowing 102.5 ypg, and has managed to keep opposing backs from scoring (only 5 rushing TDs allowed). Former Falcon Keith Brooking and veteran line backer Bradie James lead the team in tackles with their relentless pursuit of the football. Don’t expect LT2 to post big numbers against the Cowboys, but perhaps he can take a plunge into the endzone.

Predictions:
Philip Rivers: 285 yds passing 2 TDs
Malcolm Floyd: 40 yds receiving
Vincent Jackson: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Antonio Gates: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 35 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving
LT: 45 yds rushing, 1 TD / 10 yds receiving

Everyone knows that the Cowboys play their best football in December…lets break it down.


Passing Attack: Miles Austin has over 900 yards and 9 TDs on the season, with most of those stats coming in his 8 starts. I hate to admit it, but it’s pretty impressive. Miles is big and fast and has been just what the Cowboys needed (and more) to replace Terrell Owens production. People expect Tony Romo to falter in December but last week’s loss cannot be pinned on him. He’s been pretty consistent over the course of the season, so we’ll see if he can maintain that consistency or be subject to yet another late season swoon…I sure hope he fails.

San Diego’s pass defense is allowing 204.4 ypg and has given up 14 passing TDs on the season. Shawn Merriman’s return to health has helped the pass rush become more effective which has improved the defense as a whole. Romo’s tendency to make mistakes has not been as prevalent this season, but strange things happen in December in Dallas.

Running Attack: The Cowboys seem to have something against running the ball despite having 3 capable backs and an obese o-line. They inexplicably abandon the run almost every week. Barber fumbled early last week and was more or less placed on the shelf while the Boys tried to run Felix Jones on outside sweeps, when they ran at all, despite the Giant injuries to the middle of their defense. San Diego does not have a strong run defense and if the Cowboys once again do not attempt to exploit that weakness, the coaching staff should come under major scrutiny.

San Diego was stunned by the loss of NT Jamal Williams before the season got under way, and their early season run defense suffered. They are still not a great run defense, but have bounced back a little since mid-season. They are currently the 21st ranked run defense, allowing 117.8 ypg and 8 TDs on the season, but have only allowed 1 rushing TD since Week 9.

Projections:
Tony Romo: 225 yds passing 1 TD, 2 Ints. / 15 yds rushing
Roy Williams: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Miles Austin: 70 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 45 yds receiving
Felix Jones: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving
Marion Barber: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving

Prediction: Chargers 28 Cowboys 24 (yes…another Cowboys loss in December…no surprise here)

 
 
 
 
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