Written By Jason Voorhees
The Major League Baseball regular season ended on Sunday.
The longest grind in sports is now complete and the ides of October are now on the clock.
30 teams began the year with visions of playoff baseball in their mirrors. Unfortunately, 20 of those teams are now staring in the rearview and are setting up t-times at the local golf course.
With that being said, the most exciting time of the year has now arrived. Ten teams, ten rosters with one goal. Who will be the next team to win a World Series championship? Only time will tell. The tale is ready to play out for all of the world to see. Here is a preview of the playoff picture as well as some predictions.
WILD CARD ROUND
National League Wild Card Matchup
Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals:
Series Length: One Game
Tuesday, October 1 8:08PM
The first wild card matchup has the Washington Nationals hosting a single elimination game against the NL-Central Milwaukee Brewers.
On paper this game appears to be a mismatch as the Washington Nationals are stacked on both sides of the diamond. Washington features a potent offense that finished 6th in the league in average, 6th in runs scored, 2nd in OBP, 7th in SLG, and 6th in OPS. On the pitching side of things the Nationals will have Max Scherzer on the mound who has been one of the most dominant starting pitchers in all of MLB over the past ten seasons. Max is a fierce competitor and undoubtedly will bring his A game.
Meanwhile, the tough luck Milwaukee Brewers had to scratch and crawl their way into the playoffs. The team lost its best player and potential MVP candidate Christian Yelich to a season ending injury on September 11th. Even without their best player; the Brewers played extremely well down the stretch and were in contention to win the division up until the final game on Sunday. Another interesting nugget to note in this matchup was Milwaukee's 4-2 record in the regular season while outscoring the Nats 42-38.
If this were a five game series the Milwaukee Brewers would definitely have a shot at taking the series. However, facing the odds of beating Max Scherzer in a one game playoff (as the away team) seems extremely unlikely. With that being said the Nationals will win this game and move on to the next round of the playoffs.
American League Wild Card Matchup
Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics:
Series Length: One Game
Wednesday, October 2 8:09PM
The A's were able to secure homefield advantage in this single elimination event by securing a better record than the Rays. The surprising A's scored the 8th most runs in baseball. They were even better at hitting the long ball finishing 5th in the league with 257 Home Runs. The team is paced by its all-star shortstop Marcus Semien who had a career year in almost every major offensive metric. The roster also boasts a trio of mashers in Matt Chapman, Matt Olsen and Kris Davis. The A's will send Sean Manea to the mound for this one game thriller.
While the A's were mostly lead by their offensive firepower, the Rays sported one of the top pitching staffs in the entire MLB. They were 2nd in team ERA, 3rd in Strikeouts, 3rd in team batting average allowed, while walking the fifth least amount of hitters. Meanwhile they finished in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories. The Rays also boast an elite dominant relief corps which combines flamethrowers and finesse. Tampa will have former cast off ace Charlie Morton on the bump.
This is a matchup of two immovable objects. The missile launching offense of the A's versus the hard to hit/difficult to score on pitching of the Rays. The A's won the season series 4-3. The A's have home field advantage and the better offense. However; Morton is no stranger to pitching big games. Offense wins battles but pitching wins championships so the Rays take this one in a close one run contest. Morton helps the Rays live to see another day.
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISONAL ROUND
Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers:
Series Length: 5 Games (Best of Five)
Thursday, October 3 @TBD
The Dodgers were the most dominant team in the National League this season and its not even close. They boast a stacked roster all across the board. Their lineup is loaded 1-8 and they have one of the strongest starting rotations in the game. Although he cooled off down the stretch, Cody Bellinger is still one of the favorites to win the MVP this season. He is the leader of the dangerous Dodgers lineup that is capable of putting up a crooked number on any type of pitching staff.
If there is any team in the National League that can match up with the Dodgers balance it would be the Nationals. Their starting rotation could be a difference maker in any short series. Of course, having to use Max Scherzer in the wild card round puts the Nat's at a disadvantage. One positive coming into the playoffs was the play of its all-star third baseman Anthony Rendon. In fact, down the stretch there may not have been a hotter hitter in all of baseball.
This series will come down to bullpens in my opinion. The Dodgers have an extreme advantage if that's the case. Washington had one of the worst bullpens in the game from beginning to end. This scenario is what separates the men from the boys. Kenley Jansen has been one of the best closers in the game and he could be the true difference maker in this series. Dodgers win this series but it does go five games.
Prediction: Dodgers 3-2
Saint Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves:
Series Length: 5 Games (Best of Five)
Thursday, October 3rd @TBD
This should be the most exciting series of the NLDS. The Braves come into the playoffs having dominated the NL East for most of the year. They have a very talented roster composed of a ton of youth. However; don't mistake this teams age for a weakness. The team is lead by Freddie Freeman who is the "old man" of the bunch. The Braves offense was solid and they finished top ten in all important hitting categories. On the pitching side of things they were equally successful, despite their youth.
While the Braves are the more balanced team of the two, the Cardinals strength was clearly their pitching. In fact, the Cardinals finished top five in all key categories including 5th in team ERA. The team was lead by its 23 year old ace Jack Flaherty, who posted a second half of the ages. After the all-star break, Flaherty was virtually unhittable. In 99 innings, he posted a 0.91ERA, 124 K's, 23 walks, .142AVG, and .189wOBA. Those numbers are lights out. The Cardinals also have an elite bullpen.
The Braves were 4-2 during the regular season while outscoring the Cardinals 29-27. Braves have the edge in hitting while the Cardinals are better on the mound. Both teams have good managers. The intangible may be the experience of the Cardinals. They have a more veteran group of players and that could help in a short series. Nonetheless, the Braves will take advantage of the home crowd and come out victorious 3-2.
Prediction: Braves 3-2
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISIONAL ROUND
Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros:
Series Length: 5 Games (Best of Five)
Friday, October 4 @TBD
The Houston Astros are the cream of the crop in MLB. No one can compete with their starting rotation which boasts a pair of 20 game winners in Justin Verlander (21-6) and Gerrit Cole (20-5) along with an 18 game winner in Zack Greinke (18-5). This rotation gives them an edge in any short series and it definitely makes them a favorite to make the World Series. The Astros are no slouch offensively as they finished top 5 in most categories.
As mentioned, the Rays are a very good team and are lead by their pitching. This is the type of team that would love to play the spoiler role while supplying the Cinderella kind of story. The Rays had the second best road record in MLB so that could be one vote of confidence for them in this series. Another key stat was the Rays 4-3 head to head record against the Astros during the regular season.
Everyone loves an underdog. The Rays have found themselves in this exact position many times before. However; in the end talent trumps most feel good stories. With those three horses on the mound, this should be a fairly easy series for Houston. The Astros sweep the ALDS 3-0 and move on to the ALCS.
Prediction: Astros 3-0
Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees:
Series Length: 5 Games (Best of Five)
Friday, October 4 @TBD
The Evil Empire once again finds itself at the epicenter of postseason baseball. The Yankees were ravaged by injuries but were able to overcome the significant losses to the tune of 103 wins. This will be a heavyweight match of epic proportions. The Minnesota Twins set a major league record with 307 home runs. Guess who finished second? That's right, the Yankees had 306.
Obviously this series will be a showcase of offensive firepower. However; both teams have decent pitching as well as elite defense. Rest assured, the bats will be alive and this could potentially be the most exciting series of the entire playoffs.
Expect both teams to battle and there could be some high scoring affairs. The game could come down to pitching where Minnesota has a slight edge. In normal seasons this may be considered a "David vs Goliath" type matchup. However; the teams are extremely close on all parameters and this one could go either way. The Twins had the best road record which could give them a boost. The Yankees are the favorites but its going to be an upset as the Twins win the series 3-2. This series will most definitely go down to the wire though so get your popcorn ready.
Prediction: Twins 3-2
NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers:
Series Length: 7 Games (Best of Seven)
Friday, October 11 @TBD
The NLCS will be a rematch of last seasons divisional round. On paper, the Dodgers are the more talented roster. Both teams can flat out bring it offensively. They both have deep lineups set to rake.
The Braves are lead by Ronald Acuna Jr who sets the tone early and often to boot. They also feature a potent middle of lineup with Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. However, the x factor this season was most definitely a rejuvenated Josh Donaldson who had 37 homeruns. Their pitching staff is lead by rookie Mike Soroka who has garnered attention in both rookie of the year and Cy Young conversation.
Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger remains the talk of the town in LA. The Dodgers hit a lot of home runs while scoring runs in bunches. They also have a deep rotation lead by perennial Cy Young contender Clayton Kershaw and Hin-Jin Ruy who may very well win the award this season.
This should be a very competitive series and the Dodgers are the favorites. The upstart Dodgers have been a tough out all season and this playoff matchup will be no different. Expect both teams to battle and it could be a see-saw type series. This series like most could come down to the bullpens and it will most likely be a role player that sets the tone. With that being said, I think this Braves team is no joke and they are ready to take the next step.
Prediction: Braves 4-3
AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros:
Series Length: 7 Games (Best of Seven)
Saturday, October 12 @TBD
The upstart Twins are loaded with talent that showed impressive balance. They had five players hit 30 or more home runs while boasting a league record 8 that totaled 20! Jorge Polanco (22), Eddie Rosario (32), Max Kepler (36), CJ Cron (25), Nelson Cruz (41), Johnathan Schoop (23), Miguel Sano (34) and Mitch Garver (31) posted that stat line. Although hitting is the teams backbone, the team also had a very good pitching staff. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi give the team a solid 1-2 punch.
On the other side is the Astros and the Big 3. Verlander, Cole, and Greinke are the most feared trio in the playoffs. The Astros are the defending champions and this team is even better than last seasons. On offense they are lead by an elite infield combination of Jose Altuve (2B), Alex Bregman (3B) and Carlos Correa (SS). The team also brought up rookie phenom Yordan Alvarez and he did not disappoint. In fact, he should be a lock to win rookie of the year.
Once again, this should be an extremely exciting series. Both of these teams can mash the ball and the Twins actually played better on the road. America would absolutely love a Cinderella matchup in the WS. However; the Astros are primed to repeat. The Twins luck will finally run out.
Prediction: Astros 4-2
Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros:
Series Length: 7 Games (Best of Seven)
Tuesday, October 22 @TBD
Finally the matchup we have been waiting for. This is David and Goliath. How about some Rocky vs Apollo Creed. Youth versus Veterans. The Braves and Astros series provides an excellent back drop of theater. Freddie Freeman versus Justin Verlander. Acuna against Cole. Donaldson and Greinke.
The Braves have brought their A game and they are not just here to represent the NL. They have arrived to conquer and take names while they are at it.
The Braves come out firing and take game one. However, the sleeping giant is awakened and they don't look back.
Prediction: Astros 4-2
NLDS MVP- Josh Donaldson
ALDS MVP- Jose Altuve
WORLD SERIES MVP- Justin Verlander
Written By Jason Voorhees
Its safe to say that Sunday's game was one of the worst losses that the Philadelphia Eagles have experienced during the Doug Pederson era. If you were looking to play Monday morning quarterback, this game was as easy as pie to perfect your subjected take. There is so many reasons that the Eagles lost this game and plenty of blame to go around.
Last week I offered my five keys to the game that could lead to a victory (Run the ball, bring the heat, protect Carson Wentz, limit secondary mistakes, and create turnovers). In true fashion, the team failed to check even one of those boxes and the result was a horrible loss to the Detroit Lions. Now at 1-2, the Philadelphia Eagles face as close to there is of a must win game on Thursday against the PACK.
Coming into this season, the Eagles were one of the favorites to compete for a championship in the NFC. Instead the team finds itself 1-2 and in danger of going 1-3 after the first quarter of the season. The blame tree is vast in this comedy of errors so far this season.
We could spend an entire week debating these issues and I will leave that to the analysts and podcasters who breathe this on a daily basis. The past is dead and gone and the only way for the team to right the ship is to win this evening. With that being said, here are my keys to the game and ways that I believe the Eagles can have success:
1. Stop Aaron Rodgers
At 35 years old, Aaron Rodgers is not playing at the same elite level that he was even five seasons ago. However; Rodgers is only one big game away from turning that around and once again being the best of the best. The Eagles defensive line has been a terrible disappointment as the unit has posted only ONE sack in three games. With the lack of pass rush, coordinator Schwartz has had to dial up more blitzes so far to generate pressure. This quandary puts the Eagles at a severe disadvantage and could be a recipe for disaster when facing Aaron Rodgers. If the Eagles blitz this guy, he will pick this secondary apart with reckless abandon. In other words it is absolutely imperative that guys like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham step it up and bring their A game. The Eagles defensive line must find a way to put pressure on Rodgers or it will be game set match. Bring the heat and apply pressure and you will give yourselves a chance. If not it will be lights out.
2. Double Team Devante
Devante Adams has quickly become one of the top wide receivers in all of the NFL. He is an absolute speed burner and provides the ultimate package of route running and pass catch ability. The Green Bay Packers have a few other promising young receivers that complement Devante but Adams remains the most dangerous weapon. So far in 2019, Devante has not had any "monster" type games. In fact, he has only had 1 game over 100 yards and has not scored a touchdown. However, this is the type of receiver that can put up a totally crooked number on any defense that does not take him seriously. Knowing that, the Eagles need to double cover Devante and force the other unknowns to beat them. Don't let this guy run wild on a secondary that is already down its best cornerback. Whatever type of schemes that Jim Schwartz comes up with, the number one focus better be #17 or else their dinner could become burnt toast. Devante Adams better be in the cross hairs of the game plan if the Eagles hope to have success against Green Bay.
3. Feed Jordan Howard
It feels like groundhog day on a weekly basis when it comes to Doug Pederson's game plan in 2019. Since week #1, fans and pundits alike have pounded their chests for the Eagles to pay more attention to the running game. We have been begging for more balance in an offense that has been inconsistent from week to week. Even though the Eagles did run the ball more against the Lions, Miles Sanders was once again the teams lead back. This all needs to end this evening. Jordan Howard has got to be the focal point of the offense moving forward and there couldn't be a better time to start. Playing for the Chicago Bears the past three seasons, Howard has had tons of success against the rival Packers and he could be the answer to what has ailed the Eagles thus far. Jordan Howard is a volume back that thrives with more carries. Pederson needs to put aside his ego and dial up a steady dose of Howard. Stop trying to showcase Carson Wentz and do the right thing Doug. Howard needs to get a minimum of 20 carries and the Eagles will have a great shot for the win.
4. Win the Turnover Battle
Last week the Eagles turned the ball over twice while failing to create a turnover on defense. Of course, the Eagles ended up loosing the game. Turnovers continue to be one of the most important deciding factors of a game and tonight is no different. Aaron Rodgers does not throw a ton of interceptions and if the defense cannot force pressure it will be near impossible. With that being said, the team needs to be physical on every play and there has to be focus from beginning to end. On offense, the running backs and wide receivers need to hold on to the ball. Two fumbles and seven dropped passes is just not going to get it done against any team. On defense, the players have to finish every tackle and make sure they hawk the ball. Where are the playmakers on this defense? Will Fletcher Cox finally be able to wreak havoc? Can Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett get home? If these key players can make plays and force turnovers it will go along way towards helping the Eagles win. Moral of the story...Hold onto the ball and force turnovers. If you can win this battle then you can definitely win the game.
5. Element of Surprise
Lambeau Field is one of the most legendary venues in the history of sports. The mystique of the stadium and the intangibles that this creates gives the Green Bay Packers an added bonus to its home field advantage. With the Eagles facing the possibility of going 1-3 and facing a hostile crowd this evening, Doug Pederson needs to pull out all the stops. Pederson has shown some major cojones as far as being aggressive and keeping his pedal to the medal. Just go back and watch the Super Bowl for multiple examples of this hyper aggressive play calling. If the Eagles are going to beat the Packers, they need to come out with flawless execution of the game plan. But one key could be some trickery and some surprise plays. If Doug can dial up some key surprises at the right time, he just may be able to catch the Packers off guard. How about a reverse or two? Maybe a flea flicker? Or a wide receiver pass. Whatever it may be, Doug needs to come up with something outside of the box to turn the tide. A successful trick play could inspire the team to victory.
Last week I predicted a 27-23 Eagles victory. I was very close with the score but the outcome was the opposite as the Eagles lost 27-24. As we look to tonight's showdown at Lambeau on national television; here are some predictions:
FINAL SCORE- Eagles 23 Green Bay 17
Carson Wentz- 21/37, 247 Yards, 1TD-1INT
Jordan Howard- 13 Carries, 75 Yards, TD
Alshon Jeffery- 5 Catches, 94 Yards, TD
Zach Ertz- 6 Catches, 43 Yards
Aaron Rodgers- 21/28, 315 Yards, 2TD-2INT
Devante Adams- 7 Catches, 134 Yards
Aaron Jones- 15 Carries, 49 Yards, 2TD
Brandon Graham- 2 Sacks, FF
Fletcher Cox- 4 Tackles, Fumble Recovery
Written By Jason Voorhees
Today the shorthanded Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) take on the Detroit Lions (1-0-1) at Lincoln Financial Field. This is a big game for the Eagles who are coming off a tough loss against the Atlanta Falcons.
Of course, the team will once again be playing without its two best wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson. This is a game that the Eagles should win; however it is also the type of game that you could see them loose. With that being said, there are some important things that the Eagles must focus on if they expect to come out with a W.
Here are my Five Keys to the game:
1. RUN THE BALL
The Eagles ground game has pretty much sucked thus far in 2019. In fact, after two games they have the 23rd ranked rushing game (52 Attempts-172 Yards-3.3 Yards/Att).
During the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl season, the team faced a similar situation going into week #3. The Eagles had been terrible running the ball and many fans and pundits had called out the team. Of course, week #3 the team committed to the run and the rest was history. The 2017 Eagles ended the year with the leagues' 3rd ranked rushing attack and their success with the run directly enhanced their passing game while establishing the play action pass.
The teams mounting injuries in their wide receiver corps has made the running game all that more important. If the Eagles are going to find success, they absolutely must commit to the run. Furthermore, the team has to start to feature running back Jordan Howard. Feed this man the ball. Howard had a ton of success with Chicago, and he is one of those backs that gets better with more carries.
I know that Doug Pederson's MO is to pass the ball. However, the key will be his ability to once again listen to the voice of reason and get back to the bread and butter of NFL lure. Ground and Pound. Running the ball will also keep pressure off of Carson Wentz. Run the ball first and with that things will open up in the passing game.
2. Bring the Heat
Its no secret that putting pressure on a quarterback is an important key in any NFL game. However; when it comes to Matt Stafford, this key is even more of a highlighted bullet point. When Matt Stafford is given too much time, he can absolutely pick a team apart.
Stafford has actually had a ton of success against the Eagles in the past and much of this can be attributed to him not getting rushed or hurried. In 4 games against the Eagles he has a 3-1 record, 979 Passing Yards, 9TD's-1INT, and a rushing TD. In 3 out of the 4 games, the Eagles pass rush failed the eye test.
With the team missing Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan, they are already missing their inside push. The team is going to need Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett to step it up and make plays. Whether Jim Schwartz dials up the blitz again, or if he instead goes back to his conservative approach, the team cannot afford to have a quiet game from their defensive line.
Defensive stalwart Fletcher Cox has been hampered by injury. Today is the day that he puts aside the lingering injury bug and absolutely dominates the game. If Cox cant get back to All star form, this team is truly in trouble. Put pressure on Matt Stafford and then he will come apart at the seams. This is the key to the game on defense.
3. Protect Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz looks like he is back to his 2017 form. However; if the offensive line plays like it did last week, it will not be long before Carson is once again roaming the sidelines watching another backup under center.
The offensive line played a terrible game last Sunday. This is one of the teams greatest strengths. Howie Roseman has constructed this roster with an emphasis on the trenches. That is what makes last weeks performance even more dissapointing. Dominate the line of scrimmage and you create pockets for Carson Wentz to make plays.
Today is the day that guys like Jason Peters and Lane Johnson can earn their money. The weak link on the line is Isaac Seumalo who needs to put last week in the rearview mirror. I think a change in pace and balancing the run/pass ratio could also be a key to stabilizing the offensive line play. You have to protect your franchise QB or else it will be a very long season moving forward.
4. Limit Secondary Mistakes
One of the eye sores of the Jim Schwartz era in Philly has been the team's susceptibility to giving up the big play. Last week we saw a number of these issues and that ultimately cost the Eagles a W. Its understood that the team has gone with an extremely young group of corner backs. With youth comes mistakes.
However; part of Schwartz's job as the defensive coordinator is to identify these mistakes and correct them. In my opinion, this has not happened as the same players continue to make the same mistakes.
Giving up the big play on defense is the equivalent of a major league closer giving up a game tying or winning home run. It takes the wind out of the teams sails. The Eagles need to focus on limiting these big plays in the secondary if they hope to win this game. Matt Stafford has one of the strongest arms in the NFL and he loves to throw the deep ball. Time for Ronald Darby to take off the training wheels and bring his A game. If not this game could get ugly real fast.
5. Create Turnovers
Last week the Eagles intercepted Matt Ryan three times. In 2017, the Eagles were one of the better teams in creating turnovers. Of course last season, they were one of the poorest in this same area.
This is as close to a must win game for the Eagles as they have had in awhile. If the defense can make some big plays it could be the key to turning this game around. I think the game being at home in front of the Lincoln Financial faithful could help the team in creating these turnovers.
The #2 key to the game rush the passer could directly influence key#5. If the team can get in Matt Stafford's grill, he could force some errant throws and the team could capitalize with an interception. Lets go one step further...When was the last time the Eagles had a pick six? Talk about a tide turner folks. Win the turnover battle and you win the game.
Those are my five keys to the game. As mentioned...this is a must win game for the Eagles in my opinion. With the short week and the upcoming game against Green Bay on Thursday, the team cannot afford a let down. Its time to put last week in the past and put today in the forefront. With that being said...here are some of my stat predictions for todays matchup:
FINAL SCORE- Eagles 27- Lions 23
Carson Wentz- 24/37, 345 Yards, 2TD's-1INT.
Zach Ertz- 9 Catches, 85 Yards, TD
Nelson Agholor-6 Catches, 115 Yards, TD
Jordan Howard- 13 Carries, 97 Yards, TD
Matt Stafford- 26/41, 415 Yards, 3TD's-2INT
Kenny Golladay- 10 Catches, 167 Yards, 2TD's
Fletcher Cox-4 Tackles, 1 Sack, Forced Fumble
Derek Barnett- 2 Sacks
Sidney Jones- 8 Tackles, 2INT
Well...its almost game time folks. So put on the game, grab a beer, and get your popcorn ready!! #FlyEaglesFly
Written By Jason Voorhees
One game does not make a season in the NFL. However; one game can make a difference in having a bye and gaining home field throughout the playoffs.
The Eagles loss on Sunday does not mean that the team has entered dire straits territory. But there were some alarming issues that occurred during the game: issues that will need some tender loving care if the Philadelphia Eagles are going to once again make a Super Bowl run.
As is always the case, there were some good points that stood out. Likewise, the game was littered with some not so good moments and of course a few examples of total dysfunction. With that being said...here was the good, the bad, and the ugly moments of Sunday's loss:
1) Carson Wentz "The Human Highlight Reel"- Coming off of the ACL injury and then last season's back injury, Carson had shown flashes of the brilliance that dominated his near MVP season of 2017. However; there were still questions of whether or not he could ever return to the player that made Houdini look human game in and game out. That was until the Falcons game. On Sunday evening, while missing 3 of his top playmakers on offense, Carson once again made spectacular plays up and down the field. His athleticism was on display for the national audience and he did not disappoint. Although he was under constant duress and pressure for most of the evening due to a terrible performance by the Eagles offensive line; Carson was able to escape time and time again and make big plays to help his team. At one point, he even had to come out of the game during an important series under the leagues concussion protocol system. However; he returned fired up and used that passion to almost singlehandedly will the Eagles to victory. He ultimately fell short of the comeback but showed that the old Carson is definitely back and hopefully here to stay.
2) Mack Hollins- Hollins came into the year with a lot to prove. In fact, coming out of training camp and preseason he was on the bubble and it was not even a given that he would make the team. Hollins did make the final cut as the teams fifth wide receiver due to his special teams prowess. The former 4th round pick of 2017 had spent the entire 2018 season on the injured list. So if anyone on the roster had a lot to prove, it would be Hollins. Its safe to say that Atlanta was not game planning to stop Hollins coming into the game as the Eagles 5th WR. However, with half the unit out of the game due to injury, Hollins was forced into game action and would be a key contributor on the evening. Hollins did not do anything spectacular. However; he did have 5 catches for 50 yards including two key first down catches that extended drives. He was also able to stretch the field a few times on plays that helped Zach Ertz underneath. All in all it was good showing for the third year wideout and hopefully a sign of good things to come.
3) Jim Schwartz- Going to the well one two many times does not usually end well. Such was the case Sunday as Jim Schwartz abandoned his ultra conservative pass rush in favor of the all out blitz. In a game that saw Schwartz call the most blitzes that he ever has in his tenure as Eagles defensive coordinator, the defense actually played pretty well. The defensive effort actually was the main reason that the team stayed in the game. Ultimately the blitz killed them on the fourth down touchdown to Julio Jones. In spite of that mishap though, the game plan was a breath of fresh air to fans and pundits alike and showed that Schwartz is willing to adapt his strategy. Of course, losing Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan to injury means the Eagles may have to continue to dial up the blitz more often. Stay Tuned.
1) Nelson Agholor- If you were just reading the stats column, you would say there is no way in hell that Nelson belongs on the bad list. However; the eye test outranks statistics on any given Sunday and Nelson failed this test with flying colors. Although Nelson did have 8 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, his (3) key dropped passes took away any positive light that may have shined on his night. You also must take into account the fact that the Eagles were missing their top two wideouts Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. This makes those numbers less relevant as he easily jumped the depth chart quickly becoming the number one option. However; it was his key drop on the teams last series that put Nelson on the bad list. Nelly...the hands are your bread maker but you need to use them.
2) Running Game- The Eagles ground game was non existent on Sunday. In a game where the team was without Alshon and Desean, you would think that the they would have tried to establish the run early and often. But not Doug Pederson. The Eagles ran the ball to a tune of 21x for 49 yards (2.3ypc) which included Carson's 3 QB sneaks. Flat out pathetic. That's just not getting it done. What was even more disappointing was the fact that Eagles backs only caught 6 passes for 22 yards against an Atlanta defense that was ranked #32 in yards allowed to running backs over the past three seasons. Not running the ball was a big mistake and this unit has to produce more moving forward if the Eagles are going to contend. We need to see more of Jordan Howard.
3) Pass Rush- Coming into 2019, the Eagles defensive line was supposed to be one of the teams greatest strengths. After two weeks, the biggest disappointment may very well be the defensive line. In a game where Jim Schwartz finally dialed it up and sent the house, the Eagles still only managed one measly sack by Andrew Sendejo. In case you are doing the math...that's only two sacks in two games. And now after losing Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan (2nd and 3rd DT) this unit is extremely thin. Couple the injuries with the health status of Fletcher Cox and the scenario sets up one recipe for disaster. If the Eagles are not able to sure up their pass rush, we are going to be in for a long Fall. Appreciate Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett's efforts but we need more productivity on the stat sheet. Its an absolute must for the team to put pressure on the Quarterback.
1) Injuries "Body Bag Revisited"- The Concussion Protocol spotter truly earned his paycheck on Sunday. 10 different players suffered some type of injury during the game, including tight end Dallas Goeddert, who hurt his calf during warmups. The following players were injured during the game and not able to return:
Tim Jernigan (foot)
Desean Jackson (groin)
Alshon Jeffery (calf)
Dallas Goeddert (calf)
Corey Clement (shoulder)
And then there was the list of players who were checked for concussions but able to return:
And then finally the injury scare to Jason Peters who had to leave the game for one play late in the fourth quarter. This is only week 2 folks. Something fishy is going on with the Eagles medical staff. The team cannot sustain this level of injuries no matter how great their "next man up" mantra is. Hopefully, this is the peak of the teams injury woes moving forward or else the season is really in trouble.
2) Isaac Seumalo- According to Pro Football Focus...the Eagles starting guard "had one of the worst single game grades by any player at any position in PFF history." It was not a signature effort by either of the teams offensive lineman by any stretch of the imagination. However; Isaac was terrible. Seumalo allowed 2 sacks, six QB hurries, committed three penalties, while grading out poorly against both the pass and the run. He appeared to be lost at times during the game and was way overmatched by the Falcons quick defensive linemen and linebackers. His side of the line was responsible for all three of Carson's sacks. Seumalo is the weak link of the line and it would not be surprising to see a change moving forward if his play does not improve.
3) Ronald Darby- Coming back from an ACL injury is never easy in the NFL. With that being said, Darby has made an admirable job of getting back on the field and once again patrolling the secondary for the Birds. On a night where he was asked to cover second year standout Calvin Ridley, he got absolutely torched for 5 catches, 106 yards and a touchdown. He was also beat by Julio Jones a number of times. Yes, the other members of the secondary were also responsible for the miscues. However; Ronald Darby is the veteran of the bunch making almost 7 Million Dollars. The team cannot afford these kind of efforts if they expect to win. In other words...go get Jalen Ramsey. AKA...Howie SZN.
Where do we go from here?
The bottom line is that the Atlanta Falcons were extremely desperate coming into their matchup against the Eagles. In fact, judging by their victory celebration that was posted to social media...this was their Super Bowl. Likewise, its only the second week and no loss makes or breaks a season.
However; there seems to be more question marks than answers surrounding this team. First and foremost there is the question of health. The team has already lost Malik Jackson to a season ending injury. The team will also be without it's third defensive tackle Tim Jernigan for 4-6 weeks. Add that to the uncertainty surrounding Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. If the injuries continue to mount, the success of this team will remain in serious doubt.
Will Doug Pederson finally overcome his pass first egotistical flaws? When will the pass rush finally show up? Can the offensive line get back to being the unit that was originally ranked as the best in the Biz? Can the defensive secondary stop giving up the big play?
All of these questions will hopefully be answered feverishly in the upcoming weeks. The answers to these questions will ultimately pave the way for success or failure in the ultimate quest. My guess is that this team gets things turned around and once again becomes the darlings of the NFC. One can only hope that the injury bug gets vanquished and this team can get back to playing at full capacity.
This week its on to the Detroit Lions. This is a game that the Eagles need to win. This is a game the Eagles have to win. This is a game that the Eagles will win. You heard it here first folks. Now here's hoping that my prediction is right. Stay tuned for more analysis later in the week. Until then...GO BIRDS and #FlyEaglesFly.
Written By Jason Voorhees
So the first week of the NFL season has come and gone. For the Philadelphia Eagles; game one couldn't have gone much closer to script.
The team sputtered out of the gate held hostage by the lack of game experience during the preseason. However; the team quickly responded in the second half after a rousing halftime "wakeup" speech by Desean Jackson. After trailing 20-7 at the half, the Eagles responded by scoring 25 unanswered points.
It was a tale of two halves. While the Redskins dominated the first half; the Eagles completely owned the second and quickly reaffirmed why they are one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl.
The Eagles Week #2 opponent promises to be more of a challenge as the Eagles head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. The Eagles and Falcons have become quite a rivalry during the past few seasons as the teams have faced each other multiple times including the regular season as well as playoffs.
In fact, the last time the Eagles lost to the Falcons was back in 2015 under Chip Kelly. In 2016, the Eagles beat the Falcons 24-15 at Lincoln Financial Field. Then they faced the Falcons in the 2017 Divisional Round of the playoffs and beat them 15-10, in what was the first time that a #1 seed was set as an underdog in the NFL modern era.
The Eagles once again beat the Falcons in their home opener at the Linc in 2018, 18-12. For those doing the math, that's 3 straight wins for the Eagles over the Falcons. However; there were a few common themes. First of all, the Eagles won those games at home. Secondly, the games were all very close; hard fought contests that went down to the wire.
Which brings us to Sunday. The Eagles are currently 1.5 Point favorites on the road. On paper, Philly should win this contest with relative ease. However; games are not played with paper and pencil. And you can rest assure that the Falcons have had this game circled on their calendar ever since the schedule came down.
So what are the keys to this game. For the Eagles, it remains a pretty simple plan on defense. Stop Julio Jones. Of course, that is much easier said than done. In fact, Julio Jones has actually torched the Eagles up and down the field to the tune of 38 Catches and 546 Yards and 2TD's. However, he has not found the end zone since that win back in 2015.
Julio Jones is going to get his. The key is to limit his production in the red zone which is something the Eagles have been able to do. Another key will be getting after the quarterback and pressuring Matt Ryan. Of course, the injury to Malik Jackson really hurts this area of the team. Other players will have to step up and pick up the slack. The next man up mentality will once again be the Eagles mantra.
On offense, I believe the Eagles will try to establish the run early and then set up the play action pass as they try to assert their air attack. The Falcons struggled in week 1 and will be trying to exact revenge once again on the Eagles who have had their number.
I am predicting another tight game here Sunday night which will once again come down to the wire. The Eagles escape with their 4th straight victory over Atlanta as they win 24-17.
Here are some Stat Predictions:
Carson Wentz- 23/33, 343 Yards, 2TD's
Miles Sanders- 74 Yards, 1TD
Desean Jackson- 6 Catches, 123 Yards, 1TD
Alshon Jeffery- 5 Catches, 75 Yards
Zach Ertz- 4 Catches, 54 Yards, 1TD
Fletcher Cox-2 Sacks
Julio Jones-10 Catches, 147 Yards, 1TD
Hope you enjoyed my predictions. Stay tuned for more analysis. Have a great weekend and GO BIRDS!
Written By Jason Voorhees
Its the dawn of a new season. Yes folks, Eagles football is finally back and it couldn't have come soon enough. After dealing with a dysfunctional Phillies squad over the summer, its a welcome breath of fresh air to finally hear the chants of "Fly Eagles Fly" once again.
It's hard to believe that it was only two years ago tomorrow, that the Eagles opened up on the road against the Washington Redskins, in a game that ultimately set them on a course of championship glory. We are only one season removed from that Super Bowl victory against the Patriots and this team once again has their eyes on the ultimate prize.
Of course, this version of the Eagles is a little different than that version. For starters, they have lost their super bowl MVP Nick Foles, who left the team during the offseason for a starting gig in Jacksonville. Foles will always be a hero in this town and will never be forgotten. However; no matter what happened in the past, this teams future always has and always was going to ride or die with it's franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz.
Fans and Analysts alike are well aware of the injury factor as it pertains to Carson Wentz. Until Wentz can play a full season, he will always carry that stigma of being injury prone. All signs point to Carson being fully healthy and being able to play at the high level that he showed in 2017. In fact, many pundits have picked Wentz as an MVP frontrunner along with another talented signal caller, Pat Mahomes.
So a lot of this teams success will be directly influenced by the health and wellness of Wentz.
But what else is different? Well, another familiar face will be strolling the sidelines of the Linc as the team opens on Sunday. Wide Receiver Desean Jackson will be playing in his first game since returning to the Eagles in the offseason. Jackson was jettisoned a few years back by then head coach Chip Kelly, much to the dismay of a loyal fanbase.
Even at 32 years old, Desean Jackson is still one of the fastest receivers in the game. Jackson gives Carson Wentz something that he has rarely seen during his tenure thus far as the Eagles signal caller. A player that can absolutely stretch the field and open up the playbook because defenders have to be cautiously aware of the deep ball.
This may be the most talented roster that the Eagles have ever assembled. This offense is loaded with weapons. Carson Wentz has an abundance of toys to play with and its going to be fun to watch.
His backfield includes Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders (R), Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement. Then you have the tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goeddert. Add that to the talented receiving corps of Desean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcegga Whiteside (R), and Mack Hollins.
Now take those weapons and put them behind one of the most talented offensive lines in the NFL and that adds up to a dominant offensive juggernaut. Of course, they have to still play the games and that's what brings me to Sunday.
The Eagles chose to rest many of their starters during the preseason so many of the players will be getting their first game action on Sunday. We could be in for a very long day as there will probably be many penalties and sluggish play on both sides of the ball.
Expect Carson to experience a case of the first game jitters. There will be some mistakes. Balls overthrown. Balls underthrown. Maybe a fumble. Possibly an interception.
However, after the jitters wear off, I fully expect Carson to excel once again. If Carson Wentz remains healthy, he is capable of being one of the best if not the very best at his craft. So what are my predictions. I am predicting that the game will begin with some sloppy play.
There may even be a few turnovers. However, when its all said and done...the Eagles will come away victorious. Here are my predictions for the score and some individual statistics as well:
Final Score= Eagles-24 Redskins-9
Carson Wentz- 21/34, 312 Yards, 2TD's
Desean Jackson- 6 Catches, 101 Yards, 1TD
Dallas Goeddert-3 Catches, 41 Yards, 1TD
Zach Ertz- 5 Catches, 69 Yards
Miles Sanders-13 Carries, 84 Yards,
Jordan Howard-11 Carries, 49 Yards, 1TD
Fletcher Cox- 4 Tackles, Sack, FF
Brandon Graham-3 Tackles, Sack
Sidney Jones-8 Tackles, INT
I hope you enjoyed my predictions. Stay tuned throughout the season as I will offer an analysis of games before and after and also offer fantasy advice and takes. Well, tomorrow cant come soon enough. I probably wont get any sleep tonight as is custom for me on the eve of the new Eagles season. In closing I give you my E-A-G-L-E-S...EAGLES chant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #FlyEaglesFly
Written By Jason Voorhees
The NFL kicks off it's season tonight with a game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. As a new season is upon us, we must ponder the good, the bad, and the ugly as it pertains to the best sport in America today. Every year each team in the NFL comes into the season with high hopes and dreams of attaining the ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Many teams share the dream. Few teams can feel the dream. And only one team will get to taste that dream. As we envision the endgame, there is loads of drama and theater that must play out on the field of battle. The following is a preview of where the 2019 season may shape up and an account of how the chips will fall in the Greatest Show on Turf. Without further adieu, here is a list of my 2019 picks, predictions, hot takes, and awards.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
2. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
3. Washington Redskins (6-10)
4. New York Giants (4-12)
1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
2. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
3. Chicago Bears (8-8)
4. Detroit Lions (6-10)
1. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
2. New Orleans Saints (9-7)
3. Carolina Panthers (9-7)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
1. Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
2. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
3. San Francisco 49ers (5-11)
4. Arizona Cardinals (3-13)
1. New England Patriots (13-3)
2. New York Jets (9-7)
3. Buffalo Bills (5-11)
4. Miami Dolphins (2-14)
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
2. Cleveland Browns (10-6)
3. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12)
1. Houston Texans (11-5)
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5)
3. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
4. Tennessee Titans (6-10)
1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
2. LA Chargers (10-6)
3. Denver Broncos (6-10)
4. Oakland Raiders (3-13)
The Divisional Races are always the hardest to pick as the NFL can be a crap shoot from year to year. There are always the mainstay teams and then a group of surprise teams that enter the fray. Last season saw the LA Chargers and Indianapolis Colts make the playoffs in the AFC while the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears were participants in the NFC.
2019 is shaping up to be just the same as a few teams will fail to make the playoffs as others will play the Cinderella role and become the new darlings of football past. Coming into the season, there seems to be an influx of parity and many of these races could be tighter than experts have predicted.
So as we look to the playoff predictions, it appears that five new teams will again enter the postseason (NFC-Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers/AFC-Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers.) In contrast, there are 5 teams that will not make another run in 2019 (NFC-Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears/AFC-LA Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts).
With that being said...Here are my Playoff Predictions:
Wild Card Round
(4) Atlanta Falcons vs. (5) Seattle Seahawks (3) Minnesota Vikings vs. (6) Green Bay Packers
(1) Philadelphia Eagles vs. (5) Seattle Seahawks (2) Los Angeles Rams vs. (3) Minnesota Vikings
(1) Philadelphia Eagles vs. (3) Minnesota Vikings
Wild Card Round
(4) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (5) Jacksonville Jaguars (3) Houston Texans vs. (6) Cleveland Browns
(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Pittsburgh Steelers (2) New England Patriots vs. (3) Houston Texans
(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (3) Houston Texans
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs
SUPER BOWL CHAMPS
MVP: Patrick Mahomes, QB Chiefs
Offensive Player of the Year: Saquon Barkley, RB Giants
Defensive Player of the Year: Fletcher Cox, DT Eagles
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kyler Murray, QB Cardinals
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ed Oliver, DT Bills
Comeback Player of the Year: Carson Wentz, QB Eagles
Coach of the Year: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns
In this world today, there is nothing that can be certain except death and taxes. Well, in the NFL world the only certain has become the New England Patriots making the playoffs and competing for the Super Bowl. In fact, the Patriots hold the active streak of making the playoffs with 10 seasons in a row. 2019 will be no different as the Belichick and Brady show will once again dominate opponents en route to another playoff appearance.
However, this season Andy Reid is finally able to exercise his demons of playoff past as he leads the upstart Kansas City Chiefs to an upset over the Texans in the AFC Championship. But, in a cruel turn of events, his former team the Philadelphia Eagles win the NFC and will be his opponent in the big dance. And in true Andy Reid fashion, the Chiefs will loose to the Eagles in the Super Bowl and Reid will still be chasing that dream.
NFL 2019 will see its share of story lines. If its anything like the offseason and weeks leading up to the opener on Thursday, this season will be one of epic consequences. So far this offseason, we have saw multiple players sign new long term deals (Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Ezekiel Elliott) to name a few. We also had the holdouts of Zeke and Melvin Gordon. We saw a few big trades including Jadaveon Clowney and Laremy Tunsil.
But all of these breaking news events are pale in comparison to the story of Antonio Brown. With all of the craziness of the NFL, expect many more side stories to develop in front of our eyes. Needless to say, 2019 is shaping up to be another exciting version of football lure. So you have saw my predictions. You have witnessed my award winners. Now let me leave you with a few hot takes as we head into the opening game on Thursday:
1) The Dallas Cowboys have a very good season and Ezekiel Elliott wins a rushing title- but the Cowboys fall just short of making the playoffs.
2) The new NFL- 5 Quarterbacks throw for 5,000 Yards (Pat Mahomes, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Philip Rivers.
3) Saquon Barkley is once again the leading all-purpose yardage leader and runs away with the fantasy football points total.
4) Nick Foles leads the Jacksonville Jaguars to a playoff berth in his first season as a starter while playing his first FULL season in the NFL.
5) Julio Jones is the most dominant receiver in 2019 as he leads the league in both receiving yards and touchdowns.
6) Baker Mayfield does in fact avoid a sophomore slump leading the cinderella Cleveland Browns to the playoffs. He also sets franchise season records in Completions, Yards, and touchdowns.
7) Although the Eagles win their second Super Bowl behind an all-star offensive cast, its the defense that ultimately overachieves and finishes in the top ten.
8) The Saints fail to make the playoffs and Drew Brees decides to retire after the season.
9) The Miami Dolphins do in fact tank and land the first pick of the 2020 Draft.
10) LeSean McCoy has a comeback season for the ages as he once again eclipses 1,000 yards rushing and scores 10TD's in the Chiefs version of a Tecmo Bowl offense.
11) Carson Wentz is beaten out by Patrick Mahomes for MVP but he does eclipse all of his 2017 numbers as he finally stays healthy for a full season, which graners him the Comeback Player of the Year award.
12) Playing for the doormat Miami Dolphins, Xavien Howard (CB) leads the NFL with 12 Interceptions.
13) Kyler Murray beats out David Montgomery for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Both players have admiarble numbers but Murray ultimately wins the award due to the padded stats of the "air raid" offense.
14) The Cleveland Browns finish inside the top 5 in both offense and defense during the regular season.
15) Russel Wilson throws for over 4,500 yards while eclipsing 500 yards rushing to become the only player to do ever do so in NFL history.
16) Daniel Jones supplants Eli Manning as the lead signal caller for the New York Giants in Week 3. Manning retires at the end of season.
17) JJ Watt sacks Tom Brady in the Divisonal Round of playoffs knocking him out of the game which ultimately ends their run of conference titles.
18) Le'Veon Bell finishes in the Top 5 in rushing once again establishing himself as an offensive juggerneaut.
19) Dez Bryant makes a comeback but its derailed after only playing in two games as he once again suffers a season ending injury.
20) Diva Wide Receiver Antonio Brown becomes the first NFL player ever to be traded three times during a season as he fails to ever set foot on the field.
That completes my 2019 NFL preview. I hope you enjoyed the predictions as well as my not so awful takes. Needless to say, these are obviously predictions and I will be lucky to get any of them right. Nonetheless, that's what makes sports interesting. The thrill of the take and the journey one takes to chase that take. Stay tuned for my Eagles predictions and more sports related news.
Its so awesome to have football back and I am completely pumped for the beginning of the season. Buckle up and enjoy the ride folks. And as Hall of Famer Terrell Owens once said..."Get Your Popcorn Ready!"
About Jason Voorhees
Jason resides in Norristown, PA and writes about all things sports and heavy metal music.