Monday was the perfect topper of a wonderful weekend for the Philadelphia Eagles. First there was the dramatic come-from-behind win over the Lions in the snow at Lincoln Financial Field. Then there was the last-second rally by the Packers over the Falcons. And finally came the Bears’ demoralization of Dallas in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.
The series of events sets up a much smoother path for Philly to reach the postseason.
For a stretch it was looking like the Birds would have to win out in order to capture the NFC East crown. Earlier talk that eight wins might be enough to win the division had long faded since both Dallas and the Eagles had begun to string together victories during the month of November. The Cowboys own the tiebreaker over Philadelphia, so as long as they kept winning, obviously the Birds would have to keep pace.
With the teams slated to meet in Dallas during the regular season’s final week, Philadelphia knew it had to stay even with the ‘Boys leading into that game to make it a playoff to get into the playoffs. Yet that all got turned upside down thanks to the events of Monday night.
By being unable to stop the Bears offense even once during a 45-28 slaughter, suddenly the Cowboys are a game behind Philly in the NFC East ledger, with a very difficult date looming this weekend. That’s where Green Bay’s surprise win over the Falcons comes into play. Thanks to that effort, plus the Birds’ win over Detroit, the Packers are just one-half game behind the Lions in the NFC North.
Had Green Bay lost to Atlanta, speculation was that it would have ended Aaron Rogers’s bid to return from injury. The team would have no longer felt it had a clear path to the playoffs and would have shut the All-Pro quarterback down for the season. Now it appears Rogers will be ready to retake the reins of the Packers attack in time for Sunday’s critical showdown with the Cowboys.
If Green Bay beats Dallas in that game, the Eagles’ magic number to clinch the division shrinks to two. That means Philly could have its postseason berth wrapped up before its trip to “Big D” for the regular season finale. Considering how the Birds offense sputtered against the Cowboys in the teams’ first meeting, that rematch being rendered insignificant would be a welcome development for Eagles fans.
Things are going so well right now, there even remains a scenario where Philadelphia could earn itself a first-round bye in the playoffs. It is unlikely, but the Birds would have to win out, while Carolina and New Orleans would have to tie at 11-5 in the NFC South. In order for that to happen, the Panthers need to finish 2-1, with a win over the Saints, while New Orleans would have to lose to Carolina and then either the pesky Rams or the surging Buccaneers.
Not likely, but not impossible either. And that’s what makes this time of year so much fun when your team is good. It seems like the possibilities are endless, and you can kill all kinds of time trying to play out the different scenarios.
After this weekend though, many of those potential outcomes have a much happier outlook for the Eagles. That makes it all the more enjoyable.
Is anyone else still trying to wrap their arms around what happened at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday? The Philadelphia Eagles looked dead for two-and-a-half quarters. Their up-tempo offense was slowed to a crawl by the surprise blizzard that dumped down on South Philly, while their defense seemed to be narrowly escaping disaster after disaster against a Detroit Lions attack that was moving the ball at will until it approached the red zone.
When Detroit added a punt return for a touchdown to the aforementioned adversity the Birds were already dealing with, I cannot imagine there were many who can honestly say they did not count the Eagles out.
Chip Kelly's team trailed by 14 points on a day when conditions were so bad teams did not even dare attempt extra points, eschewing them for a steady stream of two-point conversion tries. How could they possibly overcome a two-touchdown deficit when quarterback Nick Foles appeared unable to throw the ball with any accuracy? In the first half, the Arizona product looked exactly how a guy who'd spent a lot of time in a desert should when trying to play a football game in near-blizzard conditions. He was struggling, and did not seem like a guy too keen on being where he was.
Foles is not the reason the Eagles won on Sunday. The credit for that belongs mostly to Chip Kelly for adjusting his offense (more deep passes and straight ahead runs), and LeSean McCoy for altering his running style and putting his teammates on his back.
Still, that Foles was able to string together some accurate vertical passes at clutch moments was another positive sign that he does in fact have the ability to be an elite quarterback in this league.
Unlike the Dallas game, when Foles folded at the first sign of difficulty, the second-year pro never let hard times kill his confidence on Sunday. After a god-awful first quarter and an almost equally ugly second period, Foles kept firing after intermission. He was sharp with deep throws to Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson, and continually moved the chains on third down so McCoy could keep doing his electric thing on the ground.
Completing 11-of-22 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception (his first of the season) is usually a pretty poor day by modern NFL standards, but there was nothing subpar about the way Foles performed in the second half on Sunday. Anytime you can start using adjectives like ‘unflappable’ about a team’s starting signal caller, that franchise is normally in pretty good shape. No one was ready to say that about the Eagles’ quarterback until the second half of their win over the Lions.
Sunday will be remembered as the afternoon McCoy ran through the Lions for over 200 yards in a mini blizzard the weathermen didn’t see coming until there were already two inches of snow on the ground. But if he keeps stringing together wins at the rate he has this season, it might also be recalled as the day Foles showed how mentally tough he is. Either way, it’s a game no Eagles fan will soon forget.
Baseball’s hot stove is warming up with the annual winter meetings set to get underway next week. The free agency market is starting to come into focus and the initial domino even fell on Tuesday night. A former Wilmington Blue Rock was the first marquee name to make a decision, and he set the market price for everyone else astronomically high.
Oft-injured Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury inked a seven-year $156 million deal with the Yankees. It was a move that insulted Red Sox fans (who take it personally when any of their own end up in New York pinstripes) and left the rest of the baseball world scratching its collective heads.
How can a guy who has not been able to stay healthy for a full season in the last half-decade fetch such a lofty bounty? Why would the Yankees, who had much more pressing needs than centerfield, invest so heavily there? And most importantly, if Ellsbury is worth that much how high will the numbers spike for better players like Robsinson Canoe.
Ellsbury will be 37 when the deal expires, and his greatest asset is speed, which is likely to significantly erode over the course of the contract. New York wanted to get better defensively and this certainly accomplishes that. The 2006 Blue Rocks alum covers massive amounts of ground in center and is good for at least four logic-defying grabs each season. Still, does that coupled with a good (not great) on-base percentage and the ability to steal bases equal a $153 million?
Judging by the snickers heard across the rest of the baseball world I think it is safe to say the consensus says no.
One additional factor points to the conclusion that the Yankees overpaid. Ellsbury’s agent is Scott Boras, who is universally known in baseball for making his clients wait until the entire bidding process has played out before signing on the dotted line. Boras did not do that with Ellsbury. Instead he saw what New York offered and jumped all over it.
Speaking of jumping all over it, another former Blue Rock seems to be on the verge of signing a free-agent contract. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Carlos Beltran is likely to commit to the Royals in the coming days, returning him to the site where he made his Major League debut in 1998.
Kansas City is reportedly the only team that Beltran believes can contend for a postseason berth next year that has offered him a three-year deal. The potential contract is reportedly worth $48 million.
Olney tweeted that most teams are convinced at this point that Beltran is returning to Kansas City. If he does, the Royals’ 2014 lineup would feature five one-time Blue Crewers (Beltran, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon). Kansas City just completed its best season since 1989, by going 86-76.