You know the drill by now.
- - - - - -
So, the Phillies. Yeah, I'm pretty psyched. I was definitely a baseball kid growing up. I've still only attended two Eagles games in person -- both after the age of 25 -- while I've been to what must be dozens of Phillies games.
I can't help but think winning the World Series would be awfully therapeutic for this town's collective sports mindset as well. Yes, very therapeutic.
But now it looks like we'll be waiting a little bit longer to find out who the opponent will be. That was a heck of a collapse by the Rays last night. It will be interesting to see if/how they bounce back.
I'm still rooting for Boston, only because it makes things more interesting when unaffiliated fans nationwide all a) care about the Series, and b) desperately want your team to win.
Enough about baseball, though. We're here to talk football, and your discussion questions have nicely teed up a few topics:
1. This Darren Howard fellow. Do my eyes mistake me, or is Howard actually playing well right now? Was this the guy we were supposed to see two years ago?
I want to be veeeeery careful what I say right here, especially because more people are paying attention to this blog than was true a couple of years ago. Let's examine what we have here:
- A player about to lose his job (and with it likely his future employment prospects) if he doesn't suddenly become more productive.
Stories like this: "Howard ... had to exchange the T-shirt he was given (an XXL) by the team to wear to a playground dedication because of the tight fit. "Too big up here, anymore," he said, flexing his upper body. He is now a chiseled 255 pounds, about 15 lighter than last year's playing weight... "I've always wanted to change my body around and work a little bit harder [in the offseason], try to get a little more muscle on my frame. This year I just happened to do it. I don't know if there was a particular reason."
- Miraculously, more sacks in the last six games than in the previous 25.
This suggests one of two things. Either he didn't work hard enough his first two offseasons to get himself into the kind of shape he's in now, or this offseason he decided to bring in a little ... extra help.
Hate to be a downer, but in either case I'm somewhat disappointed.
And isn't it sort of our responsibility as sports fans to bring a certain skepticism to these issues? After all, we've all gotten the vapors from finding out that guys like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and -- even -- Barry Bonds might have had some sticky friends. The burden of proof has to be on the players these days.
2. Your buddy David Akers. I feel badly talking about it since he might actually read one of these things, but, um, things aren’t looking so good there. Do you think that he’ll be the kicker at the end of the season? Give me the scenarios that might put his job in jeopardy?
As much as I hate to say it, I'm not sure how much longer Andy Reid can wait this one out. David just looks like a guy playing without any confidence. If the playoffs started tomorrow -- and assuming contra the standings that we're in them -- would Reid really be comfortable going into those kinds of tough games with Akers as his kicker?
I say no. Which means there's definitely a timeframe here in which Akers needs to turn things around if he's going to be here to help us celebrate our first Super Bowl win in February.
Questions I'd like to know the answers to:
- Does Akers perform noticeably better in practice than in games?
- Has he tried the sports psychologist route?
- Could the Eagles bring back Koy Detmer first as Akers' personal "kicking coach" and valet? Then if that doesn't help, maybe go the next step and hand him a uniform.
As for timing, assuming nothing changes, I don't think Akers lasts if he blows a game from here on out. The distraction would be overwhelming.
Come on, man, turn it around.
3. Finally one of your favorites: do the Eagles have one of the best young linebacking corps in the NFL or are they still a player short at best?
To answer that question fairly, I'd really need a better handle on the other 31 linebacking corps out there. On the other hand, since we seem completely unable to cover opposing tight ends, I think it's safe to assume the answer is "no."
With that said, I'm quite high on two-thirds of said corps.
4. Is the NFC East still the best division in football?
Maybe? Who knows? As you rightly (and mockingly) pointed out, we have a tendency to whipsaw rather violently in our assessments of teams in this league based on their week-to-week performance.
The NFC South is legitimately frisky this year. I wouldn't feel all that confident about playing their last-place New Orleans Saints right now.
Even the NFC West has a team with a winning record this year. Way to go guys!
5. BONUS: give me something I don’t see coming but should, both for the Eagles and the rest of the division.
DeSean Jackson will finish the year as the team's leading receiver, pile up more than 1,000 yards, and be named the offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Eagles will beat Atlanta, lose to Seattle, then win seven of their last eight to finish the year 11-5.
The Cowboys will win their next three games to momentarily silence the doubters, but once the "rally round" effect passes they'll disappoint in the second half and go 10-6.
Washington beats the bad teams and loses to the good ones to go 9-7
The Giants will lose seven of 11 to finish 8-8.
Beyond that, I'm not feeling very oraculous.
- - - - - -
Questions for you:
1. Favorite / least favorite Eagles and why? No cheating by picking old-timers, I'm talking current roster.
2. Fill in the blanks: "The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like __________. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like __________."
3. You're really not going to ask about Tony Hunt?
4. Over the past 10 months, the Eagles have been linked by rumor to approximately two dozen players not currently on their roster. Of the guys who actually changed teams -- yes, we all wanted Larry Fitzgerald -- who are you most annoyed about not getting? (NOTA is an acceptable answer if you show your work.)
5. I cheated on your bonus question, but now I'm kind of interested in hearing your answer to it. I'm rubber, you're glue ...