2012 Eagles Regular Season Precap SWAGs

2012 Eagles Regular Season Precap SWAGs

When the Eagles' upcoming season schedule is announced, most fans enjoy taking a shot at predicting their record, with some adventurous folk picking the individual wins and losses they expect to see. We do this too, although with the obvious caveat that NFL seasons rarely go as scripted. Remember last year, when the 49ers loss was so devastating because everyone thought they were terrible?

Well, we thought it'd be fun to take a crack at predicting outcomes from the upcoming season, along with some guesses as to what might happen in the games and why. Obviously, we're not saying these things will happen. Just adding a little color to the usual predictions…

WEEK 1 @ CLEVELAND

The Browns haven't won more than five games in four consecutive seasons. They enter Week 1 with rookie starters at quarterback, running back, right tackle, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker. Even if we were to assume this team is ready to take a leap forward in 2012, it's hard to imagine how they start fast. QB Brandon Weeden will find little time to scan the field and few open targets, while Michael Vick shakes off the rust and creates enough big plays in the passing game to make this one look easy.
W 34-10

WEEK 2 VS. BALTIMORE

The Ravens are polar opposites to their rival Browns, averaging 11 wins per season over the last four. They have an established offense to go along with their nasty defense headlined by multiple future Hall of Famers. The Eagles do get a slight reprieve with OLB Terrell Suggs -- the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year -- out due to an offseason Achilles injury, but Baltimore still controls the middle. This game could come down to whether or not the Birds can prevent QB Joe Flacco from orchestrating that one key drive. A long march capped by a late touchdown pass to WR Anquan Boldin breaks up the defensive stalemate.
L 19-13

WEEK 3 @ ARIZONA

Big revenge game for the Eagles. Last year, the lackluster Cardinals came to the Linc and shocked Philly, dropping the Birds to 3-6 on the season. We are not predicting an encore performance in the desert. Arizona's offensive line is awful, and worse than ever after the loss of OT Levi Brown for the season with a torn triceps, so expect Trent Cole to terrorize the quarterback -- whoever that may be by Week 3. DeSean Jackson won't be scratched from the lineup with an attitude problem either, so a higher scoring affair should be in order.
W 30-17

WEEK 4 VS. NEW YORK GIANTS

It will be an emotional Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field, which doesn't always bode well for the home team. Brian Dawkins' No. 20 will be retired at the game's midpoint, a ceremony that will undoubtedly be the most popular halftime show of the season. The Eagles come out flat and go into the locker room down by two possessions, but with the crowd re-energized, DeMeco Ryans turns the tides in the second half with a big hit to jar the ball free from RB Ahmad Bradshaw. With less than two minutes remaining, a LeSean McCoy touchdown run drives the final nail into the coffin.
W 24-23

WEEK 5 @ PITTSBURGH

Tough game to follow up with after a knock-down, drag-out fight with the G-men, but that's the hand the Eagles have been dealt. Meanwhile, the Steelers are coming off of an early bye week, so they should be well rested and ready for battle. The Birds hang in there early, but Pittsburgh becomes the more physical team as the game wears on. By the end, their offensive line is able to open huge holes for RB Isaac Redman, keeping the clock ticking in the fourth quarter and putting any hopes of another comeback on ice.
L 27-17

WEEK 6 VS. DETROIT

Like Pittsburgh, the Lions also emerge from a bye. Vick lasts longer than anybody would have predicted, but the dangerous Detroit pass rush led by scary DT Ndomukong Suh becomes the group that finally forces the fragile passer from the game in pain. Nick Foles enters the fray midway into the second quarter and struggles right away, making a rookie mistake with a dumb interception that quickly tilts the scoreboard in the wrong direction. The young QB fights through it, even winds up having a nice day with close to 300 yards and a couple of scores. Unfortunately, the hole is just too deep.
L 34-31

WEEK 7 - BYE

WEEK 8 VS. ATLANTA

Not only does Andy Reid's team maintain an unblemished 13-0 record the week immediately after their bye, but this is another opportunity for the Birds to exact revenge. The Eagles blew a late lead in the second game of 2011 after Vick was knocked out of the contest. With the extra time off, Vick returns to the lineup without missing the much-hyped return bout against his old mates. He winds up tossing his best game of the season, as he and Jeremy Maclin hook up for a pair of scores, including a long one over the top of Asante Samuel. The secondary holds Roddy White and Julio Jones in check to put a bow on a lopsided victory.
W 38-20

WEEK 9 @ NEW ORLEANS

It's apprentice versus master as Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is pitted against the Eagles offense after he allegedly considered rejoining Reid's staff over the winter. New Orleans and QB Drew Brees will score their share of points in this Superdome track meet, although the prolific one will have his hands full on a Monday night after Juan Castillo's staff have had an extra day to prepare. The key will be whether Spags can draw up blitzes to rattle Vick, only riding last week's hot performance, No. 7 is unphased. It's a shootout, with two receptions of 40 yards or more in front of a national TV audience restoring Djacc's shine.
W 35-31

WEEK 10 VS. DALLAS

This has letdown game written all over it, except nobody tells the defensive line. Having beaten both of the clubs that represented the NFC South in the 2011 playoffs in consecutive weeks, the Eagles return to the Linc as conquering heroes to face an opponent they embarrassed just a season ago. Add in a lost day of rest, and it's a recipe for disaster. Luckily, Jim Washburn has reserves. Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt, and Fletcher Cox torment QB Tony Romo, who then throws an ill-advised pick to Curtis Marsh in the late stages to solidify a few new playmakers on the Birds D.
W 20-10

WEEK 11 @ WASHINGTON

Faced with a true run/pass threat under center for the first time since he's taken over really, Juan Castillo's defense looks lost. Almost every time the defense gets to third and long, QB Robert Griffin III extends the play with his feet, either taking off for the sticks or waiting until the coverage breaks down. Meanwhile, King Dunlap struggles to keep relentless OLB Brian Orakpo out of the backfield, so while there are mismatches to be taken advantage of in Washington's defensive backfield, Vick's occasional big strikes are not enough.
L 28-23

WEEK 12 VS. CAROLINA

Fortunately Juan's a hard worker, and the Eagles' coaching staff has an extra day to prepare for the arrival of QB Cam Newton the following Monday night. With a refined game plan that utilizes Mychal Kendricks as a spy, the Birds focus on keeping the explosive athlete in the pocket, right where their front four wants him. The Panthers try to run, run, run the ball, and when that doesn't work, Newton doesn't have the targets to consistently beat Philly's deep secondary. They finally pull away with a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie INT for six.
W 27-16

WEEK 13 @ DALLAS

The Eagles make a trip out west on six days rest for yet
another date in primetime, while the Cowboys have an extra three days off after playing in their traditional Thanksgiving slot. Big D's revamped secondary is finally starting to gel, add in the fact that they're pissed, and this becomes akin to fending off a swarm of angry bees. Shady McCoy is shut down, and the passing game sputters without a consistent ground threat. The Dallas offense catches a Philly defense that's running on fumes in a few screen passes to RB DeMaro Murray and WR Miles Austin that go for chunks, then Romo wears them down with a heavy dose of TE Jason Witten. Huge clunker.
L 27-10

WEEK 14 @ TAMPA BAY

After losing two of three, and the offense not looking so hot in the process, Vick injury rumors begin to manifest. The reality is the run game had been kept in check. One week after being stonewalled, Shady goes off for his biggest game of the season on a defense that ranked last in the NFL against the ground attack in 2011. The Buccaneers trade scoring blows back and forth thanks to their reliable rookie RB Doug Martin and jump ball WR Vincent Jackson, but the Eagles lean on their biggest weapon to return to their winning ways on the road. A heavy influx of Philly fans in Tampa probably didn't hurt.
W 38-27

WEEK 15 VS. CINCINNATI

At this point, the Eagles are playing their seventh game in 39 days, so the roster is presumably a bit worse for the wear. This is a Thursday nighter at the Linc however, so it's hard to say the Bengals really hold much of an advantage. A relatively one dimensional offense, the Birds will be fine with Nnamdi Asomugha locked on WR A.J. Green most of the night. Cinci's secondary is in questionable shape, so as long as the O-line can protect Vick from a strong front four, they should be able to do just enough to pull out an ugly one.
W 24-13

WEEK 16 VS. WASHINGTON

By this point, the Redskins will have given up on the quaint idea they were a darkhorse Wild Card team, and depending on how big the circus was this year, the Linc may even play host the additional sideshow of a team in the process of quitting on head coach Mike Shanahan. Either way, by this point the Eagles have seen plenty of them mobile quarterbacks this season, so RG3 isn't catching them by surprise anymore. A sharp Vick racks up huge numbers, and eventually is the recipient of an early hook with a spot in the tournament now clinched.
W 41-20

WEEK 17 @ NEW YORK GIANTS

The outcome of this game will be largely dependent on its necessity. If our crystal ball is correct, the Eagles are 10-5, which may -- may -- be enough to lock up the division while still being plausibly in reach of a bye should they catch 11 victories. Hell, this meeting could be for the Division Championship. This game could mean a lot, or with the positioning already set, it could be a time to rest important players weary from a long year. Without knowing one way or the other, predicting an outcome is a waste of time. If we're right, the Eagles are going to the playoffs one way or another, and that in itself will bring some comfort after the way last Week 17 ended: hopeless.
TBD

Get your season W/L predictions on the record in the comments!

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies (16-30) vs. Reds (23-24)
4:05 p.m. on TCN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Tim Adleman and the Reds shut down the Phillies in Friday night's series opener, dealing the Phillies a 5-2 defeat. It was the Phillies' 21st loss in 26 games (see full story).

Jerad Eickhoff takes the ball for the Phillies on Saturday, trying to get both the team and his own season back on track. Veteran Bronson Arroyo takes the start for the Reds.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Worst in baseball
The loss on Friday paired with the Marlins' win over the Angels gave the Phillies sole possession of the worst record in baseball. 

The loss to the Reds was enough to make manager Pete Mackanin call a team meeting with the Phillies hitting a definitive low at 16-30. The 2016 squad didn't fall 14 games under .500 for the first time until Sept. 2. The Phillies are 5-18 in May and have scored 86 runs compared to 131 by opponents. 

Many of the games recently haven't even been close. Six of the losses this month were by at least five runs. The team brought the tying run to the plate on Friday, but it was behind 5-0 and had just one hit going into the ninth. 

The offense has gone silent in the last six games, scoring no more than two runs each time out. In five of their last six, the Phillies have faced a starter with an ERA above 5.00 who proceeded to throw at least five innings and give up one run or fewer. Adleman was the latest to victimize the Phils (see story).

The bright side? The upcoming schedule is much more palatable for the squad. After the Reds, the Phillies face the Marlins, Giants and Braves for 10 games. Those three teams have a combined record of 57-85 this year and the Phillies went 5-0 against the Marlins and Braves in April.

2. 10th time's the charm?
Nine starts into his second full MLB season, Eickhoff hasn't found the right stuff ... or a win. In 51 2/3 innings, he's 0-5 with 4.70 ERA. 

Why the slow start? First off, Eickhoff had some control issues. He's gone from a more than palatable 1.9 to a less stellar 3.1 walks per nine innings. Beyond dishing out free passes, he has a 1.43 WHIP, up from 1.16 last season. Still, his 3.77 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) indicates he shouldn't have struggled quite this much. 

Looking further into the numbers, Eickhoff has allowed more infield and bunt hits this season than he did on a rate basis last year. He's induced less weak contact, which could be part of his issue. Still, he's thrown 300 MLB innings over 50 starts and has a 3.66 ERA. It's hard to believe his true talent level isn't closer to his 3.65 ERA over 197 1/3 innings last year than his out-of-character 4.70 mark this season.

He faced the Reds just once before, taking a loss in the Phillies' second game of the year. It seems a while ago now, but Eickhoff started the year with three quality starts, including a two-run, six-strikeout game over 6 2/3 in Cincinnati. The Reds' batters have four extra-base hits against him and he's allowed home runs to Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett. Gennett's HR came as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

3. Arroyo back in action
You're forgiven if you didn't think Arroyo was still in baseball. He was injured and didn't pitch in either the 2015 or 2016 season. Despite being a non-entity on the field, he was still traded twice, going from the Diamondbacks to the Braves to the Dodgers, who immediately released him. 

At 40 years old, Arroyo is easily hittable now. The right-hander never threw very hard but now tops out at 87 mph, averaging 83-84 with his fastball. Like many soft-tossers, he constantly uses his off-speed stuff. He's heavily reliant on his curveball and slider, both of which are in the 70s. 

Hitters against Arroyo have been home run happy with 15 dingers this year over just 46 2/3 innings. Those 2.9 HR per nine innings are near three times as many as Eickhoff, who has struggled with the long ball at times over the past few seasons. The 15 home runs play a large part in his 6.75 ERA as batters hit plenty of flyballs vs. Arroyo. It doesn't help that he has a 1.479 WHIP. 

Among current Phillies, only Freddy Galvis (1 for 7) and Andres Blanco (1 for 3) have faced him. His career against the Phillies dates all the way back to three starts in 2000. Over 14 games (13 starts), he's 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA in 77 innings against the Phils. He's just the second starter after Bartolo Colon to pitch at Citizens Bank Park this season that also faced the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.

Arroyo is fourth among active pitchers in starts and fifth in innings pitched. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Moved into the leadoff spot on Friday, Odubel Herrera put together a few strong at-bats, finally coming through with a hit in the ninth inning to snap an 0-for-13 stretch.

Reds: Scott Schebler hit his 14th home run of the season off Aaron Nola in the second inning Friday. In just his third season, Schebler had just 12 homers in his career before 2017.

5. This and that
• Howie Kendrick made his third rehab appearance in Triple A Lehigh Valley Friday, going 1 for 4. He played all nine innings in left field. The IronPigs won, 5-4, with Nick Williams hitting a home run. Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro each had two-hit nights.

• The Phillies haven't won a season series vs. the Reds since 2012 (10-18 since the start of 2013). However, the Reds are 16-30 at CBP and haven't won a series in Philadelphia since Aug. 2006.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, on April 18 this year, Arroyo became the first Reds pitcher older than 40 to win a start since Boom-Boom Beck beat the Phillies, 8-1, on May 31, 1945.

• The Reds are the only team in baseball with four hitters (Votto, Schebler, Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall) who have at least 10 home runs.