Cards Sweep Phils: That's Gotta Be It, Right?

Cards Sweep Phils: That's Gotta Be It, Right?

So the St. Louis Cardinals just won all three games of their home series against the Philadelphia Phillies, bringing the Fightins' post All-Star record to 1-5. That one win, the superfun 13-8 Mets blowout in Citi Field that wasn't even as close as the final score indicates, indeed feels very long ago now as the Phils have lost all five since, with only that first loss against NY even really being close. I'm pretty sure the Phils never led in this St. Louis series, though I'm too depressed to check the box scores again to verify. In any event, they never seemed like they were going to win, and only sporadically seemed like they might have a chance. Fun to watch, this week has not been.

The five straight L's drop the Phils to a lackluster 49-53. Because the Braves and Nats have been nearly as crappy since the break, Philly is still tied with the latter for second place and just eight behind the former, and still a within-reach-ish nine out of the Wild Card, with the Reds 14 games over .500 in third in the Central. However, the good times should continue to roll for the Phils through the weekend, as they travel to Detroit to face the AL Central-leading Tigers, whose run differential is currently +161 on the Fightins. Objects in the NL leaders' rearview mirrors may be further than they appear.

So...that's probably it for this bunch, right? The trade deadline is less than a week away, and if RubeJun was leaning towards selling already (careful on that bannister, RAJ!), it's hard to imagine the last few games made him re-evaluate the strength of his position much. Five days and change might not be enough to engineer a full-on fire sale, but a couple familiar names seem likely to be on the move--take your pick from Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, and possibly even Cliff Lee and Chase Utley. Mailing addresses aplenty will soon need updating.

At the very least, it seems all but impossible that Ruben will deign to try to bolster this bunch at the expense of our already thin farm system--when you're four games under .500 and advanced stats say you should be way worse than even that, Alex Rios isn't going to be the difference-maker between playing in October and getting to work early on your Halloween costumes. And that's fine--I think most of us knew it was going to take a whole lot of luck for this team to even have a shot at making the playoffs, and if we were gonna be that lucky, we probably woulda knowed it by now. The '13 Phils are not exactly a squad that screams "Team of Destiny."

All that's left, then, is seeing whether Amaro opts for a second straight partial, bet-hedging rebuild, selling off Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz for scraps, or if he unloads completely, sending Chase and Cliff on their merry as well and maybe getting a blue-chipper or two in return. I'm still torn about what I want in that respect, but I do definitely know that I would like to never see Laynce Nix get two starts in a row for this team again--no amount of rebuilding should ever be able to justify that. Let's put that at the top of the To Do list, huh, RAJ? Just because we're bereaved doesn't make us saps.

Eagles-Redskins Week 14: What they're saying

Eagles-Redskins Week 14: What they're saying

As the Eagles enter the final quarter of the regular season, their odds at playing beyond Week 17 are less than slim.

Losers of three straight, the Eagles (5-7) are two games back of the Falcons for the second wild card position with four other teams in front of them for that sixth and final spot.

The Eagles will square off with one of those teams Sunday, as they welcome the Redskins (6-5-1) to the Linc. 

After taking down the Packers in dominating fashion in Week 11, the Redskins have dropped two consecutive games to put them on the outside looking in of the current playoff picture. 

Washington came out on top of the teams' first meeting, taking down the Eagles and their stagnant offense, 27-20, in Week 6.

To learn more about the Redskins heading into Sunday, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 14 opponent.

Silver lining
As the Redskins have an endured an up-and-down 2016 season, the play of their offensive line has been steady throughout. 

Washington's five-man front has played a big role in the Redskins' No. 2 passing offense, as Kirk Cousins has only been sacked 16 times this season. That offensive line has been effective in run blocking as well with the Redskins averaging 109.5 yards on the grounds per game, which is good for 11th in the league. 

According to Liz Clarke of The Washington Post, the Redskins' offensive line, which has combatted a number of injuries and a four-game suspension to Trent Williams, may be the unit to propel them to the postseason.

"Amid the late-season push to make the playoffs, Redskins fans are embroiled in debates over quarterback Kirk Cousins’ value and whether wide receiver DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon has made the stronger case for being brought back in 2017," Clarke wrote. "Drawing far less notice is the offensive line’s contribution to one of the NFL’s more entertaining and productive offenses — a unit that, despite team’s defensive shortcomings, just might pave the Redskins’ way to the playoffs after a two-game slide has left them 6-5-1."

DC on the hot seat
A glaring issue during the Redskins' current two-game slide has been their defense's underwhelming performance. Washington has surrendered 31 points and 350-plus yards of total offense in both of its two most recent losses. 

For the season, the Redskins' defense ranks in the bottom half of the league at No. 20 in points per game (24.6). They have also struggled mightily in critical situations, boasting the worst red zone defense and third-worst third down defense in the NFL.

According to Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post, defensive coordinator Joe Barry shoulders a fair share of blame for the defensive struggles and, as a result, should be coaching for his job over the final four weeks of the season.

"It’s possible, despite the woeful statistics and maddening performances, to conclude that a second-year coordinator with inadequate personnel deserves patience," Brewer wrote. "Washington requires either upgrades or further player development at every level of the defense – the line, the linebackers and the secondary. It desperately needs help at defensive tackle, inside linebacker and both safety positions. How can Barry be expected to make a gourmet meal with these ingredients? It’s a valid question that will complicate the front office’s postseason evaluation of Barry and his unit. But the thing is, the bar is much lower, and Barry is still burning the grilled cheese."

Generating pressure off the edge
These team's first meeting is infamously remembered in the minds of Eagles fans as Halapoulivaati Vaitai's disastrous debut at right tackle. Carson Wentz was hit early and often by the Redskins' pass rush, with Ryan Kerrigan bringing down the rookie quarterback twice in the first half.

While Vaitai won't be playing Sunday, Kerrigan, who in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career, will. The Redskins' defense that has failed to make plays over the last couple weeks could use a big performance from Kerrigan against the Eagles, which is why John Keim of ESPN.com had him as a player to watch Sunday.

"He leads the Redskins with 10 sacks, the second time in his career he’s reached double figures (he had 13.5 two years ago)," Keim wrote. "Kerrigan remains the same player he’s been in the past: a guy with good skills and a terrific motor. Some of those sacks have occurred because of other players' pressure, and because he’s often near the quarterback, he will cash in on those plays. But impact plays have been missing; Kerrigan has 18 forced fumbles, but only three in the past two seasons. Fellow outside linebacker Trent Murphy has been the biggest surprise with eight sacks -- two more than he had in his first two seasons combined. But Kerrigan, who mostly plays on the left side, remains the Redskins’ best overall outside linebacker."

Predictions
The Redskins are slight favorites on the road according to Vegas (plus 2½) and are even more heavily favored by national experts.

ESPN: Eight of nine experts picked the Redskins

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Redskins

FOX Sports: Four of five experts picked the Redskins

Flyers reveal 2017 Stadium Series jerseys

Flyers reveal 2017 Stadium Series jerseys

Back in black.

The Flyers on Saturday morning revealed their 2017 Stadium Series jerseys for their Feb. 25 outdoor game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field.

With their 50th anniversary sweaters resembling their current away jerseys with gold outlining throughout, the Flyers have gone back to black and orange for the outdoor game.

The jersey is almost all black, with an orange name plate and an orange elbow stripe. Orange is sprinkled throughout the jersey.

In addition to the outdoor game, the Flyers will also wear the jersey against the Penguins on March 15 at the Wells Fargo Center, a Wednesday Night Rivalry game.

Pittsburgh unveiled its Stadium Series jersey back on Nov. 25, an all gold uniform in celebration of its 50th season.