Gauging Nats Fans Feelings On Jayson Werth and Their Young Ball Club

Gauging Nats Fans Feelings On Jayson Werth and Their Young Ball Club

Prior to the Phillies kicking off a series tonight against the
Nationals in DC, we thought we'd ask the biggest Nats fan we know, Cathy
Taylor aka Miss Chatter, about how their team has fared early in 2011.
We also asked about our old friend Jayson Werth and just what kind of
expectations Nats fans have for their club. You can follow Miss Chatter on Twitter or read her blog featuring her awesome photography here.

Enrico: The Phillies are off to a
nice 7-2 start which I think has Phillies fans pretty excited with their
performance thus far into 2011. The Nats are off to mediocre 4-5 start
that puts them right in the middle of the pack in the East. We haven't
spent much time watching the Nats yet this season, have DC fans liked
what they've seen thus far? Feel free to touch on our old pal Jayson
Werth and his beard's performance thus far, if you so wish.

Miss Chatter: Jayson Werth's beard has put on a phenomenal
performance so far this season, after a nervous offseason wondering if
he'd make an appearance in spring training. He did and has been there
since. (Love the twitter account!) Jayson Werth, beard owner, has had
so-so results thus far this season in the field and at the plate. Off
the field, however, I admire Werth's talk. He is defending his new ball
club vigorously and with humor, which has been rather endearing. Fans
were rather stunned at the length and value of the contract he was
given, and there is some "show us the money" regarding him.

The Nats have had a rough start to the season thus far. They just
lost prized third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to the disabled list for a
strained abdominal muscle. That's a heavy blow. The DL stint arrives on
the heels of losing 2 of 3 games in their first two series, but then
they won 2 of 3 against the Mets to finish their first road trip with an
even record. New first baseman, Adam LaRoche, who was brought on as a
defensive upgrade over Adam Dunn, is also walking a fine line that could
easily land him on the DL. First, he revealed he has a balky shoulder
and can't really make throws. Then he strained his groin in the game
Sunday, but expects to be back today. If the Nats lose Zimmerman and
LaRoche, things could get very interesting.

However, Nats fans have been pleasantly surprised by the starting
pitching so far this season, and are particularly eager to see Jordan
Zimmermann thrive in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
His success also eases nervousness over the future of Stephen
Strasburg, who likely won't return until next season. The solid bullpen
arms of Storen, Clippard and Burnett have also continued their dominance
in tight situations.

When he had his welcome to DC presser, Werth talked a lot
about building for the future, but not necessarily winning now. What's a
best-case scenario season for Nats fans this year?

Best case for Nats fans this year is umm, well, I'm not exactly sure!
I wouldn't even dare to predict a final record for the season. I would
have to say best case for Washington this year is if the team stays
healthy and Bryce Harper makes a loud statement in the minors over the
course of his development, Strasburg's rehab proceeds swimmingly and
Jordan Zimmermann's starts this season go deeper and remain effective
all year. Also add Ian Desmond committing less errors in the field and
Danny Espinosa becoming a true batting threat consistently!

What's the one thing about this Nats team that has encouraged you the most about their future?

One thing? Only one? (Why am I having such a hard time thinking of
something?!) I'm going to say the talent and progress of the young
players provides the most encouragement for the future (catcher Wilson
Ramos, 2nd baseman Danny Espinosa and shortstop Ian Desmond). I guess
that's three things.

Looking forward to spending so much quality time with Philadelphians over the three game series in DC?

Only if they're housebroken! I kid! I love a good baseball
conversation with fans of any team, so if Philadelphians come down and
respect our house and want to talk baseball, then that's fine.
Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case in the past (nightmares of last
year's opening day still haunt me).

Thanks to Miss Chatter for her time and her photo of Jayson Werth above.

Eagles-Bengals Week 13: What they're saying

Eagles-Bengals Week 13: What they're saying

The Eagles have left themselves little to no room for error. 

A second consecutive loss dropped the Eagles (5-6) under .500 for the first time this season and pushed them a game and a half behind the Redskins (6-4-1) for the second wild card spot, with a number of teams still vying for that sixth and final position.

Now the Eagles will try to keep their fading playoff hopes alive as they travel to Cincinnati to face the struggling Bengals (3-7-1). Cincinnati is currently riding a three-game losing streak and hasn't won a game since Oct. 23. 

The last time these two teams met was all the way back in 2012, when the Bengals routed Nick Foles and the Eagles at the Linc, 34-13.

To find out more about the A.J. Green-less Bengals, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 13 opponent heading into Sunday.

Starting slow …
The Bengals' problems this season have started on their first defensive drive. While Cincinnati boasts an average scoring defense at 17th overall (22.3 points per game), opposing offenses have scored with ease against the Bengals to open games.

In seven of the Bengals' first 11 games, the opposition has scored on its opening drive, with a touchdown coming six times of those times. In over half of their games the Bengals have trailed after the first quarter, in which they have gone 1-5.

According to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, if Cincinnati's defense could get off to a fast start it could help turn around the Bengals' fortunes down the stretch.

"On one hand, this seems like it should be easy enough to do. It’s just one possession," Owczarski wrote. "And, the Bengals are allowing 20.0 points per game over their last five games – a number that would be 10th in the NFL – and allowing 18.7 over their last three. But for some reason, opposing teams have been able to carve up the Bengals defense on the first drive and score touchdowns to give their team an immediate advantage. If the Bengals can avoid that defensively, it may create the change at the end of the game the team needs."

… finishing slower
While their defense has came up small at beginning of games, the Bengals' offense has sputtered at the end of games.

In fourth quarters Andy Dalton and company have mustered just one touchdown and 13 points overall in the past six weeks. For the season, the Bengals are averaging 4.1 points in the final quarter (31st overall) and are tied with the Giants for the most total punts in fourth quarters.

According to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals' offensive output in fourth quarters has been historically bad compared to the rest of the Marvin Lewis era.

"The Bengals are on pace for 66 fourth quarter points on the season. The dreadful number lags far behind all but one season in the Marvin Lewis Era. Only the debacle of the 2008 season with a Carson Palmer injury saw a smaller output," Dehner Jr. wrote. "... The defense owns a fair share of blame in the fourth quarter failure, though much of their mystery comes with the first drive of the game where they have allowed a touchdown in six of the last eight weeks. As for how the final quarter came to this epic fail, like anything, theories are abound though they matter little anymore."

Red Rocket coming back down to earth
Following a strong 2015 campaign that saw him throw 25 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions and boast a 106.2 quarterback rating, Andy Dalton has come back down to earth this season. Dalton has 12 touchdowns compared to six interceptions and a quarterback rating of 89.7.

Dalton is currently riding a streak of four games where he hasn't posted a quarterback rating any higher than 81.8 and it certainly hasn't helped his cause that star wideout A.J. Green has been out of the lineup for the past game-plus with a hamstring injury.

Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com listed Dalton as one of the six Cincinnati players to watch Sunday, as he'll be going against a capable defense that's looking to back on track.

"Dalton told ESPN that his shoulder was fine despite being on the injury report for two straight weeks," Terrell wrote. "But something is amiss, whether it’s his shoulder, his receivers or his offensive line. He hasn’t had a passing rating of more than 80 since Oct. 23, and the Bengals offense has struggled with only one touchdown in the last six quarters."

Predictions
Vegas has this game even as a pick-em and that was reflected in this week's national prediction roundup, with the Bengals gaining just a slight edge overall. 

ESPN: Six of nine experts picked the Bengals

CBS Sports: Five of eight experts picked the Bengals

FOX Sports: Four of five experts picked the Eagles

Eagles-Bengals: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Bengals: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles (5-6) have lost six of their last eight games and travel to Cincinnati to face a Bengals team that dropped to 3-7-1 last week. 

Judging by the records, this is a game the Eagles should win easily, but of course it's not that easy. And these two teams aren't that far apart (see story)

The Eagles are absolutely desperate. They would likely need to win their last five games to make the playoffs. 

It'll have to start with a win in Cinci this weekend. Here are five matchups to watch. 

Wendell Smallwood vs. Bengals' run D
With Ryan Mathews (knee) out again this week, expect to see plenty of rookie Smallwood on Sunday afternoon (see story). He carried the ball just nine times against the Packers, but the Eagles barely ran the ball. On Friday, Doug Pederson said Smallwood wasn't the reason why. 

There should be some decent opportunity for Smallwood this weekend against a Bengals defense that has given up 120.5 yards per game on the ground, the fifth worst average in the NFL. They've given up 100-plus yards on the ground if four of the last five weeks. 

Allen Barbre vs. Carlos Dunlap
Dunlap leads the Bengals with 6½ sacks and he'll get to face off against Barbre, who's a veteran but is now out of position. With rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai still out with his knee injury, Barbre is the new right tackle. 

Another matchup will be Geno Atkins vs. the Eagles' guards. Atkins lines up on both sides of the line, but he'll likely see plenty of Stefen Wisniewski instead of Brandon Brooks. 

Tyler Eifert vs. Malcolm Jenkins/Nigel Bradham
With the injury to A.J. Green, whom Eifert said was the Bengals' best player, Eifert has become Cincinnati's No. 1 target. 

He was targeted 11 times and had five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown last week against the Ravens. 

He'll see a mix of Jenkins and Bradham on him this Sunday. 

Cedric Ogbuehi vs. Brandon Graham
The Bengals have one really good offensive tackle on the left side of the line (Andrew Witworth) and Ogbuehi on the other. So far this season, Ogbuehi, according to ProFootballFocus, has given up eight sacks, three quarterback hits and 29 quarterback hurries. Only three offensive tackles have given up more sacks than Ogbuehi this year. 

With Witworth likely shutting down Barwin and with Fletcher Cox likely getting double-teamed inside, Graham vs. Ogbuehi might be the Eagles' best opportunity to create pressure. 

Jeremy Hill vs. Eagles run defense
The Eagles, at times this season, have had trouble with running backs who run hard. And they've at times had trouble with missing tackles. 

That could be a problem against Hill. This could be a grind-it-out type of game for both teams, which means Hill could play a huge role. Of his 644 rushing yards this year, 404 have come after contact. To put that into perspective, Ezekiel Elliott leads the league in rushing yards after contact, but 62.7 percent of Hill's yards have come after contact, compared to 57 percent of Elliott's.