Sixers Release Schedule, Will Open Season Against Blazers on 26th

Sixers Release Schedule, Will Open Season Against Blazers on 26th

Well, the '11-12 season does mark the 35th anniversary of the '76-'77
season, so maybe it's not random that this year should start with a
finals rematch from that season. (Maybe.) The schedules for every NBA
team (Hey, the Sixers are one of those!) were released Tuesday night, and
the Sixers will open the season on the road in Portland, against
LaMarcus Aldridge and them Trailblazers, on the day after Christmas.
It's one of many notable dates Sixers fans can now put on their
calendars in semi-permanent marker. Others include:

Dec. 31st: For what feels like the 25th year in a row, the Sixers
play a mediocre West Coast team on New Years' Eve. This year, the boys
face off with the Warriors in California at 10:30 EST, unofficially
celebrating the New Year sometime around halftime.

Jan. 6th: The team finally returns to the WFC for their home opener
against the Detroit Pistons. The Ballers will likely be craving revenge
(or possibly just crab fries) after the Pistons defeated them in the
last game of the year in '11, ruining their chances at a plus-.500

Jan. 9th-14th: The Sixers play five games in six days, including a
home-and-home against the Wizards, a visit to the Knicks at MSG and the first of their two three-games-in-three-nights stretches. The
team will play a staggering 16 games over the course of 25 days in
January, an unfortunate (for them, at least) consequence of the
super-compacted 66-game season.

Feb. 3rd: The Heat revisit Philly for the first time since Lou
Williams' last-minute three sunk them in Game Four of the two teams'
first-round series—regrettably, the only time the Heat lost to the
Sixers in their eight total meetings last year. The WFC will be packed
(by WFC standards, anyway) for the Big Three and company's return
shortly after Groundhog Day.

Apr. 16-18: The Sixers play three in a row for the second and final time this season—against Orlando, Indiana and Cleveland, all of whom
will be somewhere between decent and abysmal this season. The Cleveland
game should be the easiest, but we'll see how the Ballers do at standing
upright in the fourth quarter before setting the line on that one.

Apr. 26: Philly finishes up its season (again) against the Pistons,
this time in Detroit. Let's hope the team is more than a game over .500
at this point so we don't have to go through the disappointment of
statistical mediocrity again. (Or I guess they could just go well under
and take the suspense out altogether. Their call.)

The team's full schedule is available at 18 days and counting!

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings