Sixers vs. Raptors, With Only One Mention of the Increasingly Depressing Andrew Bynum (This One)

Sixers vs. Raptors, With Only One Mention of the Increasingly Depressing Andrew Bynum (This One)

The Sixers were so close to getting to play two of the East's worst
teams in consecutive nights when both teams would be missing their star
point guards and arguable franchise players. Regrettably (for us,
anyway), it now sounds like Kyle Lowry will be returning to action for
the Toronto Raptors after missing a couple weeks of game action with a
sprained ankle—though he will only come off the bench, behind current
starter Jose Calderon. (No report yet about Kyrie Irving making an
unexpected comeback for the Cavs after fracturing his finger.)

Regardless, the Sixers should—should,
not definitely will—be able to take care of business tonight against
the 3-7 Toronto Raptors in the last night of their five-game homestand.
The Ballers dispatched the Raptors with relative ease in their first
meeting of the year, back in Canada a week-and-a-half ago, holding
Toronto to just seven points in the game's second quarter, building a
lead they would not relinquish. Of course, that meeting was without
Lowry, who was easily the Raps' best player in the three-and-a-half
games he played for Toronto before going down with injury, averaging
about a 20-6-6 on over 50% shooting. He will no doubt cause problems for
Philly tonight if he's healthy and in full effect.

Though the
Sixers' win against the Cavs on Sunday was far from pretty, it was not
without its positives. Jrue Holiday had a relatively slow (though still
effective) night on offense, but was dominant on the other end, staying
glued to the Cavs' Irving and refusing to let the sophomore sensation
burn him for easy layups—no small feat considering the quickness and
craftiness of the future All-Star—holding him to just a 14 and 4 on the
night, both significantly below Kyrie's seasonal averages. Nick Young
was also excellent, hitting five out of six for 13 points before leaving
the game for dizziness, easily his most (only) efficient shooting night
on the season.

The story of the game, however, was Evan Turner.
With 19 points (on 8-12 shooting, raising his FG% on the season to over
40% for the first time), nine dimes and six rebounds, Evan had a
breakout game on offense, and paired it with solid, smart defense on the
other end. Games like this remind Sixer fans of just how much friggin' easier
it is to win when the Extraterrestrial is playing well, though it's
still something he's a long way from proving the ability to do on a
consistent basis—our history with ET shows that after two quality games
in a row, Turner's likely to be a no-show tonight in Toronto. But you
never know—every good game is another possibility for a legitimate
turn-the-corner moment. Hope springs eternal.

7:00 tip from the
WFC. A win tonight and the Sixers will have gone 3-2 on their five-game
homer—not quite the result we'd hoped for with five winnable games, but
enough to consider the homestand redeemed after dropping the first two
games. Adam Aron still loves this team, regardless.

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.